How to substitute for potato flour: what to do when you run short

Your favorite sandwich bread recipe calls for potato flour. You open the cupboard, and GRRRRR: you used it up on those yeast rolls and forgot to restock. What now? Don’t give up on that bread! We’ve got several other ingredients you can substitute for potato flour while you work on restocking your supply.

Potato flour vs. potato starch

First, let’s clear up any confusion about potato flour and potato starch. Potato flour is made from whole peeled potatoes, cooked, dried, and ground into a fine, beige-colored powder. Potato starch is “washed” out of crushed potatoes, then dried to a fine, bright-white powder.

What’s the difference? Potato flour includes fiber, protein, and flavor, while potato starch is pure flavorless starch.

Starch helps keep bread and rolls soft, moist, and fresh by absorbing and holding liquid. When bread goes stale it’s because its liquid is evaporating; starch slows this process.

So while you wouldn’t want to use starch in a crusty baguette, it’s perfect for soft dinner rolls and sandwich loaves. Many King Arthur Flour yeast bread recipes call for potato flour, which adds not just starch, but a bit of creamy color and a faint hint of earthy, “potato-y” flavor.

Substitute for potato flour via @kingarthurflour

But back to the problem at hand: you’re out of potato flour, and you really, really want to make your favorite sandwich bread. Oh, and you also don’t have any instant potato flakes, which function very similarly to potato flour in yeast bread, and can be used interchangeably (measured by weight).

Let’s do some tests using commonly available substitutes. I’ll make four loaves of White Sandwich Bread: one with potato flour as written; one that substitutes cornstarch for the potato flour; one that substitutes cooked, mashed potatoes, and one that substitutes all-purpose flour.

Looking for the best substitute for potato flour? We've done the tests, and have some advice. Click To Tweet
Substitute for potato flour via @kingarthurflour

At left, bread made with potato flour; at right, bread made with cornstarch.

Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a worthy substitute for potato flour if you’re in a pinch. However, while it keeps bread and rolls moist, that’s the end of it. Cornstarch lacks the subtle flavor and color present in potato flour, and thus bread made with cornstarch tastes a bit flat and is slightly paler in color than bread made with potato flour.

Can I substitute cornstarch for potato flour? Yes, with reservations; your bread will be paler and less flavorful.

How to do it: Substitute cornstarch 1:1, by volume, for potato flour in yeast recipes.

Substitute for potato flour via @kingarthurflour

At left, bread made with cornstarch; at right, bread made with mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes add wonderful flavor and over-the-top moistness to yeast bread and rolls; witness one of my favorite soft roll recipes, Amish Dinner Rolls.

But the proper balance of liquid and flour is key to bread’s structure, and mashed potatoes are a wild card. If you bake the potatoes, how dry did they become? If you boil them, how much water did they absorb?

Substitute for potato flour via @kingarthurflour

At left, dough made with potato flour; at right, dough made with mashed potatoes.

Substituting mashed potatoes for potato flour is possible, but dicey. See how rough the mashed potato dough is compared to the dough made with potato flour?

The mashed potato dough is sticky to work with. And though the resulting loaf’s internal temperature is the requisite 190°F when I remove it from the oven, it collapses as it cools. Better luck next time, I guess.

Can I substitute mashed potatoes for potato flour? Yes, with caution; your bread may collapse.

How to do it: Substitute 3/4 cup unseasoned mashed potatoes for every 1/4 cup potato flour called for in your recipe. Reduce any added liquid in the recipe by 50%, subsequently adding more flour or liquid if necessary to make a soft but not overly sticky dough. Bake the loaf thoroughly, to an internal temperature of at least 200°F.

Even after all this, a loaf made with mashed potatoes may collapse. I suggest using this substitution in rolls, rather than bread; a small roll’s structure is inherently more stable than that of a high-rising loaf.

Substitute for potato flour via @kingarthurflour

At left, dough made with all-purpose flour; at right, dough made with potato flour.

All-purpose flour

If you choose to forego the benefits of starch entirely, you can simply substitute all-purpose flour for the potato flour in your recipe.

You’ll need to make some adjustments; potato flour absorbs more liquid than all-purpose flour. If your recipe calls for a range of water, start at the lower end. If the dough is still too sticky to handle easily, sprinkle in a bit more all-purpose flour.

Can I substitute all-purpose flour for potato flour? Yes, with regret; your bread will lack moistness, keeping quality, and a bit of added flavor and color.

How to do it: Substitute all-purpose flour 1:1, by volume, for potato flour in yeast recipes. The dough may be a bit stickier and harder to handle at first, but thorough kneading should create a smooth ball of dough. The resulting loaf will rise and bake well, but in comparison to a loaf made with potato flour will lack a bit of flavor and color. Its texture will be drier, and it’ll become stale more quickly.

