Starch is a term that can refer to a number of different things. Starches are types of food that are specific kinds of carbohydrates. In cooking, a starch is also a type of powder, usually derived from corn, potatoes or wheat, which helps to thicken other ingredients without contributing to the total flavor or caloric and fat content.
There are a number of reasons why you may be interested in substituting in other ingredients for starch in your cooking. First, starch is occasionally an allergen which may affect some people. If you have gluten allergies or if you’re potentially at risk for developing gluten allergies (i.e., if you have gluten sensitivity), you may wish to get rid of starch from your diet. The following ingredients can be substituted in place of starch.
Roux is a substance that is often used in French sauces of the same name. It is higher in fat content than corn starch will be, making it a less healthy alternative. However, it’s a good choice if you have gluten sensitivity or if you’re looking to eliminate corn starch from your diet for other reasons. You may find that you’ll have to add slightly more roux than corn starch in order to reach the consistency that you’re aiming for. Roux is best used in gravies, soups and other hot food items.
Potatoes are themselves a member of the starch food category. If you’re looking to avoid using powdered starch, you can try slicing up some potatoes very finely and adding them to the other ingredients which you’re preparing. They can help to thicken out sauces and stews as well. They are not as well suited for pastry fillings and other types of foods that call for corn starch, however, so it’s best to leave potatoes out of dishes that aren’t intended to be savory.
3. Instant Flour
Instant flour is a type of highly refined flour that is low in gluten. This type of flour will provide a good consistency to any mixture of ingredients which would otherwise require corn starch. However, the downside to instant flour is first that you’ll have to put quite a bit of it into the mix in order to achieve the thickening which you’re hoping for, and second, that the flour tends to affect the color and taste of the ingredients more so than corn starch would.
4. Nut Flours
For a non-starch equivalent to corn starch, nut flours are a good option. They will provide many of the same benefits of corn starch and are excellent thickening agents. The downsides to nut flours are that they tend to be quite expensive in comparison with corn starch and that they will contribute a flavor to the dish. If you’re content to have a slightly nutty flavor added in to the dish, nut flours are the way to go.