Don’t freak out the next time you’re making dinner and you realise you’re out of cornstarch. There are many things you can use instead of cornstarch, and it’s likely that you already have one (or more) of them in your pantry.
But first, a quick lesson on what cornstarch is and what it does: The endosperm of corn kernels is ground up to make cornstarch. (In the U.K., cornstarch is called “cornflour,” but in the U.S., “corn flour” usually means finely milled cornmeal, which is just whole corn kernels that have been ground up.) The fine white powder is often added to sauces, stews, and custards to make them thicker. It is a common ingredient in stir-fry recipes, where it is used to make a shiny coating. It can also be used in cookies and cakes to make them light and crumbly, and in frying recipes to make the outside of the food crispier. There are many things you can use instead of cornstarch to get the same results. The best one to use depends on what you’re making.
Some of the most common questions about cooking have been asked over and over again, which is not surprising. One of them is how to use cornstarch instead of flour. People in our community have been quick to tell us what they use instead of cornstarch. People like tapioca flour and arrowroot powder, but user Ophelia points out that tapioca flour and powder are more expensive and tend to stick together. Other users have said that all-purpose flour can work like cornstarch to thicken things. Potato or rice starch are good alternatives to cornstarch for people who can’t eat gluten. Since there were so many ideas, we wanted to find out for sure what the best alternative to cornstarch is.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the cornstarch substitute you choose should depend on what you’re cooking or baking. If you’re going to deep-fry something, you might need a different kind of ingredient than if you want to thicken a sauce or soup.
Today, we’ll start from the beginning with this subject! We looked at a number of ingredients that can be used instead of cornstarch. These included all-purpose flour, rice flour, arrowroot powder, potato starch, and tapioca starch. Find out which one is best for your recipe and how much of each to use so that the substitution goes smoothly.
Alternatives To Cornstarch: Common Questions
Before we start using cornstarch as a substitute, let’s learn a little bit about it, shall we? Here are a few of the most common questions we get about alternatives to cornstarch.
It is exactly what it sounds like: corn starch. Or, if you want to get technical, the endosperm of the corn kernel ground into a very fine powder. If you want to get all nerdy about it, cornstarch was made by accident by a guy named Thomas Kingsford in the middle of the 19th century. But the product has been around since at least 1000 B.C., when Egyptian pharaohs used the starch from different grains to glue together paper and cosmetics. In 1899, the Kingsford company merged with Argo Corn Starch, which is what you probably know today as the bright yellow starch container.
Is corn flour and corn starch the same thing?
It depends on where the question is asked. In the United States, cornstarch is the same as cornflour in the UK (just look at this turkey gravy recipe from Jamie Oliver). But in the United States, corn flour is a finer version of fine cornmeal, made from dried and then ground corn. Bob’s Red Mill says that cornbread made with corn flour is “less crumbly” than cornbread made with cornmeal.
How do people cook and bake with cornstarch?
Phew. If I listed all of them, we’d be here all day, but here are some big ones:
Filling for fruit pies needs a thickener. Figure 1/4 cup for every 5 cups of fruit, depending on how ripe it is.
Pudding needs a thickener. Depending on your taste, use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons per 1 cup of dairy.
Used to make ice cream thicker. This method is often used to make gelato, and it makes a creamy, chewy frozen dessert without egg yolks.
Anything fried should have an extra-crispy crust. Howdy, fried chicken! You can coat meat or vegetables in cornstarch and fry them, or you can use them as part of a dredging station.
Add to shortbread instead of flour. When cornstarch is used as a dry ingredient in baking, it makes the crumb extra tender. This is also why confectioners’ sugar is made with cornstarch.
Marinate for meat or seafood that will be stir-fried. This Chinese method, called “velveting” in English, combines cornstarch and egg whites to make a coating that protects the protein and keeps it soft and silky.
Soups and sauces need slurry. Mix a small amount of water with cornstarch to make a thin paste. Then, pour the paste into a hot liquid. Based on the recipe, 1 tablespoon will thicken about 2 cups of liquid.
Eggs in a scramble? Yep, it’s Genius. When you add a mixture of cornstarch and milk to eggs before scrambling them, they cook quickly without getting tough.
Can I thicken a liquid by adding cornstarch straight to it?
So glad you asked. No! But even if I carefully sprinkle it on top? Still no. If you add a spoonful of cornstarch (or any of its alternatives, see below) to a large amount of liquid, it will turn into clumps that you can’t get rid of. First, use a small amount of liquid to make a thin paste. Then, add this paste to the liquid on the stove.
Substitutes For Cornstarch
Plain all-purpose flour is one of the most common things that can be used instead of cornstarch. It is especially good at making sauces and roux thicker: “Instead of cornstarch, I’ve used wheat flour in the custard of my banana pudding and it turned out great,” says Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery chef David Guas.
All-purpose flour has about half as much thickening power as cornstarch, so you’ll need to use 2 tablespoons of flour for every tablespoon of cornstarch. Keep in mind that flour won’t give you the same glossy shine that cornstarch does. Instead, the final product will have a more matte finish and may be less clear. Also, using flour instead of cornstarch in baked goods isn’t the best idea. Adding more flour to a recipe will probably make the finished product heavier, not lighter.
Interested in other kinds of flour? Whole wheat flour is a good substitute for cornstarch, but it might give your food a malty taste. All-purpose flour has more starch than bread flour, so bread flour won’t work as well as a thickener. Cake flour, on the other hand, has more starch, so you can use less to get the same results.
As a thickener, gluten-free flours can be hit or miss, and like whole wheat flour, they may change the way your dish tastes. There are a few other gluten-free options on this list, like potato starch, rice flour, and tapioca starch, which is good news.
