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Potato flakes are a fantastic, multi-purpose ingredient. You can make mashed potatoes in an instant, use them for baking fluffy bread rolls that stay fresh for longer or even crisp up the coating of your favorite fried chicken. However, just as you’re ticking the boxes for your next recipe and reaching for the potato flakes, you might find that they’re missing from your pantry or they’re out of stock in the grocery store. And so, you might ask — what are the best potato flakes substitutes?
The best substitutes for potato flakes include potato flour, potato starch, cornstarch, tapioca flour, wheat flour, rice flour, xanthan gum, and arrowroot. In addition, if you’re looking for substitutes for breading purposes, panko/breadcrumbs or cornmeal can also suffice. If all you have are real potatoes, you can even use those. This article will explore the details of these substitutes to help you better decide what to use in your recipe.
Potato Flakes vs. Real Potatoes
To begin with, what are potato flakes? They are simply potatoes that have been pre-cooked, dried, and ground before the box arrived on your shelf. What makes them popular is their ease of use — they have a longer shelf life than real potatoes, the dry, powdered format makes it simple to add to your cooking, and the potato flavor isn’t lost after rehydration. Additionally, they carry the same nutrients as a real potato, such as vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, thiamine, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.
Given that they’re basically just processed potatoes, replacing them with a real potato would make sense. This is doable as long as you adjust your measurements beforehand. Potatoes naturally have water in them, so you must account for the additional moisture content when cooking. There are no hard and fast rules for how many potato flakes equal one potato as each recipe will have different needs, but a good rule of thumb is to monitor the consistency of what you’re mixing and adjust accordingly.
Potato Flakes In Baking, Soups, or Breading
When using potato flakes for your cooking, you may be using them for one or several of their characteristics: the potato flavor, the binding or thickening agent, the nutritional value, the gluten-free aspect, or the lightness and moistness they can add to a dish. Each of these substitutes has different combinations of these characteristics. Evaluate what your dish needs the most and what you have available to you to choose the best potato flake substitute for your recipe.
As potato flour follows the same manufacturing process as potato flakes with the difference of being more finely ground, it is the closest substitute you can get. It will suffice as a thickener for soups, sauces, and gravies and can also lead to a softer and moister texture in your baked goods. It is also gluten-free and has the same potato flavor. However, you can’t substitute potato flour for making instant mashed potatoes, as the texture will be closer to gruel. Use at a 1:2 ratio of potato flour to potato flakes.
The best use of potato starch as a substitute is a thickening agent for soups, sauces, gravies, and the like. It also retains the flavor and the gluten-free aspect. Unlike potato flakes that you can easily add into your mixtures, potato starch may form lumps, so use it with caution.
Cornstarch is a common ingredient that you will likely have in your pantry in the absence of any other substitutes. It’s well-known as a thickening agent, and you can use it at a 1:1 ratio for whatever recipe you have. One downside of cornstarch is that it will lack the flavor of potato flakes and that while cornstarch is gluten-free on its own, it may be manufactured at a facility that also handles gluten-containing foods.
Tapioca flour, also known as cassava flour or tapioca starch, is perfect for use as a substitute in baking. If you want your baked goods to be softer, airier, and even slightly sweeter, use tapioca flour at a 1:1 ratio instead of potato flakes.
Wheat flour is another possible thickener for soups or sauces. To achieve the same consistency as when using potato flakes, you will need a ratio of 2:1 wheat flour to potato flakes. Like potato starch, take care to prevent clumping while adding it to your cooking. Despite not having the flavor of potato flakes, you can also use it to make a roux with butter or other fat to use as a base.
The characteristics and uses of rice flour as a substitute are similar to those of wheat flour, with the main difference being that rice flour is made from rice and is thus gluten-free.
Xanthan gum is a food additive derived from bacteria found on certain plants that creates a viscous and stable solution when added to liquid. If you want to use xanthan gum, use an equal or halved amount compared to the original volume of potato flakes. It’s commonly used in gluten-free cooking and has certain health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar or cholesterol. However, people with severe allergies to dairy, soy, corn, or wheat should avoid using it unless they can verify that their xanthan gum was not derived from these sources.
Arrowroot is another gluten-free substitute derived from plants and can be used at a 1:1 ratio in most cooking and baking recipes. A benefit and a downside of arrowroot is that it adds no flavor to your cooking — it will not affect the existing flavor balance in your recipe, but it may end up bland if you don’t compensate for it with seasoning.
The easiest substitute for potato flakes in fry coating is panko, Japanese-style breadcrumbs that are very light and airy. Regular breadcrumbs or crushed crackers and chips can also be used if you don’t have panko.
While using cornmeal for your fry coating won’t give you as much crunch as potato flakes, it’s still a decent substitute and will lend itself well to being combined with other spices and flavorings. Another perk to using it is that you can get a uniform, golden-brown color on whatever it is you’re frying.
Conclusion: Best Potato Flakes Substitutes
While potato flakes are indeed a handy ingredient, there is no need to worry if you happen to lack them. For baking, the best substitutes are potato flour and tapioca flour. The best substitutes are cornstarch, potato starch, wheat flour, rice flour, xanthan gum, and arrowroot as a thickening agent. The best substitutes are panko/breadcrumbs and cornmeal in a fry coating. There will be a substitute that can work for you no matter the recipe.
Interested in learning more about what you can substitute for other ingredients when cooking? Learn more about how to substitute eggs in fried chicken or vegetables that you can use instead of rutabaga.