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I'm making fruit sauce to spoon, say, over a piece of cheese cake. American recipes typically call for corn starch to thicken it, but around here most people tend to have potato starch in their pantries. Does corn starch have any advantages over other thickeners for this particular use?

  • In my experience, no, but I can't back it up with reliable food science. I have used both but never noticed any difference. – Stephie Jun 27 '15 at 17:52
  • Unfortunately no science here either. I would say that if you're making that kind of sauce I'd strongly consider arrowroot as an alternative. It leaves you with a lovely clear sauce, without the clouding you get with cornstarch. – goobering Jun 28 '15 at 0:49
  • I will look into that, it will probably take research to find out where to get it. Does it have any disadvantages, too? – VoY Jun 28 '15 at 19:30
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Per this page from The Cook's Thesaurus many starches can be used for thickening but some work better than others for certain applications. For the purpose of a fruit sauce arrowroot would probably be your best option.

arrowroot starch = arrowroot powder = arrowroot = arrowroot flour This starch thickener has several advantages over cornstarch. It has a more neutral flavor, so it's a good thickener for delicately flavored sauces. It also works at a lower temperature, and tolerates acidic ingredients and prolonged cooking better. And while sauces thickened with cornstarch turn into a spongy mess if they're frozen, those made with arrowroot can be frozen and thawed with impunity. The downside is that arrowroot is pricier than cornstarch, and it's not a good thickener for dairy-based sauces, since it turns them slimy.

Arrowroot also imparts a shiny gloss to foods, and while it can make a dessert sauce glow spectacularly, it can make a meat sauce look eerie and fake. To thicken with arrowroot, mix it with an equal amount of cold water, then whisk the slurry into a hot liquid for about 30 seconds. Look for it in Asian markets and health food stores. Equivalents: One tablespoon thickens one cup of liquid. Substitutes: tapioca starch (very similar) OR Instant ClearJel® OR cornstarch (Cornstarch doesn't impart as glossy a finish and can leave a starchy taste if undercooked.) OR kudzu powder OR potato starch OR rice starch OR flour (Flour makes an opaque sauce, imparts a floury taste, and can easily turn lumpy. Use twice as much flour as arrowroot.)

The article lists each thickener with details on the best uses for each, downsides, and substitutions.

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