Agar agar and tapioca starch are food ingredients used to thicken the consistency of desserts and other foods. However, Agar Agar is used as a vegan alternative to gelatin.
Agar Agar is rich in fiber, while Tapioca Starch is high in carbohydrates. Agar Agar has a very mild taste that other ingredients can mask. Tapioca Starch has no taste and can be used to give a smooth texture to food like custards, puddings, and pies.
But that’s not all there is!
Below is a Agar agar vs tapioca starch comparison that sheds more light on their differences.
But before we proceed, what are agar agar and tapioca starch?
What Is Agar Agar?
Agar agar, also known as the “vegan gelatin,” is a plant-based alternative to gelatin that can be used as a thickener in foods.
It comes from red algae called Gelidium, and it is commonly used to create vegan jellies and desserts. Its gelling properties make it an excellent ingredient for creating jiggle foods like panna cotta, custard, and jelly.
You can find it in Asian desserts like nata de coco (a delicious chewy coconut jelly dessert) or the classic Japanese dessert yokan (a bean paste jelly).
Additionally, Agar has a mild flavor. It is a highly versatile ingredient since it won’t dominate your recipe.
You can use Agar as a thickener or gelling agent in many recipes, including:
- Fruit jellies, puddings, and custards
- Vegan gummy candies
- Pie fillings
- Jello shots
- to stabilize whipped cream
Read Also: Agar Agar Vs Gelatin: Major Differences
What Is Tapioca Starch?
Like many other starches, tapioca starch is made from the root of a plant.
It is a starchy white powder made from cassava root used frequently in gluten-free baking as a thickener.
Aside from that, you can use it to thicken soups and sauces. Although it has no flavor and no nutritional value, don’t expect pudding to taste good!
In addition, cassava is grown in tropical regions like South America and Africa, but tapioca starch is used by people worldwide.
Agar Agar Vs Tapioca Starch
Both Agar-Agar and Tapioca Starch may look alike and be used as a thickening agent, yet they are not the same thing – as you must have noticed from their definitions.
The significant difference between both ingredients is where they were derived from.
Agar is an algae product, while tapioca starch comes from the cassava root.
Both products are flavorless thickening agents and can be used as substitutes for gelatin.
They can be used in smoothies, baking recipes, sauce, or soup.
Is Agar Agar Healthy?
Of course, Agar Agar is healthy! But it’s not the best option out there. Agar agar is just fiber and water. It’s deficient in calories—just 23 calories per tablespoon—and it contains a whopping 8 grams of fiber.
Over 20% of the recommended daily value for fiber is excellent for your digestive health and weight loss efforts. The only downside is that it can cause gas or bloat, but that’s the worst thing anyone can say about agar-agar.
Is Agar Agar Flavorless?
Yes, agar-agar is flavorless. While many people think that agar-agar has a bland taste, it’s flavorless by nature. Most of us have believed that agar-agar tastes bland because we’re so used to eating it in neutral-flavored foods such as jellies and puddings.
Agar Agar is nearly indistinguishable from other seaweed products, like nori and kombu.
Why Is Tapioca Not Good For You?
Tapioca contains little to no other nutrients. It is loaded with carbs and calories but has no protein or fiber, which means it doesn’t provide any vital vitamins and minerals your body needs to function.
Additionally, tapioca may contain toxins from processing that can cause allergies and even nervous system issues. Tapioca is by no means “bad for you,” as long as you don’t overeat.
Is Agar Agar The Same As Gelatin?
Some people say agar-agar and gelatin are the same things, but that’s not true. Both are derived from plants, but gelatin is made from animal by-products, making it unsuitable for vegans.
Agar-agar can be considered vegan because it comes from seaweed. Gelatin dissolves in hot water but sets when cooled; agar-agar sets as it cools and will melt again at 85 C.
Gelatin can have a rubbery texture, whereas agar-agar is more brittle. However, Agar Agar can be used to replace gelatin in most recipes.
Can I Use Corn Flour Instead Of Agar Agar?
You can use cornflour instead of agar to make custard, but there are a few things you should know. First, corn flour will not work if you want to make a gel (as in Jello).
Agar agar is a seaweed, which means it comes from marine algae, and it’s necessary for making the kind of gel that we all know and love. On the other hand, corn flour is made from ground maize (or corn). Corn flour can substitute for agar agar when making a custard-like filling, as you’d find in a tart or pie.
It will thicken your recipe’s liquid mixture, similar to how adding agar would thicken it –by 2:1ratio. You’ll need to mix the cornflour with water until it becomes smooth.
Then add this mixture into your liquid while stirring gently. You may want to let the liquid cool slightly before adding your thickening agent — that way; you’ll avoid lumps. Another good thing about using cornflour instead of agar agar is that you don’t have to boil the mixture. Just heat it.
In the end, between Agar Agar vs Tapioca starch, Agar Agar is a better ingredient. It’s gentler on the stomach, can be found in more types of candy, and the brands are more trustworthy.
Tapioca starch might be a decent substitute for some things. But most people already know to stick with Agar regardless of the bloat or discomfort it can cause.
However, the choice between these two ingredients may ultimately depend on what your recipe calls for, as they can both be used as thickeners and gelling agents.