Potato starch is one of the best alternatives to cornstarch in terms of how well it works. This fine white powder has no taste and works well as a thickener. The best part is that it can usually be used in place of another ingredient with a 1:1 ratio, so you don’t have to do any math in your head. Potato starch also works well in baked goods like shortbread, so many people think of it as a great alternative to cornstarch that can be used in a lot of different ways.
Rice flour, which is not the same as rice starch, is another alternative to cornstarch. It is made from finely ground rice and doesn’t contain gluten by nature. Kendra says, “I do like rice flour when I want something crispy, like in fried chicken batter or to coat tofu cubes.” It can also be used to thicken soup, sauce, or gravy, but you’ll probably need to use twice as much rice flour as you would cornstarch.
If you don’t have a bag of rice flour in your kitchen, you can make your own by grinding rice in a spice mill or food processor. White or brown rice can be used to make rice flour. For the best results when cooking or baking, make sure to grind the rice into a fine powder.
Tapioca starch, also called tapioca flour, is a tasteless powder made from cassava root that can be used instead of cornstarch. It works best in baked goods (like to thicken the filling of a fruit pie). Guas says, “I have substituted tapioca flour for cornstarch in crisps, pie fillings, and cobblers.” “2 tablespoons of tapioca flour can be used in place of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.”
Tapioca is also great because it freezes well, so your baked goods will always be the right consistency. But you shouldn’t use tapioca starch in any recipe that calls for boiling, because the high heat will make your sauce thick and stringy.
The thickening effects of arrowroot powder are very similar to those of cornstarch. You can use the same amount of arrowroot as you would cornstarch to make a beautiful shiny sauce.
But there are a few things to keep in mind when using arrowroot powder in cooking. First of all, it’s not cheap. A 16-ounce jar on Amazon costs around $10, so it’s probably not the best substitute when you need a lot. Before adding it to a recipe, it needs to be dissolved in cold water for best results. Arrowroot powder may lose its ability to thicken over time, and it doesn’t heat up very well. Because of these things, it works best in meals that will be served right away.
Xanthan gum is a key ingredient in many gluten-free baking recipes, and in a pinch, it can be used as a thickener. You’ll want to use it sparingly, though, because a small amount of this powder goes a long way, and too much will make your dish sticky. For every cup of liquid, use 1/8 teaspoon of xanthan gum.
Psyllium husk is a type of soluble fibre that can be used instead of cornstarch. Many people like it because it has few carbohydrates. When this powder meets liquid, it quickly turns into a gel-like substance that works well in soups and stews. Most of the time, you only need a small amount of psyllium husk: Start your recipe with half a teaspoon and slowly add more until you get the texture you want.
Even though you probably don’t already have it in your kitchen, glucomannan is a great long-term replacement for those on a low-carb diet.
This ingredient is made from the roots of the Asian and Southeast Asian konjac plant. It soaks up a lot of liquid, so a little goes a long way.
You can use only a quarter teaspoon of glucomannan powder instead of two teaspoons of cornstarch. This can be stirred right into a sauce, stew, or gravy.
If you don’t have any of these substitutes on hand or don’t like any of them, there are a few other ways to thicken.
Mix and Blended Vegetables
If you want to add nutrients to your soup or stew, steam whatever vegetables you have on hand, blend them, and add them to your dish.
Tomatoes are a great natural way to thicken sauces and gravies, and crushed walnuts can also be used to do the same thing.
Source Cream and Yoghurt
These two choices are tasty ways to make a dish more creamy and thick. But since they are made of dairy, they will curdle if cooked directly over heat, so stir them in after you take the dish off the heat.
The Heat Reduction Technique
Just turning down the heat and letting your sauce or soup simmer for a longer time will make it thicker on its own. This takes a little more time and works best for sauces with few ingredients.
What can be Used Instead of Cornstarch In Recipes?
The good news is that cornstarch can usually be replaced with something else. Here are some of our favourite recipes that use cornstarch and what can be used instead of cornstarch in recipes. See the section above for how to change the amount of each ingredient.
What can I fry with instead of cornstarch?
Cornstarch is great for making crusts because it has a high amount of amylose. Rice flour and potato flour are good substitutes, but if you don’t have either, you can use all-purpose flour.
What can I use to make sauces instead of cornstarch?
A tried-and-true way to make a sauce is to mix cornstarch and water to make a slurry, then pour that mixture into a cooking liquid. You can use arrowroot powder or tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, but make sure to use the sauces right away.
What can I use to make puddings instead of cornstarch?
Egg yolks and cornstarch are often used together to thicken a custard or pudding. The best thing to do here is switch to all-purpose flour or rice flour, since tapioca, potato starch, and arrowroot powder can be hard to cook and keep together.
What can I use in fruit pie fillings instead of cornstarch?
Most of the time, I use cornstarch to thicken fruit pies, but for many people, it’s all-purpose flour (after all, you already have the ingredient out for your pie crust). Tapioca starch is a good replacement for the rest.
What can I use in baked goods instead of cornstarch?
Cornstarch makes baked goods crumbly and soft so they melt in your mouth. All-purpose flour can be used instead, but the texture won’t be as nice. Rice flour is a great substitute for wheat flour in cookie recipes, and potato starch makes cakes moister and last longer on the shelf.
If you don’t have any cornstarch, you can use all-purpose flour instead. Instead of cornstarch, use twice as much flour. Potato starch is another good substitute for cornstarch that can be used to thicken and bake. It works the same way and needs the same amount.
Rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and psyllium husk are some other things you can use instead of cornstarch. Some people also use glucomannan, ground flaxseeds, or guar gum, but these aren’t as good as cornstarch because they don’t have the same texture and may add flavours you don’t want.