Corn flour is a versatile ingredient used in many recipes. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and finely ground texture perfect for baking. Corn flour can also thicken sauces, coat fried foods, and make custards.
But what if you're all out of corn flour when a recipe calls for it? Don't worry, there are plenty of delicious substitutes you can use instead.
Can I Use Cornstarch Instead of Corn Flour?
One of the most common questions is: can I use cornstarch instead of corn flour?
The short answer is yes, you can use cornstarch as a sub for corn flour. But there are some differences to keep in mind:
- Cornstarch is more refined and extracted from just the starchy part of the corn. Corn flour uses the whole ground corn kernel.
- Cornstarch is a white powder, while corn flour is yellow.
- Cornstarch is commonly used to thicken foods. Corn flour also works as a thickener but has more uses like frying and baking.
The good news is you can swap cornstarch for corn flour using a 1:1 ratio in most recipes. Just remember cornstarch lacks flavor, so you may need to increase seasonings.
Key Takeaway: Use cornstarch in place of corn flour in a 1:1 ratio. Add more seasoning since cornstarch doesn't have much flavor.
A pantry staple, all-purpose flour makes a great corn flour substitute. It provides structure, thickness, and binds ingredients together.
However, all-purpose flour contains gluten. It won't work as a sub for those avoiding gluten. The finished product also won't be quite as light using all-purpose flour.
To use it as a cornstarch substitute, swap:
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour for 1 tablespoon corn flour
This substitution works well for thickening soups, gravies, sauces, and roux. But for baked goods, you may get denser results using all-purpose flour.
Key Takeaway: When thickening foods with all-purpose flour, use double the amount of corn flour called for. Expect a heavier texture in baked goods.
Finely ground rice flour makes an excellent substitute for corn flour. It provides thickness and is naturally gluten-free.
The downside is rice flour doesn't have the iconic corn flavor. It also doesn't crisp up foods quite as well as corn flour when frying.
For best results, use:
- 2 tablespoons rice flour for every 1 tablespoon corn flour
Rice flour is an ideal corn flour swap for thickening clear liquids like broths and soups. It won't make them opaque.
Key Takeaway: Replace corn flour with twice the amount of rice flour. It won't alter the color or flavor much.
Whole Wheat Flour
Nutrient-rich whole wheat flour contains gluten but provides great flavor and texture. Use it to substitute corn flour in baked goods like cornbread and muffins.
Keep in mind whole wheat flour may change tastes slightly. It has a heartier, maltier flavor than corn flour.
The substitution ratio is:
- 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour for 1 tablespoon corn flour
For best results, mix whole wheat flour with cold water before adding to prevent lumps. Only use this gluten-containing sub if you don't require a gluten-free option.
Key Takeaway: Substitute corn flour with twice as much whole wheat flour. It changes flavor and texture somewhat.
Tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch) offers a gluten-free, neutral-flavored alternative to corn flour.
It provides thickness and structure, making it a great choice for pie fillings, cobblers, crisps, and custards. Tapioca flour also holds up well to freezing.
Use it as a 1:1 substitute for corn flour. However, avoid boiling tapioca-thickened foods too long or you may get a stringy texture.
Key Takeaway: Tapioca flour can replace corn flour 1:1. Don't boil it too long or foods may become stringy.
Potato starch is very similar to corn flour in look and texture. When exposed to moisture and heat it thickens and provides a clear, glossy sheen - just like corn flour.
You can substitute potato starch for corn flour using a 1:1 ratio. It works well for gravies, sauces, puddings, soups and stews.
Potato starch also makes foods deliciously crisp when frying. For best results, add it at the end of cooking. Too much heat can break down its thickening power.
Key Takeaway: Replace corn flour with an equal amount of potato starch. Add it late in cooking for optimal thickening.
Masa harina is a Spanish term meaning "dough flour." It's made from dried corn treated with limewater, giving it a distinctive flavor.
With its strong corn taste and gluten-free texture, masa harina shines in Mexican dishes like tamales, tortillas, and pupusas.
You can swap it for corn flour using a 1:1 ratio. Masa harina provides extra nutrition too, as the limewater increases bioavailable niacin, a B vitamin.
Key Takeaway: Use masa harina instead of corn flour 1:1 for a flavor boost. It offers nutritional benefits too.
Since cornmeal and corn flour originate from the same grain, they can be used interchangeably. The difference lies in their textures.
Corn flour has a smooth, fine grind. Cornmeal is more coarse and gritty. For best results as a sub, choose finely milled cornmeal.
The substitution ratio is 1:1. Cornmeal brings great texture and crunchiness to coatings for fried foods. It also bakes up nicely in cornbread, muffins, and pancakes.
Key Takeaway: Finely milled cornmeal substitutes 1:1 for corn flour. It provides texture and corn flavor.
