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Cornstarch is such a common ingredient in recipes that it’s easy to take for granted — and then wonder how to make a cornstarch substitute it when you suddenly find yourself out of stock or unable to tolerate it, if you’re following a low carb diet or for various dietary reasons. Is there a good cornstarch alternative for baking, frying, and thickening? Yes! Let’s take a look at popular cornstarch substitutes and how to utilize them for any recipe.
What Is Cornstarch And What Does It Do?
Cornstarch is a fine, white powder derived from the starches in the endosperm of corn kernels. Cornstarch has a neutral taste similar to white flour, and commonly serves as a thickening agent in recipes like sauces or stews, but can also create crispy textures on baked and fried foods. Unlike other kitchen staples like all-purpose flour, pure cornstarch is naturally gluten-free.
What Is A Substitute For Cornstarch?
There is no single best cornstarch swap. It all depends on how you plan to use it! Luckily, there are dozens of conventional and healthy alternatives to cornstarch so it’s easy to find the right one.
Cornstarch Substitutes For Baking
Cornstarch adds a bit of crumble and tender, delicate textures to baked goods. It’s a common ingredient in cake flour, for example, to create light and fluffy results.
General Alternatives For Baking:
- All-Purpose Flour – Wheat flour is a commonly available swap, but baked goods may not get as tender. Use twice as much flour as you would cornstarch.
- Rice Flour – This flour works for baked recipes that need a more crumble, such as shortbread and other cookies. Use two tablespoons of this flour for every single tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Potato Starch – Works best in cake recipes. Use it 1:1 like cornstarch.
Healthy & Low Carb Alternatives For Baking:
- Glucomannan Powder – This powder, rich in soluble fiber, works well for chewy cookies and breads. Start with 1/4 teaspoon for every 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
- Almond Flour – This low carb, gluten-free flour works for adding bulk when recipes call for cornstarch. Start with substituting 1 tablespoon of almond flour for every tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Psyllium Husk Powder – Creates a thick gel when mixed with water, and adds chewiness to recipes like bread. Start with 1/2 tablespoon psyllium for every tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Xanthan Gum – Creates soft and chewy textures in baked goods. You can substitute it 1:1 with cornstarch.
- Flaxseed Meal – Works well in bread and other baked goods. 1/2 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds can replace 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
Cornstarch Substitutes For Frying
Cornstarch absorbs excess moisture and keeps gluten from developing, creating crispy crusts in fried foods. Try these cornstarch alternatives to keep the crunch!
General Alternatives For Frying:
- Potato Starch – This starch is especially good for deep frying and frying at high temperatures. Use the same amount as you would for cornstarch.
- Arrowroot Powder – Creates similar crispy textures. Use twice as much arrowroot as you would cornstarch.
- Rice Flour – Creates a fine crumb and lacy texture when fried. Substitute it 2:1 for cornstarch.
- All-Purpose Flour – It works as a cornstarch substitute for frying, but won’t get quite as crispy. Use it 2:1 for cornstarch.
Healthy & Low Carb Alternatives For Frying:
- Pork Rinds – Although more coarse, pork rind crumbles make foods ultra crispy! Start with 1/4 cup crushed pork rinds for every tablespoon of cornstarch, or try it in these crispy chicken tenders.
- Parmesan Cheese – Creates a satisfying crust and savory flavor in breadings, such as in air fryer eggplant. Like pork rinds, you’ll want to start with 1/4 cup for each tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Almond Flour – This flour is very low in carbs and creates a similar browned appearance and breaded texture in recipes, like pan fried squash. Use 1/4 cup for every tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Whey Protein Powder – Of all protein powders (including egg white protein and collagen protein), whey creates the best crunchy crust for frying. Egg white protein cooks up chewier, and collagen does not get as crispy. Start with 3-4 times the amount of whey compared to cornstarch, and use an unflavored variety.
- Coconut Flour – With a fine grind that soaks up moisture, coconut flour is ideal for dredging in recipes like coconut shrimp. Use it 1:1 like cornstarch for this purpose, and add more if needed.
- Baking Powder – Raises the pH on the surface of fried foods, adds more surface area, and create air bubbles. Start with 1/2 a tablespoon of baking powder per tablespoon of cornstarch. (Or try it in these air fryer chicken wings!)
Substitutes For Cornstarch In Sauce
The fine granules in cornstarch expand when added to liquid slurries and sauces, causing them to thicken. You can still achieve a similar effect with these cornstarch slurry substitutes.
General Alternatives For Thickening:
- All-Purpose Flour – Wheat flour does not create the same glossy look as cornstarch, but will still thicken. Substitute 2 tablespoons of flour for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, and allow it to cook slightly to eliminate any raw flavor. Use it in just about anything saucy, including gravies and pie fillings.
- Rice Flour – Like all-purpose flour, you will need to use twice as much for it to be a good cornstarch substitute. It’s a good choice for clear sauces that need thickening.
