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What Does Cornstarch Do in Cookies? (Plus Simple Substitutes to Use in a Pinch)

What Does Cornstarch Do in Cookies? (Plus Simple Substitutes to Use in a Pinch)

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Many bakers worldwide have started their baking journey with baking cookies. It can be really fun to bake some and share them with your family.

Depending on the recipe that you’re using, you might use certain ingredients. If you’ve come across a cookie recipe that utilizes cornstarch, you might be wondering what this ingredient does. So, what does cornstarch do in cookies?

In many cases, cornstarch is used as a thickener in things such as sauces, but is that what the cornstarch is meant to do in cookies?

Read on to learn a bit about this common ingredient and the role that it plays when baking cookies. This should help you to better understand why some recipes call for it.

Understanding Cornstarch

To better understand what cornstarch does, it makes sense to learn about what this ingredient is.

Let’s begin with the origin: cornstarch is extracted from corn. Specifically, it’s extracted from the endosperm of corn. What they wind up extracting looks like white powder and it doesn’t have much of a flavor.

The fact that it doesn’t have a strong or noticeable flavor makes it very good for thickening various things. Commonly, people use cornstarch to thicken sauces, and it’s used to make gravy sometimes as well.

People also use this ingredient when they’re baking things. It has been used to thicken up pudding and pie fillings in many instances.

How Is Cornstarch Used in Cookies?

Scoop Of Cornstarch

Unlike with sauces, cornstarch isn’t used as a thickening agent in cookies, but it does have another essential purpose.

You can use cornstarch to ensure that the cookies that you’re baking have the necessary structure to be enjoyed. It helps to hold them together, and it can also be used to give baked goods the right consistency.

Sometimes, bakers will combine cornstarch with different types of flour to create a dessert that is both light and chewy.

This means that cornstarch is a very good ingredient when you want to bake chewy cookies. Certain types of cookies are meant to be very chewy, and cornstarch is a common ingredient in those.

Cornstarch also makes it so that cookies have a satisfying soft consistency. For many cookie recipes, it’s a necessity to get things to turn out just right.

Cornstarch also helps make cookies a bit thicker than they would otherwise be. When cornstarch is the main ingredient, the cookies are going to have a nice thickness to them, but they’ll still be soft and enjoyable.

Yet, not all cookie recipes call for cornstarch. Only specific types of cookies utilize it as an ingredient.

If you want to get the best results when baking cookies, it’s always recommended to use the suggested ingredients. That being said, you can try to come up with your own cookie recipes that use cornstarch.

Using it the right way can help to add a certain special something to your cookies. There’s a reason why cookies that are made using it are so popular.

What If You Don’t Have Cornstarch?

Some of your cookie recipes might need cornstarch, but you may not have any lying around. 

So, what can you do? Is there a way that you can move forward without having to go to the store to buy what you need?

The short answer is no. You have multiple substitutes that you can use. 

After learning about the options, it’ll be easy enough to figure out which replacement idea will work the best in your situation. You likely have at least one of these substitutes in your kitchen.

1. Flour

Bag Of Flour

Flour is probably the most common substitute that people turn to. You’re going to need to use more flour in a recipe than you would if you had cornstarch, though. The ratio is often 3:1.

For every one tablespoon of cornstarch, it’ll be necessary to use three tablespoons of flour

All-purpose flour is readily available in most homes, and that makes this a very practical choice. You’ll be able to make your cookies turn out just fine so long as you have this flour to use.

Still, the cookies won’t be quite the same as they would have been if you used cornstarch.

Cornstarch is known to leave a bit of a glossy shine, but the cookies will appear to be matte when you’re using flour. The consistency might be slightly different as well, and you might not achieve the same level of softness.

One last thing, it’s important to bake the cookies just slightly longer so that you can get rid of the flour flavor. Flour isn’t as tasteless as cornstarch is.

2. Potato Starch

If you don’t like ratio conversions, you’ll enjoy using potato starch as a substitute for cornstarch.

You can use the same amount of potato starch as you would cornstarch in a recipe. So if a recipe calls for three tablespoons of cornstarch, you’ll be able to use three tablespoons of potato starch instead; the simple 1:1 ratio is always the easiest. 

However, keep in mind that potato starch feels different when you’re working with it as an ingredient.

For example, potato starch is known to clump up a lot. You’ll need to watch out for this so that you don’t wind up with lumpy cookies.

3. Arrowroot

Scoop Of Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot is another ingredient you can use as a direct substitute for cornstarch. Much like potato starch, you can substitute the exact same amount of this ingredient for the cornstarch that was called for.

