Monday, June 1, 2015

Making Homemade Potato Starch, Tapioca Starch, Sweet Potato Starch, and Wheat Starch- And Homemade Seitan

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Homemade potato starch
I've talked many times on my blog about how I stay away from processed foods, only using whole foods, that I don't want to eat food that needs to be made in a lab, but rather only wholesome foods that I can make myself at home.
And then you probably wonder why I regularly use something like potato starch or tapioca starch in my recipes, such as my gluten free flour mixes- doesn't that completely go against my food philosophy to eat something as processed as that?

Well, actually, no. Though potato starch and tapioca starch and the like seem like overly processed ingredients, they are easily made at home, no bleaching or chemicals required (unless you're one of those who snarkily refers to water as a "chemical"- everyone knows what someone means when they say "chemical free"). So no, I don't feel bad at all using the store bought version, since it is something I am able to make easily at home.
To prove that- I did make my own potato starch at home, and it wasn't complicated at all- just a little time consuming. I don't plan on doing this regularly because I can get potato starch easily enough. However, if I would go on a paleo diet, or nightshade free diet, I would consider making my own sweet potato or tapioca starch instead of buying potato starch. (Actually scratch that- just sweet potato starch, since I can't get the raw ingredients for tapioca starch locally.) And if I were on a deserted island and unable to buy my potato starch ready made and had a large supply of potatoes- you know what I'd make! Or if I had my own garden and grew large quantities of potatoes, maybe I'd make my own potato starch as well.
However, that is in large part because potatoes and sweet potatoes especially are not so cheap here per pound, even when on sale, and yuca isn't available at all... If I were able to get my hands on them cheaply, there's a good chance that I'd be making this regularly.

As for frugality- people keep on asking me if making my own potato starch is frugal, if it works out cheaper than buying it. Well, there's a few things to consider- first of all, are we just looking at how much potato starch you're getting, and figuring out the cost that way? Or are you factoring in the fact that you're left with hash browns, so essentially you made hash browns for however much the potatoes cost per pound, and the potato starch was just a free bonus?
Either way- the main reason I did this was more to have the knowledge of how, you know, for that dessert island scenario, but also to reassure myself that potato starch, tapioca starch, etc... are real foods, and not an uber-processed unhealthy foods that I should avoid.

So what is starch used for anyhow?

Well, starch is a carbohydrate. And it is gluey/sticky. It can be used to thicken things, like puddings, gravies, and sauces. And it can be used to bind things, like in my grain free cracker recipe. And it is used in homemade powdered sugar to offer stability and keep it from clumping. And I use it in my gluten free flour mixes, because otherwise recipes made with them tend to get crumbly. And you can even use it to make homemade glue. Or homemade spray starch. Or white clay, a crafting material.

The standard starch that people think of is corn starch- however that is one of those things that I do try to avoid, as it can't be made at home yourself and does involve a lot of refining processes, etc...

But at home you can turn:
Potatoes into potato starch
Sweet potatoes/yams into sweet potato starch
Cassava/yuca/manioc (multiple names for the same plant) into tapioca starch
Wheat flour into wheat starch

The same process would be used for the first three, and another somewhat different process for the last, which also will yield seitan, a vegan, gluten based meat substitute.

Homemade Potato/Tapioca/Sweet Potato Starch Recipe

Potatoes, sweet potatoes/yams, or yuca/cassava/manioc

Tools Needed:
Food processor or grater
A few large bowls or jugs
A wide, flat container or a baking tray
Coffee grinder (optional)

1. Grate your potatoes, sweet potatoes, or yuca on the smaller grater holes in your grater/grating attachment on your food processor (if you have more than one size- if not, just use whatever size you have).

2. Mix your grated root veggies with a lot of water. I used 6 medium sized potatoes for my batch that I recently made and used about 3 or 4 cups of water. Exactly how much you use doesn't matter so much- the more the better.

3. Swish and squeeze your grated root veggies into the water, trying to release as much starch into the water as possible. This won't take a while- it just needs 10-15 seconds or so.

4. Let the root veggies sit in the water for about another minute or two.

5. Strain your root veggies, reserving the water. Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the root veggies as possible.

6. Now you no longer need the grated root veggies and can use them to make hash browns or casseroles or similar things. I used my grated potatoes with the starch squeezed out to make hash browns by mixing it with onions, garlic, and salt, and letting it fry covered on a low heat, in my greased cast iron skillet for some time, flipping it over, then serving. I haven't tried this with sweet potatoes or yucca, but google tells me you can make hash browns with both of them as well.

7. Take the water you reserved in step 5, put it in a tall jug or other deep container, and let settle for some time. About 20 minutes should be ok, but I didn't time it. You'll be able to see a bunch of white sludge at the bottom of your jug.

