Cornstarch is a versatile ingredient used as a thickener, binder, and coating agent in cooking and baking. Its fine texture and neutral flavor make it an ideal way to add body to sauces, gravies, puddings, stir fries, fried foods, and more. But what if you don’t have cornstarch in the pantry? Thankfully, there are a number of handy substitutes for cornstarch that work just as well.

1. Flour

All-purpose flour is a readily available substitute for cornstarch. To use it as a thickener, first whisk the flour with an equal amount of cold water until smooth. This prevents lumps. For every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch called for, substitute 2 tablespoons of flour paste.

Bring liquids to a simmer before adding the flour paste. Whisk constantly while adding. Flour will thicken recipes at a lower temperature than cornstarch. It also makes sauces cloudy rather than clear. But it works great in gravies, stews, casseroles, and soups.

2. Arrowroot

Arrowroot is an excellent one-to-one substitute for cornstarch. It thickens at low temperatures and creates a clear, glossy texture. Arrowroot works especially well for fruit pie fillings, shiny glazes, and fruit sauces.

To use, first mix the arrowroot with a small amount of cool liquid to form a slurry. Then whisk the slurry into simmering ingredients. Arrowroot thickens quickly, so whisk vigorously and be careful not to overdo it.

3. Tapioca

Tapioca starch provides similar thickening power to cornstarch. Substitute 2 teaspoons of tapioca for every 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Blend the tapioca with cool water first before adding it to hot liquids to prevent clumping.

Tapioca shines at creating sheen and body in fruit pies. It’s also great for gluten-free baking when combined with other flours. Tapioca holds up well to freezing and thawing, making it perfect for cooked frozen desserts.

4. Potato Starch

Another cornstarch cousin, potato starch also gels quickly at low temperatures. Substitute 1 tablespoon of potato starch for every 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Make sure to fully dissolve the potato starch in cold liquid first before adding hot liquid.

Potato starch makes crispy coatings for fried foods. It’s wonderful at thickening and binding soups, stews and pot pies without diluting flavors. And it adds elasticity in gluten-free baking.

5. Rice Flour

Very finely ground rice flour dissolves easily and thickens recipes well. Use 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice flour blended with water to replace 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Rice flour results in translucent, glossy sauces. And it adds binding without altering flavors.

Rice flour works nicely to coat meats and fish before frying. It’s also handy for thickening dairy-based liquids which can sometimes react with other starches. Avoid using rice flour in high acid recipes, as the sauce may break.

6. Gelatin

In a pinch, unflavored gelatin can provide thickening. Use 1 teaspoon of gelatin for every tablespoon of cornstarch called for. First bloom the gelatin in cold water for at least 5 minutes. Then dissolve over low heat before mixing into hot liquid ingredients.

Gelatin requires precise measurements for thickening. Start with a smaller amount and add more as needed. Gelatin is best for cold dishes like mousses, puddings, and coatings as it gets runny when heated too high.

7. Xanthan Gum

A little xanthan gum goes a long way as a cornstarch substitute. Use just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Xanthan gum thickens without clouding or altering flavors. Blend it with dry ingredients first before adding wet.

Xanthan gum thickens at any temperature. Take care not to overdo it, as using too much can result in a slimy texture. It works well to add stability and structure in gluten-free baking.

Don’t let a lack of cornstarch throw off your cooking plans. With wheat and rice flours, tapioca, arrowroot, and gelatin in your pantry, you have substitutes ready to thicken sauces, stabilize batters, and coat foods with ease.

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julia jane

Julia Jane is a home cook inspired by her mother's cooking. With the desire to share my cooking experiences with everyone, she created this website

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