Amazing Whole Wheat Flaky Biscuits

Amazing WW Flaky Biscuits - An Oregon Cottage

I love these whole wheat, tender, and flaky biscuits. Really. But you’d never know that looking at our menus because when I serve them my family, especially Brian, always manages to make a comment like, “they’re fine…they’re just not a real, yeast bread, you know?” Arrggg- silly family. These truly are amazing, I love them, and since they’re SUPER easy, they’ll keep making appearances every now and then. And with sausage gravy over them? My favorite “guilty pleasure” breakfast. Ever.

If you’ve never made biscuits before, they are quick and easy, but there are a few tricks to getting those flaky layers.

Here are the steps I take to make Amazing Whole Wheat Flaky Biscuits:

Flaky WW Biscuit Ingredients in Processor - An Oregon Cottage1. Start in a food processor -it’s a lot easier to cut the butter into the dry ingredients than by hand (but of course, you can- use a pastry cutter in a medium bowl). The machine takes less than a minute.

2. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse until the the butter is incorporated, resembling coarse cornmeal but with a few larger pieces of butter (that’s what we want for the flakiness we’re after).

WW Flaky Biscuits - Mixing wet into dry ingredients - An Oregon Cottage

See the larger butter pieces in the top photo? That’s good.

3. Transfer the flour mixture into a medium bowl. I know, I know…one more thing to wash, but that’s the trade-off we have to make so that we don’t end up with tough biscuits. Learn from my mistakes: I use to do it all in the processor, so I didn’t dirty another bowl, but the biscuits weren’t very tender and flaky. And I learned that’s what pastry chefs mean when they say not to “overwork the dough.”

4. Mix together a cup of buttermilk and an egg in a glass measuring cup and add it all at once to the dry ingredients. Mix just until most of the flour is incorporated. There should still be dry bits. This is important- I always used to mix until it looked like regular dough, but that was “overworking” the dough I came to find out (they always just throw these terms around like you automatically know what they mean…) and my biscuits were not tender or flaky.

Amazing WW Flaky Biscuit Dough - An Oregon Cottage

Here’s a picture to help you avoid the same mistake – see the loose flour still on the board when I turned it out of the bowl? Yeah, that’s good. There will be dry looking places still, but we’re going to knead it a bit to shape and finish the dough at the same time.

WW Biscuit Kneaded Dough - An Oregon Cottage5. Flour your hands well and start gently bringing all the pieces together into a sort of ball shape, then continue kneading a couple more times, adding more flour as the pieces of butter stick to the board, until it holds together. If you have a bench scraper, this is a good time to put it to use. After kneading about 10 times (times, not minutes) it should look like this in the photo above. Remember, just a light hand, it’s not like kneading a yeast dough.

Folding WW Biscuit Dough- An Oregon Cottage6. Now fold it on itself 3 to 4 times to help create some of those great layers.

Cutting WW Biscuit Dough_An Oregon Cottage7. Roll out the dough using a rolling pin (or your hands) into a rectangular shape that’s about 1-inch to 1-1/4 inches thick and cut with a biscuit cutter or use a knife and cut into squares (I’m cutting both circles and squares here). There’s no law that says biscuits have to be circles and I actually like squares better if I’m going to be using them for sandwiches or breakfast sandwiches.

Note: I should mention that when all the sides are cut (like when using a biscuit cutter) the dough is able to rise better, so you’ll get higher biscuits than those cut with a knife that leave the outside edges uncut. However, a bonus of cutting it into squares is no re-rolling and no waste, so there you have it – the pros and cons of both.

Brushing WW Biscuits_An Oregon Cottage8. Brush the tops with buttermilk (or milk) to create a nice brown, shiny top, though this is purely optional. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan if needed, until evenly browned. Cool a little on a wire rack and serve warm.

Whole Wheat Flaky Biscuits - An Oregon Cottage

Oh my. Look at those flaky layers. That’s what we’re talking about!

