Substitutes For Cornstarch

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Cornstarch serves many purposes in the kitchen. It can be used to lighten the texture of cakes and thicken soups. While digesting anything thickened with flour can be impossible for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, foods thickened with cornstarch may be safer.

Substitutions For Cornstarch

When comparing potato starch vs cornstarch, it’s important to note that they don’t work the same. Cornstarch results in an opaque sauce with a cereal-influenced taste based on its grain origins. Potato and other tuber starches are more translucent and don’t add much flavor.​

Per cooking authority Emma Christensen, tuber starches such as potato and arrowroot don’t tolerate a lot of long-term heat, so it’s important to add these thickeners at the end of the cooking process for best results. Be certain to whisk thoroughly, as potato starch clumps.

Ratios are important when replacing cornstarch with other thickeners. Kitchen experts with Epicurious offer ratios for swapping out cornstarch in everyday cooking.

  • Rice flour is effective, but you need three times as much to make your recipe work.
  • Wheat flour requires the same ratio and needs to cook longer or will leave a glue-y flavor in your food.
  • Tapioca flour will thicken as well as cornstarch, but requires twice as much.
  • Potato flour and arrowroot offer a one to one exchange.​

What Is Cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a derivative of field or Dent corn. When field corn is processed, it’s cleaned repeatedly and steeped or soaked in hot water for 30 to 48 hours.

Per authorities with the International Starch Institute, this steeping includes a controlled fermentation. As the necessary bacteria work on the bonds that hold the kernels together, the kernels swell to more than twice their normal size.

As the corn is dried, the water extracted is processed via centrifuge to separate the starch from any gluten remaining in the corn kernel. Is there gluten in cornstarch? In the field corn, yes.

After processing, no. Separating the germ from the starch and the cellular structural remains solves the question of how to make cornstarch and cornmeal gluten-free.

What Does Cornstarch Do?​

In the kitchen, cornstarch is a powerful thickener. While it can replace flour as a thickener, cooking experts with Taste of Home remind bakers that gluten, or a protein in flour, gives baked goods their ability to bond and rise with the help of yeast, baking powder and baking soda.

Cornstarch is not an acceptable substitute for flour in baking.

However, baking authorities with TheKitchn recommends amending flour with cornstarch to make cake flour. Sifting cornstarch into cake flour will result in soft, spongy cakes.​

Cornstarch Vs Cornmeal

Cornmeal or corn flour is available in yellow and white. This grainy material is made from the germ and is useful in baking, breading and frying.

Cornstarch is a very fine white powder that works well to thicken broth because it takes on a gelatin-like quality once it reaches a certain thickness.

Their textural differences and uses are quite sharp; they should not be exchanged one for the other.

Is Cornstarch Bad For You?

Cornstarch is very efficient and can be used sparingly. A little goes a long way, but it is high in carbohydrates. If carbohydrates are a concern, you might consider using potato starches and arrowroot instead.​

Unique Cleaning Options With Cornstarch

Household authority Melissa Maker offers some simple and unique uses for cornstarch as a cleaning aide in the home.

  • Blend cornstarch and a drop of essential oil to make an odor reducing powder for the inside of your shoes.
  • Mix cornstarch and water into a paste and use it to clean the corrosion from silverware.
  • Coat a grease stain on leather furniture or carpet with cornstarch and let it sit overnight. Vacuum the cornstarch and the stain away in the morning.

Final thoughts

Cornstarch is a common staple, but if you run out at the crucial moment there are other options. Wheat flour, tapioca flour and arrowroot are just a few of the products you can use to provide similar thickening capabilities with a few minor adjustments.​

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.