Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Dec 6, 2011 03:11 PM

Tapioca Starch vs Tapioca Flour

I have a recipe for pão de queijo, the Brazilian cheese puffs, and the recipe calls for tapioca starch. I took a quick trip to a few stores in my neighborhood and could only find tapioca flour. Is there a difference between tapioca starch and tapioca flour? I tried looking online and got a range of answers, some say they are the same thing whereas others claim there is a difference which may or may not be discernible depending on its use - anyway, the answers were not conclusive enough for me. I don't want to mess up the recipe, since it states that the tapioca starch is used to make the pão de queijo chewy and soft. Also, is tapioca starch easily found in stores or would I need to order online or go to a specialty store? I live in NYC and so far I've only seen the flour form, granted it was a cursory check of the local supermarkets around my apt. Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. As far as I know, there is no difference between the two.

    "The Cook's Thesaurus" at this web site in their article on starch thickeners also says they are the same.

    The reason I know this was I was studying thickeners and found the site. I could only find one at the store, too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hank Hanover

      If you have a India Market in your area, you can find tapioca starch. They have an area in the store which has spices and other bulk items like the Tapioca starch. Tapioca flour is more for vegan type bread or non gluten. And the Tapioca Pearls as we call them for actually for the old tradition pudding, not good for pies.
      The starch is the thickener for all soups, sauces and pies, where you like more of a clear look to your gravies or sauces.
      Hope that all helps.

    2. it's a tricky issue. technically there *is* a slight difference between the flour and the starch, but the terms tend to be used interchangeably by a lot of companies when labeling/packaging ground tapioca products.

      Authentic Foods labels theirs as "flour," but they actually have a recipe for pão de queijo on the package so i'm betting you'll be safe using it for this. check any natural food stores near you that have a good gluten-free selection...or try G-Free NYC on West 85th - i know they stock the brand.

      otherwise go into a Brazilian market & ask them to direct you to whatever they carry that would be appropriate for the recipe.

      1. Unlike you, I actually have much easier time to find tapioca starch. I find these tapioca starch in many east-asian stores/supermarkets. Do you have one of those in your area. They are often made from Thailand:

        Again, I am unsure if they are really different from the tapioca flour you got. I have used both and didn't notice a big difference.

        19 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Actually, I'm planning to check out one of the Asian stores this week to make the dim sum I've been craving - the recipes call for tapioca starch. I'll see if I can pick up some tapioca starch there and just get tapioca flour in my nabe. Hopefully, I will be able test them out and see if I can discern a difference for the dim sum and pão de queijo. It's weird, but it seems to be evenly split in terms of the flour and starch being interchangeable versus different when it comes to brand and use.

          1. re: lulumoolah

            :) What dim sum are you making? I hope it is not shrimp dumpling. That is very tough. I also use these for my Dim Sum dough and didn't notice any difference -- for me. Good luck.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Sorry, I completely forgot to respond to this. I'm making har gow, shrimp dumplings, and I actually owe you another response. You answered a question in an earlier post I had about pork fat and you asked to let you know if I had any success with the wrapper. I'm hoping to make the har gow this weekend, so I will definitely let you know if it worked and what worked or didn't.

              1. re: lulumoolah

                :) Oh yes, now I remember.

                Yes, I would like to know if things go well with yours upcoming trial. I tried it twice. One time the wrapper come up too tough. Not nearly the same tenderness from Dim Sum restaurant. In the second trial, I made the wrapper softer, but it didn't have the correct strength. It was very easily to rip apart.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I finally made the shrimp dumplings. For the shrimp dumpling w/ snow pea, I used the one on and the skin mostly worked out. It was a pain to make the wrapper and I ended up spending a lot of time scraping the dough off my hands. Eventually, I used plastic wrap to roll out the misshapen wrappers. The end product was translucent when cooked (not as good as Chinatown Brasserie but decent) - you have to roll it very, very thin.

                  Next for the shrimp dumplings, I used the recipe on . Again the same problem with the sticky dough, so I used plastic wrap. As for wrapping the dumpling, again same problem as before with the very sticky dough, so again I used plastic wrap and water. The dough didn't work out as well, though it tasted better than the wrapper - must be the lard in this dough. I need to try and work out the kinks with this dough.

                  (I honestly don't know how people wrap the dumpling using their hands. I know you can coat your hand and cutting board with a little oil, but I still had problems with the dough. Any suggestions? None of the recipes provided tips for dealing with the sticky dough and didn't offer very much instruction on how to form the wrapper, ex. how large each wrapper should be in diameter when rolled out.


                  Sorry, I would have included a picture, but my dumplings looked like Frankenstein made them.

                  1. re: lulumoolah

                    The recipe for the dough I use is 1 cup wheat starch, 1/2 cup tapioca starch, 1 cup just boiled water left for 2 minutes and 4 teaspoons of oil.

                    I have found dumplings doughs hard to work with and I have made them quite a few times now. I normally make my wrappers about 3 inchs diameter.

