7 Best Substitute For Cornstarch

Cornstarch Substitute

Cornstarch, a quintessential ingredient extracted from the endosperm of corn kernels, is cherished for its remarkable thickening abilities in various dishes. Its unique power to gelatinize, swelling into a gel-like consistency when heated with water, significantly thickens the accompanying liquid, making it indispensable in the creation of sauces, gravies, pies, and more. However, there are scenarios where we might need to find a suitable substitute, be it due to dietary restrictions, personal preferences, or the unavailability of cornstarch.

This is where the understanding of multiple, high-quality alternatives to cornstarch comes into play. From common staples like flour and potato starch to the less-known but highly effective options like arrowroot and agar agar, there’s a vast array of cornstarch substitutes each offering unique characteristics and potential benefits. Through this article, we seek to illuminate these alternatives, providing an in-depth understanding of their usage, properties, and nutritional profiles, so you can confidently venture beyond the traditional use of cornstarch in your culinary experiments.

What is Cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a fine, white powder derived from the endosperm of corn kernels. It’s primarily used as a thickening agent in cooking, adding body to sauces, soups, custards, and other dishes. The secret to cornstarch’s thickening power lies in a process called gelatinization, where it swells and forms a gel-like consistency when heated with water. This results in thickening the liquid it’s mixed with, making it a staple in many recipes.

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Cornstarch Substitutes at a Glance

  • Flour
  • Arrowroot
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Potato Starch
  • Rice Flour
  • Ground Flaxseeds
  • Agar Agar

Best Substitutes For Cornstarch

Let’s delve into each of these substitutes, exploring their properties, uses, and benefits to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the alternatives at your disposal.


Wheat flour is one of the most readily available and commonly used cornstarch substitutes. Made from ground wheat, it has a higher protein content compared to cornstarch, which means it has different thickening properties.

Flour thickens sauces and other mixtures at a lower temperature than cornstarch. However, it doesn’t provide the same glossy finish and can result in a slightly cloudy or opaque result. It’s essential to cook it thoroughly to avoid a raw, floury taste. To use flour as a cornstarch substitute, you’ll generally need to use twice the amount.


Arrowroot powder is derived from several tropical plants and is a popular gluten-free alternative to cornstarch. It has a neutral flavor, which makes it excellent for thickening delicate or subtly flavored dishes.

Unlike cornstarch, arrowroot can tolerate acidic ingredients and freezes well, making it suitable for applications where these conditions are necessary. However, arrowroot is not recommended for dairy-based sauces as it can create a slimy texture. The substitution ratio is typically 1:1 with cornstarch.

Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch, extracted from the cassava root, is another excellent alternative to cornstarch. It’s known for its ability to provide a glossy finish to sauces and a chewy texture to baked goods.

Tapioca starch tolerates prolonged cooking and freezing well, making it suitable for various recipes. However, it forms a gel quite quickly and can produce a slightly stringy texture. Tapioca starch also works well in a 1:1 substitution ratio with cornstarch.

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Potato Starch

Potato starch, derived from crushed potatoes, is an excellent alternative when you need a subtle flavor. It’s highly effective at thickening sauces and can also be used in baking.

Like arrowroot and tapioca, potato starch is a good option for those avoiding gluten. However, potato starch doesn’t tolerate high temperatures as well, so it’s best added towards the end of cooking. In most cases, you can substitute potato starch for cornstarch in a 1:1 ratio.

Rice Flour

Rice flour is another gluten-free alternative to cornstarch. Made from finely milled rice, it offers a delicate flavor and is excellent for thickening soups, sauces, and gravies.

Rice flour requires a longer cooking time to fully thicken and lose its raw flavor. It may not yield as glossy a finish as cornstarch or tapioca starch, but it is a dependable option, particularly for those with dietary restrictions. You generally need twice the amount of rice flour to substitute for cornstarch.

Ground Flaxseeds

Ground flaxseeds, also known as flax meal, are a healthy alternative to cornstarch. They are packed with nutrients and have a nutty flavor that can complement many dishes.

When mixed with water, ground flaxseeds form a gel-like substance that can thicken recipes. However, they have a stronger flavor that may not suit every dish, and their texture can be a bit gritty. When using ground flaxseeds as a cornstarch substitute, use twice the amount.

Agar Agar

Derived from seaweed, agar agar is a vegan substitute for gelatin and can also replace cornstarch. It has a neutral flavor and forms a firm gel, making it popular for desserts such as jellies and custards.

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Agar agar needs to be heated to dissolve completely and then cooled to set, making it a bit more labor-intensive than cornstarch. However, its unique properties make it an interesting option to experiment with. Generally, use 1 tablespoon of agar agar to replace 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Substitutes for Cornstarch: Nutritional Profile

Let’s take a look at the nutritional profiles of these substitutes per ¼ cup:

Tapioca StarchNo1000g26g0g0g
Potato StarchNo1600g40g1.6g0.1g
Rice FlourNo1500.4g33g0.6g2.4g
Ground FlaxseedsNo15012g8g8g5g
Agar AgarNo200g5g0g0g

Final Thoughts

Choosing a substitute for cornstarch largely depends on the specific requirements of your recipe and dietary needs. While all the substitutes mentioned in this article can effectively thicken your dishes, they each bring unique characteristics that can enhance your cooking experience in different ways. Whether it’s the glossy finish provided by tapioca starch, the rich nutrient content of ground flaxseeds, or the firm gel consistency of agar agar, these cornstarch substitutes provide versatility and variety for your culinary adventures. So the next time you run out of cornstarch or need to avoid it, feel confident knowing that there are plenty of alternatives at your disposal. Happy cooking!

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