- Potato Starch – Use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch for every tablespoon of cornstarch in sauces. Add it to warm recipes closer to finishing the dish, and avoid heating it too high or too long.
- Tapioca Starch – Good for recipes with long and low cooking times, such as slow cooker recipes. Use 2 tablespoons of this starch for every tablespoon cornstarch.
- Arrowroot Powder – Thickens as well as cornstarch in fillings and sauces, but avoid using it for dairy-heavy recipes. Use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of arrowroot for every tablespoon of cornstarch. This is a healthier option, so I occasionally use this in small amounts in low carb recipes, such as creamy sun-dried tomato chicken.
Healthy & Low Carb Alternatives For Thickening:
- Heavy Cream – Adds creaminess to sauces, but they will need to be simmered longer to thicken. Start with 3-4 tablespoons of cream for every tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Butter – Ideal for pan sauces in smaller quantities. Use 3-4 tablespoons for every tablespoon of cornstarch, and add butter after sauce is removed from heat.
- Egg Yolks – Add a natural creaminess to thick sauces like hollandaise. Use 2 egg yolks for every 1/4 cup of cornstarch.
- Chia Seeds – Add a thick, jellied consistency to recipes, such as keto strawberry jam. Use 2 tablespoons of these seeds for every tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Guar Gum – This gut-friendly thickener is common in ice cream and other dairy-forward dishes. Use 1/8 teaspoon for every teaspoon of cornstarch.
- Xanthan Gum – This is a common keto alternative for cornstarch in sauces. Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for every tablespoon of cornstarch. One key difference is that xanthan gum tends to clump easily if added to a large amount of liquid or sauce, so it’s best to make a slurry with a small amount of liquid first before adding to your recipe.
- Gelatin Powder – Gels at higher concentrations (i.e. to make sugar-free jello), but can thicken at lower concentrations, such as in keto gravy.
- Pureed Veggies – Cook down zucchini, cauliflower, or other low carb vegetables, blend them using an immersion or regular blender, and add to recipes for natural thickness. A good example is my broccoli cheese soup, which is also thickened with shredded cheese in addition to pureed broccoli.
- Cream Cheese – Works perfectly in broth based recipes, like chicken pot pie soup or keto salisbury steak. Add 3-4 tablespoons for every tablespoon of cornstarch, stirring it in at low heat until fully melted.
Cornstarch Alternatives For Other Common Uses
Not all cornstarch alternatives work the same way! Try these recommendations for common recipes:
- Pudding – Cornstarch adds thickness to pudding without creating lumps. However, you can get the same effect with unflavored gelatin — try it in this chocolate pudding recipe.
- Pie Filling – Although cornstarch commonly creates a gelled texture to pie fillings, gelatin or egg yolks can create similar results. See them in action with this apple pie or coconut cream pie.
- Marinating Meats – In marinades, cornstarch will tenderize, create a protective coating before cooking, and thicken the final dish. For a similar result, marinate meat with skin on using acidic ingredients (such as this cilantro lime chicken), or toss meat with gelatin before marinating and cooking (like with this slow cooker Mongolian beef).
- Thickening Soups – Cornstarch makes soups thick and spoonable. You can use any of the cornstarch alternatives for thickening above, in recipes like roasted cauliflower soup, chicken pot pie soup, or bacon cheeseburger soup.
- Jams And Jellies – You can use cornstarch to create jam and jelly that won’t run, but try gelatin (in blackberry jelly) or chia seeds (in strawberry chia jam) instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you substitute for cornstarch if you only have certain ingredients on-hand? Get all the answers here.
Can you substitute flour for cornstarch?
You can usually use flour instead of cornstarch in recipes, but it may not always create the exact same results. In fried foods, for example, flour will not get as crispy but will still brown.
Some flours work better for certain uses than others as well: Wheat based flours work better for thickening, while nut flours substitute better for fried foods.
Can you substitute arrowroot for cornstarch?
Arrowroot makes a close substitute for cornstarch, but avoid using it for recipes with a lot of dairy. You may also need to use slightly more arrowroot than you would cornstarch.
Can you substitute potato starch for cornstarch?
Potato starch makes a good cornstarch substitute for baking, frying, and thickening. If using it to thicken, though, be sure to add it shortly before serving your dish and avoid heating it at high temperatures.
Can you substitute cornstarch for baking powder?
Baking powder will cause baked goods to rise, while cornstarch does not, so replacing one with the other is not recommended.
Can you substitute cornstarch for tapioca starch?
For recipes that need thickening, you can trade tapioca starch for cornstarch. Generally, you will need twice as much tapioca starch compared to cornstarch.
Is there a keto substitute for cornstarch?
There are many keto cornstarch substitutes for frying, baking, and thickening — see the suggestions above for each! Check carb counts and substitution ratios to keep your recipes keto friendly.
No need to worry if you’re out of cornstarch! There are dozens of cornstarch substitutes you can use to create perfect results in all your favorite recipes.