Starches are one of the most common household baking ingredients. They can be used to thicken soups, create fluffy gluten free baked goods, and are a great way to boost the texture of your favorite recipes! Guess what? They're easy to use, too! As an avid baker myself, I've seen first hand the various uses of baking starch. Whether you choose to use starch as a thickening agent, a texture boost or to help bind gluten free ingredients together, your recipe is sure to benefit!
So, what happens when a recipe calls for tapioca flour, and you don't have any on hand? Don't worry! Instead of running to the grocery store to buy another bag, there are a variety of different substitutes you can use to create the same fantastic flavor. Not sure where to begin? We've put together this list of five of our favorite tapioca flour substitutes that you can test out in the kitchen. Now let's get started!
Both tapioca starch and arrowroot starch are essential ingredients in gluten free cooking. Derived from similar plants, tropical tubers, they work well when used to thicken dishes and add structure to a recipe. While they both thicken effectively, there is one main difference between the two: arrowroot retains its thickness even when frozen or thawed. Because tapioca starch does not hold up to freezing as well as arrowroot starch, if you plan on freezing your leftovers, then we recommend swapping tapioca flour for arrowroot starch.
However, if you're adding starch to your recipe to help bind the ingredients, such as in gluten free goods, then tapioca flour will surely yield better results. If you're out of tapioca flour and still want to use arrowroot flour as a binding agent, then we recommend mixing it with different gluten free flours before adding it to the recipe.
Curious to know where arrowroot flour comes from? Commonly packaged as arrowroot flour, arrowroot starch and arrowroot powder, this starch is extracted from the arrowroot plant. It is flavorless and odorless, and like tapioca flour, it can be added to any recipe without changing the flavor. Another thing we love about arrowroot powder is how natural it is! When purchasing this powder, it's essential to read all labels on that packaging. Some versions of arrowroot starch add potato starch to the mix. While potato starch is yet another useful starch, quality flours will have arrowroot starch listed as the only ingredient.
We've discussed how arrowroot starch can be used as a substitution for tapioca flour. However, tapioca flour aside, arrowroot starch has several great uses of its own. An incredibly versatile starch, arrowroot flour is commonly used as a thickening agent and added to soups, pie fillings and puddings. Apart from thickening recipes, arrowroot starch can also be used to add structure to baked goods. Or, you can sprinkle it on your favorite tofu recipe to add a restaurant-like crunchy texture to the dish! Whichever way you decide to use arrowroot flour, we're sure that you won't be disappointed.
Cornstarch, also known as corn flour, is a common starch and used in many kitchens. Like other starches, cornstarch is commonly used as a thickening agent and works to thicken dishes to the desired texture. A white powdery substance, this starch isn't just used for culinary purposes. Cornstarch can also be used for household purposes like soap making! Cornstarch is also used as an anti-caking agent and added to packaged goods like shredded cheese. Additionally, cornstarch is used in the making of simple sugars such as corn syrup.
Wondering how cornstarch stacks up next to tapioca flour? Surprisingly, they're quite similar. The main difference in tapioca flour and cornstarch is how they are sourced. As you might have guessed, cornstarch is sourced from corn, whereas tapioca flour comes from the root of the cassava plant. The cassava plant is a tropical tuber, which means structurally tapioca flour has more in common with other starches like arrowroot flour and potato starch than it does with cornstarch.
Despite these differences, both cornstarch and tapioca flour work well when thickening liquids. If you're substituting tapioca starch with cornstarch as a thickening agent in a recipe, the good news is that it will work! However, when doing so, you'll want to add the cornstarch to the recipe differently than you would tapioca starch. Generally, when a dish calls for tapioca flour, they'll suggest adding this starch at the end of the recipe to prevent the molecules in the starch from breaking down. Cornstarch, on the other hand, stands up well to high temperatures and can be added in at the beginning of a recipe.
One other difference to note when swapping tapioca flour for cornstarch is how the result will look. Tapioca flour often provides a glossy final product, whereas cornstarch results in more of a matte finish. In most recipes, these two starches can be used interchangeably. Yet, you'll want to be careful of the differences listed and only swap in cornstarch if tapioca flour is not readily available to you.
Potato starch, the starch found in potatoes, offers a wide variety of benefits and can efficiently work as a substitute for tapioca flour. Potato starch is gluten free and easy to cook with, making it a great starch to use in gluten free baking. Its neutral taste makes it a natural starch to add to any recipe without changing the flavor. Potato starch is also a starch that is known to tolerate heat better than others. You can use it to add moisture to baked goods or to thicken a homemade salad dressing!
While it's possible to swap potato starch for tapioca flour, there are some crucial differences you should consider. First, potato starch is much denser than tapioca starch. This density means that if you swap in potato starch at a 1:1 ratio, your flour blend will be a little heavier than if tapioca starch were used. To combat this, we recommend blending potato starch with a gluten free flour such as almond flour. This will help keep your baked goods light and airy. Like tapioca starch, potato starch can also be used as a thickening and binding agent. Use it to add moisture to a baked good, or to create a crispy pie crust. Potato starch works well when added to recipes to make flatbreads, pizza, pancakes, cookies and even custard.
It's important not to confuse potato starch with potato flour, as these two ingredients are very different. Potato flour is much more absorbent than potato starch, and will not add the desired light and fluffy texture to baked goods. Potato flour is not interchangeable with tapioca starch.
Sweet Rice Flour
Sweet rice flour, or glutinous rice flour, is another gluten free tapioca starch substitute. Made from short-grain glutinous rice or "sticky rice," it works well in recipes as a thickening and binding agent. When heated, this flour is very sticky, and it's most commonly used to help bind, moisten and sweeten the ingredients in gluten free baked goods. The high starch content of sweet rice flour helps the proteins in flour bind together to mimic the elasticity of gluten. While substituting glutinous rice flour for tapioca starch is not a perfect match, it will help provide a similar chewy and sticky consistency. It's important to note that sweet rice flour is a raw flour. When using this flour, it must be thoroughly cooked before eating and cannot be eaten raw.
While tapioca flour and cassava flour are both derived from the same plant, they offer several different benefits. Cassava flour, made from the entire cassava root, is dried and ground to produce the gluten free flour we use in many of our baked goods. Because it is made from the whole root, cassava flour contains more fiber than tapioca starch.
To make tapioca starch, a different extraction process is followed. This process consists only of the starch in the cassava root, not the root itself. This produces a starchy substance, rather than one that mimics a flour. Cassava flour is often deemed as being the most similar gluten free flour to wheat flour. Though the cassava flour has a smooth flavor, it does have a flavor that separates it from many of the starches on this list.
We hope that these five substitutes for tapioca flour in baking inspire you to try something new in the kitchen. While beginning a recipe only to realize you're missing an ingredient is never fun, it doesn't have to interrupt your baking. The next time you run out of tapioca flour or encounter a recipe that calls for it, we encourage you to turn to this list for tapioca flour substitutes. Have a favorite substitute for tapioca flour? Let us know what it is in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!