Tapioca Starch vs Cornstarch: Are They The Same?

image of Tapioca Starch vs Cornstarch

Tapioca starch and cornstarch are gluten-free alternatives that people use as thickening agents.

As they both serve a similar purpose, you might need help to differentiate between them, making your cooking experience challenging.

You do not know what makes cornstarch and tapioca starch different can ruin your next dish if you are careful.

We understand how important it is for you to make delicious foods for your family and how this is influenced by which powder you grab at the grocery store.

Given this little story, you might wonder: is tapioca starch the same as cornstarch? 

They are not the same. They are different ingredients with their own origins and unique qualities. So, keep reading to learn more about them…

What Are Tapioca Starch and Cornstarch Exactly?

Tapioca starch is a type of fine, white powder that is made from a South American tuber vegetable known as cassava root. The vegetable’s starchy pulp is used to make tapioca starch. 

image of Tapioca starch

This powder is popular in many countries and serves a lot of purposes. Many use it as a thickening agent, while others add it to various dishes and desserts. Sometimes, it’s helpful in making crispy coatings.

It is a gluten-free powder, which is why it can be a friendly alternative for individuals who deal with celiac disease. 

Because cassava root is the source of this starch, many people confuse it with cassava flour. However, the two are completely different things, with distinct parts of the root being used in their creation.

“Even though they originate from the same plant, cassava flour and tapioca flour are in fact different,” says Cassidy Stockton from Bob’s Red Mill. “Cassava flour uses the whole root while tapioca flour only uses the starchy pulp.”

Cornstarch is a powder made using the corn kernels’ endosperms. When creating it, producers put the corn kernels in liquid to let them soak in order to remove the endosperms. 

image of Cornstarch

Then, the endosperms are milled to create a fine, white powder with no odor or flavor. (*)

Just like tapioca starch, corn starch is used as a thickening agent in many cases. People add it to gravies, soups, sauces, custard, and similar dishes. 

Aside from its thickening properties, cornstarch is often used for stain removal, pest control, and even to relieve rashes or itching. 

With corn being the ingredient behind cornstarch, many people mistake it for corn flour. But unlike cornstarch, where only the endosperms are necessary, corn flour is created by grinding whole corn kernels. 

What Are the Differences?

Cornstarch and tapioca starch may both be fine white powders, but that doesn’t mean they are the same. In fact, you’ll be surprised to find out how different the two are. 

We will list some main differences between tapioca starch and cornstarch so you can choose the right one during your cooking “adventures”. 

1. Taste

When you cook very often and become accustomed to cornstarch and tapioca starch, you will notice a difference in their taste. 

Tapioca starch is quite sweet, and it has a starchier texture. In comparison, cornstarch is almost tasteless, but if we were to put it in a category, we would say it’s quite earthy. 

2. Powder Source

Cornstarch is extracted from corn kernels. The endosperms are removed from corn, and producers can make cornstarch by grinding them. 

Meanwhile, tapioca starch is extracted from the Cassava plant’s root. Only starchy pulp is used in the process.

3. Tolerance to Temperatures

Tapioca starch is more suitable for recipes that don’t require lengthy baking. On the other hand, cornstarch works better for recipes that require more cooking, as it is more resistant to high temperatures.

4. Origin

Tapioca starch is extracted from a plant native to Northern Brazil, the cassava plant. But in 1500, it was already used in different Asian regions and South America.

Cornstarch has only been around since 1842, when Thomas Kingsford created it. He discovered how to isolate the corn kernels’ endosperms while working in a wheat starch factory.

The powder was not intended for cooking in the beginning. People were using it for starching laundry instead.

5. Uses

These powders are used for different things, despite both being useful as thickeners. 

Cornstarch serves both culinary and non-culinary purposes. It can thicken custards, soups, gravies, sauces, and many other things. However, it’s also used in baking and frying. 

As for tapioca starch, it is commonly used to make:

  • Desserts
  • Sauces
  • Tapioca pudding
  • Tapioca balls
  • Flatbread
  • Jelly
  • Chips
  • Pancakes
  • Cheese bread

“Tapioca starch has regional applications in many different dishes across Thailand, India, Belgium, France, Ghana, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.,” says Saurabh on Substitute Cooking. 

Can You Substitute Tapioca Starch for Cornstarch?

You can substitute tapioca starch for cornstarch in many cases. 

For instance, since the two powders can be used as thickening agents, you can use any of them to thicken sauces, gravies, custards, soups, and anything of the sort. And since tapioca starch may be harder to find than cornstarch, there is nothing wrong with using the latter as a replacement. 

Moreover, cornstarch will not change the dish’s taste, so you will not have to worry about ruining the recipe. 

To do it right, you should use two tablespoons of tapioca starch for every tablespoon of cornstarch. 

FAQs

What can I use as a substitute for tapioca starch?

You can substitute tapioca starch for cornstarch when needed. You should add around 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch for each tablespoon of cornstarch.

What is the closest substitute for cornstarch?

The closest substitutes for cornstarch are all-purpose flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and arrowroot powder. 

What is tapioca starch used for?

Tapioca starch is a thickening agent used in bread, noodles, puddings, and other dishes. 

Conclusion

Now you know the answer to the question, “Is tapioca starch the same as cornstarch?” They are not the same, as the two powders have different origins, uses, tastes, sources, and temperature tolerance. 

However, you can safely substitute one for the other when necessary. Make sure to use the right amount when adding one or the other to your dishes.

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