Cornstarch has uses in cooking and baking to help thicken, blend, and stabilize foods. It contains mostly starch, which is very high in calories and carbohydrates, and it has little nutritional content. Wheat flour, rice flour, and xanthan gum are some of the potential alternatives.
Cornstarch is not the best foodstuff for people who want to lower or regulate their blood sugar or cholesterol levels.
There are plenty of cornstarch substitutes, and almost all of them are vegan or vegetarian. In this article, we look at nine of the best cornstarch substitutes.
The following is a breakdown of the best cornstarch alternatives and why they are a good substitute:
1. Wheat flour
While it may be more nutritious, wheat flour is not as starchy as cornstarch.
This means that it may be necessary to use more of it to create the same effect when cooking.
Like cornstarch, wheat flour can make a liquid lumpy if a person does not properly mix it. Try whisking the flour in warm water until it is even before adding to foods.
2. Rice flour
Rice flour, which people make from ground rice, contains a high level of nutrients and has many uses in Asian dishes. These include noodles, soups, and desserts.
Rice flour has more protein and dietary fiber than cornstarch. It also contains fewer carbohydrates.
It is best to mix rice flour in cold or warm water until it is even before adding it to food. This prevents it from creating lumps.
3. Arrowroot flour
People make arrowroot flour from the rootstock of several types of plants in the arrowroot family.
Arrowroot flour is a nutritious substitute for cornstarch because it acts similarly to cornstarch but contains more dietary fiber.
Arrowroot flour may not mix well with dairy but handles freezing very well.
4. Potato starch
Potato starch is a powder made by extracting starch from potatoes and drying it out.
Potato starch contains few nutrients. However, potato starch contains significantly fewer calories and carbohydrates than cornstarch, making it a good substitute for people looking to thicken foods without adding calories or carbs.
Potato starch is also relatively flavorless, meaning that it will not overpower or alter other flavors in foods. Potatoes are naturally gluten-free, which makes them a good option for people with celiac disease or those on a gluten-free diet.
It is best to add potato starch to foods late in the cooking process. Overheating starches can cause them to break down and lose their thickening qualities.
5. Sorghum flour
People make sorghum flour from ground sorghum grains. Sorghum is high in protein, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.
As well as containing more protein than cornstarch, sorghum flour is also rich in the following nutrients:
- several B vitamins
Sorghum flour is a great thickener for soups, stews, and chowders. People in the Pacific Islands commonly use sorghum flour to thicken their stews. Sorghum is naturally gluten-free and high in many nutrients.
6. Guar gum
People make guar gum by grinding the gum-containing tissue inside cluster bean seeds. It is available in a few different forms but often comes as a fine, white-to-yellowish powder.
The uses of guar gum in cooking, such as thickening, stabilizing, and emulsifying, are similar to those of cornstarch.
Guar gum can be a particularly good alternative to cornstarch when it comes to thickening frozen foods or making foods to store in the freezer. This is because it contains compounds that help prevent the formation of ice crystals.
Guar gum is also a highly nutritious and potentially healthful alternative to cornstarch. Guar gum has fewer calories and carbohydrates and more dietary fiber than cornstarch.
Guar gum may also have overall health benefits. Because it forms a thick gel in the intestines, guar gum slows digestion and prolongs a sense of fullness, which may promote:
- weight loss and a lower risk of obesity
- healthy blood sugar levels and a lower risk of diabetes
- healthy blood cholesterol levels
- healthy bowel and digestive habits
- higher levels of mineral and vitamin absorption
7. Xanthan gum
People can make xanthan gum by fermenting sugars using a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris.
Xanthan gum is not always an ideal replacement for cornstarch because it contains practically zero nutrients aside from sodium and potassium.
It is, however, extremely useful as a thickener, emulsifier, and gelling agent.
Because it is so strong, a small amount of xanthan gum can go a long way.
8. Cassava or tapioca flour
Cassava flour is usually a fine white powder made from finely ground cassava root. Tapioca flour is typically a powder made from dried ground starch extracted from cassava through soaking, washing, and pulping.
Cassava may be an especially good cornstarch substitute for people with diabetes or prediabetes because it has a lower glycemic index score than wheat flour. In fact, cassava flour has significantly fewer carbohydrates than cornstarch.
Glucomannan is a colorless, water-soluble powder that people make from the roots of the konjac plant, or elephant yam.
It is extremely viscous. It can absorb some "50 times its weight in water," making it an excellent thickener for foods. Glucommanan contains a high level of dietary fiber and few calories.
There are a few other ways to thicken, blend, or stabilize foods. Some common tips include adding:
- blended vegetables or fruits
- yogurt or milk
- coconut milk
Cooking foods for longer also usually causes them to naturally thicken and mix, as the chemical bonds in the foods break down and the starch fibers lose their strength.
There are plenty of good substitutes for cornstarch.
Easy-to-access alternatives are wheat flour, arrowroot flour, and rice flour. These are good alternatives to cornstarch because they are more nutritious and contain fewer carbohydrates and calories.
Xanthan and guar gum are much stronger thickeners than cornstarch, but they can be harder to obtain and use.
Blending fruits and vegetables to add to food, adding coconut milk, or cooking foods for a little while longer can also help replace the need for thickening agents such as cornstarch.