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15 Substitutes for Cornstarch & 5 Useful Tips to Know

Cornstarch is a versatile ingredient and a pantry staple in homes worldwide. You can use it as a thickening agent in pie filling and even as a coating in fried dishes. Yet, many people don’t realize how amazing this humble ingredient is. Let’s explore cornstarch and dive into the many cornstarch substitutes.

Cornstarch substitutes are ingredients you use in place of cornstarch. They produce the same consistency as cornstarch but are healthier in most cases. This article is for people looking for alternatives to cornstarch due to dietary restrictions.

Facts About Cornstarch

Facts About Cornstarch

Cornstarch, or corn flour, is a popular ingredient made from the endosperm of corn kernels.

Manufacturers produce it by separating the corn kernel into protein, starch, oil, and fiber. They then dry the starch, creating a white powder called cornstarch.

Here are some of the most interesting facts about cornstarch.

  • It’s Absorbent: When you mix this starchy endosperm with water, it absorbs liquid and swells. Heating traps the liquid within the gel, thickening the mixture through gelatinization.
  • It’s a Complex Carbohydrate: Uncooked cornstarch is a complex carbohydrate, similar to fiber. It provides a slow glucose source that can regulate your gut health.
  • It Stabilizes Liquids: The long-chained starch molecules in cornstarch stabilize liquids. The stable network of cornstarch makes it perfect for thickening sauces.
  • It Has Commercial Uses: Aside from cooking applications, people use cornstarch in the paper and paint industry. You may also find it in adhesives and medicine.
  • It’s Naturally Gluten-Free: Cornstarch is a naturally gluten-free ingredient. People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities can consume it, unlike wheat flour.

What Is Cornstarch Good For?

What Is Cornstarch Good For?

In Asian cuisine, cornstarch is a powerful thickening agent in soups and sauces. It produces a glossy shine that you can’t recreate with regular flour. This is because heat gelatinizes the starch from corn.

Cornstarch is also flavorless and has a smooth texture. People use this powdery substance in baking for jams, custards, and pie fillings.

Meanwhile, restaurants use cornstarch in gravy and other sauces. Adding it to a batter boosts the crispiness of fried food.

Can You Substitute Flour for Cornstarch?

Can You Substitute Flour for Cornstarch?

Yes, you can substitute flour for cornstarch in certain applications. Wheat flour can replace cornstarch as a coating in fried food. However, it can’t produce the same shine as cornstarch.

You may want to try another alternative when cooking Asian dishes that need glossiness. In this case, potato starch or arrowroot powder may be more suitable as a substitute for cornstarch.

Reasons for Substituting Cornstarch

Reasons for Substituting Cornstarch

Even though cornstarch is an exceptional ingredient, there are many reasons why people may want to use a substitute. Below are some of them.

Low Nutritional Benefits

Low Nutritional Benefits

First, cornstarch has low nutritional benefits. It doesn’t contain vitamins, minerals, protein, or fiber. Cornstarch is a pure carbohydrate that can add to your calorie intake. Each tablespoon of cornstarch has 30 calories and 7 grams of sugar.

Availability

Availability

Cornstarch may not be available in certain regions. Depending on where you are, other thickeners may be more available and cost-effective. You can use other cornstarch substitutes in this case.

Dietary Restrictions

Dietary Restrictions

Because of its high carbohydrate content, cornstarch isn’t suitable for paleo diets. People with dietary restrictions and digestive issues may want to search for another alternative. That said, cornstarch is perfect for those with gluten sensitivities or people who enjoy gluten-free baking.

Texture Preferences

Texture Preferences

Cornstarch produces a slimy texture that some people may not like. Different thickeners can impart varying mouthfeels. People who can’t stand the sliminess of cornstarch may try other substitutes.

Best Substitutes for Cornstarch

Best Substitutes for Cornstarch

Are you looking for a suitable substitute for cornstarch? You’ve come to the right place. Here are some of the best cornstarch alternatives to try.

Potato Starch

Potato Starch

Potato starch, or potato flour, is one of the most popular thickening agents you can use instead of cornstarch. This starchy flour is mainly produced in Europe.

As the name suggests, this refined starch is from potato tubers. Factories crush raw potatoes to separate the starch from within the cells.