Arrowroot might be your best bet if you’re looking for something that will perform closely to cornstarch. It even achieves the same glossy look that people enjoy.

However, arrowroot isn’t the most common ingredient. As such, many people may not have it stocked. You may not have it, which nullifies the benefit of using it as a substitute. 

Still, it’ll likely be one of the best options if you have it around.

4. Rice Flour

Rice flour should be considered as an option as well. It thickens things up just like standard all-purpose flour would.

You can use this flour as you would use standard flour. Much like regular flour, when substituting cornstarch for rice flour, it’s necessary to use three tablespoons of rice flour for every tablespoon of cornstarch.

People have been able to get good results by using rice flour. This isn’t necessarily any better or worse than using all-purpose flour, though.

Since all-purpose flour is more common, it might not be as helpful to know that you can use rice flour as a substitute. Regardless, it’s always good to have more options available to you.

5. Tapioca Flour

Bowl Of Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour is a slightly more convenient substitute than rice flour. The convenience comes from its 1:1 substitute ratio, making it better for people who don’t like experimenting with ratios. 

Tapioca flour is also sometimes referred to as tapioca starch. So if you have tapioca starch in your pantry, that’s the same thing, and you’ll be free to use it here.

Unfortunately, much like arrowroot, tapioca flour is another somewhat uncommon ingredient compared to all-purpose flour.

Still, if you do have some of it, it will work well to help you bake tasty cookies.

6. Ground Flaxseeds

Ground flaxseeds are sometimes substituted for cornstarch when people need to thicken things up a bit more. It works well to help thicken up sauces and types of gravy.

People like this option because ground flaxseeds boost the amount of fiber in food. If you’re looking to bake something that contains a lot of fiber, ground flaxseeds can be a great option.

However, flaxseeds can result in a consistency that some people may not appreciate. Ground flaxseeds will make cookies grittier than you’ll likely want them to be. However, you won’t know that you won’t like it until you try it out.

Note: To replace cornstarch with ground flaxseeds, you’ll need to combine the ground flaxseeds with water. Combine one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with four tablespoons of water to replace two tablespoons of cornstarch.

7. Xanthan Gum

Spoonful Of Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is another uncommon replacement for cornstarch that you can try out. This gum has become a popular ingredient for those on the low-carb “keto” diet.

It’s a type of vegetable gum that you make by fermenting sugar with a certain bacteria. People use xanthan gum as a thickening agent more often than they use it as a cookie ingredient.

However, it’s also worth noting that some people have digestive problems when they eat too much xanthan gum. 

If you use it in cookies, you’ll want to avoid eating too many in one sitting. Conveniently, you should be able to substitute the same amount of xanthan gum for cornstarch in a recipe.

8. Guar Gum

Guar gum is another type of vegetable gum that you can use as a thickening agent. People use it as a replacement for cornstarch in some recipes.

People don’t often use guar gum as a substitute for cornstarch. However, there are cookie recipes that use guar gum specifically. The ingredient has gained a bit of popularity since it can be helpful when making gluten-free cookies.

You can use it like you would use xanthan gum. However, it’s easier to use than xanthan gum because it’s far more cost-effective.

If you’re looking for something to use as a cornstarch replacement in your cookies, try out guar gum if you have some.

9. Glucomannan

Glucomannan has become a widely used cornstarch substitute in certain circles. It’s a powdered soluble fiber, but you can combine it with hot water to form a thick gel.

One of the best aspects of using glucomannan is that it has no calories or carbohydrates. For this reason, it’s a popular substitute for people who are on low-carb diets.

It can also be nice because it contains good bacteria to help your digestive health. This could be a reliable ingredient to use in your cookies.

You don’t need to use much of this ingredient to get the job done, either. You can use just a quarter of a teaspoon of glucomannan for every two teaspoons of cornstarch.

Final Thoughts

Plate Of Butter Cookies

Cornstarch is something that people use in different cookie recipes. It helps to make cookies thicker, and it also makes them chewy.

Cookies made with it have a satisfying softness that makes them appealing. The consistency of the cookies is fantastic.

Still, if you don’t have cornstarch that you can use to make cookies, you can try using substitute ingredients. There are many options, such as using flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, glucomannan, and many other ingredients.

Consider all the different options and then make a choice that works for you. You’ll be able to enjoy tasty cookies soon enough.

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Thursday 23rd of March 2023

GREAT article.🌷👍 Thank you for the great information. Beginner baker here.