Amazing Whole Wheat Flaky Biscuits
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Tender and easy 100% whole wheat biscuits that really are amazingly flaky
Yield: 1 dozen
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can use a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose, but then it won't be 100% WW...)
  • 1 tsp. honey or sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. buttermilk (add 1 Tb. vinegar to a 1 c. measure and then add milk to equal 1 c. unless you have access to true buttermilk- what they sell in the stores as buttermilk is full of additives!)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor or regular bowl, combine the first six ingredients (if using honey, combine it with the liquid ingredients). Pulse (or mix) to combine.
  3. Cut up the butter into eight pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse (or use a pastry blender) until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. If using a processor, transfer to a medium bowl.
  4. Combine the egg and buttermilk (and honey, if using) in a glass measure; add to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon just until mixture starts to come together (it will not be completely mixed). Don't over mix.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 10 - 15 times until dough holds together, folding a couple of times at the end like a letter. Pat or roll into a 1 to 1-1/4 inch rectangle. Cut with a biscuit cutter or knife into about a dozen biscuits depending on the size.
  6. Place on a lined or greased cookie sheet, and brush the tops with milk, if desired, for a shiny, browned top.
  7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


Adapted from a post I originally published in July 2010.

This is linked to PennywisePlatter, Homemaking Hints, and Saturday Nite Special.


  1. says

    These look amazing! Trying to figure out if the substitutes would work for my dairy allergic dd. I am thinking that fake margarine and rice milk won’t make them near as tasty as the ones you made.

    • Anonymous says

      Try substituting lard for the butter. Yes I mean lard, that’s what Granny used all those decades ago.

    • says

      Congratulations, Caroline! I haven’t personally tried it, but I know of many others who freeze biscuits to bake later all the time, so they should work fine. I don’t know why, but I tend to bake them all and freeze them after – I know they do this well, but then again, no fresh-from-the-oven biscuit, either. :-)

  2. Gina says

    I have never been completely happy with my whole wheat biscuit recipe. I have loved so many of your recipes – that I’m printing this off now!

  3. Maureen says

    Jami, I tried to click on a link in Pinterest to get here for your yummy looking biscuits but for whatever reason Pinterest has blocked that page. I’m glad I persevered and googled your site. You have amazing recipes here and I’ve just spent the last hour browsing, copying and pinning. Thank you for your site. I just wanted to let you know about the Pinterest thing in case you didn’t know.

    • says

      Thanks so much for continuing your search and finding your way here, Maureen! It’s so nice to know you’re enjoying looking around. :-)

      Yes, the Pinterest thing can be frustrating. If a picture is pinned from Google Images, for example, it won’t be linked to my site. I try to make sure to pin things from the original site and to make sure the pin is from the original site before I repin. Sometimes a pain, but I want to be able to get to the recipe, idea, or whatever and also to give credit where due. 😉

      Appreciate your taking the time to comment and let me know!

  4. jen says

    If I don’t have cream of tartar, will the end result be very different and are there any substitutes for it? Thanks

    • says

      Hmm, I haven’t tried it, Jen, but I think it does make a difference – that’s why other recipes I’ve tried without it aren’t the same, I’d guess. I don’t know off-hand if they’re are substitutes, though you could google to find out. :)

  5. Angie says

    Incredible. Just made them – eating them now. I decided to eat the “remnant” biscuits first to save the cut, fluffy ones for husband. These biscuits are so delicious and easy! I used the milk with vinegar option since I didn’t have any buttermilk and my experience with vinegar in pastries and doughs is flaky soft. Having them with my whole wheat sausage gravy for dinner :). Thanks so much for posting this recipe.

    • says

      Yeah! So glad to hear this, Angie – they are one of my favorites that I don’t make that much because the rest of my family only likes yeast breads. :(

  6. Riley says

    Just made these using half spelt & half kamut flour. I used plain kefir (lifeway brand) in place of the buttermilk. They turned out wonderfully. Kefir is lactose-free.

  7. chesty says

    why did you use baking powder and add cream of tartar? Baking powder contains cream of tartar and is usually used with baking soda to help with activation when no acid is used (like buttermilk) as you should know?

  8. Claire says

    Your instructions for making flaky whole wheat biscuits are excellent. These did, indeed, rise very well and were very tender, However, their taste is quite awful. Perhaps this is why your husband objects to them.

    I’m someone who generally enjoys whole wheat in anything; being an experienced baker, I was careful that all ingredients, including King Arthur whole wheat pastry flour, were fresh and measured accurately. My best guess is that the flavor was altered by the inclusion of cream of tartar–something I’ve never before seen in a biscuit recipe. I’ll try these again using baking soda rather then cream of tartar to see if the taste is improved by that substitution.

    Again, thank you for posting great pictures and instructions.

