Can Baking Powder Replace Cornstarch?

If you are an avid home baker, you will know that the most common question you find yourself asking is what you can use as a substitute for certain ingredients. You might wonder if baking powder can replace cornstarch. Read on to find out.

How Is Baking Powder Different From Cornstarch?

There are quite a few differences between baking powder and corn starch. When you combine ingredients for a recipe, those ingredients react with each other in certain ways to create the desired outcome.

For example, when you use cornstarch in a liquid, it has a thickening effect because it is a thickening agent. If you were to add baking powder to the same liquid, it wouldn’t thicken it because it is a leavening agent, not a thickening agent.

The starch in cornstarch reacts with the heat to activate the thickening power. Unlike cornstarch, baking powder has been designed to cause air bubbles to form in your food and produce light and fluffy products.

Because of each product’s different results, it is safe to say that baking powder is not a good cornstarch substitute.

Baking powder is made from baking soda, cream of tartar, and cornstarch. Despite the fact that it contains cornstarch, it isn’t a good substitute for cornstarch as it behaves differently. It is also important to note that baking powder and baking soda are different things.

Are Baking Powder And Cornstarch The Same?

As we mentioned above, baking powder and cornstarch are not the same and cannot be used in the same way. In fact, the two products are not even made the same way.

Baking powder is made with an acid and a base. It also includes a buffer that prevents the acid and the base from reacting with each other until the baking process begins. Cornstarch is made by extracting the starch from corn kernels which are naturally very starchy.

To best understand how cornstarch and baking powder are different, we need to look back to middle school science. When you add an acid to a base, the reaction that you see involves a lot of fizzing and expanding.

When we use baking powder in our baking ingredients, this reaction is what gives our cakes height and makes them fluffy. It can also be used to make the batter of fried foods extra crispy.

Cornstarch on the other hand has a different reaction. When the pure starch extracted from kernels of corn is mixed with cold water and then exposed to heat, it thickens sauces.

It is very useful for making foods such as gravy and pie fillings thicker. It is also great for thickening clear liquids due to its transparent appearance.

What Can Be Used As A Cornstarch Substitute?

Sometimes, we just don’t have the ingredients that we need sitting in the pantry. Before you rush out to the store to get some cornstarch though, there are some great cornstarch substitutes that you might already have at home. Below are some of the best cornstarch substitutes.

Use Flour

One of the best cornstarch substitutes that you are likely to have in your kitchen already is ordinary wheat flour. This makes such a great substitute for cornstarch thanks to its high starch content.

The mechanism that causes thickening agents to work is combining starch with heat so there is no reason why you can’t use flour instead.

Can Baking Powder Replace Cornstarch?

Because wheat flour and cornstarch are both so great at thickening sauces, you may wonder why we don’t just use flour in the first place. The main reason why we prefer to use cornstarch over wheat flour is that wheat flour contains more than just starch.

Typically, in wheat flour, you also have a significant amount of fiber and protein. It is these components that make it harder for wheat flour to thicken sauces. This is why when you are substituting wheat flour for cornstarch, you should use 2 tablespoons for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch you would have used.

You should use an equal amount of water and flour. It is also a good idea to cook any sauces thickened with wheat flour for a little longer to help remove the raw flavor.

Use Arrowroot

Another great substitution for cornstarch is arrowroot powder or arrowroot flour. The starches in arrowroot powder are derived from the arrowroot plant and processed into a powder or flour form.

One of the best things about arrowroot powder is that it is another pure starch product. This means that it can be used with a 1:1 ratio for cornstarch. So, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch you can use 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder.

Arrowroot also mimics the appearance of cornstarch so your liquid will be glossy instead of the matte effect that you get with flour.

Use Tapioca

Tapioca flour is another great option in a pinch. This substitute for cornstarch is derived from cassava root. Tapioca flour is made by grinding cassava roots into a powder.

When using tapioca flour as a substitute for cornstarch, you need to use a 1:2 ratio like with flour. Essentially, double the amount the recipe calls for. Instead of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, use 2 tablespoons of tapioca. Best of all, Tapioca starch is a naturally gluten-free substitute.

Use Potato Starch

Potatoes are a well-known starchy vegetable, therefore, potato starch makes a good substitute thickening agent, sometimes called potato flour. Potato starch is a popular option for people on a low-carb diet trying to improve their healthy eating.

Potato starch contains significantly fewer carbs than cornstarch making it popular among cornstarch substitutes.

A 1:1 ratio is fine for potato starch. This is because the properties of potato starch are very similar to that of corn starch. Therefore, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch can be replaced with 1 tablespoon of potato starch.

Use Rice Flour

Rice flour is another popular option for replacing cornstarch. Rice starch is another option that is great for gluten-free diets. Rice flour is a refined starch product that has many applications in cooking and baking.

The lack of color in rice flour makes it perfect for creating clear starch-rich liquid. When using rice flour as a substitute you should use 2 tablespoons of rice flour for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

Use Xanthan Gum

Finally, xanthan gum can also be used. xanthan gum requires a different approach from the other substitutes but can be fun to work with. It works really well in baked goods.

What Is The Difference Between Corn Flour And Corn Starch?

In general, corn starch is a pure starch powder made from the starch content of the corn kernels. Corn flour on the other hand, is made of the entire corn kernel. Corn flour isn’t ideal instead of cornstarch because it is too refined.

Final Thoughts

There are many possible substitutions for corn starch, however, baking powder isn’t one of them. They are designed to create different effects.  

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Kathryn Sewell

Hi! I'm Kate and I have been baking and cooking for as long as I can remember. I like to share the most interesting tips and recipes I try here on What Kate Baked for you to enjoy. If you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share send it over on social.

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