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What is the Difference Between Potato Starch and Potato Flour?

What is the Difference Between Potato Starch and Potato Flour?

Understanding the basic concept of potato starch vs. potato flour can help you choose a correct ingredient for your recipe. While describing the nutritional value and the taste of these potato products, this Tastessence article also explains how to use them in cooking. Read on to get the details.
Leena Palande
Did You Know?

As the Jews are prohibited from eating fermented products during the entire week of Passover, they use potato flour in certain kosher foods. The Finnish love the traditional sweet dish 'helmipuuro', a porridge made from potato starch and milk.

The root tubers of the potato plant are packed with starch grains (leucoplasts). When potatoes are compressed, these grains are released from the crushed cells. Manufacturers collect this starch and present it in the form of a dry powder. This is called potato starch. New varieties (for example, potatoes that contain only one type of starch molecule 'amylopectin') are being developed for better and easy manufacturing of potato starch. To get potato flour, whole peeled potatoes are cooked in giant industrial ovens. Then they are dried and ground to fine powder.
Some manufacturers use the names 'potato flour' and 'potato starch' incorrectly. People get confused as potato starch is often called and labeled as potato starch flour. 'Potato starch' and 'potato starch flour' are exactly the same. But 'potato flour' is a completely different product. The comparison between potato flour and potato starch will throw light on the differences between these two products. Although both come in the form of a white powder, there are certain characteristics which set them apart.
Potato Starch Vs. Potato Flour
Potato Starch Potato Flour
What is It? Potato starch flour is the root starch of potatoes. Potato flour is the powdered form of whole cooked dehydrated potatoes.
How is it Produced?
  • Only the starchy portion of the potato is extracted and processed to produce potato starch.
  • Potatoes with high starch content are selected for the process.
  • Raw potatoes are washed and peeled. High-speed machinery helps release the starch from these potatoes. The extracted starch is then refined to form the final product 'potato starch'.
  • The starch is also produced as a by-product by a potato processing industry, for example, by a manufacturer of French fries and potato chips.
  • Potato flour is obtained by cooking, drying, and grinding whole potatoes.
  • The dehydrated potatoes are ground to a fine-textured powder.
  • A manufacturer may add preservatives to keep it fresh and to extend its shelf-life.
Appearance The starch comes in the form of a clear white powder. It looks and feels like cornstarch. Potato flour resembles wheat flour in texture and feel. It can be white or off-white in color.
Labeling The label on a potato starch packet usually states that the product contains 'potato extract' or 'vegetable starch'. The label on the potato flour packet informs us that 'whole potatoes' is the primary ingredient of the product.
Characteristic Properties
  • The starch doesn't absorb much water in cooking, unless it is heated.
  • The phosphate bound to the starch increases the viscosity of the solution and imparts a slightly anionic character to it.
  • The phosphate also gives it a low gelatinisation temperature (approximately 140°F or 60°C) and high swelling power.
  • The starch can tolerate higher temperatures than cornstarch when used as a thickener.
  • The taste of the starch is neutral.
  • However, its binding strength is quite high.
  • It can make the dough bulkier.
  • It doesn't foam up and doesn't make the solution yellowish.
  • It adds moistness to many baked goods. It can keep a cake moist and can give it a soft texture too.
  • The flour is relatively heavy and more versatile than the starch.
  • It absorbs large amounts of water.
  • It comes with a potato flavor.
  • When combined with wheat flour, it can make baked goods lighter and moister.
  • As a thickener, it adds creaminess to frozen desserts.
  • It adds body to broths, stews, and gravies.
  • When used for breading, you get a golden crunchy crust. Potato particles tend to crisp up faster than ordinary wheat flour particles. The flavor they impart to the finished product is also unique.
  • The flour holds in the moisture along with the fat. Absorption of moisture by the dehydrated particles increases the volume, and improves the texture of the finished dish.
  • However, if the liquid is boiled with potato flour, the flour tends to foam up. This can affect the taste and consistency of the food.
Common Uses
  • The starch is generally used as a thickener for sauces, soups, and stews, toward the very end of cooking. It makes the sauce more translucent, silkier, and glossy.
  • Starch derivatives (modified starch) are used in noodles, instant soups and sauces, wine gums, cocktail nuts, various gluten-free recipes, potato chips, hot dog sausages, bakery cream, etc.
  • It is sometimes used in the preparation of pre-packed grated cheese, as it helps reduce sweating and binding.
  • Milk and potato starch are used to make porridge.
  • The starch is also used as a wallpaper adhesive.
  • It is used for textile finishing and sizing, and in paper coating and sizing.
  • It is also used as an adhesive in paper sacks and gummed tape.
  • Potato flour is often used for gluten-free baking (not as the main flour as it would make the product gummy; it is used along with other flours).
  • It is used to make potato breads, dumplings, cookies, cakes, and desserts.
  • It is used as a batter or coating for meats and fish, particularly in deep-frying.
  • It is used as a thickener (especially in foods like soups, stews, broths, and gravies).
  • It is commonly used in baking (especially when the end-product, bread or cake, needs to retain moisture).
  • It is also used as a binder, breading ingredient, and as an extender. You can add a little potato flour to fish / vegetable patties, to get tastier patties and more servings.
  • It helps enhance the potato flavor in potato-based recipes.
Nutritional Value The starch is a refined product and contains minimal protein, fat, and other nutrients.
  • Potato flour is much more nutritious than processed wheat flour. It is packed with various vitamins, for example, vitamins B6, niacin, and vitamin C.
  • It is a good source of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and dietary fiber.
  • It contains some protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, folate, thiamine, and riboflavin.

If you want to use potato starch as a soup thickener, take a tablespoon of starch in a container and add some cold water to make a thick paste. Add this paste to a boiling soup. You may use the flour in a similar way, but you should not boil the liquid after adding the flour. Both potato flour and starch should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from light. Although these products are gluten-free, they are often combined with wheat flour, so the finished product won't be gluten-free.
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