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Jun 29, 2010 09:04 AM

Substitute for instant tapioca in sour cherry pie?

I want to make the pie in this recipe from the NYTimes:

But, no instant tapioca and don't feel like buying any. Does corn starch serve the same purpose?


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  1. Yes, corn starch should serve the same purpose in thickening the juices, but I am not sure whether it would be a 1 to 1 substitution. Two to three tablespoons of corn starch sounds like a lot, but I guess it depends on how juicy your cherries are.

    I will be very curious to hear how this pie turns out. Will you let us know? I was intrigued by the recipe, but wondered if the crust at the edges would get too dark. I guess one could use a pie shield or foil if it starts getting overdone..

    1 Reply
    1. re: roxlet

      Tapioca is a more neutral flavour than corn starch, but corn starch will suffice.

    2. Corn starch should work fine. I use clear-jel in my pies which is a modified cornstarch. I'm not sure how much you would need but I use 1Tb of the clear-jel in my cherry pie. You might need a little more of regular cornstarch. The Argo Corn starch site suggests 3 Tb but their recipe appears much wetter than the NYT recipe. Mix the cornstarch in place of the tapioca with the other dry ingredients.

      1. OK, I stand corrected -- I just looked at a recipe for sour cherry pie on epicurious, and they said three tablespoons of corn starch, so it is a 1-1 substitution.

        1 Reply
        1. re: roxlet

          Thanks to both of you - will post back. Guess I need to go buy a pie pan first though!

        2. I seond the Clear-Jel. I get it from King Arthur Flour Co. Works like a charm in all my fruit pies. Just follow package directions.

          1. Personally I much prefer the texture of a pie made with tapioca. Minute Tapioca is widely available for about $3/ box. Next time give it a try -- you may not go back to cornstarch!

            6 Replies
            1. re: visciole

              i'm here because of the same question: well looks like after 6 months (since you replied above), a box (w/c is like a cup) of this ingredient is now $5.45 (86406 area)! that's why i need substitution like cornstarch-w/c i already have. just fyi, do not mean to offend:-))

              1. re: chow2x

                Tapioca pearls, or tapioca flour, which I wouldn't use for pie or even instant tapioca can be found in Asian grocery stores for much less than that. I know where 84606 is, and you may not have Asian grocery stores out there, but I would seek out a different grocery store if it is costing you that much; it's only $3.99 in the heart of NYC. Also, remember that a little tapioca goes a long way; you don't use much in a pie or pudding recipe. So it may seem expensive for the start up, but you get your money's worth.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  A box lasts at least 6 months unless you're a maniac pie baker. The tapioca flour in Asian stores costs under $2.00 for a pound in Manhattan. That'll last you semi-forever.

                  1. re: buttertart

                    Exactly. When I wrote $3.99 I meant at my local supermarket, not Asian store; it would be much cheaper there. I just don't know if chow2x has the Asian store option.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      And we both know those local supermarkets ain't cheap! I think I've seen MT for $2.99 in Iowa.

                  2. re: bushwickgirl

                    I paid $4.50 for instant tapioca at Thanksgiving at one of my local grocery stores in Queens - expensive, but worth it IMO. First off, I'll probably never have to buy another box since I only make a couple pies a year, and second, the results were SO MUCH BETTER than I have ever been able to achieve with cornstarch. Cornstarch gives inconsistent results in general, but with sour cherry it's particularly bad - I think the acidity in the cherries is the problem. I probably could have found tapioca flour cheaper but I was being lazy - it was worth the extra $2 not to have to go to another store!