Potato starch is the extracted starch from potatoes. The starch turns to a light, powdery, flour-like consistency once it has dried out, and it is a common ingredient that features in several recipes.

To make potato starch, a person crushes raw potatoes, which separates the starch grains from the destroyed cells. The starch is then cleaned and left to dry. Once dry, the potato starch forms a white, powdery, flour-like consistency.

Potato starch is gluten-free, meaning it can work effectively as a gluten-free plain flour alternative in some recipes.

This article explores the uses and benefits of potato starch and compares its different types.

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Potato starch is a common ingredient that features in a variety of recipes. As well as sprinkling it raw over food, a person can use potato starch in the below ways.

Thickening agents

One of the main uses for potato starch is as a thickener in a variety of recipes because it absorbs water effectively.

However, extreme heat may cause the starch to break down, meaning it may not absorb moisture properly, which hinders its thickening effect. Therefore, it is best to heat the starch gently and add it gradually to sauces.

Recipes that feature potato starch as a thickening agent include:

  • soups and gravies
  • pie fillings
  • sauces
  • stews and casseroles

Gluten-free alternative to flour

As it is gluten-free, potato starch can make a suitable gluten-free alternative for flour in baking recipes.

However, too much potato starch can give baked goods a dry, crumbly texture. Therefore, it can feature in baking recipes alongside other starches.

Common baking recipes that use potato starch include:

  • muffins
  • quick bread recipes
  • gluten-free flour mixes

Frying food

Potato starch could serve as a suitable fried food coating. It can coat foods, such as chicken, fish, or vegetables, before frying.

The potato starch coating can give the foods a golden and crispy outer layer during the frying process.

Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body. There are three main types:

  • sugars
  • starches
  • dietary fiber

These carbohydrates are in a number of plant foods and dairy products. If a person does not heat or cook it, potato starch contains a type of starch called resistant starch.

The small intestine does not digest resistant starches, meaning they work in a similar way to dietary fiber. Resistant starches pass through into the colon, where they begin to ferment. During the fermentation process, these resistant starches feed the friendly bacteria present in the gut.

There are several possible health benefits to eating resistant starches in potato starch, including the below.

Potato starch may improve insulin sensitivity

Some research has shown that resistant starch can increase a person’s insulin sensitivity. Raw potato starch, which a person can sprinkle over food, contains this type of starch.

During a 2012 study, males with excess weight ate just 15–30 grams (g) of resistant starch every day. They showed greater insulin sensitivity than participants who had not been eating foods with resistant starch.

Increased insulin sensitivity can play a role in reducing a person’s risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

However, it is worth noting that female participants did not experience the same results as the males in this study. Researchers call for further studies to determine the reason.

Learn natural ways to improve insulin sensitivity here.

Potato starch can improve digestive and colon health

As resistant starch ferments, it feeds the healthy bacteria inside the colon and produces short-chain fatty acids.

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that forms during this process — it plays an important part in the cells of the colon.

Butyrate can reduce the levels of inflammation in the colon, which can help reduce a person’s risk of developing a number of digestive issues.

In theory, it may reduce an individual’s risk of developing inflammatory issues in the bowel and colon, including:

However, most of the research into butyrate and resistant starch has involved animals and not humans. Therefore, more human studies are needed to outline whether these benefits affect people.

Learn 10 ways to improve gut health here.

Resistant starch may improve weight loss efforts

A 2017 study found that eating resistant starch helps people feel fuller after a meal. During the study, participants ate 30 g of resistant starch each a day for 6 weeks. This reduced the number of hormones that triggered hunger in otherwise people who had excess weight.

Individuals who ate resistant starch also had increased levels of compounds that helped them feel less hungry in the morning.

Resistant starch in the diet may help aid weight loss efforts by increasing the feeling of fullness after a meal and increasing the length of time a person feels full.

Learn 10 tips to lose weight here.

Potato starch does not generally have many health risks for a person. Resistant starches, such as potato starch, act similarly to fiber, meaning there are very few side effects after consumption.

However, some individuals may find that eating large quantities of potato starch triggers gas and bloating.

A person can purchase potato starch in the following places:

  • at larger supermarkets
  • at specialty health food stores
  • at several online retailers

There are several alternatives to potato starch. A person can substitute it with one of the following options:

  • Cornstarch is suitable for thickening sauces and frying.
  • Wheat flour is useful for baking, but it contains gluten.
  • Arrowroot powder is suitable for gluten-free baking and thickening sauces.
  • Rice flour is a type of flour suitable for gluten-free baking and thickening sauces.
  • Tapioca starch works well in gluten-free baking and thickening sauces.

Learn 9 substitutes for cornstarch here.

Potato starch is not the same as potato flour — the former is the extracted starch from crushed potatoes. To make potato flour, a person peels whole potatoes before cooking them, drying them, and grinding them into a fine powder.

The two products differ in a number of ways. While potato starch only contains starch, potato flour comprises starch, fiber, and protein. Potato starch is also flavorless, while potato flour has a distinct potato flavor.

Sweet potato starch is similar to potato starch in how a person makes it. However, it has different characteristics, meaning it can feature in different recipe types to regular potato starch.

Sweet potato starch is more granular than potato starch. It is also harder to dissolve in water than regular potato starch, so it is not as effective as a thickening agent.

Sweet potato starch sometimes appears in the following recipe types:

  • Chinese dim sum recipes
  • noodles
  • marinades for ribs and other similar meats before baking or frying

Generally, many starches do not have the required properties that make them suitable for use in some food products. Therefore some companies make modified starches to change these qualities.

Manufacturers create modified starch in a lab using enzymes or chemicals to alter the starch’s structure. They do this to give it a range of uses, including making it more stable after exposure to extreme temperatures, for example, when heating or freezing food.

Modified potato starch can feature as a food additive in a number of foods. It can offer the same benefits as regular starches, making it suitable for thickening, stabilizing, or emulsifying.

Learn about maltodextrin, a type of starch manufacturers add to food.

Potato starch may feature in several recipes as an ingredient. It is effective in thickening sauces, makes a suitable gluten-free addition to baking recipes, and can act as a suitable coating for foods during frying.

Potato starch also offers several possible health benefits, including improved colon health and improved insulin sensitivity. It may also help assist weight loss efforts.

Some suitable alternatives to potato starch include cornstarch, arrowroot powder, rice flour, and tapioca starch.