9 Cornstarch Substitutes for Cooking and Baking

Last Updated on June 9, 2024 | 0 Comments
cornstarch substitute

Looking for a great cornstarch substitute? Cornstarch is a kitchen staple perfect for use as a thickening agent for gravy and stews, as well as creating the perfect crispy fried coating, but you may not always have it on hand. In addition, you may be looking for a substitution due to allergies, of which corn is a common one.

If you’ve managed to empty out that trusty trademark yellow container of cornstarch and find yourself in a pinch looking for something else to thicken soups, sauces or fillings, there are a number of useful alternatives. We’ve rounded up a few great cornstarch substitutes as well as suggestions on getting the best results. 


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What Is Cornstarch?

Cornstarch is the finely ground, starchy inner endosperm of a corn kernel. What we know as the popular cooking ingredient has its roots in the mid-19th century when it was first trademarked as a pantry staple by an American inventor and manufacturer named Thomas Kingsford. His company later merged with the Argo company in 1899, which is the source of those bright yellow containers you still find on shelves today.

cornstarch and corn kernels
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Purpose of Cornstarch in Cooking and Baking

Cooking uses for cornstarch are innumerable. When combined with water to create a paste, it can be added to anything that needs thickening, such as sauces, gravies and stews. It’s also helpful for creating that perfect crispy batter for fried chicken, fish and other treats. 

Cornstarch is also a great addition to baked goods. In fact, it’s what gives shortbread its trademark crumbled texture. As a thickening agent, it’s crucial to puddings, custards and pie fillings. Unlike flour and other types of thickening agents, cornstarch thickens while remaining clear, allowing for the perfect texture in these sweet fillings. 

A great way to learn about ingredient substitutes is to enroll in a cooking class near you. From cooking classes in Vancouver to cooking classes in Portland or even online cooking classes, you'll find many options wherever you are.

So now that you know the many uses of this kitchen staple, you may be asking yourself, "What can I substitute for cornstarch?" Luckily for you, there are a number of great cornstarch substitutes to choose from.

A cornstarch substitute can be used in shortbread
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Cornstarch Substitutes

1. Flour

If you've been wondering: "Can I substitute flour for cornstarch?" The answer is yes! Most likely in everyone's pantry, everyday wheat flour can make an excellent cornstarch substitute that most people will already have on hand. While flour is the most common cornstarch substitute for thickening, its thickening powers are slightly less than cornstarch. Therefore, aim for a 2:1 ratio, with double the flour needed to the amount of cornstarch required.

To prevent clumpiness with this cornstarch replacement in baking, mix the flour with a bit of cold water before adding it in. Your results will be more opaque than when using cornstarch, which makes it great for gravies and stews but less ideal for clear liquids or pie fillings. It also will have a rougher, more noticeable texture than cornstarch. 

Keep in mind that flour, which comes from wheat, is not gluten-free like cornstarch, so it won't work as a substitution for cornstarch in gluten-free baking. However, it will be a useful cornstarch substitute if corn allergies are present. Flour also contains slightly more protein and fiber than cornstarch.

Flour is a good cornstarch substitute.
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2. Potato Starch

While not as common as flour in American kitchens, potato starch — created by releasing the starch of crushed potatoes and drying it into a powder — is a great element that remains flavorless and can be a wonderful cornstarch substitute. Potato starch is especially great for use in cakes, where it helps retain moisture over time longer than cakes made just with flour.

You will need about a 1:1 ratio of potato starch to the cornstarch required when using this cornstarch substitute. You’ll achieve the best results if you add the potato starch later in the cooking process. This is because high heat makes it far more water-soluble, lessening its thickening properties over time. 

potato starch in a bowl
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3. Rice Flour

A common ingredient in Asian cuisines, this flour, made from finely ground rice, is a favorite substitution for regular flour as a gluten-free option. It's also a perfect cornstarch substitute as well. Rice flour is particularly good for baking and creating a crispy batter for deep-fried foods. 