                    There is also a good website called, Asian Dumpling Tips. Might have some of the answers you are looking for.

                    1. re: dryrain

                      Thanks for the website. I took a quick look and I liked what I saw. Also, thanks for the info about the diameter and your recipe. It helps, because I've been basically rolling it out to the thickness I figured it should be. I couldn't tell if I was making them too large or not, partly because I wasn't sure how accurate the recipe I had was. The next time I'm going to try and use your recipe.

                      I do have one question for you. When you form the actual dumpling using your hands, do you flour or oil your hands beforehand or do you find that you don't need to because your dough/wrapper isn't too sticky to handle? I'm wondering because two different recipes I used produced sticky dough which I found challenging to use.

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I also had the same problem with the wrapper ripping when it was rolled very thin, but you have to roll it very thin in order for the wrapper to be as translucent as possible when it cooks. Placing the dough between plastic wrap and then rolling it out, helped. When I rolled it too thin in a few places and rips formed, I pinched the dough together in those places (using the plastic wrap on the top of the dough) and just rerolled. It solved the problem of the rips.

                    Shaping the dumplings was another ordeal. Instead of placing my Frankenstein wrapper in my hand, I left it on top of the bottom plastic wrap and placed the filling towards the middle. Then I dipped my fingers in a small bowl of water before wrapping the filling. I tried as best as possible to make the folds, but again my end result looked like a toddler was making them for the first time.

                    I feel like there are tricks that other more knowledgeable people must know and use that I as a novice dumpling maker am ignorant of. Or maybe practice makes perfect. Don't know. But I think I may try wearing surgical gloves (whatever they wear in labs) and see if that helps.

                    1. re: lulumoolah


                      I think shrimp dumplings, in fact, is considered a tough Dim Sum to master. The filling is the easy part, the skin/wrapper is difficult. I tried twice and didn't quite get it right. If you make it too dry or too think, then the wrapper tastes bad at the end. If you make it with more liquid or thinner, then the wrapper is easily ripped apart -- in addition to difficult to work with the dough.

                      Don't get me wrong, you can make the wrapper, but mine was far from what it should be.

                      As for rolling out the dough... I pressed the dough with a hard surface first into a dish, and pinched the dish into thinner shape if needed.... I have double checked if that is what I did.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Yeah, you're not kidding - it's a hard skill to master. The wrapper was a pain in my arse. I'm someone who grew up cooking and baking, so while I'm not an expert I'm generally proficient in the kitchen.

                        It's strange but the wrappers I made using the Saveur recipe basically worked. It just was a trial to roll out and form. It was viscous and as a result hard to handle, though I think you're right that there must have been too much water in the dough (even though I followed the recipe to the letter). When I make them again I'll probably use slightly less water than the recipe calls for and see how it turns out. Hopefully, a little less water will make it easier for me to shape the dumplings in my hands, though I think I may need to oil or flour my hands. (Fyi, I think the recipe you used was different from mine, because I cannot imagine getting it to the consistency of yours (even with a little less water) where you can readily use your hands to mold and pinch the dough.)

                        In the end it tasted the way it was supposed and it was translucent enough, except in the places where I screwed up the folding and the shaping of the dumpling itself. I don't know. I'm perplexed.

                        1. re: lulumoolah


                          I am sure you have put up a link already, but do you mind putting another link of the saveur recipe link. I like to compare to the recipe I have (later at home). Thanks.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Sure. Here it is:


                            Fyi, for some inexplicable reason, the recipe doesn't list the hot water or provide the amount of oil to use in the list of ingredients. However, Saveur provides the information within the instructions.

                            After further rumination, I'm wondering if I just got lucky, sticky dough and all using this recipe for the wrapper. If you do get a chance to try this one out, let me know.

                            The second set of wrappers I made with a different recipe tasted better, but didn't hold up as well in the cooking process. I'm not sure if it was the filling or the wrapper itself. It was easier this time to roll and shape the wrapper, but it might have been more than it was my second time around doing this.

                            1. re: lulumoolah

                              Hi lulu
                              Thank you so much for your link. Based on your recipe, it uses 1-1/3 cup of wheat starch plus 2/3 cup of tapioca flour plus 1 cup + 3 table spoons of boiling water and 2 tablespoons of oil. The last recipe I tried has: 1-1/4 cup of wheat starch plus 1/4 cup of tapioca flour in a 1 cup of boiling water and 1 teaspoon of oil. So we are not talking about hugely different recipe. Nevertheless, it does seem like mine has a higher solid to liquid ratio – which is something I have suspected being a problem – the wrapper being too tough and not tender enough. I had tried to add more water, but then I overdid it.

                              Anyway, there are some videos which you may find interesting.

                              Traditionally, Chinese shrimp dumpling wrapper is done by a Chinese cleaver, as shown here:


                              Another video is this one, please skip to 0:28 min:


                              or here at 3:25 min


                              The shrimp dumpling wrapper should be asymmetric which is why they use a knife and “pull and drag” the dough. One side is thicker than the other side. The pleating is also asymmetric, which is a signal for shrimp dumplings.

