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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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Making cookies is something that most people who bake like to do, and 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.

You’ve probably heard that cornstarch is used as a thickener in things such as sauces. 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. This ingredient is actually 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

Cornstarch isn’t used as a thickening agent in cookies, but it does have a very important purpose. When a recipe calls for it, it’s basically going to be there to help provide structure.

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 certain types of flour. When combined with different types of flour, it can help 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 will have a soft consistency that is very satisfying. For many cookie recipes, it’s a necessity to get things to turn out just right.

You’ll also notice that cornstarch helps to 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.

Of course, 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?

Not everyone keeps cornstarch stocked in their pantries. It would be useful to have it in your kitchen for many reasons, but you might not have any right now.

If you want to make cookies that call for using cornstarch as an ingredient, 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?

Keep reading to learn a bit about ingredients that can be used as substitutes. It’s likely best to use the specific ingredient that the recipe calls for, but you’ll still be able to get good results with these alternatives.

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


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.

For every one tablespoon of cornstarch, it’ll be necessary to use three tablespoons of flour. You’re likely going to have all-purpose flour that you can use to make your cookies, 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 flour to use. However, 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 when it’s used as an ingredient, 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.

It’s also important to bake the cookies just slightly longer so that you can get rid of the flavor of the flour. Flour isn’t as tasteless as cornstarch is.

Potato Starch

If you’re someone who doesn’t like making conversions, you’ll enjoy using potato starch as a substitute. Potato starch can be used to replace cornstarch in baked goods without it being a problem.

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 only thing to remember is that potato starch isn’t exactly the same as cornstarch. It 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.


Scoop of Arrowroot Powder

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

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

The only issue is that many people don’t keep arrowroot stocked in their kitchens. This is a great substitute for cornstarch, but it might be one of the ingredients that you’re not likely to have around.

Even so, it’s good to know that arrowroot works so well as a substitute. If you ever have a hard time finding cornstarch at the store, you’ll be able to look for arrowroot instead.

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 the same as you would standard flour. When substituting cornstarch for rice flour, it’s necessary to use three tablespoons of rice flour for every one tablespoon of cornstarch that is called for in the recipe.

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.

Tapioca Flour

Bowl of Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour is a slightly more convenient substitute than rice flour. If you happen to have tapioca flour in your kitchen, you can use two tablespoons of it to substitute one tablespoon of cornstarch.

You don’t have to use as much tapioca flour as you would rice flour or standard all-purpose flour. This might be a bit easier for you overall.

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.

This is another somewhat uncommon ingredient compared to all-purpose flour. If you do have some of this, it’s going to work well to help you bake tasty cookies.

Ground Flaxseeds

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

Some people really like this option because ground flaxseeds boost the amount of fiber quite a bit. If you’re looking to bake something that contains a lot of fiber, this might make sense.

The problem is that it might not make the best cookies in the world. You could certainly use ground flaxseeds in place of cornstarch, but the consistency is going to be way different.

Ground flaxseeds will make cookies grittier than you’ll likely want them to be. However, you’re not going to know that you won’t like it until you try it out.

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.

Xanthan Gum

Spoonful of Xanthan Gum

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

It’s actually a type of vegetable gum that you make by fermenting sugar with a certain bacteria. How it’s made doesn’t really matter as much as what it can do, though.

People use xanthan gum as a thickening agent more often than they use it as a cookie ingredient. It’s also worth noting that some people have digestive problems when they eat too much of it.

This means that 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.

Guar Gum

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

It might not be a perfect choice for some types of cookies, but there are cookie recipes that use guar gum specifically. The ingredient has gained a bit of popularity since it can be helpful when you’re making gluten-free cookies.

This can be used almost the same as xanthan gum. It’s easier to use than xanthan gum simply because it’s far more cost-effective.

It should be able to be used as a direct substitute for cornstarch just like xanthan gum. If you’re looking for something to use as a cornstarch replacement in your cookies, try out guar gum if you happen to have some.


Glucomannan has become a widely used cornstarch substitute in certain circles. This is actually a powdered soluble fiber, but it can be combined 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 that can help you with your digestive health. This could be a very nice ingredient to use in your cookies.

You don’t need to use much of this ingredient to get the job done either. For every two teaspoons of cornstarch, you’ll be able to use just a quarter of a teaspoon of glucomannan.

Final Thoughts

Plate of Butter Cookies

Cornstarch is something that people use in quite a few 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 very appealing. The consistency of the cookies is fantastic.

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 of 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.