Gluten-free cooking calls for nontraditional ingredients to substitute for all-purpose flour in a variety of applications. Tapioca starch is one grain-free flour that is often used in gluten-free baked goods, sauces and fillings. Arrowroot starch or powder is a similar grain-free flour that is sometimes be substituted for tapioca flour, depending on the application. Proper substitution with these ingredients helps you avoid kitchen mishaps and ensures your baked goods end up as delightful as the recipe intends.
Tapioca starch is often included as part of the starch mixture in homemade gluten-free flour mixes. Substitute the same amount of arrowroot starch for tapioca starch in these mixes, provided that the recipe calls for at least two other flours. Your baked goods will have a better texture if you also incorporate another starch into your flour mix, like potato starch or corn starch. Quality gluten-free baked goods rely on multiple flours and starches for an appealing finished product.
Gluten-free sauces and pie fillings often use tapioca starch as a thickening agent instead of all-purpose flour. Arrowroot starch can be substituted in the same amount as tapioca flour in these applications, though arrowroot has an advantage over tapioca starch in that it freezes and thaws well, without separation or strange texture changes. Neither thickener is good in dairy applications such as puddings, custards and cream sauces, where they tend to cause an undesirably slimy texture. Cornstarch or rice flour are better options in dairy-based recipes.
Single Flour Substitutions
Pão de queijo are traditional grain-free Brazilian dinner rolls made from tapioca starch or flour, with no other flours. Some people also use Brazilian cheese roll dough for foods such as pizza crust and cinnamon rolls. Tapioca flour is used in this application due to the chewiness it lends to the final product. Arrowroot powder does not have this property and cannot be substituted for tapioca starch in recipes where tapioca starch is the only flour called for.
Homemade jelly candies and marshmallows often are dusted with tapioca flour after setting to keep individually cut pieces from becoming overly sticky. Arrowroot starch has a similar mild flavor profile to tapioca starch and also keeps sticky goodies separated after cutting. Simply substitute the same amount of arrowroot starch for tapioca flour. Cornstarch is another starch that is sometimes used in this application, but its flavor profile is stronger than that of tapioca starch or arrowroot powder.
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Anne Kinsey is a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and missionary, residing in rural North Carolina. She is the founder of Love Powered Life, a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating loving community for trafficking survivors and their families. Anne has enjoyed writing for publications like Working Mother, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, Bizfluent and Career Trend. She resides in rural North Carolina with her husband, three children and a house full of furry friends.