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The Best Substitutes for Cornstarch in Baking and Cooking

Updated on August 30, 2015

Cooking with cornstarch substitutes is possible

Cornstarch is necessary for sauces, soups and cakes to provide a thickening or glazing quality but for many people who are allergic to cornstarch then an alternative has to be found. However, there are several suitable options that can be used with favorable results.

Different flours can be suitable cornstarch substitutes

One of these options is all purpose flour. Two tablespoons of this flour equates to one tablespoon of cornstarch. This can be a good substitute to use to thicken soups but always ensure the blending is carried out carefully to avoid any lumps from forming. The essence of this is to ensure adequate stirring is carried out prior to simmering. All purpose flour can also be used to thicken gravies but one point to be aware of is that when refrigerated, the texture will deteriorate as this flour is not compatible to cool temperatures.

Arrowroot flour probably is a more popular cornstarch substitute as it does not possess any particular aroma and mixes perfectly in sauces and soups. By mixing one and a half teaspoons with one tablespoon of cold water this will blend together well and very quickly. It is known that over-cooking does not affect the result. In addition arrowroot provides an attractive glazed finish for dishes and can also withstand cooler temperatures without any deterioration to the food. Although arrowroot flour can be stored in air-tight containers, its thickening qualities will decrease if kept for more than a few months.

There are many culinary uses for arrowroot starch

Arrowroot is a starch extract obtained from the root of the arrowroot plant which is used as a thickener in foods including puddings, sauces, cookies and other baked goods. Arrowroot is also used in cakes, hot sauces, beef tea, broths and noodles in Korean and Vietnamese cuisine, sweet and sour sauce, fruit gels and ice cream.

As arrowroot has very little taste, it is suitable for people who suffer from nausea. Having said that, it is of little nutritional value. Some people find that it cures an upset stomach and many health food shops stock arrowroot cookies for this reason.

Native to tropical areas of South America, the arrowroot plant has been cultivated by indigenous peoples there for hundreds of years and is still used for its medicinal properties. They wash the roots before scraping, beating, soaking and pulping them before pushing them through a sieve which produces a liquid which when dried becomes arrowroot powder.

Spanish soldiers came across arrowroot during the conquest of South America in the sixteenth century and brought it back to Europe with them. They had seen it used by Arawak Indians who told them of its medicinal properties, especially for drawing out toxins from the body.

Many health food shops sell arrowroot flour, a fine white powder similar to cornstarch. Arrowroot is also sometimes mixed with other starches so you should check that the preparation you are buying is pure arrowroot rather than a mixture which may not have the same effects.

How to make your own Arrowroot Flour

Using Arrowroot flour in the kitchen

When using arrowroot flour in the kitchen, the powder should be mixed with a cool liquid before being blended with other ingredients. It should be added towards the end of the cooking process as overcooking arrowroot will cancel out the medicinal properties of the root.

In contrast to many other starches, arrowroot becomes clear as it sets and does not affect the color of dishes it is added to.

In some Asian food stores, arrowroot can be bought as fresh whole root, usually labelled as Chinese potato. When cooking with this, you need to peel off the papery outside layer before boiling or frying it.

Rice or potato flour is a viable cornstarch substitute

These types of flours make excellent cornstarch substitutes particularly if refrigeration or freezing of food is required, as the food quality is not affected. However, this type of flour does not favor overcooking as it could result in thinning instead of thickening. One advantage rice flour has is that it contains no gluten and consequently does not cause digestive conditions.

Low-carb cornstarch substitutes

Almond Flour
A low carb alternative is unsweetened almond flour. This flour which is ground, blanched almonds contains calcium, protein, fiber, zinc, magnesium and vitamin E, to name but a few, and can be successfully used in cakes, cookies, sweet breads and many desserts. Apart from these cornstarch substitutes there are also ready made products available to suit your preference and convenience.

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