8. Pour off the brownish or orange-ish or clearish liquid from the jug, making sure not to mix it or shake it, reserving the sludge at the bottom. This liquid can be used in soups or similar.

9. Mix your sludge with a bunch of new water, then let it settle down again for another 20 minutes or more.

10. Pour off your water carefully (reserving it if desired) and the sludge you have left will be clean potato or tapioca or sweet potato starch.

Well, wet starch anyhow.

11. You can use your wet starch immediately as a thickener for soups, stews, sauces, puddings, whatever... Or you can dry it to be used in recipes that require powdered starch, like crackers or gluten free flour mix, or whatever.

12. To dry it, lay out your sludge on a lined baking tray or in a wide container, and leave on the counter to dry for 24 hours or so. It should become dry and crackly.

13. Break up your dried starch with a fork or a whisk or whatever you want. It'll still probably be somewhat clumpy, but sticking it in a coffee grinder or food processor will make your starch powdery and pretty indistinguishable from store bought starch.

If you want to know quantities- when I made potato starch out of 6 slightly larger than golf ball sized potatoes (a mix of white and red potatoes) I got around 1/4 cup potato starch. The different varieties of potatoes and sweet potatoes will make different amounts of starch depending on the variety- yuca will make a large quantity of tapioca starch.

Now what about wheat starch?

Even though I'm gluten free, I can't not talk about wheat starch in a post about homemade starch, and while I'm at it, talk about seitan, which is pure gluten, hell on earth for someone gluten sensitive like myself, but the favorite food of many vegans since it is able to be used as a very versatile meat substitute.
Now why talk about seitan?
Because wheat starch is a byproduct of homemade seitan.

Homemade Seitan and Wheat Starch Recipe

Unbleached all purpose white flour

1. Mix unbleached all purpose white flour with water, enough so that you have decently firm dough. Knead it well.

2. Fill a big bowl with water, put your dough in the water, and let sit for about 12 hours, to let the gluten strands develop.

3. Knead the dough under the water. The purpose of this is to separate the starch from the gluten. The starch will go into the water, making it white, and a greyish tan sticky gluten mass will remain behind. Knead for about 5 minutes, then pour off the water and reserve it.

4. Fill the bowl with new water, and knead some more, trying to rinse as much of the starch out as possible.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4, reserving the water each time, until the water stays clear when the flour is kneaded in it.

6. Let the water sit in a few large jugs, and the starch will settle down to the bottom.

7. Pour off the water and the white sludge that remains at the bottom will be your wet starch. To dry it, follow steps 11 and on from the instructions in the recipe above.

8. The grey/tan mass left behind is your seitan, which you can cook in a bunch of different ways so that it mimics meat; seasoning it then simmering it in a soy sauce based broth is the most standard preparation method. I've elaborated on ways to cook seitan in this post, and I have a whole category on my blog with a bunch of seitan recipes and cooking methods so feel free to check them out.

Just a word of warning- I probably was gluten sensitive my whole life, but eating a bunch of seitan probably made my gluten sensitivity peak to the extent that now I can't even eat things that touched gluten- so just keep that in mind.

If you're completely not gluten sensitive, feel free to use seitan as part of your larger diet (I don't recommend a seitan heavy diet) to save money and/or for morality reasons if you're vegan/vegetarian.

So- homemade starch- a fun project, a money saver if you can get the raw ingredients cheaply or grow them yourself, and a good way to ensure you are using only wholesome ingredients if you don't trust anything white and prepackaged at the grocery store.

Are you a starch user? What type of starch do you generally use? How do you tend to use it? 
Do you think you would ever make homemade starch? If so, which kind do you think you'd be most likely to make?
If you're not gluten free, have you ever had seitan? Ever made it? Does it look like something you'd try?
And... just a heads up- for my gluten free readers, I am actually experimenting with a homemade gluten free mock seitan, so... just wait and you too will have a yummy vegan meat alternative to use. :-D


  1. I am curious about sweet potato starch!!

  2. Thank you for this!!!!! I use tapioca starch sometimes and occasionally get a funny-tasting batch. Making my own is the answer. Cannot thank you enough; my brain used to come to a standstill at the thought of making the stuff.

    I use seitan sometimes, the marinades in Simply Heavenly are so good. But luckily none of us are gluten-sensitive. Tempeh will be my next project.

  3. shoshana kleimanJune 2, 2015 at 6:35 AM

    I used to make seitan all the time and was stuck with lots of search. Used the starch to thicken the sauces for the seitan. Now I can't eat any of it, although it's not clear if gluten is playing a part or if the problems are mechanical. But, my point is that it is really easy to do.

  4. I have a surplus of potatoes and was going to shred some and freeze for hash browns. Guess I will add an extra step in and cross potato starch off my grocery list!

  5. OK, is there any way to make corn starch? I use a lot of it! Thanks!


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