Have you ever heard of a product made out of wheat but is completely gluten-free? No, this is definitely not a joke! The ingredient I am talking about is wheat starch. It is made out of wheat and is completely gluten-free!
So, whenever you want to use a wheat-based thickening agent or emulsifier, definitely consider wheat starch! However, what would you do in a situation where you are all out of it? This article will help you find the best wheat starch substitutes.
So what are good substitutes for wheat starch? The best wheat starch substitutes are cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch, rice starch, ground flaxseeds, xanthan gum, and guar gum.
However, I am sure wheat starch is not a very well-known concept amongst most of us. So before we start discussing the substitutes for wheat starch, let me tell you a little more about it.
Quick Peek: Wheat Starch
This section will help you with all the information you need on wheat starch. You will get to know its flavor, texture, uses, and nutritional information. Read on to know all about wheat starch!
What Is Wheat Starch?
Wheat starch is a byproduct of wheat gluten. It is a starch extracted from the processed endosperm of the wheat grain. It is often confused with wheat flour. However, wheat starch contains no gluten, unlike wheat flour.
When wheat is processed, the endosperm is used to extract the starchy elements in the grain. This is done using water and starch. The mixture is further heated to remove water and excess moisture, leaving behind a fine powder of wheat starch.
Describing Wheat Starch: Flavor And Texture
Wheat starch, being a type of starch, is tan in color and is in a powdered form. It has a texture similar to any other form of starch, which is a fine powder.
When we talk about flavor, wheat starch does not have any distinct flavor of its own. It generally is very neutral in flavor and hence does not change the flavor of the overall recipe.
Uses Of Wheat Starch
Wheat starch is mostly used as a thickening agent. It is, however, not a very popular ingredient. During the production of wheat starch, all of the gluten is removed. Gluten is the main protein in wheat.
Since the protein is removed, the structure of wheat changes. Gluten is what gives elasticity to various doughs. Since wheat starch contains no gluten, it definitely cannot be used in baking.
Using wheat starch in place of wheat flour will result in a dense, heavy product that will be extremely hard to eat. Hence, the uses of wheat starch are limited to thickening, glazing, moisture retention, and emulsification.
Wheat Starch On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope
Being a thickening and emulsifying agent, wheat starch is usually used in recipes in very small quantities. Hence, it does not really provide any health benefits. A tablespoon of wheat starch contains approximately 36 calories.
Most of the calories come from carbohydrates, and it has a small amount of dietary fiber. As wheat starch is completely gluten-free, it contains no protein in it. It contains no essential vitamins but has small amounts of calcium and iron.
I think that is enough information on wheat starch! Now, let us quickly get to the main attraction of this article, the best wheat starch substitutes.
12 Best Wheat Starch Substitutes
This section will help you with the best wheat starch substitutes. It will also help you understand how exactly you can use each substitute. So, let’s dive in!
Cornstarch is the most affordable and easily available starch in the market. It has similar thickening and emulsifying properties to wheat starch, making it a great substitute for the same.
Cornstarch is made from corn kernels which naturally do not contain any gluten. Hence, it works very well for people with gluten intolerance. Moreover, it has great moisture absorption abilities.
Cornstarch is also very easy to use. You just have to mix the cornstarch with some water to form a thick paste. You add the paste to any curry or sauce that must be thickened. It works wonders. Here is the recipe for Hong Kong ginger lobster that you can make with corn starch.
2. Tapioca Starch
Tapioca starch is extracted from the roots of the cassava plant. It is a very popular thickening agent in various parts of the world. It has similar thickening properties to wheat starch, making it a great substitute.
Tapioca starch, just like cornstarch, is completely gluten-free. However, it is important to remember that tapioca starch must always be bought from a reputable supplier as it can contains high amounts of cyanide.
Tapioca starch is also high in carbohydrates and very low in protein and other nutrients. While using it as a substitute for wheat starch, use double the quantity of tapioca starch as the amount of wheat starch.
3. Potato Starch
As the name suggests, potato starch is extracted from potatoes. The fine powder extracted by crushing potatoes is a very common thickening agent. It works as a great substitute for wheat starch.
Potato starch is another gluten-free substitute for wheat starch. It is, in fact, much more popular than cornstarch in various parts of the world. It has great thickening and emulsification qualities.
There are a few important things to remember while using potato starch. It hydrates quickly, so you must work fast. Also, make sure you don’t expose it to very high heat, making the starch lose its thickening characteristics.
4. Rice Starch
Rice starch is a powdered form of starch extracted from rice. It has great thickening characteristics, making it a great substitute for wheat starch.
Rice starch, moreover, is better for health than wheat starch. It helps increase the amount of butyrate in the gut, which is good for overall gut health. Moreover, it thickens well and is very easy to digest.
It might not be the first substitute that comes to mind for wheat starch. However, because of its white color and neutral taste, you can hardly tell the difference when you use it in place of wheat starch.
