Which is the better substitute for tapioca in Chinese/South East Asian dishes, e.g. for thickener of soups and for meatballs? Is it corn starch or potato starch? I am asking because both corn starch and potato starch are more readily available in general supermarkets, whereas tapioca is a bit harder to find.

  • It can also be labeled cassava.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 18:50
  • As a note, if you can find tapioca pearls, you can grind them yourself.
    – Catija
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 19:11
  • Hi! Do you have a specific recipe in mind you could add as an example? Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:18
  • @Sue, added a bit more details in my question.
    – adipro
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:38
  • That looks great, thanks! It's an interesting question, and I'm looking forward to reading the answers you get. I hope something works well for you! Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


Both potato and corn starch would work equally well in the preparations you describe. When substituting flour, the proportions are equal, e.g., one tablespoon flour to replace the one tablespoon of tapioca. With cornstarch, it would be less: i.e, one tablespoon of cornstarch per two of tapioca. Were you to use pearl tapioca, it would be two of soaked pearl to the one of the quick-cooking version.

If it's available, it may be better to replace the instant tapioca with an equal amount of arrowroot starch. Both tapioca and arrowroot contain the same kind of starch, amylopectin, which differs from the amylose found in flour and cornstarch.

  • A good call .... especially because they both thicken at relatively lower temperatures than other starches. But if there's milk in what you're thickening ... everything I've read says milk+arrowroot is slimy.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 21:29
  • Potato starch also creates a "stretchy" consistency in my experience.
    – user48147
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 23:30

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