Here's What You Can Substitute For Cornstarch

Cornstarch, which is made by grinding up the center of a corn kernel, is a white powder that is used to thicken sauces, soups, gravies, and even custards. According to My Recipes, cornstarch came into existence in 1842 when Thomas Kingford was messing around in a wheat starch factory in the New Jersey and found a way to separate the endosperm — the part of the corn kernel seed that contains starch — and turned it into what we call cornstarch.

Cornstarch is easy to use. Per Science of Cooking, the beauty of cornstarch is when it is mixed with a liquid like water or stock, it creates a mixture that is semi-transparent that thickens up your dish without changing the flavor of whatever you are making. But what can you do if you are cooking and when it comes time to thicken up your stew or sauce, you realize you have no cornstarch in your pantry? The goods news is there are several other ubiquitous thickening ingredients you probably have on hand that you can use instead. You may even find you actually like one of these alternatives more than cornstarch.

Try arrowroot or wheat flour in place of corn starch

If you find you have no cornstarch hiding in the back of your kitchen cabinets, don't stress. Healthline notes that you can always use plain old wheat flour as a substitute for this thickening element. You will need to use twice as much wheat flour in order to achieve a similar viscosity that you get with cornstarch. This is due to wheat flour's fiber content. Like with cornstarch, you will want to stir the flour with some cold water until you have a smooth paste sans lumps.

But if you don't have any wheat flour, no problem. You can also use arrowroot as a cornstarch substitute. Arrowroot is also a white powder like cornstarch, but it is derived from tropical plants. This gluten-free option produces a clear solution if you mix it with water, and it will give you similar results to cornstarch; however, you will also need to double the amount of arrowroot you use if you want a thick sauce. Arrowroot, like wheat flour, also contains fiber, which makes this a more favorable alternative to cornstarch for some people. Keep in mind though, you will have to cook your sauce longer while working with this alternative as it takes longer than cornstarch (via My Recipes).

Tapioca and rice flour can be substituted for cornstarch

Science of Cooking notes that you can also use all purpose flour, rice flour, or tapioca as a substitute for cornstarch. Tapioca is like arrowroot in that it turns clear after being thoroughly mixed with liquid. Its biggest drawback, per The Spruce Eats, is the fact that the little tapioca balls will still be visible in your dish. The outlet notes that to avoid this, you can mash the tapioca using a coffee grinder. They also recommend mixing your tapioca with your liquid of choice up to ten minutes before you start cooking with it so that the tapioca can properly soak it up.

If tapioca is not an option, try rice flour, which can also be substituted for cornstarch. What makes rice flour appealing as a thickening ingredient is that it if a dish requires freezing, you don't have to worry about it separating. Healthline also notes that this substitute for cornstarch also mixes clear. That said, you will need to use twice the amount of rice flour as you would use of cornstarch to get the results you want.

Your other options for cornstarch alternatives

Don't forget about your all-purpose flour, which may be the most common ingredient to use as a substitute for cornstarch on this list. Substituting all-purpose flour for cornstarch is rather easy. This is done by forming a roux or paste that generally involves melting butter and then mixing in the flour. However, it doesn't thicken up your sauces and gravies as well as cornstarch. Still, The Spruce Eats notes that it is a good option, especially if you are making a sauce with dairy.

Japanese arrowroot or kuzu can also serve your substitution needs. Science of Cooking notes that kuzu gels really well, and it is also fat free and sodium free, making it a great alternative. No Japanese arrowroot in sight? Try potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free thickener that is best for soups and gravies. It must be mixed with water, but Science of Cooking cautions that if you use potato starch in place of cornstarch, the liquid should not be brought to a boil. Recipes that call for potato starch as a thickener often will add it later in the cooking process (Healthline). If you substitute potato starch for cornstarch, it is a 1 to 1 substitution, which certainly adds to the ease of this option.