The Ultimate Guide to Potato Starch Substitutes
Potato Starch Substitutes, is a versatile pantry staple used as a thickener and binder in recipes ranging from crispy baked goods to velvety gravies. But when you run out of this magical white powder, don’t panic – there are plenty of potato starch substitutes to save the day.
From tried-and-true cornstarch to lesser known options like arrowroot and tapioca, this guide covers everything you need to know about swapping potato starch for gluten-free, keto, whole food, and conventional alternatives.
You’ll learn substitution ratios, how to adapt methods and texture, and discover new ingredients to add flavorful flair to your cooking. Let’s dive in!
An Introduction to Potato Starch
Potato starch is a fine, white powder extracted from – you guessed it – potatoes. It’s commonly used as a thickening agent to add body and sheen to liquids.
When mixed with cool or room temperature ingredients, it creates a smooth, gel-like consistency. It also promotes moisture and binding in baked goods for a tender, melt-in-your-mouth quality.
Some common uses for potato starch include:
- Gravies and sauces: Hollandaise, cheese sauce, stew gravy
- Frying: Adds crunch to fried chicken, tempura, fish sticks
- Baking: Light and fluffy cakes, soft cookies, flexible pie dough
- Soups and stews: Smoother chowders, heartier chili
- Gluten-free cooking: Binds and lightens textures
Unlike starchy root vegetables and potato flakes, potato starch itself is flavorless. This neutral quality makes it ideal for subtly improving the texture of nearly any savory or sweet dish without altering taste.
When searching for substitutions, it’s helpful to understand what makes potato starch so magical…
Why Potato Starch Works
Several key properties make potato starch a prized kitchen tool:
- Thickening power – Excellent at absorbing liquid and increasing viscosity
- Neutral taste – Won’t impact or compete with other flavors
- Gluten-free – Safe for those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity
- Versatile applications – Soups, gravies, baked goods, frying, and beyond
- Smoothes textures – Creates tender, cohesive consistency
Ideally, whichever substitute you choose will share some of these useful qualities. But not all alternatives can mimic potato starch perfectly across the board.
Here’s a quick glance at how the most popular options compare:
As you explore replacements, think about the role potato starch plays in your target recipe. Are you looking to thicken, bind, add crunch, or something else? This will help narrow down the best fit.
Now, let’s uncover your options…
13 Versatile Potato Starch Substitutes
Luckily, potato starch is easy to replicate or bypass with alternatives. Here are 13 convenient swaps to suit just about any diet or cooking style:
The most direct substitute – cornstarch is another neutral, powdery starch that smoothly thickens liquids. It shares an almost identical texture and thickness factor as potato starch.
Cornstarch works beautifully as thickener for:
- Velvety gravies, sauces, and soups
- Chinese cooking to finish stir fries
- Crispy coatings for fried foods
Since it comes from corn instead of potatoes, it’s also safe for those avoiding nightshades.
Substitution ratio: 1:1
Arrowroot comes from the starchy roots of a tropical tuber, thriving in hot and humid climates. To use it as a potato starch swap:
- Mix it with cool ingredients rather than boiling liquid to prevent clumping
- Use twice as much arrowroot to achieve the same thickness
- Note arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than cornstarch
This makes it perfect for:
- Fruit pie fillings and curds
- Shiny, clear glazes on meats
- Thickening dairy-based mixtures since it withstands acidity
Substitution ratio: 2 teaspoons arrowroot = 1 tablespoon potato starch
Tapioca is made from dried and powdered cassava root, also known as yuca or manioc. In cooking, tapioca flour and tapioca starch are essentially the same thing.
Tapioca is another 1:1 sub for achieving maximum thickening power. It shines when you need:
- A little extra binding or “chew”
- To avoid corn, nightshades, and common allergens
- A hint of sweetness – tapioca offers subtle natural sugar notes
- Improved moisture retention for serious fluff factor (looking at you, gluten-free bakers!)
Sprinkle a light dusting over pie crusts, cookie dough, pan breads when you’d typically use potato starch.
Substitution ratio: 1:1
4. Rice Flour
Rice flour comes finely ground from – you guessed it again – rice! There are many different varieties ranging from short to long grain, brown, white, sweet, and glutinous (sticky).
In general, white rice flours like Mochiko work best to mimic potato starch, while whole grain brown rice flours add more distinct texture and flavor.