    • says

      I’m so sorry you didn’t have a good experience with the flavor, Claire. That is definitely not our family’s experience – or anyone I’ve served these to over the many years I’ve made them. My husband doesn’t like any type of baking soda/powder bread, he just prefers yeast breads – it has nothing to do with the flavor of these in particular. If you are sensitive to cream of tartar, then I hope you do like the substitution better!

  9. Sue Mosier says

    Would you please tell me how you know when the biscuits are finished cooking? Do you ever use an internal temperature? Thank you, I want to try theses tomorrow.

  10. says

    What a delightful website, full of great recipes! We search the world for the best recipes that are additive free, natural, clean, and homemade. This site is really something.

    I just tried the biscuit recipe… these are seriously the best biscuits I’ve ever had. The square cut idea was a nice change, worked great with the homemade pasta sauce we created.

    Would you mind if we showcase some of your recipes in our online community? We’re here in Canada, and have lots of Whole Food Enthusiasts who would like these recipes. We will link it all back to you.

    Have a great week!


    • says

      Thank you, Richard – I appreciate your kind words! I would be honored for you to share my recipes with other whole food enthusiasts, as long as it’s not the entire recipe, just a photo, description and link to my site – thank you for asking. I love finding other whole food recipes, so I’ll be sure to check your site out, too!

  11. jude says

    These are just delicious! Mine didn’t rise a lot but were still tender and flaky. I didn’t have the pastry flour. So used 2 1/2 cups whole wheat and 1/2 cup white flour. I probably underworked them. Which, at this point, I find preferable. Thanks so much for the recipe.

    • says

      Glad you liked them, Jude! I think the pastry flour might make them rise more, regular ww is just a bit heavier. But if you liked them as is, that’s what matters. :)

  12. Chuck McCollum says


    Thanks so much for posting this recipe–and especially for clarifying the meaning of “overworking the dough.” I made these yesterday morning and I (and, more importantly, my wife) loved them!

    As I am on a “fat loss” food plan, using whole grains is a huge part of my life, and this recipe fits in perfectly with my plan (although I’m sure some of my “fat loss” colleagues would raise an eyebrow at using whole butter)! This is the first time I’ve made any whole wheat biscuits that had such a light texture. I imagine that’s mostly due to the light handling of the dough–so thank you again!

    I have a question: I went out and bought a bottle of Cream of Tartar specifically for this recipe–but what is its purpose? My online research tells me that it is usually used as an acid to activate the soda–but there’s no soda in this recipe (and they also say that the Baking Powder already has its own Cream of Tartar mixed in). Can you shed so light on this?



  13. Brenda says

    Jami, I would love to try your whole wheat biscuits. They look yummy. My husband is sensitive to butter due to lactose intolerance (he can handle buttermilk because It contains enzymes that help with digestion). I wonder if these can be made with shortening such as Crisco and turn out well. Thanks.

    • says

      I’m glad you want to try these biscuits, Brenda! I would use coconut oil (refined, though, so there wouldn’t be a coconut flavor) if I couldn’t use butter – it’s a real food that has health benefits (opposite of crisco) and acts like butter/shortening in cooking. I haven’t tried it, though, but am pretty sure they’d turn out. :)

  14. Ruth says

    Delicious! Thank you for posting this recipe! Just one little heads up, it asks for 1 cup of buttermilk but the recommendation for the substitute ends up being 1 cup and 1 tbsp. That made my dough too soft the first time and I just added more flour and still came out good but affected the consistency. Today I made it again and did 1 tbsp first into the measuring cup and then added almond milk until it made a total of 1 cup. These came out perfect!
    I made some changes because of intolerances:
    Used almond milk instead of reg milk
    Used earth balance butter instead of regular butter
    Didn’t use cream of tarter bc I didn’t have any and just added 1/2 tsp more of baking powder.
    * with these changes they still came out amazing! My husband and I loved them!

    • says

      Good point, Ruth, thank you. I think I assumed that people would know that it would still need to equal 1 c. total, which I should never do. I’ll update the recipe. :) Glad to know your changes worked for those who have dairy issues – thanks for sharing that!

  15. Ally says

    I will be making these tomorrow! We live in the Willamette Valley as well (Salem) and are fortunate enough to have a raw milk supplier from which I use the cream to make homemade butter and buttermilk. I have a cup of it sitting in the fridge waiting for a good recipe…which now I’ve found!

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