Unique features of Potato starch
Potato starch is derived from the root tubers of various strains of potato plants. The potatoes are crushed, which releases the starch (or amylose) grains from the cells. This starch is rinsed out in water, (creating what’s called potato starch ‘milk’) and then dried to a bright white powder.
Potato starch is a refined product, which means it contains only trace amounts of protein or fat. This gives it its white colour and also helps prevents yellowing when mixed with water.
Under a microscope, it granules range from 5 to 100 micrometres, about 0,005 to 0,001 mm. In food products, it is used for its high binding strength, pleasant texture, and neutral flavour.
Some companies which process large quantities of potatoes (most commonly for use in French fries or potato chips or crisps) also produce potato starch as a by-product.
What is Potato starch used for in products?
Like many starches, it is used as a thickener and gelling agent. It’s also used to increase crispiness in baked and fried goods.
Potato starch has some special characteristics which make it useful in the food industry:
- A high water-binding capacity
- Low gelatinization temperature
- Tendency to form clear, highly viscous pastes
- Gluten-free (potatoes contain a protein called patatin, rather than gluten)
Compared with cereal starches, it granules are quite large, and tend to swell up more (increasing moistness) and dissolve more easily.
Potato starch is also extremely useful in the manufacture of gluten-free products, where it used as an alternative to wheat flour. It can also act as a substitute for corn starch where a crispy texture is desired.
Products that contain Potato starch
- Ready to eat soups, stews, purees and blends, especially canned varieties
- Pre-packed grated cheese (where it prevents the cheese strands from sticking together)
- Confections or cakes which include a gelling agent or bakery cream
- Potato-based pastas like gnocchi
- Pastry and pie fillings
- Gluten-free biscuits, cookies and breakfast foods often use it in place of wheat flour
- Forms the basis of helmipuuroporridge
Types of Potato starch
Potato starch can be extracted from any potato variety, but in Europe, potatoes with a particularly high starch content are bred and grown specifically for this purpose. In the US, it is more commonly derived as a by-product from the production of other potato-based food products.
Potatoes: starch versus flour
The process to make it is also different from that used to make potato flour, which is made using cooked, whole, peeled potatoes which are dried and ground into a beige-coloured powder. Potato flour is therefore an unrefined product, and contains all the original proteins, fibre and fat present in the whole potato.