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This kitchen-pantry staple is famous for thickening sauces and stews without changing the flavor. It’s an essential ingredient you should always have on hand. But if or when you don’t have any cornstarch (it’s bound to happen) refer to this guide for the best cornstarch substitutes to use in a pinch.
What Is Cornstarch and What Is It Used For?
Cornstarch is made from the endosperm found at the center of a corn kernel. The starches inside the endosperm are removed, rinsed, dried, and then milled into a fine powder, leaving us with cornstarch as we know it. It’s not to be confused with corn flour, which is made from whole kernels.
This chalky, white powder can be used many ways, making it an absolute must-have in the kitchen and beyond. Most commonly however, it’s used as a thickening agent in sauces, stews, and custards. It makes a great thickening agent because it’s made up of a long chain of starch molecules that will unravel and swell when heated in the presence of moisture.
5 Best Cornstarch Substitutes
We know cornstarch is well loved in your kitchen, which means you’re bound to run out from time to time. Here are five of the best cornstarch substitutes for all your thickening needs.
Yep, that’s right — all-purpose flour is a very stable thickener! Although it won’t produce the same glossy shine as cornstarch, it’ll get the job done in a pinch. All-purpose flour contains about half the thickening power of cornstarch, so for every tablespoon of cornstarch required, you’ll need to substitute two tablespoons of all-purpose flour.
If you happen to have this starch on hand, you’re in luck: it has the same thickening power as cornstarch and it creates a beautiful shiny sauce. But one caveat about arrowroot — it doesn’t hold or reheat well, which makes it best for when you’re serving your dish immediately. Substitute one tablespoon of arrowroot powder for one tablespoon of cornstarch.
Like arrowroot, this starch has strong thickening powder, but it doesn’t last long after cooking, so you’ll want to eat whatever you’re cooking as soon as possible. This starch also has the same thickening power as cornstarch, so you don’t have to change the measurement. Substitute one tablespoon of arrowroot powder for one tablespoon of cornstarch.
Like all-purpose flour, rice flour also has half the thickening power of cornstarch, so you’re going to want to use two tablespoons of rice flour for every one tablespoon of cornstarch called for. It’s also colorless when added to recipes, making it great for use in clear liquids.
Tapioca is a flavorless ingredient that is extracted from cassava, a root vegetable found throughout South America. It doesn’t have quite the thickening power of cornstarch, so for every tablespoon of cornstarch required, you’ll need to use two tablespoons of tapioca starch. You’ll want to avoid boiling tapioca starch as this can cause the thickened sauce to become stringy.