Apple pie can never be complete with the filling. Usually, apple pie filling is made using apples, cornstarch, water, sugar, and cinnamon. The primary use of cornstarch here is that it acts as a thickening agent.
However, there could be times when you don’t have any cornstarch. Or, you don’t have enough of it for what the recipe demands.
Maybe you don’t want to take another trip to the store, or you have some other ingredients that you’re thinking of as possible substitutes.
So, how to make apple pie filling without cornstarch? We can use one of these five thickening agents to replace it: arrowroot powder, instant tapioca, potato starch, wheat flour, and instant-mix flour.
However, we must first learn why cornstarch is such a good ingredient for apple pie filling.
Let’s dive in!
In addition, cornstarch will also lend a starchy taste. Other than that, though, cornstarch is almost tasteless, which allows it to greatly improve the texture of the filling without shifting its flavor too much.
There are five suitable substitutes for cornstarch in apple pie filling: Arrowroot powder, tapioca, all-purpose flour, potato starch, and instant flour. They all have their pros and cons, which we’ll be exploring next.
Arrowroot powder is perhaps the best alternative to cornstarch when it comes to making apple pie filling. The differences between arrowroot powder and cornstarch are negligible at best.
It’s a white and fine powder with a similar texture to cornstarch when you touch it. Arrowroot powder will give your filling a nice, thick consistency. It also doesn’t have any strong smell or flavor, just like cornstarch.
As such, it produces about the same results as cornstarch when used in apple pie filling.
Extracted as starch from the roots of the cassava plant, tapioca is another suitable replacement for cornstarch in making apple pie filling. Just like arrowroot, tapioca has a fine texture and an appearance that’s almost identical to cornstarch.
Tapioca also doesn’t possess a keen flavor or fragrance, so it creates the same results as cornstarch. It thickens well, but it does leave gelatinous balls in your apple pie filling.
To avoid getting these balls in your filling, you can grind instant tapioca in a spice grinder beforehand into powder. However, it’ll be stringy in consistency.
In its powdered form, potato starch is a good substitute for making apple pie filling. Like tapioca and arrowroot powder, it has similar characteristics to cornstarch.
However, it doesn’t give the same kind of thickness as these other substitutes do. Your filling won’t be as thick, but potato starch will impart a cheesy consistency.
When you use potato starch, it’s recommended to add around 1 tbsp of water before mixing it into the can, as it’s somewhat dryer in its texture.
If the apples that you prefer on your pies are the long-cooking and dense types, then wheat flour is a good substitute for cornstarch. It’s not a purified starch, so wheat flour doesn’t have the same thickening properties as cornstarch does.
When you swap out cornstarch for wheat flour, you should use two tablespoons of flour for each tablespoon of cornstarch.
Should you be using a liquid sweetener, such as agave nectar, put the flour with the apples first. Then, drizzle them with the sweetener.
However, in the case of sugar or another crystalline non-sugar sweetener, first, mix the flour with it. And then, toss in the apples.
The main drawback of wheat flour is that it takes a long time for it to fully thicken the filling. During that time, the juices of the apples could boil away.
A quicker alternative would be to use instant-mixing flour, or “gravy” flour.
Instant flour is pre-cooked in the mill, so it begins thickening as soon as the hot juices are released from the apples.
This means that you don’t have to be selective about what apples you use. There won’t be a risk of a starchy, uncooked taste in the finished apple pie filling.
Each of these replacements for cornstarch has its drawbacks and advantages. Arrowroot powder is almost the same as cornstarch and can be reliably used as a substitute.
Instant tapioca can leave behind gelatinous balls in the filling, but grinding it beforehand can prevent that. Filling made with potato starch isn’t as thick, and wheat flour takes a long time to thicken.
As for instant-mix flour, it’s also a reliable substitute, though the result won’t be as thick either.
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.