Arrowroot powder produces excellent thickening results just like corn flour. Derived from the arrowroot plant, it creates glossy, translucent sauces and fillings.
As a substitute, arrowroot powder can be used in equal amounts to corn flour. However, it doesn't hold up to prolonged cooking. For best outcomes, only heat arrowroot-thickened mixtures briefly.
Key Takeaway: Use the same amount of arrowroot powder as corn flour for thickening. Avoid overcooking arrowroot mixtures.
Gluten-Free Flour Blend
You can make your own gluten-free flour blend to replace corn flour. Simply mix together:
- White rice flour
- Brown rice flour
- Tapioca flour
- Potato starch
Use this blend just as you would corn flour. The starch provides binding and structure, while the flours offer texture and flavor.
Tailor your blend based on the flavors and effects you want. This substitute works well in most baked goods.
Key Takeaway: Making your own gluten-free blend lets you control the taste and texture when replacing corn flour.
Ground flaxseed meal creates a nutrient-dense, gluten-free substitute for corn flour. It contains healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
However, flaxseed tastes more bitter than corn flour. The substitution ratio is:
- 1⁄2 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 2 tablespoons water for 1 tablespoon corn flour
Add more spices and flavors to balance out the bitterness. You may also need to reduce other fats in the recipe due to the oil in flaxseed.
Key Takeaway: Mix flaxseed meal with water when substituting for corn flour. Adjust seasonings to complement the flavor.
Cassava flour comes from the whole cassava root. It replaces corn flour well in baked goods, providing softness and structure without gluten.
Use cassava flour in a 1:1 ratio for corn flour. It creates light, fluffy textures in breads, cakes, and cookies. Cassava flour is also delicious for frying and dredging meats.
Key Takeaway: Cassava flour can be substituted 1:1 for corn flour in baking for a tender crumb.
Nutrient-rich sorghum flour stands in for corn flour while keeping recipes gluten-free. It contains protein, iron, and fiber.
Sorghum flour has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Replace corn flour with it using a 1:1 ratio.
For baked goods, mix sorghum flour with a starch like tapioca flour for best outcomes. This prevents dense or crumbly results.
Key Takeaway: Use sorghum flour in place of corn flour 1:1. Combine with a starch for lighter baked goods.
Guar gum is an emulsifier and thickener made from guar beans. It's a great vegan corn flour substitute.
A little guar gum goes a long way. Start with just 1/8 teaspoon for every 1 tablespoon corn flour required.
Slowly add more if needed. Guar gum provides thickness and moisture without affecting flavors.
Key Takeaway: Use just 1/8 teaspoon guar gum per 1 tablespoon corn flour at first. It won't change taste.
Just a small amount of xanthan gum substitute for a larger quantity of corn flour. For each cup of liquid, use just 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum as a thickener.
Key Takeaway: Only a tiny bit of xanthan gum equals a much larger amount of corn flour. Start with 1/8 teaspoon per cup liquid.
Self-rising flour conveniently contains salt and leavening agents. Depending on the brand, it may or may not be gluten-free.
When swapping it for corn flour, use a 1:1 ratio. Reduce any extra salt and baking powder in the recipe as needed.
Self-rising flour makes an easy substitution in biscuits, muffins, breads, waffles, and pancakes. It causes a nice rise all on its own.
Key Takeaway: Use self-rising flour 1:1 for corn flour. Omit any added leaveners and salt.
Can You Make DIY Corn Flour?
In a pinch, you can make corn flour at home with just two ingredients:
- Dried corn kernels
- A blender or food processor
Simply blend the kernels into a fine powder. Be sure to grind thoroughly so there are no remaining gritty bits.
Use your homemade corn flour in any recipe that calls for traditional corn flour. With a little planning, you can make sure you've always got corn flour ready to go!
What's the best corn flour substitute for frying?
For frying and breading foods, all-purpose flour, rice flour, and cassava flour all work excellently in place of corn flour.
What can I use instead of corn flour to thicken a sauce?
To thicken sauces, gravies, and soups, try cornstarch, arrowroot powder, potato starch, or tapioca flour instead of corn flour.
Which substitute for corn flour is best for baking?
In baked goods, you can't go wrong with substituting corn flour 1:1 for rice flour, cassava flour, masa harina, or gluten-free flour blends.
Is cornmeal the same as corn flour?
Cornmeal is more coarse and gritty in texture than finely ground corn flour. But in a pinch, finely milled cornmeal substitutes well for corn flour using a 1:1 ratio.
What's the healthiest substitute for corn flour?
For added nutrition in place of corn flour, try substituting with whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, ground flaxseed, or sorghum flour.
The next time a recipe calls for corn flour, don't let it stop you from whipping up something delicious. With so many easy substitutions, you can recreate virtually any dish.
Start experimenting with these corn flour alternatives today. You may even discover a new favorite ingredient.