Cornstarch is a pantry staple that's used to thicken sauces, soups, stews, and other recipes.
It's a popular choice because it thickens liquids without changing the flavor of the dish. People who are on a gluten-free diet often use cornstarch instead of flour to help thicken up everything from marinades to gravies, casseroles, and more. However, if you don't have any cornstarch at home, there are many substitutions you can use in its place. These are our top picks for cornstarch substitutes to use in your cooking.
If you're an avid home cook or baker, you'll likely have used cornstarch before. Cornstarch is made from pure starch powder, which is derived from corn kernels. When it comes into contact with heat, cornstarch excels at soaking up water, which is why it's considered an essential pantry staple among cooks.
Cornstarch is mixed in a 1:1 ratio with water to form a slurry. This slurry is then added to a liquid to absorb water and thicken it up.
Made from the root vegetable cassava, tapioca is a common thickening agent used in various cuisines worldwide. To make tapioca, the cassava plant must be treated to remove cyanide, which is naturally present in the vegetable, then ground and dried into flour. Like cornstarch, tapioca is gluten-free. If you're using it instead of cornstarch, use 2 tablespoons of tapioca for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
If you mix ground flaxseeds with water, you'll find they turn into a gel which is amazing for thickening all sorts of dishes. Flaxseeds have the added benefit of being highly nutritious. They contain fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and various minerals and vitamins, making them the healthiest of all the cornstarch substitutions on this list. The only downside to ground flaxseeds as a cornstarch substitute is that they can impart a gritty texture to dishes.
Like cornstarch, rice flour is a relatively flavorless, gluten-free ingredient you can use as a thickening agent. You'll need to double the amount of rice flour to achieve the same effect as cornstarch. One of the benefits of using rice flour is that you can whisk it with butter to make a roux – certain other cornstarch substitutes don't hold up well when exposed to prolonged heat.
Psyllium husk is another fiber-rich thickener derived from plants. It's gluten-free and low-carb. If using psyllium husk as a cornstarch substitute, keep in mind you don't need much. Start with ½ teaspoon. If you find you need more, increase the amount by ¼ teaspoon at a time.
Made from gum that comes from guar beans, guar gum is full of fiber and low in calories, which makes it a great thickening agent for anyone on a low-carb diet. It's also inexpensive, which makes it preferred over other types of gum. You only need a small amount, so add in a little bit at a time until your liquids reach their desired consistency.
Another oft-used gluten-free cornstarch substitute is potato starch. People like using potato starch to thicken recipes because it has a neutral flavor and can be used as a 1:1 substitute for cornstarch. One thing to note is that potato starch is low in protein and fat but high in carbs, so it might not be a great option if you're on a keto or other low-carb diet.
Made from the roots of a tropical root vegetable, arrowroot is a type of starch-rich flour commonly used as a thickener in various Asian cuisines. Arrowroot boasts more fiber than cornstarch, but you'll need twice as much arrowroot as cornstarch to thicken up whatever you're cooking. This neutral-tasting thickener is also gluten-free.
You may not have heard of glucomannan before, but this plant-derived thickener is an excellent cornstarch substitute. It is made from the powdered roots of the konjac plant. Glucomannan has a neutral smell and color, making it a great option for thickening clear liquids. It's also calorie and carbohydrate-free because it's pure fiber. An added bonus is that it has probiotic properties, so it's good for your gut. Use ¼ teaspoon of glucomannan for every 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
Xanthan gum is a common thickener used in many different foods. You may have seen it listed in the ingredients of store-bought items like candy, certain drinks, and snacks. It's derived from fermented vegetable gum. You only need a very small amount of xanthan gum to thicken your dishes. If you decide to use xanthan gum, mix into liquids slowly and again, only use the tiniest amount – this will prevent the liquids from becoming slimy.
If you have flour at home, you can use it as a simple substitute for cornstarch in your cooking and baking. Because it has both fiber and protein in it, you'll need to use a little more flour than you would cornstarch to have the same effect. About 2 tablespoons of flour is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. If you're using whole wheat flour, you may even need a little bit extra. Since flour has gluten, it's not a good thickening agent for anyone following a gluten-free diet.