It’s a good idea to keep cornstarch stocked in your pantry, as there’s a good chance that you’ll need to use it as an ingredient from time to time.
Often, cornstarch is called for in recipes for gravy. It’s also a common ingredient in certain types of casseroles, soups, sauces, and marinades.
What can you do if you don’t have any, though? Can you use baking soda instead and still have everything turn out okay?
Keep reading to learn about whether baking soda is a suitable substitute for cornstarch. You’ll also learn about other cornstarch substitutes that you might have in the pantry.
Don’t Use Baking Soda
Baking soda is in no way a suitable substitute for cornstarch. There are many alternatives that will work that you will learn about later.
For now, it’s important to know that using baking soda instead of cornstarch will give you terrible results. Your meal would taste really bad if used this alternative.
Using baking soda will add a funky flavor to the meal. Whether you’re making gravy or if you need a substitute ingredient for a casserole, baking soda simply won’t do.
Aside from flavoring what you’re trying to make, baking soda is also a leavening agent. This could make things go very bad.
The same thing can be said for baking powder. Baking powder is a bit different from baking soda, but all of the reasons why you shouldn’t use it as a substitute for cornstarch are the same.
What Will Work as a Substitute?
So if you can’t use baking soda or baking powder, what are you supposed to use? What will make a good substitute for cornstarch?
Below, you’ll learn about several options that you’re likely to have at home. It won’t be too hard to find a good cornstarch substitute once you know what works and what doesn’t.
1 – Flour and Water
Using flour and water together is generally considered to be one of the best cornstarch substitute options. You can do everything that you need to do by using flour and water.
Often, cornstarch is used to thicken gravy, soups, or marinades. You can do the same thing using flour.
Specifically, wheat flour is a great choice when looking for a cornstarch alternative. This is a nutritious option that will actually be better for you than cornstarch in several ways.
Using wheat flour will add more protein and dietary fiber to the mix. It also has fewer carbohydrates and more vitamins and minerals.
The only downside is that you have to use a bit more wheat flour than you would cornstarch. It doesn’t contain as much starch and that necessitates that you use more of it.
To get good results when using wheat flour, whisk it in warm water before adding it to the food. This can help to prevent everything from turning out lumpy.
2 – Arrowroot
Arrowroot is among the most common ingredients that people use in place of cornstarch. This is a starchy flour that is made from the roots of specific tropical plants.
Some people like using it better than cornstarch. It has more fiber content and that can be good for you.
As with flour and water, you’ll have to use more arrowroot to get the same results when compared to using cornstarch. It’s recommended to use twice as much arrowroot as you would cornstarch.
It can thicken things up just as well as cornstarch so long as you do things properly. You also might like that arrowroot is gluten-free.
3 – Tapioca Flour
Tapioca can work to replace cornstarch in recipes, too. If you have some that you can utilize, it’ll do an admirable job.
You can buy tapioca in flour form at grocery stores. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of cornstarch, you’ll need to use two tablespoons of tapioca flour as a substitute.
Of course, tapioca isn’t as commonly found in many kitchens. If you don’t happen to use tapioca regularly already, this information might not help you.
Regardless, it’s good to know that there’s another option out there. You might be able to borrow some from a friend if you’re in need for tonight’s dinner.
4 – Potato Starch
Perhaps you have some potato starch that you can use? This is a very good substitute for cornstarch that many people enjoy.
This is a type of starch powder just like cornstarch. You’re going to be using it in the same fashion.
As you’d expect, it’s a starch powder that is made from potatoes. It contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than cornstarch, too.
This works well as a thickening agent since potatoes don’t have a lot of flavor. They’re also gluten-free, and that helps those that might have gluten allergies.
5 – Rice Flour
Rice flour should work really well. This is a popular ingredient that is kept in homes that enjoy Asian dishes.
Often, Asian recipes will call for rice flour specifically. It’s commonly used in desserts, soups, and noodle dishes.
It can work as a fine substitute for cornstarch as well. This will have a few benefits that might make it more appealing than cornstarch, too.
Rice flour contains more dietary fiber and protein while having fewer carbohydrates. Just make sure to use this with water to avoid having the dish turn out lumpy.
6 – Ground Flaxseeds
Another common replacement for cornstarch is ground flaxseeds. It can work to get the job done, but it might not be as good as the other options presented above.
This is because ground flaxseeds give the food a gritty consistency. You might have your gravy or soup turn out a bit gritty if you choose to use this ingredient.
Regardless, this can work rather well if you do things right. It’s a good choice when looking for a substitute for cornstarch in baked goods.
When using this as a substitute for cornstarch, you want to use a very specific mix. If the recipe calls for two tablespoons of cornstarch, you should use one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds along with four tablespoons of water.
7 – Try Heat Reduction
Have you thought of using heat reduction? If your goal is to thicken a sauce or soup, heat reduction will do the trick.
The basic idea is to continue to heat the dish to allow steam to evaporate. You’ll need to remove the lid from whatever pan you’re using to get this done.
Over time, the liquid content of the dish that you’re making will be reduced. This will naturally thicken things without the need to add cornstarch or a cornstarch substitute.
If you only need cornstarch for thickening purposes, it might be wise to try heat reduction. It could get the results that you’re hoping for even if you don’t have a suitable replacement ingredient in your pantry.
8 – Pureed Veggies
This might sound like a strange idea at first, but you can use pureed veggies as a cornstarch substitute. Thickening gravies and soups using pureed veggies could add a healthy twist to what you’re making.
Of course, you should choose veggies that will go well with the dish that you’re making. It’s possible to do this using many types of vegetables, though.
You could puree squash, zucchini, potatoes, pumpkin, or cauliflower. Boil the veggies until they’re soft and then puree them using a blender.
It’s also possible to get the job done with a simple manual potato masher. You could add a lot of vitamins and minerals to your meal if you go this route.
9 – Xanthan Gum
Some have said that xanthan gum is a great replacement for cornstarch. This is a type of vegetable gum that people use when cooking.
Just a little bit of xanthan gum will help to thicken dishes. You don’t want to use too much of it.
In some ways, it might be easier to thicken gravy or soup using this ingredient. However, you should know that xanthan gum can cause digestive problems in some people when they eat too much of it.
Thankfully, the amount you’d be using as a thickening agent wouldn’t be problematic for digestive purposes. If you have some of this that you can use, it’s going to work well as a thickening agent.
Never use baking soda or baking powder as a substitute for cornstarch. It’s simply not going to do a good job of thickening the dish up.
It’ll also add a bad flavor to the dish that might ruin things. These ingredients are leavening agents and should only be used when they’re specifically called for in a recipe.
There are many good replacement options for cornstarch that you can utilize. You could use wheat flour, rice flour, potato starch, pureed veggies, and so many other things.
Many of the substitute options have advantages over using cornstarch. You might be able to add nutrients to the dish while reducing the carbohydrates.
Overall, this shouldn’t be too hard for you to do. You’ll be able to finish making your dish by using one of the great substitute options mentioned above.
Be sure to let your friends know what you learned today as well. Everyone will benefit from learning about the best cornstarch substitute options.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.