Starch from potatoes is an excellent substitute for cornstarch because of its consistency when cooked. It has a similar thickening power that produces a clear, shiny appearance when boiled.

Like cornstarch, potato starch also has a neutral flavor. You can use it for a wide range of sweet and savory recipes.

There’s no need to make adjustments in terms of the potato starch ratio. One tablespoon of potato starch is equivalent to a tablespoon of cornstarch.

The only difference is that potato starch has a longer gelatinization temperature than potato starch. This means your water temperature doesn’t have to be as hot to cook this type of starch.

Rice Flour

Rice Flour

Rice flour is a staple in many Asian cuisines. It’s an ingredient in rice noodles, dumplings, and desserts like mochi. Rice starch has effective thickening abilities, making it a great replacement for cornstarch.

As a thickener, rice flour has half the thickening power of cornstarch. One tablespoon of cornstarch is equivalent to two tablespoons of rice flour. When using rice flour, you should pay attention to grain size.

In some cases, rice flour has bigger grains than potato starch, causing grittiness in the final product.

Rice flour is one of the best substitutes for cornstarch because it has a neutral flavor. You can use it as an ingredient in a gluten-free recipe. Plus, rice flour can produce a more tender texture than cornstarch in desserts.

Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot is a root vegetable with a high starch content. It grows in tropical regions in Southeast Asia, South Africa, and Australia. Indigenous people in America use the arrowroot plant for treating wounds from poisoned arrows.

As for its thickening abilities, arrowroot powder is a comparable substitute for cornstarch. Arrowroot starch produces a liquid that’s clearer than cornstarch.

What’s more, it has a glossier texture, making it desirable in baking applications.

Arrowroot has digestive benefits and is a dietary supplement you can find in health food stores. You can use it in desserts, salad dressings, gravies, and soups. Arrowroot powder may also replace cornstarch in coating fried food and as a binding agent in meat patties.

Tapioca Starch

Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch, or tapioca flour, is a starchy substance from the cassava root. Producers extract the starch by grating the roots of the cassava plant and pressing the pulp out.

They dry the liquid from the tropical plant and then form the tapioca starch granules.

What makes tapioca an appropriate substitute is its neutral flavor and thickening ability. It can withstand high cooking temperatures while maintaining moisture in food. Tapioca also produces a clear sauce akin to cornstarch.

When you’re working with tapioca starch, you may use it in a 1:2 ratio. A tablespoon of cornstarch is equivalent to two tablespoons of tapioca starch. Tapioca works well in fruit pie fillings, custards, and other baking applications.

Konjac Flour

Konjac Flour

Konjac flour, or glucomannan powder, is a natural derivative of the roots of the Japanese Konjac plant. It’s a dietary fiber that’s popular for its low calories. People use konjac in zero-calorie rice and noodle substitutes.

Konjac is an effective substitute for cornstarch because of its strong thickening power. Mix it in a few tablespoons of water to make a slurry, and then slowly whisk it into the soup or sauce.

Cook the mixture until you get the desired consistency, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming.

You may use konjac flour in salad dressings or other gluten-free options. Pay attention to how much you use though. One teaspoon of konjac powder is equivalent to ten teaspoons of cornstarch.

Substitutes for Cornstarch for Frying

Substitutes for Cornstarch for Frying

Cornstarch is a functional ingredient for fried food. Adding it to your coating gives the dish a crunchy texture. You can get crispy batters as the moisture evaporates from the crust during the cooking process. Below, we explore cornstarch alternatives for savory applications.

All-Purpose Flour

All-Purpose Flour

All-purpose flour, or regular wheat flour, is a common ingredient in baking recipes. It’s composed of 70 to 73% starch, 8 to 14.5% protein, and 11 to 14% moisture.

Because of the protein content in flour, it can produce slightly different results as a coating.

For one, flour turns brown more quickly than cornstarch when fried. Next, the texture can be different. Using flour will create a denser and oilier crust than cornstarch.

You may use all-purpose flour as a substitution for cornstarch, but make sure to brush off any excess. Doing so can prevent excessive greasiness.

Moreover, avoid this alternative to cornstarch if you have celiac disease. All-purpose flour contains gluten, unlike cornstarch.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a viable option when you need a quick replacement for cornstarch in frying applications.