                              One day, I will get one of those Dim Sum Chinese cleaver (not the same as normal Chinese cleaver). :)

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Hey Chemicalkinetics,

                                Thanks so much for the comparison of your and my recipe. Yeah, I think I might have added a smidge too much water by mistake whereas your recipe didn't have enough water. I have a feeling it takes very little to go from sticky to too sticky dough (in my case). At the end it did look more or less the way it should, including my sad looking dumplings. If you ever do you use the Saveur recipe for the wrapper, could you let me know how it goes? I'm curious to see how it works out for someone else.

                                Fyi, I wouldn't use the filling exactly as stated in the Saveur recipe. I made the mistake of buying canned bamboo shoots and the taste overwhelmed the test batch - I even rinsed them in warm water a few times to reduce the tinny taste. Also, there wasn't enough pea leaves. I ended up picking out quite a bit of the bamboo shoots which were diced very small and adding more pea leaves.

                                And thanks so much for the videos! I will definitely take a look before I make more shrimp dumplings. As for the Chinese cleaver, I didn't realize there was a specific one for dim sum versus the plain old cleaver not to mention the pull and drag method. The two youtube videos I watched used a rolling pin that was lightly oiled. Thanks for enlightening me.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Fyi, I don't know if you saw the post from Dryrain, but he provides a recipe that he uses. It might work better than the Saveur recipe. His post is above your posts for today.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I finally took a look at the videos and they were very helpful. The last one particularly so, since it was in English and the commentator explained the dishcloth and cleaver were lightly oiled. I wasn't sure what was on the cloth in the other videos. Fyi, I made the wrapper again using the Saveur recipe and it worked out even better my second time around. I recommend it, though I made the wrappers before viewing the videos so my dumplings looked misshapen. Just need to get a recipe for a filling I like. I wish Joe Ng would publish a cookbook. Thanks again!

                                    1. re: lulumoolah

                                      Sounds good. I will definitely look into Saveur recipe. I often make my dough in two different setting in a single preparation. This gives me a better idea what I am lacking, so I will try the Saveur along with a different one. I certainly notice that the original recipe I posted to you have less tapioca starch than other recipes including the Saveur. So maybe that is the problem. I will have to test it out. Thanks.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        I forgot to mention I used a 1/2 tbs less water which I think made a difference. It was less sticky and more manageable. However, there is a chance it wasn't the water as much as it was my second attempt and I was more comfortable with the process.

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I think they are pretty much the same thing. There is tapioca maltodextrin as well.

                  I used tapioca starch to make a peanut butter powder in lieu of using the maltodextrin. It did work. Not sure how different the maltodextrin powder would be.

                3. have you tried this recipe?

                  it's one of my fav. (just add more salt and cheese


                  anyways, according to the above recipe, they say that they're the same but i'll tell you my experience. it depends on the brand. i invested in a lot of different ones for the above recipe and for when i was trying to make a vietnamese sweet. most of them you will find are the soft, fine ground, powdery kind. however, i have been able to also find a courser kind which they advertise for courser coating like japanese cutlets. the courser kind is not very common and i do not know if it translates differently since i don't know chinese. i suspect it may be a kind of potato starch. i like the courser one, but in the recipe, i didn't really see it make a difference. so, that's my input. sorry if it doesn't help.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: catbert

                    Thanks for the advice, alas I'm new to tapoica flour and starch not to mention making anything Brazilian. As for the recipe, thank you - it looks good! Fyi, I'm planning to use this recipe:


                    It's for the pão de queijo I had at Casa restaurant in the West Village, NYC. My friends and I loved it. My friend who lived in Brazil vouched for it's taste. All I know is it was very good and I'm looking forward to being able to make some when the mood hits, which inevitably will be at some odd time of day.

                    1. re: lulumoolah

                      thanks for sharing your recipe. i'll have to give it a try.

                      i personally love that the simplyrecipes' is so easy and fast so i can make it on a whim. everything is pretty much done in a blender. fyi, i did try it in a mixer and it didn't work. also be sure to put the ingredients in the order listed, otherwise, it will not mix thoroughly.

                      feel free to share how things go. i'll be interested in reading.

                      1. re: catbert

                        Thanks. I hope to get you an update later this week. I actually will be mixing by hand as I don't have a mixer... I have a small kitchen with limited counter space and shelves. SInce I normally don't have time to cook or bake, I generally make do with mixing by hand, though I would love a mixer eventually. Thanks for the tip about adding the ingredients in order.

                        1. re: catbert

                          I made them this evening and they turned out pretty well. Instead of delicately forming the sticky dough into balls, I sort of rounded them using a spoon. It's not as perfectly circular as in the picture in the article but I don't mind. I believe it's very comparable to what I had at the restaurant, though I did have a caipirinha on a very empty stomach while waiting for my friends. Anyway, I'm happy. If you do make them, I hope you like the end product, too.

                    2. The original comment has been removed