Corn flour is an extremely versatile and useful ingredient that every home cook should have in their pantry. This finely ground flour made from dried corn kernels can be used to make a variety of delicious baked goods, as a breading, and to thicken sauces and gravies.
Though often confused with corn starch, corn flour is made from the whole corn kernel while corn starch only contains the starchy part. Corn flour has a light sweet corn flavor that adds richness to recipes.
What Is Corn Flour?
Corn flour is a finely milled flour made from whole dried corn kernels. To make it, the tough outer hull and nutritious germ are removed from the kernel. The remaining endosperm is ground into a fine, smooth flour.
Corn flour comes in a pale yellow color, but varieties made from white corn can also be white. It has a subtle sweet corn taste that brings richness to baked goods. The fine texture makes it useful as a thickener for sauces, gravies, and custards.
You can find corn flour at health food stores, Mexican grocers, and online. Popular brands like Bob's Red Mill sell corn flour labeled as gluten-free.
Key Takeaway: Corn flour is made from ground dried corn kernels and adds sweet corn flavor to recipes. The fine texture also makes it an excellent thickening agent.
How to Use Corn Flour in Cooking
The uses for corn flour in the kitchen are nearly endless! Here are some of the best ways to use this versatile pantry staple:
Corn flour adds nutrition, earthy corn flavor, and a pleasant texture to baked goods. Try using it in recipes for:
For the lightest texture, combine corn flour with egg or other binders like xanthan gum.
The fine texture makes corn flour an ideal ingredient for breading meats, seafood, and vegetables. It adds a deliciously crispy exterior to fried foods.
Corn flour is often used on its own or along with ingredients like masa harina or panko breadcrumbs to coat foods before frying, such as:
- Chicken tenders
- Fish fillets
- Chicken cutlets
Like corn starch, corn flour can be used to thicken sauces, gravies, puddings, custards, and soups. The fine particles absorb liquid and turn it into a thick mixture when heated.
To use it as a thickener, first make a slurry by mixing the corn flour with a small amount of water or other cold liquid. Then, whisk the slurry into simmering sauces, gravies, or soups. Bring to a boil to activate the thickening power.
Some examples of recipes to thicken with corn flour:
- Cheese sauce
- Curry sauce
- Beef stew
- Creamy tomato soup
Corn flour is naturally gluten-free. This makes it a perfect substitute for regular wheat flour in recipes if you follow a gluten-free diet.
Some gluten-free recipes that commonly use corn flour include:
- Corn fritters
The coarse particles of corn flour can give foods a pleasant hearty texture. Add a spoonful when making recipes like:
It can also be used to add crunch to coatings for fried foods.
Corn Flour Substitutes
Don't have corn flour on hand? Here are some handy ingredient substitutes:
- Cornstarch - Use an equal amount of cornstarch to thicken sauces and gravies. The flavor will be more neutral.
- Masa harina - Replace corn flour cup-for-cup with masa harina in recipes like tamales.
- Cornmeal - For breading fried foods, substitute an equal amount of cornmeal. The texture will be grittier.
- Rice flour - In baked goods, replace up to 1/4 of the corn flour with rice flour.
- All-purpose flour - Use 3/4 cup all-purpose flour for every 1 cup corn flour in baking recipes.
Corn Flour vs. Cornstarch
It's easy to confuse corn flour and cornstarch since they're both made from corn. However, they're produced from different parts of the kernel and have different purposes.
Corn flour contains the hull, germ, and endosperm of the corn kernel. It has a sandy texture and light corn taste. Use it to add nutrition and flavor in baking.
Cornstarch only contains starch extracted from the endosperm. It's a silky, white powder used to thicken sauces and gravies. Cornstarch has a neutral flavor and smooth texture.
Corn flour and cornstarch are not interchangeable in recipes, so pay close attention to the ingredient list.
Corn Flour vs. Cornmeal
Corn flour and cornmeal both start with whole dried corn kernels. The difference lies in how coarse or fine they are ground.
Corn flour is finely ground into a flour with a light, powdery texture.
Cornmeal is more coarsely ground. It has a gritty, granular texture.
When choosing between them, consider the texture you want in the finished dish. Corn flour works well to bind ingredients and gives things like cornbread a fine crumb. Cornmeal provides more noticeable corn flavor and a hearty crunch.
How to Make Corn Flour at Home
Making your own corn flour is surprisingly easy. All you need is dried corn kernels and a powerful blender or food processor.
To make it:
- Add dried corn kernels to a high-speed blender or food processor. Fill about halfway.
- Blend on high until a fine powder forms, about 1-2 minutes.
- Store corn flour in an airtight container in the pantry up to 3 months. For longer storage, freeze up to 6 months.
Look for popcorn kernels or choose specialty dried corn like blue corn. The flour will take on the color of the kernels. Homemade corn flour has a delightfully fresh flavor.
Recipes Using Corn Flour
Ready to start cooking with corn flour? Here are some delicious recipes to try:
Corn Flour Flatbread
This simple flatbread highlights the sweet corn taste of corn flour. Top with cheese or chili for a hearty appetizer.
Corn Flour Waffles
These waffles use a combination of corn flour and all-purpose flour for a crispy, cornbread-like taste. Top with butter and syrup.
Corn Flour Chicken Nuggets
Chicken nuggets get a gluten-free makeover with corn flour used as the binding agent and breading. Fry up for a kid-friendly meal.
Corn Flour Chocolate Cake
The corn flour in this rich cake keeps it moist for days. Top with chocolate frosting or ganache.
Corn Flour Fruit Cobbler
A simple cobbler topping made with corn flour bakes up golden brown and pairs perfectly with summer fruits.
Corn Flour Gravy
This smooth, creamy gravy gets its thickness from corn flour. Perfect for biscuits, mashed potatoes, or poultry.
Is corn flour healthy?
Yes, corn flour is a nutritious baking ingredient. It contains fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Choose stone ground or whole grain corn flour to get the most nutrients.
What is the difference between corn flour and cornmeal?
Corn flour is more finely ground than cornmeal. Cornmeal has a gritty, coarse texture while corn flour is a soft powder.
Can you use corn flour to fry foods?
Yes, the fine grind makes corn flour an excellent choice for breading foods before frying. It creates a deliciously crispy crust.
Does corn flour contain gluten?
No, corn flour is naturally gluten-free. This makes it a good flour choice for anyone following a gluten-free diet.
Can I substitute corn flour for masa harina?
You can replace corn flour with an equal amount of masa harina in recipes. Though the flavor and texture vary slightly.
Thanks to its versatility, mild corn flavor, and smooth texture, corn flour is an essential item for every home baker’s pantry.
Use it to add nutrition to your baked goods, give fried foods a crispy coating, and thicken up sauces. Corn flour is affordable and easy to find.