From breading to baking and making your soups and gravies thicker, corn flour is the star player that does it all.
This versatile ingredient is found in most pantries and is used for many recipes that include baking, grilling, or simply cooking on the stove.
Due to its many uses, you may often find yourselves short on this kitchen staple, and at a time when you realize it at the last minute, what can you do?
Luckily, there are several great substitutes for corn flour that you can easily find in your kitchen. When chosen for the right purpose and used in the correct proportions, they work just as well.
What are the best corn flour substitutes? Some of the best corn flour substitutes include corn starch, rice flour, all-purpose flour, wheat flour, and potato flour.
Read on to find out our top 7 picks for the best corn flour substitutes and the best ones used in baking!
What is Corn Flour?
Before we go into details of how to substitute corn flour, and with what, let’s look at what corn flour is and how it works.
Simply put, corn flour is a finely-milled flour made from dried whole corn kernels. It is considered a whole grain flour because it uses the entire corn kernel including the hull, germ, and endosperm.
It is gluten-free and packed with nutrients such as fiber, protein, starch, vitamins, and minerals, and depending on the type of corn used, it may appear yellow, white, or blue.
Corn Flour Flavor and Uses
Since corn flour is made using whole dried corn kernels, it tastes similar to an ear of corn itself and has a unique sweetness balanced by an earthy flavor profile.
It has a bit of a bitter aftertaste when tasted raw and on its own; however, when used in baking, cooking, and grilling, its natural sweetness and earthy flavor come through.
Like most flours, corn flour is primarily used to give structure to foods and baked goods. It works great with binding agents such as eggs and helps provide shape to bread, muffins, waffles, pancakes, and more.
Corn flour is extremely versatile and can be incorporated into several recipes. It can also be used as a thickener for sauces, soups, stews, and gravies, and works great as breading for meats and fried foods for that extra crunch.
Our go-to brand of cornflour (this one from Amazon) is 100% organic and stone ground and works wonderfully for multiple uses such as baking and breading.
The 7 Best Corn Flour Substitutes
Now that you know more about corn flour and how it can be used in several dishes and recipes, let’s look at some great substitutes that can help you capture the same texture and flavor of this useful ingredient:
Corn flour and cornstarch are both derived from corn, are gluten-free, and are one of the most easily confused ingredients out there.
The main difference between them is that while corn flour is made using dried corn kernels, cornstarch is made using only the starchy part of the corn.
Although they may look the same and have the same fine, powdery texture, cornstarch is relatively bland and flavorless as compared to corn flour.
Therefore, when using it for savory dishes, it may be a good idea to season the cornstarch before using it.
As a whole, cornstarch can serve as a great substitute for corn flour but, in some dishes, they are not interchangeable and might not serve the same purpose.
Corn flour makes some baked goods dense and crumble, whereas cornstarch is more commonly used as a thickening agent.
To replace 1 tablespoon of corn flour in a recipe, simply use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a little cold water to avoid clumping.
We recommend using Argo’s 100% Pure Corn Starch that is not only used for thickening sauces and gravies but is also great for baking.
2. Rice Flour
Rice flour is another great substitute for corn flour that is extracted from finely ground rice until a white starchy powder is produced.
It is widely used in Asian cuisine and is a staple ingredient for many soups, noodles, and even desserts.
Like corn flour, rice flour is also gluten-free and a viable option for individuals trying to avoid high-gluten foods.
Rice flour works great as a thickening agent but when used as breading, it does not offer the same level of crunch as a corn flour coating.
To replace 1 tablespoon of corn flour in a recipe, simply use 2 tablespoons of rice flour mixed with either hot or cold water. It will turn colorless when mixed with water and is a great option for thickening clear soups or broths.
For a healthier alternative, we recommend using Anthony’s Brown Rice Flour that has a mild, slightly nutty taste and is verified gluten-free.
3. All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose flour is also known as refined flour or simply flour, and is made from wheat grains after the brown covering has been removed.
It is milled into a fine white powder that is highly refined and is an all-around great option for baking bread, cakes, pastries, muffins, and pancakes.
It can be used both as a coating for deep frying and a thickening agent for soups and sauces. Though, the taste and texture may vary when using it as a coat for fried foods.
You will not end up with a light and crispy texture as you would when using corn flour. Instead, it may make the foods comparatively thicker and slightly chewier.
To replace 1 tablespoon of corn flour as a thickening agent, you’ll need to double the quantity and use 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.
Our top pick is White Lily’s All-Purpose Flour that is not just an affordable option but also a reliable one for baking and cooking.
4. Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is a nutrient-dense superfood that comes from grinding wheat into a fine powder. In addition to starch, it is loaded with protein and fiber and is a great substitute for corn flour.
However, since wheat flour contains gluten, you may want to reconsider this alternative if you are looking for a gluten-free option such as corn flour.
To replace 1 tablespoon of corn flour when thickening soups and sauces, you’ll need 2 tablespoons of wheat flour mixed with cold water to make a paste to avoid lumps from forming.
Wheat flour is a great corn flour substitute not just for thickening foods but also for baking and cooking. When using it for other recipes, such as tortillas, use the same ratio as corn flour.
For this, you can use King Arthur’s Whole Wheat Traditional Flour that is traditionally milled and packed with flavor, texture, and nutrition.
5. Potato Flour
Potato flour is obtained from cooking, drying, and grinding potatoes into a powdery white starch commonly used in baking and for thickening foods.
Like corn flour, potato flour is also gluten-free and a great alternative for individuals with celiac disease.
However, since it contains high amounts of carbs and fats, calorie-conscious people must consume it carefully and in moderation.
Another thing to note is that since potatoes absorb a lot of water, you must be a little careful when adding potato flour into your soups and gravies to make them thicker.
Add it later in the cooking process to prevent the soup or gravy from getting too thick. Excessive heat may also cause it to lose its thickening capabilities.
In addition to using it to thicken your gravies, potato flour also works well as a coat for meats and vegetables since it adds a great flavor to the dish.
To replace 1 tablespoon of cornflour when thickening soups and sauces, use 1 tablespoon of potato flour.
Our recommended brand for the purpose is Bob’s Red Mill Potato Flour that is of the highest quality and made from 100% dehydrated whole potatoes.
6. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder comes from the tropical arrowroot plant and is a type of starch that can be substituted in place of cornflour.
It can be used to thicken liquids in a similar way as corn flour, especially clear broths and jellies, and is also often used in baking.
It is very easily digested and is high in carbs and low in protein. While it may not be the best corn flour substitute for breadmaking, it does add a good flavor to the food.
Since arrowroot powder thickens gravies faster than corn flour, use 2 teaspoons of the powder to substitute 1 tablespoon of corn flour.
When using it to thicken sauces and gravies, make sure to mix it in cool water to make a slurry before adding it to the hot mixture. This will prevent lumps from forming and allow the arrowroot powder to mix easily with the dish.
Like potato flour, if left over heat for a long time, it will lose its thickening capabilities and will cause the mixture to thin again. Therefore, remove it from heat as soon as you get your desired consistency.
Try Anthony’s Organic Arrowroot Flour for a great thickening agent used in baking, sauces, and gravies that is batch tested and verified gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
Although cornmeal and cornflour are both made from milled, dried corn and can be used interchangeably in most recipes, they have completely different textures.
Corn flour is fine and smooth whereas cornmeal feels gritty. This is because the former is finely ground during the milling process whereas the latter is coarsely ground.
Like corn flour, cornmeal does not contain gluten and is a good alternative for people with such dietary restrictions.
As mentioned earlier, they can be a substitute for each other in many recipes, but you must know that they may yield slightly different results.
For instance, if you are using cornmeal instead of cornflour to make pancakes or muffins, you must expect a grittier texture.
To eliminate this difference, look for cornmeal that is finely milled so that it can work perfectly in place of cornflour for a finer texture.
Use cornmeal in the same proportions as corn flour for your recipe. To replace 1 tablespoon of cornflour, use 1 tablespoon of fine-textured cornmeal.
Our recommendation is to use Bob’s Red Mill Medium Grind Cornmeal and grind it till you obtain a finer texture perfect for baking and cooking.
Substitutes For Corn Flour in Baking
Although there are so many great substitutes for corn flour, not all can be successfully used in its place for baking.
When added to baking recipes, corn flour gives structure to the baked goods and provides a dense texture. Therefore, when substituting it for baking, you need to be very careful that the alternative serves the same purpose.
All-purpose flour and wheat flour are two of the most trusted substitutes you can use in place of corn flour in baking.
When looking for a substitute for a crunchy coating for fried foods, our favorites are cornstarch and potato flour. Both are light and make perfect options for breading and frying.
Potato flour, due to its distinct taste, adds a great flavor to fried foods and there is no need to add any seasonings to make the flavor pop.
Also, it leaves the food with a crunchy and airy texture and is an absolute winner when it comes to frying coated meats and vegetables.
For thickening soups and stews, both cornstarch and potato flour work great as well. You can dilute cornstarch into cold water and add to it the hot mixture whenever you want.
Potato flour is one of the best thickening agents due to its ability to absorb water much quicker than the other ingredients. You just have to be extra careful since it easily breaks down when left on heat for too long.