- Use white rice flour for velvety sauces or crispy frying
- Swap in brown rice flour for added nutrition and fiber
- Note rice flour absorbs more liquid than potato starch
Rice flours shine when you need:
- A gluten-free, grain-free thickening option
- To avoid corn and common allergies
- A high protein boost
- Light crunch and chew in baked goods
Substitution ratio: 1:1
5. Wheat Flour
You can use all-purpose or other wheat flours to replace potato starch in recipes that aren’t gluten-free. Wheat absorbs way more moisture, so:
- Use about half the amount of wheat flour to equal potato starch
- Reduce other wet ingredients slightly to account for extra absorption
- Expect a less delicate texture – great for heartier foods!
Wheat flour adds decent thickness, moisture, structure, and tenderness to:
- Quick gravies and pan sauces
- Stews, chilis, curries, and braised dishes
- Pie doughs and galettes
- Cookies, muffins, and pan breads
Substitution ratio: 2 tablespoons potato starch = 1 tablespoon wheat flour
6. Root Starches: Cassava, Yucca, Arrowroot
Beyond tapioca and arrowroot, some other root starches double as tasty potato starch alternatives in the right recipes. Lesser known options include:
- Cassava flour
- Yucca/Yuca flour (not to be confused with yucca palms!)
- Arrowroot powder (as mentioned above)
- Lotus root powder
- Kudzu/Kuzu powder
In most cases, you can swap these 1:1 for potato starch. They share a neutral flavor and similar gelling magic. Double check cooking times since absorption rates vary.
7. Nut Flours: Almond, Coconut, Cashew
Going gluten-free or paleo? Nut flours bring flavor, protein, and thickness to the table. Popular picks include:
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Cashew flour
- Hazelnut flour
When using nut flours instead of potato starch:
- Mind the flavor – they won’t be as neutral tasting
- Note most are more absorbent – adjust other wet ingredients
- Expect a grittier, heartier end texture
They work wonderfully in place of wheat flour for pancakes, quick breads, cookies, and the like. But avoid them as a starch swap in delicate sauces or soups.
Substitution ratio: Equal amounts to wheat flour
8. Seed Flours: Flax, Chia, Hemp
Seed flours offer another gluten-free, protein-packed option if you don’t mind the extra flavor. Consider swapping potato starch for:
- Flax meal
- Chia seed flour
- Hemp seed flour
- Sunflower seed flour
As with nut flours, you won’t achieve an ultra smooth, imperceptible thickness from seeds. But they add pleasant texture and nutrition to heartier baked goods.
Substitution ratio: Equal amounts to wheat flour
9. Xanthan Gum
Don’t let the science-y name intimidate you. Xanthan gum is a matchup made in gluten-free heaven.
This fermented polysaccharide (say that three times fast!) acts as a binding agent. When combined with flours, starches, and liquids it creates viscosity and elasticity reminiscent of gluten.
Apply just a tiny bit – a little goes a long way. Use it when you:
- Need to add “stretch” and structure to gluten-free doughs
- Miss that slippery, gel-like texture from potato starch
- Want to thicken sauces without altering flavor
- Are balancing multiple flours or starches in baking
Substitution ratio: 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum = 1 tablespoon potato starch
Like xanthan gum, unflavored gelatin has incredible thickening abilities. It forms protein bonds that give body to liquids much like starch.
Gelatin is often used to make Asian-style jelly desserts. But it also works wonders for:
- Rich, collagen-packed bone broths and stocks
- Hearty gravies and pan sauces
- Silky smooth puddings and custards
- Stabilizing whipped cream
Sprinkle just a pinch while simmering hot liquids, then watch it work its gelling magic. Cool completely before assessing thickness.
Substitution ratio: 1/2 teaspoon gelatin powder = 1 tablespoon potato starch
11. Psyllium Husk Powder
Psyllium husk comes from the dried seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. When made into a powder it acts as an excellent vegan thickener and binder.
It offers the added benefit of soluble fiber, making it a popular choice among low-carb and keto dieters.
