Cornstarch is a kitchen staple for thickening sauces and stabilizing fillings. So what happens when your recipe calls for it and you don’t have any on hand? The answer might already be in your pantry. Here’s a short list of convenient cornstarch substitutes.
7 Cornstarch Substitutes You Might Already Have in Your Kitchen
Note: When substituting, keep in mind that each replacement will behave a little differently. We recommend you use another pure starch, such as potato, tapioca, or arrowroot starch, for the most reliable results.
Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter
Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!
1. All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose flour is probably the first thing you think of as a cornstarch substitute, but there are some differences between the two ingredients. Cornstarch is gluten-free; all-purpose flour is not. Unlike cornstarch, flour is not a pure starch, so it has less thickening power than cornstarch.
How to substitute all-purpose flour for cornstarch
- To use flour in place of cornstarch to thicken a soup or gravy, use 2 tablespoons of flour for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Don’t add the flour directly to the hot liquid or it’ll clump. For the best results, combine the flour with a bit of fat first (as in a beurre manié), and then stir that into the soup/gravy.
- For breading proteins, use an equal volume of all-purpose flour. Note that a flour breading darkens and burns much faster than a pure starch one, so you may need to adjust the cooking time and temperature.
- We don’t recommend using flour in place of cornstarch in puddings because it will create gluten, which will make your pudding pasty.
2. Wondra Flour
Wondra flour is an instant flour that has been precooked and dried. In a pinch, Wondra flour can thicken sauces and make crackly crisp fried chicken. It’s also great in baked goods, as seen in our popular Apple Galette. Its lower protein means it won’t burn as easily as all-purpose flour, and the process of pregelatinization means it dissolves easier, too.
How to substitute Wondra flour for cornstarch: Use half as much Wondra flour by volume as you would cornstarch.
The New Cooking School Cookbook: FundamentalsNo matter what stage you’re at in your culinary journey, you'll learn new techniques and recipes in this tell-all cookbook.
3. Rice Flour
Some rice flour is made from the same long- or medium-grain white rice you probably have kicking around your pantry. Certain varieties, such as the popular Mochiko brand, are made from sticky rice. Both brown and white rice flours are fairly high in protein (5 to 7 percent) for nonwheat flours and produce close-textured results in gluten-free baked goods (since their protein molecules don’t form gluten). With the exception of shortbread cookies, we don’t recommend substituting rice flour for cornstarch in baked goods because the coarseness of the grind will affect the results.
How to substitute rice flour for cornstarch
- If substituting rice flour for cornstarch in a shortbread recipe, use an equal amount by volume. (There might be a faint chalkiness in the resulting texture, but it will dissipate with cooling and over the course of storage.)
- If substituting rice flour for cornstarch in a breading, use an equal volume of rice flour.
America's Test Kitchen All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour BlendWhen you’re looking for a wheat-free substitute for all-purpose flour, no single gluten-free flour or starch behaves like wheat flour—a blend is a must.
4. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is the milled product from tropical root of the same name. It makes a translucent paste that thickens to a gel like cornstarch does.
We tested arrowroot as a substitute for cornstarch by using it in place of cornstarch in three of our recipes: General Tso’s Chicken, Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie, and Butterscotch Pudding. The arrowroot performed about as well as cornstarch as a coating for the chicken. It also made for a clearer pie filling. In the pudding, however, tasters described it as slimy. That’s because arrowroot forms a “mucilaginous substance” when combined with liquid, an effect that may be exaggerated when the liquid is dairy.
How to substitute arrowroot for cornstarch
- Arrowroot is almost as powerful as cornstarch, so use 1½ teaspoons of arrowroot for every 1 teaspoon of cornstarch.
- Avoid using arrowroot to thicken recipes that call for dairy.
5. Potato Starch
Potato starch is another gluten-free option. These larger granules have a similar thickening power to cornstarch, but potato starch thickens at a lower temperature. It’s one of our favorites for thickening soups and making gluten-free gravy. Potato starch gives these warm preparations a silky, creamy mouthfeel but doesn’t hold up well for longer cooking (think pie fillings or puddings).
How to substitute potato starch for cornstarch:
- Use 1 to 1½ tablespoons of potato starch for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in soup and gravy recipes.
- For the best results, add potato starch later in the cooking process, and take your sauce or soup off the heat as soon as it thickens.
Sign up for the Five-Ingredient Dinners newsletter
Five recipes and five kitchen hacks to make mealtime manageable.
6. Tapioca Starch
Tapioca starch is the pure starch of the tropical root vegetable cassava. It has a neutral flavor and a superfine texture that works well in gelling pie fillings, puddings, and sauces. Like cornstarch, it can also lose its thickening power over prolonged cooking, but it doesn’t retrograde as quickly, so your sauce will stay supple.
How to substitute tapioca starch for cornstarch: Like potato, corn, and arrowroot starches, tapioca is a pure starch, so use an equal amount by volume when substituting.
7. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, or a complex carbohydrate, that forms gels like cornstarch does, but it’s a much more powerful thickener. It’s often used for making foams, thickening fillings (as in Gluten-Free Key Lime Bars), and stabilizing everything from dressings to condiments. It’s flavorless and freezes well.
How to substitute xanthan gum for cornstarch
- Only substitute xanthan gum for cornstarch if you’re using it to thicken a liquid.
- Xanthan gum is a more powerful thickener than cornstarch, so start with barely a pinch. (Make sure not to add too much or the texture will feel slimy.)
- To prevent the xanthan gum from clumping when it comes in contact with the liquid, use an immersion blender and this “vortex” technique to make sure that it’s thoroughly combined. Or, for a simpler substitute, make xanthan gel ahead of time to keep at the ready.