Choosing a perfect Tapioca Starch Substitute is easy with my complete guide to all of your substitution alternatives! You've no doubt got something completely suitable in your pantry, just check it against my suggested uses for each tapioca flour swap to ensure a perfect recipe!
13 Best Tapioca Flour Substitutes & How To Use Them
Have you run out of tapioca flour? Working with a recipe that calls specifically for this tapioca starch? Or simply can't find any tapioca starch at the store? No worries! This is an incredibly versatile thickening agent that has many really great alternatives that you can use!
Some are perfect for sweets, desserts, and baking in general while others are going to thicken your hearty stews to perfection! I actually love using tapioca flour, so I have a really thorough collection of the very best substitutions that you can use!
Table of contents
- 13 Best Tapioca Flour Substitutes & How To Use Them
- What is Tapioca Starch?
- What is Tapioca Starch Used For?
- Tapioca Starch vs. Tapioca Flour
- Tapioca Starch Alternatives
- More Easy Substitutes!
What is Tapioca Starch?
You may have seen this ingredient listed as tapioca starch or tapioca flour. Rest assured, they are the same ingredient and can be called by either name.
Tapioca starch is made from the crushed pulp of the cassava plant, which makes it very different than cassava flour, which uses the whole root, not just the pulp.
It is made by peeling, washing, chopping, shredding, washing, spinning, and washing the cassava root again until it becomes pure starch and water, which is then dried.
Tapioca starch is a fine, white powder with neutral taste, known to add a smooth, chewy texture when baked or a crispy layer in cooking or frying. It is typically gluten free, paleo-approved, and vegan.
It is also fantastic for people who cannot consume potato or corn products due to dietary restrictions.
What is Tapioca Starch Used For?
Tapioca starch is often used in baking sweets like pies, dough, and pudding, or as a thickening agent for sauces, gravies, and more.
Tapioca Starch vs. Tapioca Flour
Both tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing and can be used interchangeably. Note, this is not always the case with starches and flours.
For example, potato starch and potato flour are two very different ingredients, both made through different processes, with unique properties.
To make things even more confusing, there is something called modified tapioca starch, made by Expandex, created to give food a longer shelf life. This product cannot be used as a substitute for tapioca starch, as it has been changed at the molecular level.
So, feel free to use tapioca starch and tapioca flour interchangeably, but stay away from modified tapioca starch.
Tapioca Starch Alternatives
While cornstarch is the most commonly available substitute on the list, and arrowroot powder and potato starch top the list in positions #1 and #2, my favorite go-to swap for tapioca flour is rice flour! If you've already got some on hand, you're in luck!
1. Arrow Root
Arrowroot powder is undoubtedly the best alternative for tapioca starch because it derives from a similar root plant and is, for the most part, neutral tasting. It’s actually related to ginger!
It performs better than tapioca starch with acidic ingredients but should be used with caution when working with dairy products, as it can result in a slimy texture.
Use in a 1:1 ratio.
2. Potato Starch
Potato starch is another good alternative that is also made from the root of a plant. It's relatively tasteless, so you need not worry about your sweets tasting like potato!
To substitute potato starch for tapioca starch, use half of the amount. So, if your recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch, use 1 tablespoon of potato starch (best done as a slurry with an equal part cold water).
Cornstarch is fine to use if none of the above are available. It is not made from the root of a plant and is instead made from a kernel of corn.
Cornstarch withstands the test of time and performs well in recipes that require a long cooking time (the longer it cooks, the thicker it gets). However, it can be difficult to use with highly acidic or sugary recipes, as it loses its thickening ability which results in a chalky final product. It also will not have the same clarity as root flour alternatives.
To use cornstarch as a substitute for tapioca flour, replace 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
4. Rice Flour
My favorite and the best stand-alone substitute because it is the most similar to tapioca flour. It is also an economical alternative and won’t break the bank!
Use in a 1:1 ratio for substitution.
5. Cassava Flour
While made from the same root plant as tapioca flour, cassava flour is more fibrous. However, it is a great alternative that is gluten-free, with a slightly nutty flavor.
Use a 1:1 substitution ratio but consider reducing or eliminating the amount of other thickeners or gums that your recipe may call for.
