Wheat starch is a staple ingredient in many recipes. But for those of us with gluten sensitivities, allergies, or dietary restrictions, it can be challenging to find an alternative.
Luckily there are many substitutes you can use instead! These 11 options will allow you to cook your favorite recipes without worry about what wheat starch is being used in the recipe.
The list of best wheat starch substitutes includes tapioca flour (great for thickening sauces), arrowroot powder (works well with dairy products), cornstarch (for breading before frying), potato starch (can replace eggs when making cakes), and more that I’ve discussed below.
Continue reading to understand the similarities and differences between these swaps and which one will be most suitable for you.
- What is Wheat Starch?
- 13 Best Wheat Starch Substitutes
- What Does Wheat Starch Taste Like?
- Wheat Starch Uses
- Wheat Starch Benefits
- Wheat Starch Side Effects
- Related Questions
- Final Words
What is Wheat Starch?
Wheat starch is a thickener and filler for many foods, including bread, pasta, gravies, and soups. It’s what makes these foods seem so fluffy and soft. Wheat starch is also what gives food that “glutinous” texture or mouthfeel.
Some people who are sensitive to gluten can react to wheat starch, but not to pure wheat flour. This is what makes it tricky to have to find the right wheat starch substitute.
Since many types of foods contain wheat starch (even if there isn’t any wheat flour in the recipe), you need to pay close attention when reading labels on food packages or recipes.
13 Best Wheat Starch Substitutes
Given that wheat starch is a type of pure starch, there are plenty of alternatives available – many of which you might already have in your kitchen.
Here are 13 popular wheat starch substitutes you can use to replace wheat starch in your favorite recipes:
1. Corn Starch
Although corn starch is made out of corn, it’s gluten-free and can add a unique texture to recipes. Cornstarch is what gives deep-fried foods that crispiness on the outside (think golden brown chicken fingers).
To make your own wheat starch substitute or thicken sauces with cornstarch: 1 teaspoon cornstarch + 2 tablespoons cold water = 1 tablespoon wheat starch.
Corn starch, however, is not easily accessible to everyone. It’s most often used in Asian cooking, so unless you’re making a dish that is typically cooked with corn starch, it can be challenging to find it at your local grocery store.
On the flip side, corn starch is relatively affordable, compared to what other substitutes are. So if you’re looking for a cheaper substitute, corn starch is a good choice.
2. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is another excellent wheat starch substitute – it’s what makes puddings thick and creamy. It will provide the same texture that wheat flour gives to baked goods and is what’s used in many gluten-free recipes as a replacement for wheat starch.
To make your own wheat starch substitute or thicken sauces with arrowroot powder: mix 1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder with 2 tablespoons of cold water and the mixture will give you 1 tablespoon of wheat starch.
Arrowroot powder can be expensive (upwards of $10 per pound), but it will last you a long time. You only need to use 1 teaspoon per recipe, so an ounce (about 2 tablespoons) should be enough for several dishes.
Arrowroot powder is not as commonly used in Western cooking, like corn starch, so it may be more challenging to find at your local grocery store or health food market.
But if you’re gluten-free and looking for a good substitute, arrowroot powder is what you want to use.
3. Potato Starch
Potato starch is an excellent substitute for wheat-based starches (or any other type of starch on this list). It will provide a thicker texture, but it won’t be as thick as what you would get if you used cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
Potato starch can be found relatively inexpensively, either in bulk or as a single bag for what will amount to what you need for several recipes.
If you want to make it yourself, what you do is boil peeled potatoes in water until the water turns yellowish (this process is called “peeling” the potato).
Then, drain the potatoes and mash them in a bowl with as little water as possible, then let them sit overnight.
The next day, mix in what you want to thicken (not too much – it’s a thickener and an almost invisible one) and cook it as normal, using the wheat starch substitute.
4. Tapioca Starch
Tapioca starch is what most people think of when they hear the words “starch” or “thickener.” Tapioca starch is what makes what you’ve cooked feel like it’s full and rich.
Like cornstarch, tapioca is easy to find at your local grocery store or health food market. And it’s relatively cost-effective, compared to some other substitutes (you can pick up a small bag for less than $2).
To make a substitute for wheat-based starches with tapioca, you boil the roots of a cassava plant in water until they are soft.
You can then mash them into a thick paste and strain out the liquid – this is what you use to make your own wheat starch substitute.
5. Xanthan Gum
This powder is the most miraculous wheat starch substitute you’ll come across – it’s made from a type of bacteria and its magic comes from being able to thicken liquids without losing its own texture.
As I mentioned above, the great thing about xanthan gum is that it won’t lose its texture once it thickens your foods – so if you’re making puddings or pies with this replacement (or anything else), make sure to use as little as possible – and even a little bit will give you an amazing texture.
Xanthan gum is easy to find – it’s relatively inexpensive and can be found at your local grocery store or health food market.
6. Guar Gum
Guar gum, like xanthan gum, is another miracle wheat starch substitute – it will thicken your liquids the way that wheat flour would (as I mentioned above).
It’s a bit more complicated to find than some of the other wheat starch substitutes on this list. But once you do find it, you can expect to pay about $15 for a large bag.
Where you’ll most likely find this gum is in health food stores (it’s relatively popular with people following gluten-free diets and those looking to lose weight).
7. Cassava Flour
This flour is a staple in many African, Asian, and South American countries. It thickens soups and stews much like wheat flour would, but it has a light taste that’s not very noticeable.
