Do you avoid certain recipes because they include cornstarch, or are you simply tired of using it? You can ditch the cornstarch and still create delicious meals. We’ve compiled a list of common pantry items and creative substitutes that you can use as substitutes for cornstarch. In this article, we will cover different types of substitutes and give you some recipe ideas to start with.
II. 6 Common Pantry Items as Cornstarch Substitutes
Below is a list of six alternatives to cornstarch that you might already have in your pantry. We will also provide you with examples of recipes that can use these substitutes and detail the steps for using them in your recipes.
1. Potato Starch
If you have a potato in your pantry, you can easily make your own potato starch! Potato starch works well as a thickening agent in soups, stews, and gravies. Potatoes are also gluten-free, giving you an excellent option when considering a gluten-free option for your dishes. To prepare, simply peel and grate a potato. Place the grated potato in a cheesecloth and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Allow the liquid to sit for a few minutes until the starch settles on the bottom. Pour off the water and use the starch in your recipe!
Recipe idea: Creamy Potato Soup. Use the potato starch to thicken your soup instead of cornstarch for this hearty and warming recipe.
All-purpose flour is another common ingredient you can use as a cornstarch substitute. It works well as a thickener for sauces and gravies. However, flour requires more cooking time to break down its starchy flavor and achieve its full thickening potential, unlike cornstarch that thickens quickly. To use flour as a substitute, mix it with a little water until it forms a paste before adding it to your recipe.
Recipe idea: Classic Chicken Gravy. Use flour as a thickening agent for this classic recipe.
3. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is an excellent natural thickening ingredient that gives a clear and glossy finish to your recipes. It’s tasteless, odorless, and gluten-free, making it an ideal substitute for cornstarch. Mix arrowroot flour with equal parts of cold water to form a slurry before adding it to your recipe.
Recipe idea: Neapolitan-Style Pizza. One of the best ways to utilize arrowroot flour is to make a traditional pizza crust gluten-free by using a mix of arrowroot powder, coconut flour, and almond flour.
4. Rice Flour
Rice flour is made from rice that’s been finely ground into a powder. It is popular in Asian cooking and works well as a thickening agent for soups, stews, and sauces. Make a slurry by mixing equal parts of rice flour and water before adding it to your dish.
Recipe idea: Creamy Mushroom Risotto. Rice flour lends its rich taste to this creamy risotto recipe as it replaces cornstarch to thicken the sauce.
5. Corn Flour
Corn flour, a fine cornmeal made from whole corn kernels, is different from cornstarch. It’s denser and has a strong corn flavor, making it a better substitute in certain dishes. Corn flour has the potential to thicken more effectively than cornstarch but comes with a slightly grainy texture. To use corn flour as a substitute, mix it with water to form a paste before adding it to your recipe.
Recipe idea: Mexican-style Enchilada Sauce. Corn flour adds texture to this Enchilada sauce, thickening a flavorful red sauce that complements chicken and cheese.
6. Oat Flour
Oat flour is made from ground oats and is gluten-free. It thickens well and has a slightly nutty flavor that can be a delicious addition to some dishes. To use oat flour as a substitute, mix it with equal parts of cold water before adding it to your recipe.
Recipe idea: Apple Cinnamon Oat Flour Pancakes. Oat flour adds flavor and richness to these hearty pancakes, making them moisture-packed and fluffy.
III. Tired of using cornstarch? Try these 5 alternatives instead
Besides the six common pantry items, here are five additional substitutes you can use instead of cornstarch that you might have on hand.
1. Tapioca Starch
Tapioca starch is derived from the roots of manioc plants, and it’s a good cornstarch substitute for people looking for a grain-free alternative. Tapioca starch is an excellent thickener for pie fillings and syrups, and it imparts a chewy texture to baked goods. Mix tapioca starch with cold water to form a slurry before adding it to your recipe.
Recipe idea: Spiced Peach Tart. Tapioca starch helps thicken the fruit filling in this delicious Peach Tart recipe.
2. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is an excellent substitute for cornstarch in gluten-free recipes, as it gives structure and elasticity to batters and doughs. This ingredient mixes well with water and is versatile in many recipes, including bread and cake baking, ice cream making, and more. Use xanthan gum sparingly as it thickens quickly compared to cornstarch.
Recipe idea: Gluten-Free Banana Bread. Use xanthan gum as a thickener and stabilizer in this banana bread recipe, making it moist and fluffy.
Agar-agar is a seaweed-derived ingredient that works well in vegan and vegetarian cooking as a substitute for gelatin. It’s perfect for thickening glazes, jams, and jellies. Agar-agar disperses well in cold or hot liquids and requires boiling for the best texture. Use 1 teaspoon of agar-agar powder in place of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
Recipe idea: Vegan Lemon Mousse. Agar-agar helps create a fluffy and light texture in this tart and sweet mousse.
4. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is an excellent source of fiber, and it works well as an egg substitute, a thickener in soups, and stews and a binder in gluten-free baking. One teaspoon of psyllium husk powder is equivalent to one tablespoon of cornstarch.
Recipe idea: No-bake Berry Cheesecake. Use psyllium husk as a binder for the crust and as a thickener for the filling in this healthy and satisfying cheesecake recipe.
5. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds can serve as an excellent substitute for cornstarch in some recipes. The seeds absorb 10 times their weight in water and create a gel-like consistency. Chia seeds are gluten-free and high in dietary fiber, protein, and healthy fats. You can use 1 tablespoon of chia seeds instead of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
Recipe idea: Strawberry Chia Seed Pudding. Chia seeds are a natural way to thicken this yummy and healthy strawberry pudding.
IV. Cornstarch-free cooking: Creative substitutes for thickening sauces and soups
Here are a few cornstarch substitutes that can help you to create thicker, creamier sauces and soups.
1. Cream Cheese
You can use cream cheese to thicken sauces and soups. Cream cheese imparts a rich and creamy flavor, and it’s an excellent base for thickening your dishes. It balances the acidity in soups and sauces and adds extra flavor. Use two to three ounces of cream cheese per cup of sauce or soup to achieve a creamy and thick texture. Allow the cream cheese to melt fully before serving.
Recipe idea: Creamy Garlic Alfredo Sauce. Cream cheese adds a tangy and rich texture to this classic Alfredo Sauce recipe.
2. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is an excellent cream and milk substitute as it thickens when it’s heated and has a rich flavor. It pairs well with curry and other spices, making it an ideal thickener for soups and other recipes calling for a coconut flavor. Use 1/2 cup of coconut milk to substitute for one tablespoon of cornstarch.
Recipe idea: Thai Green Curry Chicken. Use coconut milk as a thickening agent for this fragrant and spicy Thai green curry.
3. Mashed Vegetables
Mashed vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, or sweet potato are a great substitute for cream-based soups and sauces. They give your dishes a creamier texture while offering added nutrition and flavor. Boil the vegetables until they’re soft, and then mash them up with a potato masher or blender before adding them to your recipe.
Recipe idea: Roasted Carrot Soup. Mashed carrots add creaminess and natural sweetness to this classic roasted carrot soup instead of traditional cream thickening agents.
V. Beyond cornstarch: How arrowroot powder and tapioca starch can level up your cooking game
Here are a few substitutes that go beyond the traditional cornstarch substitute list.
1. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is a refined starch that comes from the rhizomes of tropical plants. It’s an odorless and tasteless powder that is gluten-free and non-GMO. It’s excellent for thickening sauces, gravies, and baked goods, as it has a neutral taste, making it suitable for sweet and savory dishes. Arrowroot powder is a good replacement for cornstarch, but it takes a bit longer to thicken.
Recipe idea: Lemon Curd Bars. Arrowroot powder adds the perfect texture and consistency to this tangy and flavorful lemon curd recipe to make them both gluten-free and delicious.
2. Tapioca Starch
Tapioca starch comes from the roots of the cassava plant and is an excellent alternative to cornstarch. It’s gluten-free and works well with acidic liquids and high sugar content recipes, as it’s heat-stable and provides a glossy texture. One tablespoon of tapioca starch is equivalent to two tablespoons of cornstarch.
Recipe idea: Peach Crumble Pie. Use tapioca starch as a cornstarch substitute in the pie filling for this delicious and classic Peach Pie recipe that features a buttery, crumbly crust.
VI. Baking without cornstarch: Tips and tricks for using flour, potato starch, and more
Beyond soups, sauces, and gravies, here are a few baking substitutions for cornstarch.
All-purpose flour is an excellent and versatile baking ingredient. In baking, flour is used as a thickener for sauces, for breading chicken, and more. It also helps create a golden, crispy crust for your baked goods. Use clues such as a toothpick or a finger poke to test the center of the baked good to ensure it is cooked thoroughly.
Recipe idea: Lemon Blueberry Scones. Use flour as a thickening agent for the dough that keeps the blueberries in place and gives me a heavenly aroma.
2. Potato Starch
Potato starch is a great substitute for cornstarch in baking. It works well to improve the texture and moistness of baked goods, such as bread, muffins, and cakes. Potato starch has a slightly sweet and earthy taste, making it an excellent choice for sweet baked goods.
Recipe idea: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake. Use potato starch as a staple ingredient for moist and fudgy gluten-free chocolate cake.
VII. Why swap cornstarch for other ingredients? A nutritional and culinary comparison
Beyond taste, texture, and flavor, here’s how cornstarch and its substitutes fare in terms of nutritional value and culinary benefits.