Looking for a starch that works great with every recipe? You're not alone. While there are a variety of starches out there, not all of them work interchangeably. When making specific recipes, finding the right starch for each one can be challenging. If you're struggling to decide which starch to use to thicken your next soup or stew, then don't worry, we're here to help!
Cornstarch and potato starch are two of the most common starches out there, and while they can be used interchangeably in some recipes, they have very different properties. To say one starch is better than another is simply not the case. Because of the various features these starches possess, it's not a one-size-fits-all scenario. While cornstarch might work better in certain soups, potato starch works better at thickening dishes like macaroni and cheese. Keep scrolling to learn more about each of these starches and determine when to use each.
Cornstarch: What Is it?
Knowing which starch to use is half the battle when it comes to baking. But the real challenge lies in how to use each starch correctly. When it comes to cornstarch, knowing where and how the starch originates can help you determine if it's the right one for your recipe. So let's dive in!
It's no surprise that cornstarch comes from corn, it's in the name! Cornstarch derives from a very specific part of the corn, the endosperm. Upon extracting the starch from the endosperm, a white powdery substance is created. This substance is what you see on grocery store shelves today. Virtually flavorless and odorless, cornstarch can be added to a wide variety of recipes. Add it to savory soups as a thickening agent or sweet desserts to create a light and airy texture. Whatever recipe you choose to add cornstarch too, you won't have to worry about it changing the flavor.
When it comes to cooking, cornstarch has a few different uses. The most common use is being a thickening agent. When adding cornstarch to soups, stews and puddings, the molecules in it work to absorb water. When heated, those same molecules expand and soak up even more moisture in a recipe. This starch reaction makes cornstarch the perfect starch to use to boost the consistency and texture of the soup.
Additionally, cornstarch can be used in baked goods like brownies, bread, cakes and cookies. To add more structure to your favorite dessert, just add cornstarch! Using cornstarch in your baked goods recipe will help bind the ingredients in the recipe together, resulting in a light and chewy dessert.
Lastly, cornstarch is also commonly found in commercially produced products like powdered sugar and shredded cheese. When added to packaged goods, cornstarch works to absorb moisture and condensation. This process helps prevent lumps from forming and food from spoiling.
How to Use Cornstarch
Now that you've begun planning out the various ways you're going to use cornstarch, you must learn how to use it. After all, just one wrong measurement can ruin a recipe! While we're sure that all your recipes will be baked to perfection, we've gathered some of our favorite cornstarch tips and tricks to get you started.
When cooking with cornstarch, the cornstarch must be mixed into the recipe at room temperature. To make sure this is the case, we recommend first making a slurry. Creating a slurry, or cornstarch paste will ensure that the starch is introduced to a cool or room temperature liquid. Plus, it can also help guarantee that the cornstarch is evenly distributed through the recipe. To create a slurry, mix a few tablespoons of cornstarch with a cold liquid like water or plant-based milk. Once a paste is created, you can then add it to the desired recipe.
It's important to note that cornstarch is sensitive to extreme temperatures. When added to too hot of a mixture, the molecules in cornstarch can break down, causing it to release all the moisture, as if it was not added in the first place. Conversely, when sauces and soups that contain cornstarch are frozen, the molecules in the starch are harmed, and when thawed, the liquid will revert to its runny state.
Potato Starch: What Is It?
Potato starch is one of our favorite starches. Add it to everything from stews to pie fillings. Potato starch is a great way to take your favorite recipe to the next level. But how does it stack up next to cornstarch? We've gathered the pros and cons of potato starch so that you can make the right choice when adding starches to your favorite meals. Keep scrolling to discover all that potato starch is, and if it's the right choice for you!
It's not hard to guess where potato starch comes from. Potatoes, of course! The starch inside of a potato is extracted to create a powder-like substance. Though whole potatoes contain a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients, potato starch itself is not very nutritious. That's not to say that it doesn't have some pretty amazing benefits, though! Gluten free, easy to cook with and practically tasteless, potato starch is a great starch to use if you don't want to change the flavor of a recipe.
Plus, unlike cornstarch, potato starch can tolerate higher temperatures. This being, it's often used as a replacement for cornstarch in many baked goods recipes. When added to baked goods, potato starch acts as a binding agent and results in a moist and chewy texture.
How to Use Potato Starch
Sometimes labeled as potato flour, potato starch has a wide variety of uses. Being that it is one of the most affordable starches on the shelves, it's a great ingredient to keep on hand. When purchasing potato starch, we recommend carefully reading all the labels on the packaging before buying. High-quality potato starch will often be gluten free, non-GMO and organic.
Much like cornstarch, potato starch is used to thicken soups, sauces and pie fillings. It's also an essential part of gluten free baking. Depending on which potato starch you buy, it can be gluten free, dairy free, grain free and soy free. All of which makes it a safe add-in ingredient for those with food allergies.
While potato starch can often hold up to higher temperatures better than cornstarch, you'll still want to pay attention to how hot your dish is getting. If potato starch is added to a dish that is too hot, it can cause the molecules in the starch to break down and not absorb moisture correctly. This means that you could end up with a runny mess. When cooking with potato starch, we suggested adding it to a warm recipe. This will ensure that the starch works as intended.
Are Cornstarch and Potato Starch Interchangeable?
Now if you’re still wondering, can I substitute potato starch for cornstarch? Then the answer is yes. Because both starches can be used similarly, they are interchangeable in most recipes. However, there are some exceptions.
When using potato starch as a cornstarch substitute, it works best added to recipes that are not going to be cooked for elongated periods. Dishes like soups, gravies, pie fillings and puddings are all recipes in which you can use cornstarch and potato starch interchangeably. If you're substituting cornstarch for all-purpose flour as a thickener, for every 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour that a recipe calls for, it is recommended to use 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch.
Before adding cornstarch to a recipe, it's crucial to consider the acidity and sugar content of the dish. While cornstarch works well with dairy-based recipes, if a recipe is high in sugar or extremely acidic, then cornstarch may not be the best substitute. Acidic foods include tomatoes, canned fruit, juices and vinegar. Cornstarch should also not be used in a recipe that you intend on freezing. Freezing cornstarch could cause the recipe to become spongy once thawed out.
An example of a recipe that would benefit from cornstarch is pasta sauce. Whereas potato starch is not able to withstand long cooking times, and would not work well in this type of recipe.
From savory soups to fruity pie fillings, each of these starches offers incredible baking benefits for you to experiment with. Now that you understand the different benefits that these two starches possess, we hope you feel more confident when adding them to your tasty treats.
Have a favorite starch of your own? We'd love to hear it. Let us know what it is in the comments below!