Cassava flour can be found relatively inexpensively and can be used in pancakes, cakes, or even to thicken sauces on your favorite dishes.
It’s easy to find at health food markets and grocery stores – just take a look at the shelves near the other flours and you’ll probably find it.
8. Ground Flax Seeds
This wheat starch substitute is a bit of an oddball – but if you’re looking for something to add fiber to your foods, ground flax seeds are a perfect choice.
In fact, these are what’s known as “texturized” in the food industry, which means that they are added to foods after the cooking process and provide the foods you love with an extra boost of fiber.
You can find ground flax seeds at most grocery stores, easily enough – just look in the baking section (usually near the other flours).
9. Rice Starch
This wheat starch substitute comes from ground rice – and is better known as “rice flour.”
If you’re looking for a wheat-based thickener that won’t change the texture of your food, this is the one for you.
Rice, like tapioca, will give your food substance and an extra burst of richness (especially if you’re using it in soups and sauces).
It’s also easy to find – just look for aisles that sell other flours (near the baking section) and you should be able to find rice flour right away.
10. Psyllium Husk Powder
Psyllium Husk Powder is a wheat starch substitute that’s becoming more and more popular these days – thanks to its use in modern diets that focus on weight loss.
That being said, if you’re looking for a thickening agent that is also good for losing weight (and full of fiber), psyllium husk powder may be the choice for you!
It’s easy to find, usually coming from the same aisle that sells flour and grains.
11. Potato Flour
If you’re looking to add another dimension to your dishes (and if you don’t want to use wheat flour for whatever reason), potato flour has a light flavor that won’t affect the taste of your foods.
It’s also gluten-free, which makes it a safe choice for those with allergies and sensitivities.
In fact, potato flour is often used by those allergic to gluten – as it’s not actually made of wheat at all.
If you’re looking to make an intimate dish like chocolate cake (for example), this would be the perfect wheat starch substitute.
It will give your foods texture without altering the taste, and you can find it relatively cheap at most grocery stores.
12. Almond Flour
Almond flour is a great wheat starch substitute if you want to add extra texture and flavor.
It’s made from ground almonds – but don’t worry, this will not affect your dish’s flavor in any way! The only thing almond flour will do is thicken your dish and make it richer.
If you’re looking for a wheat starch substitute that’s high in fiber (and even protein), this is the one for you – as almonds are both full of fiber and protein.
You can find almond flour at most grocery stores or directly order it from online stores like Amazon.
13. Dairy-Based Wheat Starch Substitutes
There are two dairy-based wheat starch substitutes that you can try – and they both come from actual nonfat dry milk powder.
The first one is powdered milk, which comes in a can and is often used by bakers for breakfast pastries.
The second kind is nonfat dry milk powder. This is a wonderful option for those who are looking to avoid sugar – or for those looking for a wheat starch substitute that’s gluten-free (like the potato flour mentioned above).
You can find nonfat dry milk powder at most grocery stores, usually near the other flours and seasonings.
What Does Wheat Starch Taste Like?
The taste of wheat starch is very mild, almost unnoticeable at best – and at worst, it’s barely noticeable. This makes this product an ideal thickener for any kind of dish (especially when you need to add texture!).
If you’re not worried about the flavor or texture altering in your foods, try using wheat starch instead – especially with puddings or desserts.
Wheat Starch Uses
Wheat starch has many uses in the kitchen – and that’s why it’s a staple for bakers everywhere!
It’s often used as a thickening agent for soups, stews, or sauces. It’s also frequently used to thicken puddings, pies, and other desserts.
Wheat starch is commonly used in making noodles, bread, pasta, and pancakes (which explains why it’s so helpful to bakers).
Surprisingly, wheat starch is the only flour thickener that won’t affect your dish’s taste – as long as you’re using it in recipes where taste isn’t an issue (such as soups or sauces).
Wheat Starch Benefits
Wheat starch is as close to a pure thickener that you will get – and that’s why it’s in so many different recipes.
It will add a little bit of flavor to your dish (though most times, this won’t be an issue), but mainly you’ll notice the difference in texture. And all that texture comes from the starch thickening your dish – which makes the food more rich, dense, and delicious.
Wheat Starch Side Effects
Like most starch-based products, there is the potential for side effects. However, you’ll need to consume massive quantities of wheat starch in order to see any real side effects (and most people would get sick before that).
However, wheat starch contains gluten, which can cause allergic reactions in those who are gluten-sensitive. So if you have sensitivity to gluten, know that wheat starch is something to avoid.
Where Can I Buy Wheat Starch?
You can find wheat starch at most grocery stores.
If you live in an area where finding it is difficult, try ordering it online – Amazon and some other websites sell wheat starch for a relatively affordable price. You should be able to get a 1lb bag (or more) for about less than $10.
What is Chinese Wheat Starch?
Chinese wheat starch is a type of food thickening agent that adds texture and volume to any dish.
It’s used in many Chinese dishes – as well as in other types of meals. Because of its high starch content, Chinese wheat starch is a great thickening agent for soups and sauces.
Is Wheat Starch and Wheat Flour The Same?
No, wheat starch is not the same thing as wheat flour. Wheat starch is a grain-based thickening agent that’s commonly used in recipes to thicken and add texture to dishes.
It’s often used alongside wheat flour because it will enhance the flavor of other types of flour or starches.
With these amazing wheat starch replacements, you’ll be able to effectively prepare your favorite recipes when you want a gluten-free alternative or a better texture.
Did I miss any good wheat starch replacement? Let me know in the comments below!