14 Cornstarch Substitutes You Can Try Right Now!
Cornstarch is a powder obtained by removing the outer bran and germ of corn. With the power to absorb liquid, one of cornstarch’s many uses in the kitchen is as a thickening agent. So, whenever you want to make your sauce, gravy, soup or stew extra rich and creamy, cornstarch is your superpower ingredient!
However, there are times when you run out of cornstarch, but there are a few substitutes you probably already have in your pantry. And if you’re looking for some low carb cornstarch alternatives, we’ve got you covered as well.
What’s cornstarch used for?
Let’s say you prepared a stew and somehow you added too much stock. You could let it simmer while the extra liquid evaporates. But if your ingredients are already cooked, you risk veggies losing their bite or the meat losing its texture. You wouldn’t want that! Let’s say you simply want to make your soup thicker or creamier or you want to make your sauce a little glossier, so it clings to your other ingredients. Let’s say you want your fruit pies not to be so moist and soggy. Well, adding a little cornstarch to these dishes will save the day!
Cornstarch has great properties for making thicker, richer dishes. It can be added to fruit desserts, puddings, and even ice cream when you don’t want to add egg yolk. It can be used as a light and crispy dusting for frying food and it can be added to baked goods to create an extra crumbly texture.
Cornstarch can be used in stir-frying just about anything, and for coating veggies, meat, and seafood with a silky glow and to help them stay tender. Cornstarch can be perfect for creating sauces or soups, and it can even be added to scrambled eggs to help them cook faster. But plenty of other thickening ingredients below do the exact same thing!
How do cornstarch alternatives work?
What can you replace cornstarch with? Before that, if you’re curious about how these thickening ingredients work, here is the secret: made of a long chain of starch molecules, most of the thickening agents we offer you here unravel and swell in presence of heat and moisture. The more they swell, the more liquid they absorb, creating a thicker liquid, or a crumbly texture for baked and fried foods. When heat is applied to the starchy mixture, the composition becomes like a gelatin and everything tightens up, creating that glossy finish and rich texture.
When adding to food, just make sure to dilute the cornstarch progressively in some liquid from your dish. Mix it well in the liquid to create a homogenous paste without any lumps, then add some more liquid, mix, and some more liquid, and mix again so the starch is distributed evenly. Then you can add the mixture to the heat. But make sure to take it off the heat once it reaches boiling point, since excess heat with break down the starch molecules.
Extra info: Cornstarch is very high in calories and carbohydrates and has very little nutritional content. So, if you’re keeping your blood sugar or cholesterol levels in check, be aware that some of the alternatives to cornstarch should be avoided. Worry not: we have some great suggestions for you as well! Check them all out!
14 Cornstarch Alternatives
Whether you need to thicken a gravy so it clings to the other ingredients or a fruit pie filling, or whether you want to make a batch of crumbly cookies, cornstarch is an essential addition. But if you’re out of it, there are plenty of substitutes. And yes, we have some amazing and effective low carb alternatives for cornstarch as well! And yes, we have some nutritionally enhancing substitutes for cornstarch you can try too!
While cornstarch does not make your dish more nutritious or affect its taste, some of the ingredients below add both flavor and nutrients. They all act as thickeners and create a creamy consistency, a tender texture, a crispy fry, or a little crumble and crust to breads. So, here’s what you can swap cornstarch with and why.
What to use instead of cornstarch? Here are the best suggestions for baked goods
1. All Purpose Flour
While cornstarch is a great way to make your baked goods softer and add crispiness to your crusts, all purpose flour does almost the same.
2. Rice Flour
We know rice flour is great for stews, stir fries, and puddings. But it’s great for cookies too. It’s a rather delicate flour that is ideal for breading and frying, and it makes a great crispy, aerated crust as well. Rice flour is a great option for anything with a crust, but if you want to enhance your cake and you’re out of cornstarch, go for rice starch!
Try these keto alternatives for cornstarch!
Cornstarch is filled with carbs: almost 91% is carbohydrates. So, there’s no way you can add it to your keto diet. There are plenty of alternatives!
1. Glucomannan Powder
Colorless glucomannan powder is made from the konjac plant. It can absorb as much as 50 times its weight in liquid, and creates a viscous texture. More good news: it contains few calories and has a high level in dietary fiber. It also has a neutral taste.
2. Almond Flour
Almond flour contains vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and not so many carbs. It can be successfully used to thicken sauces and soups and added to fried and baked goods.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are filled with protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B, zinc. They have many Omega 3 fatty acids so, if you’re looking for a nutritious keto option to thicken your food, this is it!
They have an emulsifying effect, absorbing liquid and creating a gel-like structure. They mimic the composition of egg and act as a food stabilizer in many liquid dishes.
Ground flaxseed is a great way to thicken sauces, soups, stews, and puddings, since it creates a gelatinous, gel-like texture when mixed with liquid. Be aware that it doesn’t create a smooth, silky, velvety texture, as it has quite a bite to it.
Flax seeds can be added to all soups, stews, and sauces, but it works better in bread and baked products. The good news: it’s filled with many nutrients and is quite the powerhouse when it comes to fiber.
5. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum contains no nutrients aside from sodium and potassium. But it’s a potent thickening agent, creating a gel-like texture and emulsifying liquid dishes. Add it to soups, stews, and any other type of food including ice cream, and drinks such as smoothies.
