Allergic to corn or have you run out of cornstarch? No worries! Here are 10 of the best substitutes for cornstarch and what recipes they work in for the best results every time. Includes the best option for those will allergies.
Cornstarch is a great thickener and common ingredient in so many recipes, including things like soups, sauces, and even gluten-free flours. But if you have a corn allergy or need something in place of cornstarch, here are some of the best cornstarch substitutes to give you similar results.
- What is cornstarch?
- Where is it most commonly found?
- Best cornstarch substitutes
- All Purpose Flour
- Chia Seeds / Flax Seeds / Psyllium Husks
- Guar Gum
- Potato Starch
- Rice Flour / Rice Starch
- Xanthan Gum
- How to use popular cornstarch substitutes
- How to replace cornstarch in fried recipes?
- How to replace cornstarch in sauces?
- How to replace cornstarch in puddings?
- How to replace cornstarch in pie fillings?
- How to make homemade cake flour?
What is cornstarch?
Cornstarch is a fine white powder that is ground from the endosperm of the corn kernel. If you have a corn allergy or sensitivity, you should not use cornstarch.
Cornstarch is commonly used as a thickening agent. The molecules absorb liquid and expand, causing the liquid to thicken up. It’s become the go-to ingredient for sauces, pie fillings, and puddings.
Tip! Corn flour and cornstarch are not necessarily the same thing. In the United Kingdom, cornflour is the same ingredient as cornstarch in the United States. However, in the United States, corn flour is a version of cornmeal.
Where is it most commonly found?
Here is a quick rundown of common places to find cornstarch in ingredients in your kitchen:
- Gluten free flours
- Baking mixes
- Baking powder
- Cream of Tartar
- Cake flour
- Vanilla Extract
Best cornstarch substitutes
All Purpose Flour
To Substitute: Use double the amount of flour for recipes that call for cornstarch. For example, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch = 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
Simple flour is a great replacement for thickening recipes! In fact, in acidic sauces, flour can work better than cornstarch. Additionally, flour will not lose its thickening ability over time, so it makes a great cornstarch substitute in sauces that cook for a long time.
Wheat flour and cornstarch absorb liquid in different amounts.
What if you are allergic to wheat or are avoiding gluten? No worries! There are a lot more gluten free options as well.
To Substitute: Use arrowroot powder in an equal amount of cornstarch. For example 1 teaspoon of arrowroot = 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Arrowroot is a type of tuber (similar to yams and sweet potatoes) that is native to South America. It is sometimes called arrowroot starch or arrowroot flour but they are all the same thing.
It is naturally gluten free and is used in a lot of gluten free cooking and baking for its great thickening powers.
Similar to cornstarch, you should make a slurry of arrowroot powder before adding it to a sauce to prevent it from clumping. Try to add this slurry at the end of cooking as arrowroot powder can break down after cooking a long time.
Note, arrowroot powder doesn’t always work well with dairy based ingredients. However, for dairy free and vegan cooking and baking, this is a perfect cornstarch alternative.
Chia Seeds / Flax Seeds / Psyllium Husks
To Substitute: A small amount is needed. Use sparingly. Add ½ teaspoon at a time and slowly add more to get the viscosity you desire.
A lot of people like this option, especially in vegan and egg free baking, because these ingredients all are a low carbohydrate option that forms a gel-like consistency. It works great with soups and stews.
These ingredients are naturally gluten free.
All these options provide a nutty aroma and flavor, so add them to heavy flavored items that can handle a bit of extra flavor. It also will darken and fleck up any sauces, so avoid anything where you are working with a white or clear sauce.
To Substitute: Use sparingly. Guar gum is eight times more effective than cornstarch. That means a little bit will go a long way! For recipes like hot soups and sauces, you only need 1 tablespoon per quart of liquid. That is about ¾ a teaspoon of guar gum per cup of liquid.
Note: Never use more than a tablespoon of guar gum in any single recipe.
Guar gum is made from milling the guar seeds of the Indian tree.
It is naturally gluten free and is a common ingredient in gluten free baked goods. It helps to add some elasticity to the dough. That elasticity transfers over to thickening sauces as well.
The molecules in starches like tapioca can be broken down from heat. However, guar gum is not affected by any temperature! It can be added to hot or cold recipes and will help to thicken it.
To Substitute: Use tapioca starch in an equal amount to the required cornstarch in a recipe. For example, 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch = 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
Tapioca starch (sometimes called tapioca flour) is another tuber plant derived from the cassava root (also known as yuca). It is a super common ingredient in pre-made products for its versatility and affordability. Tapioca has a delicate flavor and is a good cornstarch substitute to reach for in most recipes. It is also my go-to for gluten-free baking to help lighten the flours and make a cake flour substitute.