Can You Make Corn Flour at Home?
Yes, you can! Making corn flour at home may seem like a daunting process, but it is much easier than you would think.
The only ingredient that you require is corn, but it must be dried beforehand to allow it to grind into a fine texture.
Traditionally, the drying process is a rather long one that includes sun drying the corn, removing it from the cob, and then milling it into the flour that we commonly use in baking and cooking.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go through this cumbersome process since there’s a much simpler way to do this.
All you need are popcorn kernels and a high-powered blender like the Vitamix 5200 Blender that is great for making flours and dough.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Add the kernels into the blender, filling it about halfway through.
- Blend the kernels at high speed until a fine powder is formed.
- Place the powder in an airtight container or a plastic Ziplock bag to prevent moisture from getting in.
- Place it in the refrigerator and, if stored properly, you’ll be able to use it for a long time.
- Alternatively, you can store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Is Maize Flour the Same as Corn Flour?
Yes, maize flour is synonymous with corn flour and is also made by grinding dried corn until it breaks down into soft, fine particles.
Corn flour has many names depending on the region you are in. For instance, what is called cornstarch in the US is called cornflour in the UK.
Similarly, maize flour with a thicker consistency is given the name cornmeal in the US.
The difference between corn flour and maize flour can be a confusing one for someone travelling outside of America, especially to Europe. What is maize in America becomes corn in many countries in Europe.
The bottom line is that both corn flour and maize flour are the absolute same thing and can very successfully be used interchangeably.
Is Masa Harina the Same as Corn Flour?
No, masa harina and corn flour are not the same things. While they may look similar and are made using finely ground corn, they are different products.
Corn flour is just finely ground corn, while masa harina, on the other hand, is ground corn treated with alkali, such as limewater, and is very commonly used in Mexican cooking.
Limewater is made with calcium hydroxide and completely changes the chemical makeup of the corn flour which makes it easily digestible and gives it a distinct flavor.
Masa harina literally translates to “dough flour”, is naturally gluten-free and 100% pure, and is used to make delicious tortillas, tamales, and pupusas.
Other Thickening Techniques
If you do not have corn flour on hand and do not wish to use any of the above-listed substitutes either, there are other ways you can make your gravies, sauces, soups, and broths thicker.
Some of the best thickening techniques include:
Reducing The Liquid
If you have a little time to spare, simmering the liquid and reducing it is a great way to thicken it without having to add any extra ingredients. The only two ingredients required here are time and patience.
As the excess water evaporates, the remaining mixture will gradually thicken and become more flavorful since the other flavors become more concentrated.
To help speed up the process, instead of simmering a huge pot of sauce, soup, or gravy, transfer a small portion to a wide sauté pan. Once it is nice and thick, add it to the main pot and repeat until you have your desired consistency.
Adding butter won’t add a considerable amount of thickness to your sauces, soups, and gravies, but it will give it that extra boost if it is almost at your desired consistency.
Just make sure to add the butter into your mixture at the very end of the cooking process since it has the tendency to break down if exposed to high heat, defeating its purpose of making the sauce thicker.
Adding an Egg Yolk
Adding egg yolks is a classic thickening technique used for custards, salad dressings, and also for rich sauces and gravies.
To prevent the egg from scrambling into the mixture, place the egg yolk in a separate bowl and slowly add about a cup of the sauce or gravy and whisk it gently.
Next, add the yolk mixture into the pot, making sure to whisk continuously.
Just as potato flour absorbs a lot of water, the starchy vegetable itself does too. Potatoes are excellent thickening agents, especially if they are pureed. Other starchy vegetables that work just as well include winter squash and celeriac.
All you have to do is boil the vegetables and pop them in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed. Stir this paste into the sauce and you will see instant results.
You may also use steamed and mashed cauliflower, or cooked beans and lentils to make your sauces thicker. However, keep in mind that adding the latter may alter the flavor of the sauce or gravy you are adding them to.
You could also try to puree parts of your sauce or soup if it has a chunky consistency and make it thicker without adding any extra ingredients.
Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt
Depending on the type of sauce, soup, or gravy you are preparing, you can add a bit of sour cream or Greek yogurt to make it thicker as well as creamier.
Much like heavy cream, yogurt can be used to thicken sauces, however, you will need to add some type of starch into the mixture to prevent it from curdling.
Just add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch or 1 tablespoon of flour into 1 cup of yogurt before adding it to your hot sauce, gravy, or soup.
Similarly, use sour cream by first bringing it to room temperature and then adding 1 tablespoon of flour to ½ cup of sour cream before adding it to the mixture.
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