8. Guar Gum
Added to food, guar gum has a thickening, emulsifying, and stabilizing effect similar to cornstarch. Made from beans, it has few carbs and calories and it works for keto diets. Another great thing about it is it forms a thick gel in the intestines, just like psyllium and flaxseed, and helps fill you up so it aids weight loss. Extra tip: guar gum is the best low carb, weight loss boosting ingredient for healthy ice-cream. It adds the creaminess without creating ice crystals.
9. Psyllium Husk
This is a great ingredient for your digestive system since it’s all fiber. Psyllium turns into a gel when added to liquid dishes, acting like a thickening agent.
10. Sorghum Flour
Made from a Pacific grain, sorghum is high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and phosphorus. It works wonders in soups, stews, and chowders, creating a creamy, smooth texture. And it’s gluten free.
Looking to add some creaminess to your soups, gravy or sauce? Try these cornstarch alternatives
1. All Purpose Flour
All purpose flour has a richer nutritional profile than cornstarch. While not as starchy as cornstarch, wheat flour contains fewer carbs, more protein, and more dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Since it’s not as starchy, when it comes to adding gloss and thickness to sauces and liquid dishes, you’ll need more flour than cornstarch to provide the same effect. Also, make sure to properly dilute the flour in liquid first and mix it progressively into the sauce or gravy, since it can create impossible-to-remove lumps.
You’ll need two tablespoons of flour for every tablespoon of cornstarch in your recipe. And just like cornstarch, you need to dilute the flour before adding it to your dish so it keeps its starchy properties. but leave your dish to cook a little longer than if you were using cornstarch, as flour needs a little more time to cook. Flour really needs to cook through if you aren’t going to be left with a floury taste. Also keep in mind that flour creates a rather white, opaque, cloudy liquid, while starch creates a shiny, glossy, rather translucent finish.
2. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot is highly nutritious. It contains more calcium than cornstarch and more dietary fiber. Also, if you have celiac disease, good news: arrowroot powder is gluten free. Extra info: make sure not to mix it with dairy, since it does not blend very well and it tends to become gooey and slimy.
To obtain the same effect as cornstarch use it in a ratio of 2:1. For one teaspoon of cornstarch, you need two teaspoons of arrowroot.
3. Tapioca Starch
Tapioca is made from ground cassava, a root vegetable from South America. It’s tasteless so won’t affect the flavor or aroma of your dish. It will give a rich, creamy texture to soups and stews and it can be used in baking as well. For the best results, mix the tapioca starch with the liquid and leave to sit for about ten minutes. That way it will fully absorb the liquid and thicken better.
3. Mashed Veggies/Legumes
If you want to create a thick, rich, creamy stew or soup, making a puree from some of the veggies you are cooking will do the trick. This is the best way to make a thicker texture, avoiding over-boiling and without adding extra carbs to the dish. Mashed potato, mashed cauliflower, mashed carrots, they will all thicken up your stew or soup. Another great suggestion: puree some beans, chickpeas, or peas and you’ll get the same effect.
5. Potato Starch
Are you looking for a great thickening ingredient that is gluten free, tasteless, and has few calories? Well, you’ve found it! While potato starch doesn’t contain many nutrients, it’s a great substitute for cornstarch since it can add thickness to dishes without overpowering the flavor.
It is best not to add it to dishes that need longer to cook, such as pies and puddings, since it doesn’t hold up very well. Use one and a half measures of potato starch for every measure of cornstarch in the recipe.
6. Rice Flour
Made from ground rice, rice flour is very nutritious, contains few carbs, and has high protein and fiber. It creates a smooth, velvety richness to gravy, soups, sauces. Substitute two tablespoons of rice flour for every tablespoon of cornstarch in the recipe.
Tapioca is one of the best cornstarch alternatives for fruit fillings
Pies are perfect when they are juicy, sweet, filled with aromatic liquid and yet not too runny to ruin the crust or fall apart when sliced. Pies, puddings, fillings, custards, and ice-cream all hold together with cornstarch. But if you’re out cornstarch, choose your alternative carefully.
For a silky pie filling, tapioca is your go-to cornstarch replacement. Don’t cook it too long though, since it loses its thickening power. The perfect ratio of cornstarch to tapioca is 1:2. You’ll need two measures of tapioca for every measure of cornstarch. Extra tip: Arrowroot is also a great alternative for a gel-like filling or for adding texture to puddings.
What works for fried foods?
1. Rice Flour
Rice flour creates an aerated, soft, light, and tender crust when you are deep frying or pan frying, and a rather onctuous, creamy yet light and silky coating in stir fries.
2. Potato Flour
Use potato flour for a crunchy, crumbly crust and to add creaminess and richness to stir fried veggies, meat, and seafood. Potato and rice flour are both great for maintaining internal juiciness and for a crackly, puffy, crunchy, and crispy yet light crust.
3. All Purpose Flour
All purpose flour creates a hard, crumbly, crunchy texture in deep fried foods and adds a creamy, aerated, soft coating in stir fries. While cornstarch creates a crispier finish with a light texture, all purpose flour doesn’t have the same effect. You would have to add more flour to create that crust, but this amount of flour would at the same time make your crust thicker and chewier.