What can be used instead of cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a staple ingredient in the kitchen and has a variety of uses. However, if you ever run out of it or cannot access it for any reason, the following guide outlines what can be used instead

What can be used instead of cornstarch?

Listed below are the most commonly used substitutes:

What is cornstarch and its uses?

Cornstarch is formed by removing the protein and fibre parts of the corn kernels, leaving behind the starchy inner part called the endosperm. This is ground into a white powder. It is not rich in nutrients as it is stripped of most of its protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals, but is gluten-free, so works for those who prefer non-gluten ingredients.

In short, cornstarch is a thickening agent that is flavourless and so is used in recipes to alter its texture rather than its taste or for nutritional value. It is most often used in marinades, soups, glazes, pies, etc.

Cornstarch is used in batters to fry meat and other items for a crispy and light texture. A small amount of the flour in cakes can also be substituted with cornstarch for an enhanced texture. It is used to coat the fruit in pies and other desserts so that the juices in the fruit don’t run while cooking.

What are the substitutes for cornstarch?

1. Wheat flour

A much more nutritional substitute, wheat flour is packed with the nutrients that cornstarch lacks as it contains a good amount of dietary fibre and vitamins and minerals. However, it is less starchy so should be used in larger amounts to thicken to the same degree. 

Do note that wheat flour contains gluten so is not a gluten-free substitute and should be avoided by those with gluten allergies.

2. Rice flour

Made from ground rice, this substitute is nutritional and is used widely in Asian cuisine. It is higher in protein content and contains less carbohydrate. Similar to cornstarch, it is also gluten-free. However, it is not as starchy so this too must be used in double the quantity to get the same thickening effect.

Rice flour forms a clear paste so can be used to make clear liquids more viscous.

3. Arrowroot flour

This flour is made from the roots of many plants from the arrowroot variety. It is yet another nutritional substitute as it contains more dietary protein. In addition, it also contains calcium and is also gluten-free but not as starchy as cornstarch so should be used in double the amount.

4. Potato starch

Starch is extracted from potatoes, dried, and ground into a fine powder to form potato starch. Potato starch does not have much nutritional value however, it is less calorific than cornstarch. Additionally, much like cornstarch, it is also fairly flavourless and gluten-free.

Something to note is that potato starch can be easily broken down by heat so must be used later in the cooking process. It is almost as starchy as cornstarch so can be added in equal volumes. 

5. Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum is made when bacteria ferment sugars. It is a rather strong thickening agent so it must be carefully used in your recipes. It has little to no nutritional value aside from potassium and sodium. Another reason to use small amounts of Xanthan gum is that it may cause digestive issues in some people when eaten in large quantities.

6. Tapioca flour

Made from finely ground Cassava or tapioca root, this flour has far fewer carbohydrates and so is preferred by diabetic people in their food. The making of this flour involves an intricate process of soaking, washing and pulping as well as treatment as some Cassava roots contain traces of cyanide. 

Tapioca flour too must be used in double the amount as it is not as starchy as cornstarch.

7. Ground flaxseeds

Ground flaxseeds quickly absorb water to form a gel-like texture. However, this mixture is not as smooth as cornstarch as it is grainy from the tiny flaxseed pieces. Flaxseeds contain a lot of fibre and can be added to your dish to increase its fibre content.  A tablespoon of ground flaxseeds mixed with 4 tablespoons of water can replace 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Other FAQs about Cornstarch that you may be interested in.

What can I substitute for Cornstarch?

What can be used instead of cornstarch?

Can I substitute cornmeal for cornstarch?

Conclusion

As we have seen, cornstarch has many nutritional substitutes that are quite easy to find in the market or at home. There are both gluten and gluten-free substitutes. Be sure to keep in mind to double the volumes were mentioned as some of these substitutes aren’t as strong of a thickening agent as cornstarch.

Citations

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cornstarch-vs-corn-flour#flavor
https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-corn-starch-1328466
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324035#cornstarch-substitutes
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/substitutes-for-cornstarch#TOC_TITLE_HDR_7
https://www.allrecipes.com/article/cornstarch-substitutes/
https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/how-to-substitute-cornstarch-article

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.