Breadcrumbs can produce a crunchy texture and a beautiful golden crust. They also add to the dish’s flavor, unlike cornstarch with a neutral taste.

One thing to remember about breadcrumbs is their oil absorption. Food coated in breadcrumbs tends to be greasier than food coated in cornstarch. Breadcrumbs will likely have gluten as well. People with celiac disease should avoid it.

Disadvantages aside, breadcrumbs have a versatility that exceeds cornstarch. You can get it in different sizes and textures. Additionally, it’s possible to use it for coating delicate fish, vegetables, and even mozzarella cheese.

Coconut Flour

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour isn’t as strong as cornstarch in terms of its thickening power. Yet, it can match cornstarch as a coating for frying. Manufacturers make coconut flour by extracting fat from coconut flesh and then drying it.

They grind the coconut flour into a fine powder and use it in various cooking applications.

What we love about coconut flour is its nutty flavor. Chicken, pork, and fish coated in coconut flour will have a delicious tropical taste. It creates a crisp golden-brown crust that’s gluten-free.

However, you should use it sparingly and dust any excess off to avoid a greasy crumb.

Almond Flour

Almond Flour

Almond flour is a gluten-free and low-carb alternative to cornstarch for frying. This flour is a fine powder made by drying and grinding whole almonds. You can make it at home with a food processor, or buy it from the grocery store.

To use almond flour instead of cornstarch, simply replace the cornstarch at a 1:1 ratio. Season the almond flour with salt and spices if you wish. Afterward, dip the meat into the egg, then coat it with the almond flour.

Next, pan-fry the coated meat in shallow oil until a brown crust forms. Remember, almond flour will burn faster than cornstarch, so keep an eye on it.

Avoid high temperatures and excessive flipping to keep the almond crust intact. With patience, you can elevate vegetables and proteins with almond flour.

Chickpea Flour

Chickpea Flour

Chickpea flour is a dried powder from pulverized garbanzo beans. It’s a staple in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines. You can find it in most international sections in grocery stores.

This flour is perfect as a cornstarch substitute in frying because of its nutty flavor. It sticks well to the surface of your ingredients, creating a satisfying crunch as a coating.

What’s more, chickpea is nutritious and gluten-free. It’s high in folate, magnesium, dietary fiber, and iron.

Use two tablespoons of chickpea flour for every two tablespoons of cornstarch. Mix the chickpea flour with spices and salt in a shallow bowl, then dredge the ingredients in it. Shake any excess, then deep fry until golden brown.

Cornstarch Substitute for Sauces

Cornstarch Substitute for Sauces

Cornstarch is a useful thickener for soups. It also forms a gel when you heat it with water to create clear, glossy sauces. Here are some substitutes for cornstarch in soup and sauce applications.

Ground Flaxseeds

Ground Flaxseeds

Flaxseed, or linseed, is the small brown seeds from the flax plant, a plant native to India and the Eastern Mediterranean.

It’s high in alpha-linolenic acid, dietary fiber, lignans, and various vitamins and minerals. This means flaxseed contributes to heart health, brain function, and blood sugar regulation.

When you mix flaxseed powder in water, the fiber in the flaxseed absorbs the liquid. It develops a gel-like substance called a mucilage.

Because of the flaxseed’s ability to trap water, it can substitute cornstarch as a thickener in sauces.

To use flaxseed as a cornstarch substitute, use a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds for every teaspoon of cornstarch. Make a slurry with the flaxseed, then add it to the sauce just before you finish cooking. Be careful not to overcook the sauce, as this can cause the gel to break down.

Psyllium Husk Powder

Psyllium Husk Powder

Like flaxseed, psyllium husk powder is another high-fiber substitute for cornstarch. Psyllium is a water-soluble fiber from an Indian herb called the Plantago ovata.

It can relieve constipation and help control blood sugar in people with diabetes.

To use psyllium husk powder as a substitute for cornstarch, mix it into water or broth to create a slurry. Add the mixture to your sauce at the end of cooking. The powder will swell and gelatinize within minutes even without heat.

Note that psyllium is a low-carb and gluten-free alternative to cornstarch. It has a lot of health benefits, but it can have an earthy flavor and a gritty texture. You should be mindful of how much you add to the recipe so as not to overpower the dish.

Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum

Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum

Xanthan gum and guar gum are hydrocolloids or substances that form a gel when mixed with water. Xanthan gum is derived from the fermentation of sugar by Xanthomonas campestris bacteria.

Meanwhile, guar gum is from the seeds of the Indian guar plant.

What makes these gums unique is their strong thickening power. They produce a gel-like consistency that makes them perfect for stabilizing sauces and desserts.

In the food industry, producers often use them together to get the best effects.

For xanthan gum, you may use a 1:1 ratio when substituting for cornstarch. Guar gum, on the other hand, is a stronger thickener. Two tablespoons of cornstarch is equivalent to only ¾ teaspoon of guar gum.

Bread

Bread

Did you know you can use bread as a thickening agent in sauces? Bread sauce is a popular dish in British and Scandinavian cuisine.

You make it by steeping bread in milk and spices. After this, you strain the mixture and use it as a sauce for roasted meats and fish.

Another way to use bread in sauces is by deglazing a pan with liquid and then adding torn pieces of bread. The bread will absorb the flavorful sauce and break down as you boil. You may blend the sauce to lessen the chunkiness.

Bread works in thickening soups and sauces because of its flour content. It imparts a starchy and doughy texture that results in rustic dishes. We like using stale bread as a thickener because it minimizes food waste.

Gelatin or Agar Agar

Gelatin or Agar Agar

Gelatin and agar agar are popular ingredients in jellies and other sweet recipes. In high concentrations, they both produce solid desserts.

Yet, if you use them sparingly and keep the sauce warm they can work as a thickener in cooking.

Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen in meat products. It dissolves in hot liquid and sets into a semi-solid when cooled. On the other hand, agar-agar is the vegan alternative to gelatin. It’s made from seaweed and red algae.

In cooking applications, 1/14 teaspoon of gelatin can replace two teaspoons of cornstarch. For agar agar, one teaspoon has the same thickening power as two teaspoons of cornstarch. Mix the agar agar or gelatine in a cup of liquid, then add the mix to your sauce.

5 Tips for Substituting Cornstarch

5 Tips for Substituting Cornstarch

Replacing cornstarch in recipes can give you various health benefits. That said, there’s a bit of trial and error when it comes to finding the right cornstarch alternatives. Here are some tips for using substitutes for cornstarch.

Compare the Nutritional Profiles of Cornstarch Substitutes

Compare the Nutritional Profiles of Cornstarch Substitutes

Before proceeding with a cornstarch replacement, you should check its nutritional profile. Various types of flour can have higher nutritional densities than cornstarch. Cornstarch is nutritionally lacking because it’s pure carbohydrate.

On top of this, substitutes like guar gum may be healthier because they have a stronger thickening power. This means you don’t need to add as much.

You can use less calories to get the same effects.

Experiment With Alternatives

Experiment With Alternatives

Another important tip when using cornstarch alternatives is experimentation. Some flours have longer cooking times than cornstarch. Others, like arrowroot powder, can produce a delicate texture.

At the same time, substitutes like bread create more rustic sauces.

You should keep the type of recipe in mind before you use a cornstarch substitute. Review the ideal ratios for the cornstarch and its alternatives.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with the ingredients.

Prevent Clumping

Prevent Clumping

To prevent clumping when using cornstarch alternatives, you should avoid mixing it with hot liquids. Instead, whisk the flour in cold water before adding it to your boiling sauce or soup.

Don’t forget to strain the liquid afterward to get rid of lumps. Doing so lets you achieve a smooth texture.

Test Temperatures

Test Temperatures

Cornstarch alternatives all have different temperatures to activate their thickening power. For example, the gelatinization temperature of cornstarch is 60ºC or 140ºF. In comparison, rice flour cooks at 55ºC or 131ºF.

Not only that, the gelatinization temperature can change depending on your recipe.

Acidity, salt, protein, and fat content affect the gelatinization temperature. You’ll need to cook at a higher temperature if the liquid has more added ingredients.

Avoid Boiling

Avoid Boiling

Most thickening agents lose their gelling properties when you boil them for extended periods.

This means you should stop cooking once you get the consistency you’re looking for.

In most cases, you can turn the heat off after three minutes of boiling.

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