Can Corn Flour Substitute Cornstarch? Differences And Alternatives

Can corn flour substitute cornstarch? No, corn flour cannot substitute for cornstarch. They have different nutrients and processing methods.

Corn flour and cornstarch are both made from corn, and are essential gluten-free ingredients. Therefore, it’s easy to think they are the same or work for the same purpose. However, you should know- they are not the same.

They differ in flavors, nutrient profiles, and culinary uses. It is these differences that make them interchangeable in recipes.

In this article, you will learn about the difference between corn flour and cornstarch. In addition, you will know why you can’t substitute one for the other in your dishes.

What is corn flour?

Corn flour is a kind of flour you derive from dried whole corn kernels (maize). It’s usually yellow, but it can also be light blue or white. The color depends on the variety of corn you mill.

People consider it whole grain flour because it contains corn hull and endosperm. The millers remove the hard outer hull and nutritious germ from maize kernels and grind them. This process results in a fine powder with a smooth and nice texture.

While corn flour doesn’t taste good raw, it’s amazing when you cook it. Whether you bake, fry, or grill, it’s a delicacy with a sweet, earthy flavor.

In addition, it’s the best option for wheat-less baked goods, from waffles to bread. Corn flour is so versatile people can use it in various recipes.

What is cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a carbohydrate and a popular ingredient made from the starchy part of corn kernels. Farmers obtain the starch from the endosperm of the corn kernel.

Cornstarch is very versatile and easy to modify. It can be used in and out of the kitchen, in factories, and hospitals. In the kitchen, you can use cornstarch to thicken casseroles, sauces, soups, gravies, and marinades.

Furthermore, it’s perfect for making sugars and corn syrups and is also an anti-caking agent.

Can corn flour substitute cornstarch?

It’s easy to think you can use both the same way. However, corn flour is a gluten-free flour used in baking and meals, while cornstarch (also gluten-free) is a starchy ingredient used as a thickening agent.

What this shows is they have very distinct functions in the kitchen. Due to these significant differences, you cannot substitute corn flour for cornstarch.

Differences between corn flour and cornstarch

Corn flour and cornstarch are smooth ground powders- the kind you get from maize. While they feel similar after grinding, you do not crush the same parts of the kernels to get both. That’s why the processing methods, nutrition, and even uses differ.

Some of the differences between them include:

1. Processing

Typically, corn flour comes out yellow after you grind it. Millers separate the corn kernels from the outer hull and germ before using metal rollers to make it powder. It contains fiber, a little starch, protein, minerals, and vitamins.

On the other hand, cornstarch is more refined. You make it by removing the protein and fiber from the corn kernel, leaving just the starch, which you can also call the endosperm. It’s this endosperm you grind into a white powder.

While cornstarch uses only the endosperm, corn flour uses different parts like the hull, fiber, protein, and endosperm.

2. Nutrition

Cornstarch contains zero protein, fiber, and fat. It is pure starch and only comprises 28 grams of carbs. Meanwhile, corn flour has 3 grams of protein, 22 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fiber.

In addition, you can get 1.5 grams of fat, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B, and other nutrients from corn flour.

Cornstarch does not offer vitamin B but has a much smaller quantity of other nutrients. It also contains about 120 calories, whereas corn flour has 110 calories.

3. Flavor differences

Corn flour has a similar flavor to corn. It tastes sweet and earthy. This sweet taste makes it perfect for use in pancakes, pastries, waffles, and bread.

In contrast, cornstarch has no flavor. Its bland taste makes it pointless to use in most recipes. It adds texture rather than flavor, so you can use it to thicken dishes.

4. Uses

People use cornstarch to thicken soups, sauces, gravies, and stews. You can also add it to confectioners’ sugar to prevent clumping.

On the other hand, you can use corn flour to make waffles, pancakes, and biscuits. You can also use it to prepare pastries and bread.

Cornstarch substitutes

You can’t substitute corn flour for cornstarch in recipes. However, there are other alternatives for cornstarch you can use. They include:

1. Rice flour

Rice flour is a good substitute for cornstarch when you require a thickening agent. The flour is a bit finer and stickier, so use it for foods without crunchy exteriors. It also has a sweet flavor which enhances soups and sauces.

2. Whole wheat flour

This type of flour is an excellent alternative to cornstarch. Whole wheat is a popular choice because it has more nutrients than cornstarch. While it contains gluten, it can work well for you.

The one thing you should watch out for is its flavor. Whole wheat has a malty taste, so it doesn’t blend in every meal.

3. All-purpose flour

This flour is another great gluten alternative to cornstarch. It contains more nutrients and won’t affect your recipe’s texture or flavor.

4. Self-rising flour

Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour that also contains baking powder and salt. A perfect substitute for cornstarch in soups, pie fillings, and sauces. All you need to do is double the quantity of self-rising flour in your dish and watch it thicken.

Because this flour already has salt, you should pay attention to the quantity of salt you use. Cook for a while, then adjust the condiments to taste after the flavors have blended.

5. Sorghum flour

This flour is popular in the health food community. Farmers derive it from sorghum grains, and it’s filled with antioxidants and proteins.

It also contains essential vitamins and minerals including phosphorus, vitamin B, and magnesium. You should only use it as a substitute for cornstarch in meals that need thickening.

6. Guar gum

This is another affordable and healthy option that works excellently as a thickener. Be sure you use a small amount of guar gum, especially when replacing cornstarch in a soup or sauce recipe.

7. Arrowroot powder

Since arrowroot is a starch, it is a great alternative to cornstarch. It also enhances the flavor of your recipe, making it one of the best options.

In addition, it is excellent for thickening but might not work in baked foods. Use it as a substitute in soups and sauces only.


How long can you store cornstarch?

You can store it for as long as you like. Cornstarch has an indefinite shelf life; unless moisture gets to it, you’re fine.

What happens if you eat too much cornstarch?

Eating an excessive amount of cornstarch will lead to health problems. These problems include cancer, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Can you eat raw corn flour?

Yes, you can. But you should not. It tastes horrible raw until it gets to its finished product.

Can cornstarch lose its thickening ability?

Yes, it can. This happens when you heat it too long or over-whisk it when thick.

How long can you store corn flour?

It will last indefinitely as long as it is in an airtight moisture-high barrier container.


Corn flour cannot substitute for cornstarch. They are entirely different ingredients you can’t use in place of each other. 

Cornstarch helps you thicken soups, gravies, sauces, and other loose foods. You can use it to make firm food too.

Meanwhile, corn flour is a major ingredient in bread, pastries, waffles, pancakes, and other meals. The two are distinct, and you should treat them as such.

Thanks for reading.

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