Spring is the time of year to perfect your baking skills. After all, there's nothing better than whipping up a delicious soup or a perfectly baked dessert, and starches can help you do both! Adding starch to your favorite recipes might be just what they need to take it to the next level.
So, how do they work? Starches work by absorbing water or other liquids. When they're added to a recipe and heated, the starch granules burst, emptying even more granules into the mixture, which causes it to thicken. When used in gluten free baking, starch molecules work to help bind the ingredients together, creating light and moist gluten free goods. By adding just a few teaspoons of any starch to a recipe you can thicken soups, sauces and even smoothies to the perfect consistency. They'll go from watery to creamy right before your eyes!
Now that you know how starch is used let's dive into five of our favorite five alternatives to flour and what makes each one unique! No matter what recipe you're cooking up the kitchen, if you need a thickening agent, then we're sure that one of these starches will do the trick.
Often sold as arrowroot powder, arrowroot flour and arrowroot starch, this thickening agent is perfect for just about any recipe. It's created by starches extracted from the arrowroot plant, a tropical tuber. During extraction, a flavorless and odorless white powder is produced. Because this starch is neutral in flavor, it works great when used in both sweet and savory recipes.
With twice the thickening power of wheat flour, arrowroot starch is a great alternative to flour for all purpose use. Plus, unlike other flours and starches, arrowroot powder does not break down when combined with acidic ingredients like fruit juice. It also works well when frozen and can be thawed back to its original state without damaging the texture of the recipe. Adding arrowroot powder to a recipe can also give your soup or stew a boost of shine, whereas other starches, like cornstarch, can create a more cloudy appearance.
Naturally gluten free, a high-quality arrowroot powder will have just one ingredient—arrowroot starch. When purchasing your arrowroot starch, be sure to read all the labels to make sure that your starch is natural and chemical-free!
Try arrowroot starch in this Maple Oat Nut Cookies recipe. Vegan and gluten free, this recipe uses a mixture of flaxseed meal, gluten free rolled oats, sorghum flour and arrowroot powder to create the perfect chewy cookie texture. Serve them warm, alongside a cup of plant-based milk, or pack them to-go as a healthy treat! Just one batch of these cookies makes up to 18, which makes them the perfect dessert to serve at your next gathering.
Ever wondered where cornstarch comes from? Cornstarch is extracted from the white endosperm that is found in the center of a corn kernel. This extraction is then ground into a super fine, white powder that can be used for several different baking purposes. Like most starches, cornstarch is most commonly used to thicken stews, sauces and even puddings. When used sparingly, cornstarch is practically flavorless and works alongside several different flavored foods.
When purchasing cornstarch, it's essential to look for one of quality. Bob's Red Mill cornstarch is made from non-GMO corn and is certified gluten free, kosher and vegan. If you're cooking for someone with gluten sensitivity and want to swap out a wheat flour thickener with something grain free, look no further! Cornstarch can be subbed in for wheat flour at a 1:2 ratio. Because it's a durable thickener, you only need half the amount of cornstarch to create the same effect. Also, adding cornstarch to a gluten free recipe is a great way to add softness and texture to baked goods while keeping them grain free!
Cornstarch is a key component in this Healthy Cranberry Pear Crisp. Gluten free and vegan, this yummy recipe uses cornstarch to add thickness to the warm fruity filling. In this recipe, sweet pears are combined with tart cranberries to create a warm dish that is perfect for serving up for breakfast or after-dinner dessert. The cinnamon oat topping is especially tasty with a scoop of non-dairy whipped cream or ice cream!
If you've ever tried to make tapioca pudding, then you may be familiar with tapioca starch. Tapioca starch is extracted from the cassava plant. Similar to arrowroot, cassava is a tropical tuber that is native to Africa, Asia and South America. Upon extraction, tapioca starch is turned into a flour that is mostly tasteless and odorless. This starch is often used to create a light and airy texture in baked goods. However, that's not the only way this starch can be used. Adding tapioca flour to dough recipe will amp up its texture and help create a crispy crust that's perfect for pizzas and pies. Aside from helping to perfect the texture of your baked goods, tapioca flour can also be used as a thickening agent in soups and works as a binding agent in gluten free and vegan recipes. One of the most versatile gluten free starches, Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour is certified gluten free, non-GMO, kosher, vegan and paleo-friendly!
Test out tapioca starch with this yummy Apple Cheddar Hand Pie Recipe. This hand pie recipe will get the entire family excited about trying something new. In this recipe, tapioca starch is used to achieve the perfect consistency for the classic filling of apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. Cheddar cheese is added to the crust to create a blend of flavors your taste buds will love!
There’s no doubt that arrowroot starch, tapioca flour and cornstarch each have their own purpose in baking. But even the most versatile starches have a hard time matching up to classic potato starch. Potato starch is a staple in many baking households and has been used as a thickening agent in recipes for years. It has a variety of beneficial qualities. One of which is the flavor—it has none! The extremely neutral taste of potato starch makes it easy to add to both savory and sweet recipes without changing the flavor of the meal. Potato starch can tolerate higher temperatures than cornstarch and is used in many baking recipes. This makes it an excellent thickener for soups and stews or a unique way to add moisture to gluten free baked goods.
Potato starch is an excellent addition to this Orange Almond Flour Cake recipe. This yummy recipe combines almond flour and oranges to create a gluten free cake batter that tastes delicious. Potato starch is added to the batter to give it the light, fluffy cake-like texture that we all crave. Once baked, a sweet icing of honey, coconut oil, almond milk and orange juice is spread atop as an alternative to the standard powdered sugar icing.
Sweet Rice Flour
Sweet rice flour is the starchy substance that you never knew you needed. Also labeled as glutinous rice flour, sweet rice flour is 100% gluten free. It is made from short-grain glutinous sticky rice, the same rice that sushi is made from! Now, if you've ever indulged in sticky rice, then you're aware of its binding capabilities. Sweet rice flour is the same! When added to a recipe this flour works to bind, moisten and sweeten your baked goods, which makes it an essential ingredient in gluten free baking. When we remove gluten from our baked goods, we are essentially removing the "glue" that holds the recipe together. To make sure the ingredients properly bind, we must add in an ingredient with similar binding properties to gluten. Enter, sweet rice flour. Sweet rice flour has a high starch content which helps the proteins in flour bind together. By adding sweet rice flour to your recipe, you can imitate the elasticity of gluten and skip the grains altogether. The final result? Delicious baked goods with the perfect soft and moist texture.
Try out sweet rice flour in this Homemade Gluten Free Pie Crust recipe. Almond flour, sweet rice flour and tapioca flour combine to create the perfect gluten free batter. This crispy, flaky gluten free pie crust works well with both sweet and savory pies. Oh, and aside from being gluten free, it's also dairy free!
Now that you have a better understanding of which alternative starches that you can easily swap for flour, we hope that you're inspired to start baking. Use these starches to turn your favorite soup recipe into a gluten free dish, or swap them in to add structure to your baked goods. Whichever way you decided to use starches, we're sure it will turn out great. Have a favorite starch that we didn't mention? We'd love to know what it is. Let us know in the comments below.