Substitute for potato flour via @kingarthurflour

Our Soft White Dinner Rolls rely on potato flour for their delightfully moist texture.

So, at the end of the day, here’s my advice: If you don’t have potato flour, purchase some and make it a pantry staple. These tips are handy if you unexpectedly run out, but nothing beats the attributes (and ease of use) of potato flour.

Some final tips:

• Want to add potato flour to a yeast bread recipe that doesn’t call for it? Substitute potato flour 1:1 by volume, for the all-purpose, whole wheat, or bread flour called for in the recipe. We don’t advise substituting more than 1/4 cup potato flour in a typical bread or roll recipe calling for about 3 cups of flour. If you substitute potato flour for bread flour, you may notice your bread rises slightly less high.

• What about using potato water? Potato water — water you’ve boiled potatoes in — is rich in starch. Use it in soft bread or roll recipes in place of your usual tap water.

And finally, what if you’re out of potato flour, but have some potato starch on hand? My fellow blogger Kye answers that question all the time while responding to readers with recipe questions; here’s what she says:

“They’re not interchangeable when baking gluten-free; but they’re roughly interchangeable when being used to retain moisture in yeast breads. To be ultra-precise about it, potato flour is about 83% starch, so you’d perhaps want to substitute a little less potato starch; but realistically this kind of small adjustment is unlikely to make much of a difference.” As with cornstarch, potato starch doesn’t have the flavor or warm color offered by potato flour.

Substitute for potato flour via @kingarthurflour

The complete loaf lineup, left to right: All-purpose flour, potato flour, cornstarch, mashed potatoes.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Irene in T.O.

    My mother saved the (unsalted) water she used to cook potatoes for potato bread. Let it cool to lukewarm, makes a fabulous loaf. Not a spur of the moment fix.
    .
    I don’t keep potato flour, but I make potato bread with instant mashed. I boil the water in the recipe, add only enough flakes to make a runny texture, and let that cool to lukewarm. I also add a little Vital Wheat Gluten to balance the extra starch. My dough is as silky as regular milk bread.
    .
    Either of these makes a nice loaf that keeps well, has no egg or milk for those who are restricted, and makes great herb bread, garlic bread, and cinnamon bread if you mix up a BIG batch. I add seasonings as I shape each loaf.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Irene, as usual, you’re a font of good information. I love the idea about adding the potato flakes to the water already in the recipe; that makes total sense. Thanks for sharing — PJH@KAF

  2. Ricardo González- Petropolis / Brazil

    I know a lot about potato bread made with mashed potatoes. Some tips are important at this kind of breads. Some potatoes are drier than others when cooked in water. Important to consider that the weight of potato you use may not be considered 100% to substitute in hydration rate. Example: If you use 300 g of potato cooked on boiled water, you may consider 60 to 80% of this weight 180 to 240 g as liquids and the remained 40 to 20 % is out due to dry mass weight.
    Another tip is to use eggs and egg whites. Egg whites are basically protein, albumin and it aim on bread structure preventing that collapse when cooled. This is the same that happen with supermarket burger buns baked with no egg whites on formula. Egg whites are essentially to give structure to breads we will use to slice and fill like sandwiches loaves ( burger and hot dog buns ). When you see that package of damaged and mashed breads on supermarket shelves they probably would not be baked with egg whites on formula.
    The third tip is to use the skin of potatoes in bread formula. It will help increase the texture, color and nutritional value and the color will be much golden.
    I noticed that breads made with mashed potatoes are better when hydration rates are between 65 to 68% and it facilitates the development of dough. The dough will not need to be worked for so long and with strong knead. Naturally, well hydrated breads are much better and softly in texture than the others. And the presence of gluten free ingredient like potato on bread increase the fermentation process due to the presence of high amount of corn starch disposable to be converted in sugar to feed yeast. In this case sponge technic is not recommended to the breads made with gluten free ingredients like tapioca, potato, cornmeal and others. If you use sponge on these breads when you roll the final dough to assembly on pans specially bigger loaves they probably will be damage on top by accelerated on fermentation.
    Recently I sent to you my recipe of Potato Seasoned Bread…hope you could bake it and publish here!
    Hope I have been helpful with this text!!

    Reply
    1. aecummingsII

      Ricardo, I found your comment to be very informative and interesting. I have used potato water before for yeast rolls but hadn’t ever thought to leave the skins on for that purpose. I am definitely going to try it now. Thank you for taking the time to elaborate on your process!

