Arrowroot, Cornstarch, Tapioca Powder & More: What Are the Different Types of Starches?

By: Bob's Red Mill | April 27 2020

Have you ever made a soup that was a little too thin for your liking? Or what about a gluten free cake that didn't quite stick together as you'd hoped? If you answered yes to either of these, then it may be time to start incorporating starch alternatives into your ingredients list. Starches are an easy way to thicken up your favorite soup, add crispness to your favorite tofu dish, or perfect the texture of gluten free cookies. We've seen first hand how adding starch to a recipe can make it better! 

To get started on your baking journey, check out the different types of starches below. We'll dive into what each starch is and how to use it. 

Arrowroot Starch

Arrowroot, Cornstarch, Tapioca Powder & More: What Are the Different Types of Starches? | Bob's Red Mill Blog

First up on the list of our favorite starches is arrowroot starch. Also listed as arrowroot powder and arrowroot flour, arrowroot starch is a starch that is extracted from the arrowroot plant. A white powdery substance, this starch is flavorless and odorless, which makes it easy to use in both savory and sweet recipes. Because arrowroot powder does not change the taste of a dish, it's quickly become a favorite amongst bakers. 

Arrowroot starch is also amazingly natural. Unlike cornstarch, when extracting arrowroot powder, most companies skip the high heat and chemical extraction process. By removing arrowroot starch more directly, it helps keep this powder chemical-free. 

How to Cook with Arrowroot Starch

Now that you know what arrowroot powder is, it's time to discuss how to use it! An extremely versatile starch, arrowroot powder is most commonly used as a thickening agent when added to soups, stews and puddings. However, that's not all that it is used for! You can use arrowroot starch as a binding agent to bring all the ingredients in your favorite baked goods together. Or, you can sprinkle it on top of a tofu dish to create a tasty, crunchy texture. Whichever way you decide to use it, arrowroot starch is sure to take your recipe to the next level. 

Where to Purchase Arrowroot Starch

Before purchasing arrowroot starch, it's important to read all of the labels. Occasionally, to make a more cost-effective product, companies will add potato starch to arrowroot starch. Potato starch works well in a variety of recipes. However, it differs significantly from arrowroot starch. To guarantee that you are purchasing the most high-quality product possible, start by reading the labels and check if arrowroot starch is the only listed ingredient. 

Certified gluten free, paleo and kosher, our arrowroot starch is extracted straight from the root of the arrowroot plant. It can be used as a direct substitute for cornstarch and is essential in gluten free baking. 


Arrowroot, Cornstarch, Tapioca Powder & More: What Are the Different Types of Starches? | Bob's Red Mill Blog

First, let's dive into cornstarch. Cornstarch, also known as corn flour or maize starch, is arguably the most common starch around. It's a white powdery substance that's derived from corn and used for many culinary and household purposes. In the kitchen, cornstarch is commonly used as a thickening agent. When added to pies, soups, gravies and marinades, it works to thicken them to achieve the desired texture. 

Cornstarch is also a useful anti-caking agent, especially in packaged goods like shredded cheese. As an anti-caking agent, cornstarch coats whatever it is added to and helps absorb moisture and condensation. This absorption process works to prevent clumps from forming over time. Additionally, cornstarch can be used to make sugars, such as corn syrup. 

How to Cook with Cornstarch

Cornstarch is best when mixed with other ingredients at room temperature. Adding cornstarch to hot ingredients can cause lumps to form. When cooking with cornstarch we recommend first making a "slurry" that you can then add to the desired recipe. To do this, simply mix cornstarch with room temperature or cold liquid before stirring into a hot recipe. Doing so will ensure that the cornstarch is evenly distributed and works as it should.  

Additionally, sauces and other liquid mixtures that contain cornstarch should not be frozen. Freezing these mixtures will cause the molecules in the starch to break down and thin out after thawing. 

Where to Purchase Cornstarch

Naturally gluten free, our dense and powdery cornstarch is made directly from the endosperm of the corn kernel. It's produced and packaged in our 100% gluten free facility, and each batch is tested to ensure that it meets our strict gluten free standards. 

Tapioca Powder

Arrowroot, Cornstarch, Tapioca Powder & More: What Are the Different Types of Starches? | Bob's Red Mill Blog

While you may be familiar with tapioca pudding, it's quite different than tapioca powder. Tapioca, a starch extracted from the cassava root, is a dietary staple in various countries in Africa, Asia and South America. While tapioca has little to no nutritional value, it does have many beneficial uses. Naturally gluten free, tapioca powder can serve as a wheat substitute in baking recipes for those who may suffer from gluten intolerance. 

