Is cornflour the same as cornstarch? (a complete guide)

In this article, we answer the following question: Is cornflour the same as cornstarch? We explain the important differences between these two ingredients.

Is cornflour the same as cornstarch?

Cornflour and cornstarch are not the same. Although both ingredients come from corn, their production process is different. The flour is ground, while the cornstarch is left to ferment slightly, then the starch is removed and allowed to dry.

Both cornstarch and corn flour are obtained from corn grains, which are composed of endosperm, germ, pericarp, and tip cap, making up 83%, 11%, 5%, and 1% of the maize kernel, respectively (2). 

Corn flour can be obtained by grinding corn kernels. In principle, milling of corn seeds into flour is a process of pericarp, endosperm, and embryo separation and is followed by a size reduction process. Industrially, corn flour commonly goes through alkali processing or nixtamalization in which whole maize is cooked with an excess of water treated with calcium oxide Nixtamalized maize has several benefits compared to unprocessed grains: they are more easily ground and have a higher nutritional value (2).

As they provide different flavors and thickness to food, cornstarch is recommended to thicken creams and beverages; cornflour is used in baking.

International analysts have found that the global market of corn deep processing will grow by 25 % and reach 1.191 bln tons by 2026. The impetus for production growth will be an increase in the world’s population by 3 bln people by 2050; in addition, the demand for corn products in Asian countries will increase by 53 % till 2026 compared with similar indicators in 2016. Also, the consumption of corn products in North and South America will increase by 38% by 2026 (1).

Nutritional values of cornstarch and cornflour (100 gr.)

Value  Cornstarch, according to the USDA Cornflour (2)
Proteins0.3 g7 g
Fat0.1 g1.8 g
Carbohydrates92 g79 g
Fibers0.9 g3.9 g

The nutritional properties of corn flour varies, depending on the processing conditions for its production (2).

Where do cornstarch and cornflour come from?

Both cornstarch and cornflour are obtained from corn grains; the first step to making cornflour and cornstarch is to remove the husk. Once this is done, all the remaining grain is used in the flour, while in the cornstarch, the germ is also removed.

How are cornstarch grains and cornflour ground?

Cornstarch: Cornstarch is obtained by the separation of the corn kernel parts, through the wet milling process. Corn wet milling includes steps for steeping, milling to free germ, germ separation, milling to starch, fiber recovery, and separation of protein and starch (2). 

Corn flour: Unlike this, to get corn flour, the grain is ground directly until obtaining that fine powder. These procedures do not alter the nutritional values of either of the two, since they finally present, among others, the same number of calories and proteins. However, some processes, such as nixtamalization and dry milling, which is done to improve the rheological and cooking properties of the flour, alter the nutritional properties of the final flour, when compared to the whole grain (2).

The only notable difference in this regard between corn flour and cornstarch would be that cornstarch is composed mainly of carbohydrates and is poor in nutrients and vitamins, while corn flour contains fibers, proteins and vitamins. Corn is a grain that is naturally free from gluten and is suitable for coeliacs. However, some corn products may be contaminated during industrial processing and may contain small amounts of gluten (5).

Is cornstarch or cornflour better for cooking?

When preparing a recipe, we tend to take advantage of food that we have at home, varying some ingredients for other similar ones in our pantry, but in this case, it is not advisable.

One of the main reasons is precisely the lack of proteins  in cornstarch since gluten is responsible for making corn flour elastic, which is necessary, for example, to make good bread. To solve the lack of proteins  in cornstarch, a good trick is to add an egg to the mixture.

The presence of protein in the corn flour enables it to form a structure able to incorporate air bubbles and thus to retain more CO2 during mixing and proofing (4).

Cornstarch and cornflour provide different thicknesses to recipes; therefore, cornstarch is recommended to thicken creams, while flour is used more frequently in confectionery.

Other FAQs about Cornstarch which you may be interested in.

Where is cornstarch in the grocery store?

Can you eat cornstarch?

Why do people eat corn starch?

Differences in taste between Cornstarch or Cornflour

Like corn, cornmeal tastes earthy and sweet. It can be used as a topping or in place of wheat flour in bread, waffles, and cakes to add a corn-like flavor.

Cornflour is sometimes confused with cornstarch; in the United States, it refers to a coarser flour made from corn kernels. Cornflour has a more distinctive flavor compared to cornstarch.

In contrast, cornstarch is mostly tasteless, thus adding texture rather than flavor. It is a mild powder that is used to thicken dishes.

Most common confusion when differentiating cornstarch from cornmeal  In the UK, Israel, Ireland, and some other countries, most people refer to cornstarch as cornflour.

Therefore, recipes and cooking instructions that originate outside of the United States may call for cornflour when they mean cornstarch.

If you are not sure which product to use in a recipe, try to find out its origin.

Many people have the same doubts about certain foods, so they decide to study nutrition and improve their lifestyle. Alternatively, see how the corn product is used in the recipe. If it is intended to be used in a similar way to wheat flour, cornflour is probably your best option. If the formula uses the product to thicken a soup or sauce, the best option is cornstarch.

Cornstarch and cornflour are not interchangeable in recipes.

Due to their different nutritional compositions, cornstarch and cornflour cannot be used in the same way in recipes.

Cornflour can be used to make bread, pancakes, cookies, waffles, and cakes. Also as a substitute for wheat flour. Adds a distinctive corn flavor and yellow color. However, since Corn Flour is gluten-free (the main protein in wheat that adds elasticity and strength to bread and baked goods), it can result in a denser and more crumbly product.

Cornstarch is used primarily to thicken soups, stews, and sauces. To avoid lumps, it should be mixed with a cold liquid before adding it to a hot dish.  Because cornstarch is primarily starch and contains no protein or fat, it cannot be used in the same way as cornmeal for baking.  Fried or breaded foods may also have cornstarch, as it can help provide a crisp finish.

Finally, cornstarch is often added to confectionery sugar to prevent it from clumping.  

The bottom line

In this article, we answered the following question: Is cornflour the same as cornstarch? We explained the essential differences between these two ingredients.

Cornstarch and cornflour are not the same. Due to their different nutritional compositions, cornstarch and cornflour cannot be used in the same way in recipes.

Cornflour can be used to make bread, pancakes, cookies, waffles, and cakes. Also as a substitute for wheat flour. In comparison, cornstarch is mainly used to thicken soups, stews, and sauces. 

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  1. Tanklevska, Natalia, et al. World corn market: analysis, trends and prospects of its deep processing. Agric Res Econ Int Scient E-J, 2020, 6, 96-111. 
  2. Gwirtz, Jeffrey A., and Maria Nieves Garcia‐Casal. Processing maize flour and corn meal food products. Annal New York Acad Sci, 2014, 1312, 66-75.  
  3. Sciarini, Lorena S., et al. Influence of gluten-free flours and their mixtures on batter properties and bread quality. Food Bioproc Technol, 2010, 3, 577-585.  
  4. Liu, Jie, et al. A Cleaner approach for corn starch production by ultrasound-assisted laboratory scale wet-milling. Food Sci Technol Res, 2020, 26, 469-478.  
  5. Wieser H, Segura V, Ruiz-Carnicer Á, Sousa C, Comino I. Food Safety and Cross-Contamination of Gluten-Free Products: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2021, 13, 2244