  3. S. Koeneke

    What if you cannot have potato starch or potato flour
    Can you substitute arrowroot same measurement?
    or some other flour?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We did test a couple of non-potato options, including cornstarch and all-purpose flour. We haven’t tried arrowroot so we can’t speak to that one, but you can read more about how to make the cornstarch or AP sub and what to expect above. Hope one of those two does the trick! Mollie@KAF

  4. LISA EAGER

    HEY RICARDO!!!! I WOULD DEARLY LOVE TO HAVE YOUR TAKE AS WELL AS YOUR VIEWS ON THE MERITS OF USING THE WHOLE POTATO IN YOUR BREAD RECIPES. I HAVE NEVER MADE A LOAF OF BREAD ,ANY KIND OF BREAD NO POTATO AND POTATO WATER IN IN MY 70 YEARS OF LIFE ! I LEARNED AT A VERY YOUNG AGE FROM MY GERMAN BORN GRANDMOTHER .WE ALWAYS MADE OUR OWN GRINDS OF BOTH WHEAT AND RYE MEALS ACCORDING TO WHAT KIND OF BREAD THAT SHE WAS MAKING, WE ALSO HAD TO BUY THE WHOLE WHEAT AND VARIOUS RYE GRAINS ONCE SHE MOVED TO THE USA FROM GERMANY. SHE MALTED THE GRAINS BY SOAKING AND SPROUTING THEM ,THEN WE HAD TO DRY IT OUT BEFORE GRINDING BEFORE USING IT IN OUR BREAD. WHAT A SWEET AND WELL AS A WONDERFUL TEXTURE AND TASTE IT ALL HAD.
    I STILL HAVE TO USE A FLOUR MILL TO GET THE DIFFERENT GRINDS OF GRAINS BECAUSE THEY DO NOT SELL SUCH THINGS IN THE USA .MALT POWDER AS IT IS CALLED IN THE USA IS MOSTLY USED IN COMMERCIAL BEER MAKING.SO ARE THE GROUND GRAINS THAT SEEM TO FERMENT FASTER THAN USING THE WHOLE OR CRACKED GRAINS.
    THE CRACKED GRAINS AS WELL AS THE WHOLE ONES DO MAKE A NICE TASTE AND FEEL TO MY BREADS AFTER SOAKING.
    I MEASURE BY WEIGHT JUST LIKE MY GRANDMOTHER DID. I STILL USE THE PALM OF MY HAND TO MEASURE THE SMALLER AMOUNTS,H PALM FULL OF THIS AND A PINCH OF THAT. IT WAS NICE TO READ YOUR COMMENTS ON BAKING. IN COMMERCIAL YOU USE A COUPLE HUNDRED POUNDS OF THIS A S WELL AS A FEW GALLONS OF THAT.I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO TRY THAT WITH THE TRADITIONAL OLD RECIPES FROM GERMANY. NOW THEY NO LONGER EAT MUCH OF THAT .NOW IT IS THE CRAPPY, MUSHY STICKY,SELF DISSOLVING BREAD THAT IS TRADITIONAL BREAD HERE.
    I STILL MAKE MY OWN. LISA

    Reply
    1. Cynthia Finkenbinder

      Hi Lisa, I would love to learn to make German bread – my great grandmother was from Germany but she never cooked so no idea on making German bread

      Cyndi

  5. Laura Richardson

    What about cooking a sort of roux made of a portion of flour, as one does for Milk Bread? That brings up the starch and certainly makes for a nice, soft bread.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We love using that method, known as the tangzhong method. It certainly does make soft, tender bread. (We love it so much we use it not just to make Japanese Milk Bread but also Soft Cinnamon Rolls.) We haven’t tried using this in place of potato flour, but we love the idea and will certainly consider exploring it in future testing. Thanks for sharing. Kye@KAF

  6. Lisa Williams

    What about instant potato flakes? I have often used them in place of small amounts of potato flour….Recipe calls for 1/4 cup of potato flour, I use 1/2 cup of potato flakes. Never had any issues when doing this. Don’t know about much larger amounts though.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lisa, you’re welcome to use that substitution in recipes that call for potato flour (use 2x the amount of potato flour called for when measuring your flakes by volume). You’ll get very similar results as the original recipe if you use plain, unseasoned instant mashed potato flakes. You may have to adjust the amount of water or flour in the dough slightly, but that’s typical of most yeast doughs. It’s a great option! Kye@KAF

  7. Sharon Price

    I make bread and seem to have it start molding before it’s gone. What can I do to prevent this? I hate putting it in the refrigerator. Any suggestions would be appreciated thank you Sharon.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sharon, mold is caused by warmth and=moisture, so try to keep the bread cool and wrapped fairly tightly, so it doesn’t sit surrounded by moist air. All of which argues for the refrigerator, which will make the bread stale. But here’s what I do: I bake the loaf, let it cool, slice it, and freeze half the slices, well wrapped, immediately. When I want a slice or two of bread, I just take out what I need and let it thaw at room temperature; or pop in the toaster. It’s very good, despite having been frozen. Good luck — PJH

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