Can You Bake With Cornstarch Instead Of Baking Powder?

Cornstarch and baking powder look so alike and have almost the same texture that you may wonder if they can substitute each other in your recipe. Moreover, baking powder contains cornstarch.

If you have thought of this, here’s the answer. Cornstarch cannot replace baking powder because the latter is a leavening agent and the former is a thickener.

So, how different are these two if they look so much alike? What other baking powder substitutes are there?

These are the questions this article will provide answers to.

What is cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a common ingredient made from the starchy portion of corn kernels known as the endosperm. It’s used as a thickening agent for pies, sauces, marinades, gravies, soups, casseroles, etc.

Though most people think cornstarch is reserved for cooking, it’s quite useful outside the kitchen too.

Cornstarch is also used to thicken liquid-based foods like soups, stews, sauces, or custards. When used correctly and in appropriate amounts, cornstarch makes food crispy and more appealing to eat.

What is baking powder?

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid.

The base and acid are prevented from reacting prematurely by the inclusion of a buffer such as cornstarch. Baking powder is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of baked goods.

The acid and base in baking powder are both in the form of dry ingredients. But immediately you mix baking powder with wet ingredients, it will slowly start to activate, form bubbles, and make the dough swell.

Differences between cornstarch and baking powder

Cornstarch and baking powder are different in their use. They cannot serve the same purpose or replace each other in any way.

Although, it may be tricky to tell the physical differences between cornstarch and baking powder since they look so alike. Some of their major differences include:

1. Sources

Cornstarch is made from the starch of corn kernels.

On the other hand, baking powder is a mixture of a base known as baking soda and an acid called cream of tartar.

2. Uses

Cornstarch is a thickening agent which thickens liquids. You can use it to thicken your pie fillings and coat your chicken wings, meat, and fish before frying to make them crispier and tastier.

Baking powder on the other hand acts as a leavening agent for baked goods like cake and bread. Once you add it to your dough and add water, air bubbles form and make the dough rise, thereby giving you an airy, soft, and fluffy result.

3. Texture

When eaten raw, cornstarch has a silky and gritty texture that is similar to sugar powder. And compared to regular flours or starches made from wheat or rice, the cornstarch consistency is much thicker and denser.

Baking powder has a white color and powdery texture.

Can you make baking powder by yourself?

Yes. There are a lot of ways to make your baking powder at home. What you need is the base which is baking soda to react with acid.

What is most important is to know the right measurement for the base and acid that will replace the baking powder in your recipe.

You can also add cornstarch to help absorb excess moisture in the homemade baking powder and prolong its shelf life.

Substitutes for baking powder

As long as baking powder is a part of your original recipe, the best you can do is replace it with baking soda and a mix of other ingredients.

That said, let’s look at the various ingredients to mix with baking soda:

1. Self-rising flour

Self-rising flour is flour with baking powder and a bit of salt. It’s a staple in many Southern recipes and is traditionally made from a softer, lower protein version of all-purpose flour, which is what grows there.

Since self-rising flour can rise by itself, you will need to use it as the only flour in your recipe.

2. Yogurt

Yogurt is classified as acidic because it possesses lactic acid. To replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder in a recipe, use 1/2 cup of yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.

The yogurt will react with the baking soda to produce air bubbles which will make your cakes nice and airy.

3. Buttermilk

Adding buttermilk to your batter will make it runny so you have to slightly decrease the volume of any other liquids in the recipe.

The addition of baking soda and buttermilk will react and replicate the effects of baking powder. Simply add 1/2 cup of buttermilk and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.

4. Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is also an excellent dry ingredient to substitute for baking powder. Because of its acidic nature, cream of tartar acts as the acid needed to react with baking soda to become a leavening agent.

Cream of tartar is acidic because it is a byproduct of wine made in barrels. It is a tartaric acid that, when mixed with baking soda creates carbon dioxide gas. In other words, it helps the dough to rise.

To replace one teaspoon of baking powder in a recipe, mix 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and add to your batter.

5. Molasses

Molasses is a delicious ingredient that sweetens pastries. It is a thick syrup made from the extracted juices of sugar after they have been crushed and boiled down.

Replace baking powder with 1/4 cup of molasses and 1/4 tsp of baking soda.

6. Lemon Juice

One of the most common pantry staples is lemon. Because of its extremely acidic nature, it is a perfect ingredient to mix with baking soda and add to your batter.

To replace one teaspoon of baking powder, pour 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice into your batter followed by 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to cause a reaction that will help your dessert rise.

What happens if you don’t use baking powder?

As a general rule, baking powder is used as a leavening agent. Without baking powder, the dough or batter will not rise.

The acid and base components of baking powder react and produce air bubbles to make the cake batter rise. Without baking powder in your recipe, your cake will be flat like brownies.


Is baking powder better than cornstarch?

No. Baking powder and cornstarch are two different ingredients that serve different purposes. Therefore, you cannot compare them this way.

Follow your recipe and use cornstarch when it calls for it. Use baking powder when necessary.

Can you use cornstarch instead of baking powder for chicken wings?

Yes. When you coat chicken wings in plain cornstarch mixed with a little kosher salt before baking, you get tastier and more crispy wings.

Can you bake without baking powder or soda?

Yes. It is possible to bake without baking soda or baking powder, but the baked goods will come out dense and flat.


Baking powder is a key ingredient for cakes, cookies, and all pastry products that need an airy and fluffy texture. It is also responsible for making the dough rise.

Cornstarch only serves as a buffer to preserve homemade baking powder and make it last longer. Additionally, you can use cornstarch to thicken a loose baking mix.

There are certainly other homemade substitutes for baking powder. Examples include yogurt & baking soda and buttermilk & baking soda.

I hope this article helped you to realize the difference between cornstarch and baking powder. Thanks for reading.

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