Corn is a gift that keeps on giving and cornstarch is an excellent example of one of the many byproducts of this wonder food!
From baking to frying and thickening soups and sauces, cornstarch has multiple uses in the kitchen but it also has an extremely important property that makes it the best natural thickening agent: it is almost tasteless!
What does cornstarch taste like? Cornstarch has no flavor and is said to taste “neutral”. Since the kernel is processed and removed during the wet-milling process, cornstarch is left with almost no flavor. It is typically best compared to the flavor of any neutral/bland flour or starch.
Read below to learn more about how cornstarch is made, how it is used and some great ways to get the most out of it!
How Is Cornstarch Made?
When we talk about corn, we mostly refer to its edible kernel. The kernel itself has wide applications and is a staple in many regions, but it also has a few hidden qualities as well!
Corn contains natural starch, which is a complex carbohydrate found in many different types of food.
Starch is used in many industries, but in the context of food, it is usually used to thicken food or to add crispiness via frying or texture via baking.
The best way to understand and explain cornstarch is to think of it as a natural thickener.
The job of any food thickener is to increase the viscosity of a liquid without affecting the underlying flavor and this is why cornstarch makes for such an important ingredient in everyday cooking.
Whether it is to add volume and thickness to pie fillings or to add a crumbly texture to cookies, cornstarch is the go-to ingredient that gets the job done without taking away from the natural flavor of the recipe.
But how does normal corn end up becoming a white powder?
Well, the journey of cornstarch begins with the humble corn kernel.
Once the kernel is removed from the cob, it is processed depending on the type of corn at hand. For instance, while any type of corn can be used, a softer kernel is usually preferred to produce smooth and velvety-textured cornstarch.
The kernels may also be hydrated in water before processing to aid in the grinding process.
This type of milling is referred to as “wet-milling” and is used to separate the various products or byproducts of corn. This process is also used in the production of corn oil as well!
Once prepared, the kernels enter into a large grinding machine that efficiently grounds the corn until it is homogenous. The resulting mixture is then filtered and the residue is set aside.
By the end of the first filtration process, the cornstarch will still contain a noticeably strong corn flavor.
The watery mixture is further processed and then filtered again, this time, using an even finer mesh filter. This further separates the endosperm (the starchy part of corn) and its constituents.
The filtered liquid is collected down below and, again, the residue is either further processed or sold off to different industries. After all, corn truly is the gift that keeps on giving!
The final mixture consists of mostly water and starch which is left to separate naturally.
The starch settles down and collects at the bottom while the water remains on top. The excess water is drained and then the wet, starchy slurry is dried.
This cakey and dried starch is then ground a final time before it is packaged and shipped across the country!
What Does Cornstarch Taste Like?
As you might have guessed, since making cornstarch requires multiple filtration steps, each of which reduces and removes the protein and fibers from the corn, the end product is left nearly tasteless and bland.
The flavor of cornstarch can be best described as a bland, powdery flavor that tastes similar to any processed starchy flour.
At most, you may be able to get hints of a very minute earthy flavor, but other than that, cornstarch is pretty much completely bland.
Of course, there are some exceptions! Depending on which brand you choose, some manufacturers may add some additives that may slightly change the texture and flavor of cornstarch.
But if you are looking for fruit-flavored starch, then you would be thoroughly disappointed since this ingredient is only sold without flavoring.
Cornstarch is mostly seen as a tool. Its job is to thicken food and to provide volume and stiffness when it is applied superficially over the surface of the food.
This property is exactly why cornstarch is sought after! Its ability to physically alter the textural characteristics of food without changing or lessening the flavor of the recipe is why this ingredient is prized and sold without flavoring.
Common Uses for Cornstarch
Cornstarch has a variety of applications. Some of the most common include:
Cornstarch is added to pie fillings, brownies, cookies, and more. This ingredient helps add texture to baking goods as it makes the surface noticeably crumblier and a bit crispier too!
Furthermore, cornstarch adds an excellent bite and provides more texture than baking goods made without cornstarch.
The great thing is that you don’t need a lot to get these effects either! Just a little bit of cornstarch mixed into the batter will go a long way in making superior-quality food.
To use cornstarch, it is always recommended that you sift it with the other dry ingredients.
Cornstarch can clump up, especially when it is packed together. The best way to avoid this problem is to simply sift it so that it mixes equally with the rest of the ingredients in the batter (if you don’t have a sifter, we’d recommend these ones!).
Next time, try adding cornstarch to your baking goodies. We guarantee that it will instantly become your new secret ingredient, and the best part is that it will not affect the flavor of the dish at all!
As with baking, cornstarch is widely used in a lot of different recipes. For example, it is commonly used in Chinese cuisine to thicken sauces and soups.
While it is commonly used to thicken liquids, it is also best (and popularly) used in fried chicken batter and even on French fries too! Cornstarch will add an unmistakably crispy bite when deep-fried with flour.
This is why cornstarch and all-purpose flour are commonly mixed to create a light but extremely crispy exterior coating.
Perhaps, the best way to use cornstarch with fried chicken is to dredge the chicken in the flour and starch batter until thick ribbon-like strands form. These strands will fry and become super flavorful and crunchy!
Similarly, cornstarch can be used in multiple ways in a recipe as well. For example, when making a chicken gravy, you can separately coat and fry the boneless chicken cubes and then add them to a cornstarch-thickened gravy!