Unlike other subs for cornstarch like potato flour and wheat flour, rice flour will remain clear and colorless when heated, making it a great choice when creating clearer sauces and pie fillings. It also contains more protein and dietary fiber than cornstarch. 

Be aware that you’ll need twice as much rice flour than cornstarch when making the swap, which might be challenging since rice flour is more expensive than other varieties of flour or cornstarch substitutes. 

Rice flour makes a great cornstarch substitute.
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4. Tapioca Flour

This familiar substance to boba tea fans also comes in a ground flour form and can be a great substitute for cornstarch. Extracted from the ground roots of the cassava plant found in South America, tapioca flour is excellent for puddings, pie fillings and sweet sauces since it does already have a hint of sweetness to it. It’s also a great cornstarch alternative for fried goods but can break down in high heat, making it better for pan-frying than deep-frying. Use twice as much tapioca flour as you would cornstarch for best results.

a bowl of tapioca flour
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5. Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is created by combining sugars extracted from vegetables, wheat or dairy with the bacteria xanthomonas campestris, creating a gel that is then dried into powder. It's a common food ingredient in processed foods but can also make a great thickener at home in your kitchen. You can add it directly while cooking, but keep in mind that a little goes a long way; xanthan gum is best used sparingly. 

This cornstarch substitute tends to break down under high heat so is best in room temperature and refrigerated foods like salad dressings, cold desserts, pie fillings and puddings. Be aware that it can also cause digestive issues in some people but does make a great addition to gluten-free baking.

a person mixing ingredients for baking
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6. Arrowroot

This substance, drawn from the ground roots of the maranta plant, is a great higher fiber option and cornstarch substitute that has about the same thickening powers as cornstarch. It’s also completely gluten-free and plant-based. 

Free of taste or odor, arrowroot can be used to thicken any sauces and gravies. However, it does not last as long as cornstarch or reheat well, so it's best used for foods that will be consumed immediately after preparation. When using arrowroot as a cornstarch replacement, use a 1:1 ratio to the required cornstarch. Create a liquid slurry of 1:2 parts water and add it to your dish. 

arrowroot powder
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7. Ground Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed is another great option if you've been wondering: "What can be substituted for cornstarch?" Ground flaxseed is a high-fiber cornstarch substitute that makes a great thickening agent when jellified with water. Flaxseeds are known for their health benefits, being high in both omega-3 fatty acids and cancer-fighting nutrients, as well as helping digestion and fighting heart disease. 

Try mixing one teaspoon of flaxseed with ffour teaspoons of water to equal the thickening power of one teaspoon of cornstarch. To thicken, add finely ground flaxseed directly to your liquid at the boiling point.

Ground flaxseed makes a great cornstarch substitute.
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8. Glucomannan

Another plant-derived cornstarch substitute, this powdered root of the konjac plant contains probiotics and other health benefits like cholesterol reduction properties. It’s a far more powerful thickening agent by amount, so use about half the amount of glucomannan as you would cornstarch. About one teaspoon to every cup of liquid is a common suggestion. Since glucomannan tends to clump in high heat, mix it with cold water before adding it to your dish.

starch mixed with water
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9. Guar Gum

This plant-based alternative to cornstarch is extracted from guar beans. Guar gum is also a great addition to gluten-free baking, giving elasticity to dough and a great texture to gluten-free treats. It’s also one of the cornstarch alternatives not affected by heat or cold, so it’s perfect for both hot dishes and frozen smoothies or gluten-free ice cream. Like xanthan gum, a little guar gum can go a long way, so use it sparingly when adding it to sauces and other liquids.

a frozen berry smoothie
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If you've been wondering what to use instead of cornstarch in baking and other recipes, this article should have helped you discover many excellent cornstarch substitutes. Whatever your desired results and dietary needs, these cornstarch substitutes are a great way to deal with an empty container of this popular kitchen staple. Many of these cornstarch alternatives offer greater fiber and nutritional benefits compared to the original and are great substitutes if you are dealing with a corn allergy.

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