Cornstarch is widely used in baking and cooking all over the world for a variety of recipes. In case you’re looking for something to cook in, you will find more info here about what to use. Unlike cornstarch, not all of these alternatives are gluten-free. But don’t worry, because you will also find out here which ones are and which ones are not.
Just like cornstarch, wheat flour also contains starch. However, it also has two added benefits: protein and fiber. If you want to use this as a cornstarch replacement for thickening your food, you will need to use about twice as much to get the same results. So for recipes that require one teaspoon of cornstarch, it is recommended to add two teaspoons of wheat flour.
To avoid sticking and clumps, mix the flour with a little cold water until you get a paste. Then you can add it to the recipe just like you would add the cornstarch. Be aware that this product contains gluten. So if you have celiac disease and plan on using wheat flour as a replacement, you’re out of luck. Otherwise, it is a tasty natural substitute.
Arrowroot is usually an excellent substitute for cornstarch because it contains more fiber. However, just like wheat flour, you need to double the quantity for your recipes. If you can’t find commercially available arrowroot, you can try searching for Maranta plants. Dry the roots and then grind them into a fine powder that can be used for thickening.
When mixed with water, arrowroot forms a clear gel which is good for thickening liquids. And unlike our previous example, arrowroot is gluten-free. So if you have celiac disease and can get your hands on arrowroot, you’re good to go. Just don’t forget to add twice as much to your recipes to get the same results as you would get with cornstarch.
Since potato isn’t a grain, it also doesn’t contain any gluten. You can make potato starch by crushing potatoes and then letting them dry into a powder. However, you should keep in mind that it’s a refined starch, which means it contains a lot of carbs and very little protein or fat. The good part is that it won’t add any unwanted flavors to your recipe.
Even better, unlike the previous substitutes, you can add as much potato starch as you would have added cornstarch to your recipes. So, to clarify, if your recipe requires a single tablespoon of cornstarch, you can add just one tablespoon of potato starch. The only palpable downside to this ingredient is that it contains way more carbs than cornstarch.
Tapioca is yet another gluten-free substitute for cornstarch. The ratio at which you should substitute cornstarch with tapioca is 2:1, meaning that for every tablespoon of cornstarch you should add two tablespoons of tapioca. If you can’t find commercially available tapioca flour, flakes or pearls, you can make your own by grinding cassava roots to a pulp.
After grinding the roots, filter out the liquid and dry it into tapioca flour. The liquid is rich in starch, so it has similar properties to cornstarch. However, do keep in mind that some plants from the cassava family may contain traces of cyanide. Do your research and make sure to treat those plants first before attempting to turn them into tapioca.
Rice in all its natural forms is gluten-free. Whether you choose to use white, brown or even wild rice, your recipes will be completely free of gluten. It’s generally one of the preferred foods among people who suffer from celiac disease. Rice flour is commercially available in most stores and supermarkets. And if you want to make your own, it’s as simple as grinding the rice.
It’s useful for thickening clear liquids because it becomes colorless when mixed with water. You can use either hot, cold or temperate water at your leisure. Just like with a few of the other substitutes, you’ll need about two tablespoons of rice flour for every tablespoon of cornstarch that you should add to your recipe.
There are a few things you should note about ground flaxseeds before deciding if they’re good for your recipe. Unlike cornstarch, their consistency is gritty. They don’t provide the same smooth texture. They absorb water quickly and form a sort of jelly. Even so, ground flaxseeds are a great source of fiber. It might just be the perfect fit if that’s what you’re looking for.
Flaxseeds are typically gluten-free. However, in many cases, flaxseeds are processed on the same equipment as wheat and soy. Make sure to check the label on the package you choose to buy. Because if you have celiac disease or are allergic to soy, this can lead to some nasty consequences. It’s better to take time and research instead of having allergic reactions.
Although the fiber found in psyllium is somewhat similar to oats and barley, it’s not wheat. It’s actually a fiber-rich gluten-free powerhouse. It contains very few carbs and is highly soluble in water, making it one of the most desirable substitutes for cornstarch. And if that wasn’t impressive, you only need half a tablespoon of psyllium husk for one tablespoon of cornstarch.
This is so far the only replacement on our list that can do double the job of the ingredient it substitutes. So even though its price is usually a little higher compared to cornstarch, the money’s worth it. One important thing to note is that psyllium husk can also go by the names ispaghula or isabgol.
Xanthan gum is an even more powerful substitute than psyllium husk. Some people have gone so far as calling it “the glue that keeps your gluten-free baking together”. Its main “selling point” is that it gives baked goods the elasticity that is generally found only in products that contain gluten.
This is great for people with celiac disease who miss the feeling of eating gluten-containing foods. However, it is worth noting that ingesting large amounts of xanthan gum can cause digestive issues even in healthy people. But it’s unlikely you’ll consume much if you use it as a thickener. Still, you should be careful when substituting it with cornstarch.
Even if you pour slightly more than needed, the liquid might become slimy instead of smooth.
Just like the previous substitute, this one is also a vegetable gum. It’s made from guar beans, which are a type of legume of an unknown origin since they have never been observed in the wild. It’s very similar to xanthan gum, but it’s usually much cheaper. That’s the main reason many people prefer to substitute cornstarch with guar gum rather than xanthan gum.
Yet again, this is another gluten-free substitute. It makes a good thickener because it’s high in soluble fiber and low in calories. So if you care about your weight, guar gum can also be used in diet recipes.
Other methods of thickening recipes without the use of cornstarch
You can evaporate some of the liquid in your meal if you cook it for longer at a lower temperature. This will result in a thicker sauce. The technique is called simmering.
Mashing vegetables and adding them to a tomato-based sauce will make it thicker and add some much-needed nutrients.
Or if none of these techniques are convenient for you, the simplest way is to add sour cream or Greek yogurt. Mix one of these with any sauce of your choosing and they will give it a thicker and creamier texture.
As you just saw, there are many healthy and nutritious alternatives to cornstarch. So if for one reason or another you don’t want to touch the stuff, you can rest assured because you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Even if you’ve never tried cooking or baking before, it shouldn’t be too hard. You can find a lot of detailed recipes with cornstarch and simply use these substitutes.
One of the main reasons people choose these substitutes is because cornstarch breaks down glucose and increases sugar levels. As such, cornstarch is not recommended for people who suffer from diabetes. Those with cardiovascular diseases should also stay away from cornstarch as much as possible. One more thing: starch is also infamous for contributing to weight gain.
Nevertheless, you now have healthier alternatives to it. Happy cooking!