Psyllium requires extra moisture to achieve maximum thickness. For best results:
- Whisk psyllium husk powder into cool water before adding to hot liquids
- Use approximately 3 times as much psyllium husk powder to equal potato starch
- Account for the extra moisture in your overall recipe liquid
It works well to add stability and bite to:
- Low-carb breads, pitas, tortillas
- Vegan breakfast porridge
- Gluten-free baked goods when combined with other flours
Substitution ratio: 1 tablespoon psyllium husk powder (mixed with 3 tablespoons water) = 1 tablespoon potato starch
12. Chia Seeds
Tiny but mighty chia seeds swell up into a gel-like coating when mixed with water. This makes them a vegan, nutrient powerhouse pick for:
- Thickening smoothies, puddings, oatmeal
- Adding binding to veggie burgers and fritters along with psyllium husk powder
- Creating raw desserts and energy gels – no baking required!
Their mild flavor plays well in both sweet and savory recipes. But they won’t perfectly imitate the tenderizing texture of potato starch in baked goods.
Substitution ratio: 1 tablespoon chia seeds (mixed with 3 tablespoons water) = 1 tablespoon potato starch
13. Guar Gum
Very similarly to xanthan gum, guar gum is a natural soluble fiber used in small quantities to adjust texture and moisture in gluten-free cooking.
It’s made by grinding the endosperm of guar beans. A tiny sprinkling thickens batters, doughs, and liquids through chemical bonding without altering taste.
Use guar gum when you need stability but a slightly different outcome than xanthan. The texture it provides is more slippery and less elastic.
Substitution ratio: 1/8 teaspoon guar gum = 1 tablespoon potato starch
How to Substitute Potato Starch in Any Recipe
Swapping potato starch for any of the alternatives above isn’t overly complicated. But there are some important considerations depending on the ingredients and preparation methods involved.
Follow this checklist when making substitutions:
- Pick an alternative as similar in taste and function as possible
- Adjust the ratio based on thickness intensity
- Reduce moisture to account for extra absorption if needed
- Adapt mixing protocols – some thickeners require heat activation
- Allow time for chilling, setting, and holding structure
- Tweak baking times since texture will vary
Be extra diligent when attempting substitutions in finicky recipes like crisp frying coatings or delicate custards. And take notes! Finding your perfect proportions may require testing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions about successfully finding and using potato starch stand-ins in your cooking? These common FAQs have you covered:
Is cornstarch the same as potato starch?
Very nearly! Cornstarch makes the best direct 1:1 substitute for potato starch thanks to its neutral flavor and almost identical gelling properties. The only difference is it comes from corn instead of spuds.
Can I use all-purpose flour instead?
You can use wheat flour instead of potato starch in recipes that aren’t gluten-free. Since it absorbs much more moisture, use about half the amount of all-purpose flour. Expect a less delicate, more structured texture.
What’s the difference between arrowroot and tapioca?
Both arrowroot and tapioca thicken deliciously when heated. Arrowroot produces a more transparent, glossy finish. Tapioca offers more body and chew thanks to natural binding properties. Arrowroot also thickens at a lower temp.
Is sweet rice flour the same as glutinous rice flour?
Essentially yes! Sweet rice flour, also labeled as mochiko or glutinous rice flour, works great as a sub for potato starch thanks to its neutral flavor and thickening power. Despite the name, it contains no gluten.
Can I use potato starch substitutes in gluten-free recipes?
Absolutely! Many alternatives like tapioca starch, arrowroot, rice flour, xanthan gum and guar gum are naturally gluten-free. They provide thickness and moisture without the gluten. When baking, you may need to play with ratios more to achieve ideal texture.
What’s the best potato starch substitute for soup?
For thick and creamy soups without added cloudiness or strong flavor, traditional thickeners like cornstarch and arrowroot work beautifully. Rice flour and tapioca are also excellent options. They provide body while letting the soup flavors shine.
Ditching potato starch doesn’t mean sacrificing pleasant textures in your cooking! With tasty options from cassava and coconut to chia seeds and xanthan gum, you can mimic milky sauces, crispy coatings, flaky baked goods and more.
No two substitutes behave exactly the same. But whether you need to avoid nightshades, go gluten-free, add nutrition, or work with what’s on hand, alternatives abound.
The world of thickeners and flours spans far beyond potatoes. So embrace the difference – and enjoy the adventure!
Now fix that lumpy gravy or save burnt cookies with one of the 13 flexible potato starch subs above. Just maybe keep the potato starch for holiday gnocchi night…some traditions never change!