Starches, such as cornstarch, have little to no flavor and are used to thicken sauces or as a binder in baked goods. All of the starches on this list can be used 1:1 for each other in baking, though the ratio may vary slightly when used for thickening sauces. They all will produce sauces or pie fillings that are shiny, not cloudy like flour. When used in baking, baked goods are light and delicate. Although very similar to each other, there are some benefits of one starch over another, depending on the application.
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Arrowroot Starch, also referred to as Arrowroot Powder or Arrowroot Flour, is a grain-free starch made from the tubers of an arrowroot plant. Arrowroot starch is often times preferred to cornstarch due to having a higher nutritional content and due to sensitivities with corn. Arrowroot starch has more nutrients than any other starch on this list. When used as a thickener, add it in the final stages of cooking as it does not thicken well at high temperatures. It performs well in baked goods and at freezing temperatures.
Cornstarch is one of the most common starches, although it is becoming more common to see the other starches listed here. Cornstarch is a good all-around starch. Cornstarch is preferred when thickening dairy-based sauces, unlike arrowroot starch or tapioca starch. If you have concerns regarding GMO’s or have a corn sensitivity, cornstarch should be avoided.
Potato Starch is a good alternative to cornstarch, especially for people with corn sensitivities. Potato starch is not the same as potato flour and it is generally not recommended to substitute them for each other. One major difference is that potato starch is flavorless and does not taste like potato. Potato starch also does not retain the nutrients of potatoes, leading it to be “empty calories”. When choosing a starch, arrowroot is preferred over potato starch in most applications due to the added health benefits of arrowroot starch. When using potato starch to thicken food, add it at the end of cooking. If the liquid boils, it will be harder to thicken. Potato starch also has a higher tendency to clump than the other starches listed here.
Tapioca Starch, also known as Tapioca Flour, works well in most applications. When using it as a thickener for sauces, mix the ingredients together and allow it to sit for 5-15 minutes before cooking to allow the tapioca to absorb the liquid. Tapioca starch does not have any nutrients or vitamins to speak of besides carbohydrates. Like potato starch, tapioca starch is “empty calories”.
- “Arrowroot Starch.” Bobsredmill.com, www.bobsredmill.com/arrowroot-starch.html.
- “The Difference Between Potato Flour and Potato Starch.” Gluten Free Gigi, www.glutenfreegigi.com/the-difference-between-potato-flour-and-potato-starch/.
- Huffstetler, Erin. “Cornstarch Substitute Recipe.” The Balance, 1 Dec. 2017, www.thebalance.com/cornstarch-substitute-recipe-4155161.
- Lane, Chrissy. “How to Substitute for Potato Starch and Potato Flour.” Gluten Free Bread, 7 Feb. 2014, gluten-free-bread.org/substitute-potato-starch-potato-flour.
- Price, Annie. “Is Potato Starch Good for You? Pros & Cons of Potato Starch.” Dr. Axe, 11 Dec. 2017, draxe.com/potato-starch/.