Tasteless and odorless, this flour is commonly used to help baked goods achieve a fluffy, light and spongy texture. It can also be added to pizzas and pie crusts to create a flaky, crispy texture. Because it is a starch, tapioca flour is often used as a binding and thickening agent. For best results, we recommend combining tapioca flour with other gluten free flours. 

How to Cook with Tapioca Flour

Have some tapioca flour at home that you can't wait to try out? Tapioca has a variety of uses! Like cornstarch, tapioca flour is used as a thickening agent. However, tapioca and cornstarch have one notable difference: tapioca retains its texture even when frozen. This means that while you can use it to thicken soups, pies and puddings, you can also achieve that same effect when adding it to ice creams and smoothies. Another difference between tapioca flour and other starches is that it adds a glossy shine to anything you mix it with and does not dull the colors like other thickening agents might. 

Want to use spice up your daily recipe roundup? Why not try to make a batch of bubble tea? To make this tea, simply mix tapioca flour, freshly boiled water and food coloring to create a delicious boba batter that you can then turn into tapioca pearls. Don't forget to buy extra wide straws, as sucking the pearls through a straw is part of the fun!

Where to Purchase Tapioca Flour

Wondering where to purchase tapioca flour? We've got you covered. A staple in gluten free baking, our tapioca flour comes straight from the cassava plant itself. Purchase it as a flour, or already in pearl form. Bob's Red Mill Small Tapioca Pearls are sulfite and additive-free. Use them in desserts, bubble tea, or to make tapioca pudding! 

Potato Starch

Arrowroot, Cornstarch, Tapioca Powder & More: What Are the Different Types of Starches? | Bob's Red Mill Blog

Where guessing that just by reading the name, you can tell where potato starch comes from. Yes, potatoes! While potatoes contain a wide range of nutrients, sadly, when the starch is extracted, many of those nutrients remain in the vegetable. But that's not to say that potato starch doesn't have a purpose. It does! Just not a nutritional one. Gluten free and easy to cook with, potato starch has a lot of desirable qualities. One of which is the taste. Potato starch's neutral taste makes it easy to add to any recipe.

Because potato starch can tolerate higher temperatures, it is used as a replacement for cornstarch in many baking recipes. Adding potato starch to a recipe helps moisten baked goods and is an essential ingredient in gluten free baking. 

How to Cook With Potato Starch

Potato starch is one of the least expensive starches out there! Often, potato starch will be labeled as potato flour. Be sure to carefully read the packaging and look for a starch that is non-GMO or organic. 

Like other starches, you can use potato starch to thicken stews, soups and sauces. It's also frequently used in gluten free baking as it's gluten free, dairy free, soy free and grain free! When using potato starch it is important to pay attention to the temperature of the liquid. If you add potato starch to a liquid that is too hot or boiling, then the molecules in the starch won't react correctly. This will make the liquid much harder to thicken. 

A common question we receive is: can you sub potato flour for potato starch? In short, the answer is no. Potato starch and potato flour cannot be used interchangeably. Because potato flour has a much more potato-like taste, it will quickly change the flavor of your recipe. Additionally, potato flour also has a denser consistency meaning that it will not add the same structure that potato starch would.  

Where to Purchase Potato Starch

Potato starch is often used to replace cornstarch in traditional baking recipes and can be found in most grocery stores. Our certified gluten free, kosher and non-GMO potato starch is an excellent thickener for sauces and an essential ingredient in gluten free baked goods.  

Now that you're familiar with several different types of starches, it's time to start using them! Include arrowroot powder in your next soup recipe or turn tapioca powder into a delicious pudding. We can't wait to hear what you whip up in the kitchen with this game-changing ingredient. Have a favorite starch of your own? We'd love to know what it is. Let us know in the comments below. 



  1. Aimee Wood
    Hi! Love you guys How and where can I purchase Ingredients: potato starch, arrowroot starch, tapioca starch? Also want to know if you still have your 8 ? grain hot cereal. I used to purchase at Natural grocers...
    Thank you so much!
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Aimee, you can purchase our products on our website or use our Store Finder to find local stores near you.

      Bob's Red Mill: Shop Baking Aids
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  2. Jasmine Sturr
    I am starting a pharmaceutical company, we are manufacturing a product that helps the skin around feeding tube stomas. One of the components of my product is arrowroot powder, and I am looking for a supplier of arrowroot that is lab tested food grade. Would it be possible to order at least 25kg from you, and get a quality report?
    Thank you for your time,
    Jasmine Sturr
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi - Please email us about this at [email protected]
  3. Monica
    Can I use potato starch in canning since it tolerates high heat?
    I want to make pie filling and water bath it in jars.
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Elisabeth Allie
      Canning is an exact science, we would recommend looking for a specific canning recipe that calls for potato starch, to avoid any risk of foodborne illness (or spoiled pie filling).

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