6. All-Purpose Flour (or Whole Wheat)
This alternative is not gluten-free and works best with savory dishes as opposed to puddings, custards, or fruit recipes, and mimics cornstarch more than tapioca starch. However, this common pantry item can be a suitable substitution.
Use all-purpose flour in a 1:1 ratio.
Wondering if you can use whole wheat flour as a substitute? The answer is yes, and most definitely! Just note that it will add a nutty flavor to your end result, whatever you're making.
7. Gluten-Free Flour Mixes
Feel free to use any of the gluten-free flour mixes that you may have, or have seen on the shelf at the store, for a thickening agent in savory dishes. Again, because of some of the properties like clarity, try to avoid this substitution in puddings, custards, and fruit sauces.
8. Instant Tapioca Pearls or Boba
The term Boba is used interchangeably with tapioca pearls. Often common in baking, instant tapioca pearls or boba can be used as a substitute for tapioca starch.
For each 1 ½ tablespoons of tapioca flour that the recipe calls for, use 1 tablespoon of instant tapioca pearls or boba.
9. Heavy Cream
Heavy cream has high-fat content, making it a suitable alternative as a thickening agent. It will definitely add some richness to your dish!
When using heavy cream, as in pasta sauces or creamy soups, any other thickening agent can frequently be skipped altogether.
10. Collagen or Eggs
This is a creative way to thicken recipes, especially for sweet things like pudding and custard. Also for savory things like burgers, patties, meatballs, and fritters (vegetarian alike).
This doesn’t work well for sauces and soups, it's not vegan, and is a common ingredient that people are allergic to - so know your audience!
11. Vegetables and Legumes
For another creative thickening method for stews and soups, consider using potatoes, lentils, beans, tomato paste, or squash. Something like black bean brownies would be a great example!
12. Pectin and Gelatin
This starch is often used to solidify jams and jellies and can be used as an alternative to tapioca flour in some desserts. Think puddings, custards, and fruit sauces that flours and other alternatives wouldn't be good for.
Beware, as these are not suitable substitutes for savory dishes like soups and stews! Only a small amount is needed when using them as a substitute.
13. Agar Agar
The vegan version of gelatin, made from red algae. Best for cheeses that will be sliced or cut, as opposed to stretchy cheeses, like mozzarella.
This ingredient will vary per recipe and does not have a rule-of-thumb for a tapioca starch substitution ratio.
More Easy Substitutes!
No, definitely not! Tapioca starch is very different than cornstarch. One is derived from a corn kernel, while the other comes from the root tuber of the cassava plant. However, they are alike in that they both are thickening agents.
Tapioca starch is known to leave a clear, glossy finish, while cornstarch has a more matte, clouded finish.
You can, but this will prove to be difficult. Xanthan gum can be hard to find or if found, sold in large quantities, making it expensive. It is a gluten-free alternative, best used in baking when other flours just won’t do.
It is best to avoid xanthan gum as an alternative in savory recipes.
Yes, tapioca flour and cornstarch can be substituted for each other. Use a 2:1 ratio- that is, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour, and vice versa, 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
Cornstarch can be added to the recipe at the beginning of cooking, as it withstands high heat for a long period, whereas tapioca flour is best added towards the end of cooking or baking.
Yes (mostly)! Potato starch is dense, so you might want to consider using a lighter flour if you are using potato starch as the thickening agent, but generally speaking, they are interchangeable ingredients.
Both withstand heat, are gluten-free, and can be used in cooking and baking alike. Think pancakes, cookies, and pizza, oh my!
Remember, potato starch is not the same thing as potato flour. Potato flour is not interchangeable with tapioca starch!
Tapioca Starch Substitute
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- ½ tablespoon potato starch
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon rice flour
- 1 tablespoon cassava flour
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free flour mixes
- ⅔ tablespoon instant tapioca pearls or boba
- heavy cream (variable based on the recipe)
- 1 large egg or collagen (variable based on the recipe)
- vegetables or legumes (variable based on the recipe)
- pectin and gelatin (start with a very small amount for substitution in sweets and desserts)
- agar agar (variable based on the recipe, best in cheeses that will be grated or cut)
- Use in a 1:1 ratio as tapioca starch. Not suggested with dairy products.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!