Again, even though both the fried chicken cubes and gravy contain cornstarch, the flavor of the recipe will remain intact!
Just remember, the best way to use cornstarch is to either sift it with dry ingredients or to mix it in water before adding it to soups or sauces.
This way, the starch will not clump up and you will not end up with bits and pieces of clumped-up cornstarch over the surface.
Here is a summarized chart for the benefits and characteristics of cornstarch:
|Made Using||Kernel, endosperm|
|Texture||Smooth but rough, slightly cakey|
|Uses||Sauces, baking, batters, soups, and more|
|Nutrition (1 Cup)||Cal: 448
Making Cornstarch At Home
If you think cornstarch can only be made in large milling plants with industrial-grade machines, then think again!
Cornstarch is very easy to make. At most, it only requires just one ingredient and a little bit of patience.
- Corn Kernels
- Begin by rinsing the kernels to remove any residue or dirt. We recommend that you remove the individual kernels from the cob before rinsing and cleaning them.
- Soak the kernels in water and leave them to hydrate for at least 2 hours. You may have to leave them in for longer if they don’t soften after the two-hour mark.
- Once soaked, drain the kernels and add them to a grinder along with a bit of tap water. Ideally, you would want the water to cover half or 3/4th of the kernels in the blender.
- Grind the kernels until all of them have been processed. You must grind every kernel and make the mixture as homogenous as possible.
- Filter the liquid using a fine mesh and then with the back of the spoon, push down on the residue to release as much starch as possible. Once done, you may either discard the residue or use it as compost.
- Filter the liquid again using a fine mesh filter over a cheesecloth and use the back of the spoon to squeeze out the starch. This will further separate the starch from the rest of the residue.
- Now cover the leftover mixture and let it rest undisturbed for about 2-3 hours.
- By now you will be able to see a cloudy layer of water on top along with a whitish layer of sediment or slurry at the bottom. Without moving the bowl around, gently lift the container and drain the excess liquid by slightly tilting the bowl.
- If you still see any yellow residue or liquid over the starch then you can remove it by either using a ladle or a spoon. Make sure that you are only left with a pure white slurry.
- Pour out the semi-solid slurry and spread it over a large pan. The idea here is to thin out the liquid so that it is easier to dry. Once you have spread out the slurry, you can either use a dehydrator or even sun-dry the mixture.
- Once dry, scrape the surface of the pan to release the powder. Check the cornstarch for any signs of moisture. If you feel even a bit of moisture or if the small pieces don’t break off, then this may indicate that the powder needs more drying time.
- Once fully dry, put the powder in a grinder and then, using the pulse-setting, process it until you get a smooth and uniform powder mixture.
- Store the cornstarch in an airtight jar and keep it away from moisture, direct sunlight, and air.
Homemade cornstarch will remain fresh for about 6 months! If the cornstarch clumps up again, simply break it apart using a spoon or grind it again to get a smooth powder.
The best part about making cornstarch at home is that it is free of preservatives and additives and you can make a large batch in under a day (when using a dehydrator).
If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a great video covering the process of making your own cornstarch!
Cornstarch And Health Implications
As beneficial as cornstarch is when cooking food, it can also be equally detrimental to your health as well!
Eating raw cornstarch is dangerous because it can cause a lot of digestive and general health issues.
Of course, eating it in food is considered to be safe but consuming large quantities or regularly consuming smaller portions of cornstarch (like in soups, sauces, or other foods) may lead to similar health problems.
Furthermore, because cornstarch is virtually tasteless, one can easily overeat it in several ways. For example, people may mix it with sugar to create crispy and sugary cornstarch treats.
Remember, always eat cornstarch in moderation and try to balance your diet with other healthy foods to keep its adverse effects at bay.
Cornstarch has a wide variety of applications, both in the kitchen and in other industries too! It is an indispensable thickening agent that can change the texture of your food without affecting its flavor!
Now that you know all about cornstarch and what it tastes like, here are some related questions!
Can you make cornstarch using any corn species?
Cornstarch can be made using any type of corn so long as you hydrate it before use.
While most mature corn is selected for cornstarch production, if you are planning to make cornstarch at home, you can use any type of corn available to you.
This includes commercial kernels or any other type of unrefined or unprocessed kernel as well.
Can cornstarch go bad?
Cornstarch is generally dry and can resist bacterial growth but, in some conditions, it can become compromised, especially if it is exposed to air or moisture.
Cornstarch, like any other organic food, can develop mold and may even harbor harmful bacteria. This is why it is extremely important that you properly cook cornstarch before consumption.
“Cooking”, in this context, means that you add it to ingredients that are further required to be cooked over the stove or to expose it to heat via baking.
Are cornstarch and potato starch the same?
Potato starch is similar to cornstarch in many aspects. Both of them are used to thicken liquids and can be used interchangeably in food as well. Each of these ingredients also has a similar nutritional profile too.
Also, while both of these starches taste bland, they slightly differ in their individual properties.
For instance, potato starch can take up a bit more heat than cornstarch. However, when both of these starches are heated for a long time, they may break down and make the liquid runny again.
This is why you should always add cornstarch or potato starch at the end of the recipe so that it isn’t exposed to a lot of heat.