Xanthan gum is a vital ingredient in gluten-free baking. It has great thickening qualities, making it a good substitute for wheat starch.
Xanthan gum has become very commercially available recently. However, it might not be the best option to use as a substitute for daily cooking. This is because consuming too much xanthan gum may cause digestion issues.
Xanthan gum can normally be used to substitute wheat starch in a 1:1 ratio. However, I would suggest using half the quantity first and deciding whether you need more. Too much xanthan gum can change the consistency of food. Here is a recipe for grainy mustard using xanthan gum.
6. Guar Gum
Guar gum is a type of starch obtained from guar beans, which are legumes. It is a wonderful gluten-free thickening agent. It makes for a great wheat starch substitute.
Guar gum, unlike xanthan gum, does not have any health risks. It is low in calories and has a high amount of soluble fiber. It is also cheaper than xanthan gum, making it a preferred substitute for most.
One great thing about guar gum is that you need to use only ⅛th quantity while using it as a wheat starch substitute. Moreover, guar gum does not require heating to act as a thickening agent. Don’t have guar gum? Here is a list of guar gum substitutes that you can try.
7. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is a plant-based starch obtained from the arrowroot plant. It is a great substitute for wheat starch because of its thickening properties.
Arrowroot powder is very widely used in commercial kitchens. It is used to make puddings, jellies, fruit gels, and ice creams. Moreover, it is gluten-free, has high fiber content, and is a good source of vitamin B.
To achieve a great thick consistency, use arrowroot powder in a 1:2 ratio. This means adding 2 teaspoons of arrowroot powder for every 1 teaspoon of wheat starch while using it as a substitute for the same.
Flaxseeds are considered a superfood that is high in nutrients. Ground flaxseeds have good thickening properties, too, making them a good substitute for wheat starch.
Ground flaxseeds help prevent constipation and with lowering cholesterol. They are a great source of fiber and some nutrients. They make a much healthier substitute for wheat starch.
Ground flaxseeds do tend to thicken quickly. Moreover, they do have some texture to them. Hence, they are best used to thicken sauces rather than making smooth jellies. Here’s how you can make caramel-flavored celebrations with flaxseed powder.
9. Psyllium Husk Powder
Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It has good thickening properties and hence can be used as a substitute for wheat starch.
This thickening agent is generally high in calories as it has a lot of fiber content. However, it has no carbohydrates or fats. It is generally sold as a laxative and is great if you have a sensitive stomach.
While using it as a substitute for wheat starch, make sure you use ⅓ the quantity of the wheat starch given in a recipe. Moreover, it thickens very quickly, so make sure you work fast!
10. Cassava Flour
Cassava flour is made by grating and drying the fibrous cassava root. It has very good thickening properties and can make a great wheat starch substitute.
Cassava flour is often confused with tapioca starch. However, though they come from the same plant, they are made with different plant parts.
It is extremely fibrous, and hence you won’t need too much of it while using it as a substitute for wheat starch. Cassava flour is also gluten-free.
11. Water Chestnut Starch
Water chestnut is a tuber vegetable that generally grows in marshes, ponds, and shallow lakes. The starch extracted from this vegetable is very common in Asian cooking and a good substitute for wheat starch.
Water chestnut starch is very low in calories and keeps you full for longer. It is generally very good for health. It can be added to various foods to make them crispier.
12. Mung Bean Starch
Mung bean starch is derived by grinding mung beans. It is high in protein and works as a great thickening agent. Hence, it can be used as a substitute for wheat starch.
Mung beans are a staple in Southeast Asia and India. They are a great source of protein. The starch derived from them is also high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Hence, it makes a healthy substitute for wheat starch.
I am sure by now you must have gone through all the substitutes. Although, do you still want to know which substitute would work best for your recipe? Hence, I have broken it down further for you.
Most Suitable: Tapioca starch is the most suitable substitute for wheat starch.
Easily Available: Cornstarch is the most easily available substitute for wheat starch.
Best Flavor Profile: Potato starch will give the best flavor profile when used to substitute for wheat starch.
I hope this article has helped you find the best substitute for wheat starch. Just like wheat starch, all the substitutes given are completely gluten-free.
However, if you do have gluten intolerance, you should consider using one of the given substitutes rather than using wheat starch in the first place. You can try experimenting with one of the non-conventional substitute options or stick to the conventional ones.
Moreover, most of the substitutes can be used in baking as well. So the next time you bake, do consider one of these options as they make great emulsifiers!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is wheat starch the same as wheat flour?
They are both derived from the wheat grain. However, wheat starch goes through extra processing and contains no gluten, unlike wheat flour.
Is wheat starch the same as cornstarch?
They are both a type of starch. But, wheat starch is derived from wheat whereas cornstarch is made from corn.
What does wheat starch do in baking?
Wheat starch assists with viscosity, gel formation, adhesion, binding, moisture retention in baking.
Is wheat starch bad for health?
Wheat starch is not bad for health.