Tapioca starch is unique in that it will hold its thickening power for a long time, over days in fact. It has a silkier mouth feel over cornstarch and a lot of chefs are now turning to tapioca over cornstarch.
As with the other tubers on this list, it is important that you make a slurry of the tapioca starch and a liquid before adding it to the recipe so that you don’t get clumps.
It is naturally gluten free.
To Substitute: Use potato starch in an equal amount to the required cornstarch in a recipe. For example, 1 tablespoon of potato starch = 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
Potato starch is a great cornstarch substitute. It can withstand high temperatures, making it a great swap for fried foods. It also makes for a great pie filling as it has a more silky texture as opposed to cornstarch, which can sometimes be grainy. However, it doesn’t do well under a long cooking time so I would avoid this if possible for a long cooking sauce, or adding it at the very end.
It is naturally gluten free.
Similar to the other starches on this list, you need to make a slurry of your potato starch and the liquid before adding it to the sauce or filling so that you don’t get clumps.
Note: Potato flour and potato starch are two different ingredients and will not have the same effect. Make sure that you purchase the starch.
Rice Flour / Rice Starch
To Substitute: Use 2 tablespoons of rice flour for every cup of liquid that needs thickening.
Made with the rice milled into a fine powder, rice flour comes in several varieties. White rice flour is similar to white rice in that the bran and the germ have been removed from the grain. Brown rice flour has kept the bran and the germ in the flour. Finally, Sweet Rice Flour is made from sweet short grain rice and is specially used in recipes like mochi.
I personally prefer to use white rice flour over brown rice flour, though both work. White rice has a slightly better mouthfeel in recipes and isn’t as grainy as brown rice flour can sometimes be.
Rice flour is great in that it does not clump when you use it so you don’t need to make a slurry.
Rice flour is naturally gluten free.
To Substitute: Can be used in equal parts to substitute cornstarch. For example, 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum = 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Do not use in recipes that require more than 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
Xanthan gum is the product of carbohydrate eating bacteria and is a common ingredient in gluten free cooking and baking. It provides structure to recipes in place of gluten. It also is a common ingredient in many salad dressings.
You do not need to make a slurry with xanthan gum, however, avoid using in recipes that call for a lot of sugar as the bacteria will feed on the sugar.
Xanthan gum is naturally gluten free.
How to use popular cornstarch substitutes
The best cornstarch substitute is the one that will best work in your recipe. That is because different ingredients work better in hot oil when you are frying things as opposed to when you have a chilled sauce. Make sure you use the substitution ratio above so you will get the best results.
How to replace cornstarch in fried recipes?
Fried foods often have a crispy exterior, and hold onto spices really well. The best options for replacing are:
- Rice flour - Add an equal amount of rice flour to the amount of cornstarch in the recipe.
- Potato flour - Add an equal amount of potato flour to the amount of cornstarch in the recipe.
- All purpose flour (to be used in a pinch) - Add an equal amount of AP flour to the amount of cornstarch in the recipe.
How to replace cornstarch in sauces?
It depends on what type of sauce you are making. In general, reach for these in your pantry:
- Arrowroot - Add up to 1 tablespoon in the recipe.
- Brown rice flour - Has nutty flavor so don’t use in delicate sauces.
- Tapioca - Add an equal amount of tapioca flour to the amount of cornstarch in the recipe.
- Guar gum - Really great in salad dressings, smoothies, and cold sauces. Remember to only use a pinch and mix well before adding more!
- Xanthan gum - Really great in salad dressings and savory sauces.
How to replace cornstarch in puddings?
Since pudding is first hot on the stove and then chilled to serve, it can be tricky finding a good replacement. Your best options are:
- All purpose flour with an extra egg yolk - Add an equal amount to the amount of cornstarch in the recipe.
- Rice flour - Add an equal amount to the amount of cornstarch in the recipe.
How to replace cornstarch in pie fillings?
Similar to puddings, you want to reach for something that can handle being hot and cold.
- All purpose flour - Start by adding 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Tapioca - Start by adding 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Guar fum - Add a pinch at a time and mix well before adding more.
How to make homemade cake flour?
Cake flour is a mixture of cornstarch and a finely milled wheat flour. In a pinch, when you run out, or want to make your gluten free flour more cake flour like, use ¾ of flour and ¼ of the following:
- All purpose flour or gluten free flour
If you try these out, please leave a comment below! This provides helpful feedback to both me and other readers. And if you want more delicious, dietary friendly recipes you can subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!