Is baking powder the same as corn starch? Can you use cornstarch to substitute baking powder? You need baking powder in your recipe but all you have in your pantry is cornstarch. I know they look and feel the same, and it’s tempting to just add it in and move on to the next step.
However, even though baking powder contains cornstarch, it cannot be used in place of cornstarch and vice versa.
My name is Angie, and I’ve been baking since I was a teenager. Some baking ingredients are difficult to come by where I come from, so I had to learn to improvise. I’d be delighted to share some of my insider knowledge with you.
In this article, I’ll explain what baking powder and cornstarch are, whether they’re the same, and how you might be able to substitute one for the other.
Let’s start baking!
Is there a difference between baking powder and cornstarch?
Baking powder and cornstarch are not the same thing. Baking powder is a leavening agent, which means it creates air bubbles in the batter, causing the cake to rise. Cornstarch is a thickening agent used to make puddings and pie fillings thicker.
Cornstarch is a handy ingredient to have on hand. I enjoy making pies with various fillings such as apple, blueberry, and lemon (which is my husband’s absolute favorite!)
When my fillings become too loose for my liking, I add cornstarch to help thicken them up because its primary function is to thicken liquids.
Cornstarch is made from the starches of corn kernels, so any protein and fibers have been removed to create this refined, starchy powder.
What makes baking powder work is a combination of a base (typically sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda) and an acid (usually cream of tartar). When these two elements come together, a reaction occurs.
Take, for example, vinegar and baking soda. If you put baking soda in a bowl and pour vinegar over it, it will expand and fizz!
The reaction was caused by the combination of the acid (in this case vinegar) and the base (baking soda), and you can see bubbles forming and expanding visually. When we use baking powder in a recipe, we get the same reaction.
Baking powder is used in baking as a leavening agent to give desserts height.
Baking powder contains both an acid and a base in the form of dry ingredients. This enables us to store it in our pantries without it reacting on its own.
The timer starts ticking once we mix baking powder into our wet ingredients! Baking powder will gradually begin to activate, forming bubbles that will allow our cakes to rise and impress all of your guests!
*Side Note: If you’re curious, I wrote an article about it, which you can find here! The True Distinction Between a Sponge Cake and a Butter Cake
This article explains when to use baking powder and how the textures differ!
Is Baking Powder the Same as Corn Starch?
- Air bubbles form, giving desserts height.
- Is made up of an acid, a base, and a buffer.
- Used in baking to make desserts lighter and less dense.
- Extracted from corn kernels and processed into starch
- Used to thicken liquids.
- Heat and starch molecules cause the thickening reaction.
Despite their nearly identical appearances, cornstarch and baking powder are completely different!
Baking powder is more complex and contains multiple ingredients. Let us pretend to be mad scientists for a moment and talk about acids and bases. But don’t worry, I won’t harm your brain!
*By the way, you might be interested in my recent article on cornstarch vs baking powder.
What Is the Purpose of Cornstarch?
Cornstarch is valued for its thickening properties because it is made up of long chains of starch molecules that unravel and swell when heated. This is known as gelatinization, and it is what causes the thickening.
Cornstarch, in addition to being a thickening agent, is also an anti-caking agent. A common application would be to dust shredded cheese or powdered sugar with cornstarch to prevent clumping.
It also aids in the absorption of excess moisture caused by condensation, preventing the formation of a slimy texture.
Cornstarch can also be used as a marinade for meat or fish for stir fry, as a substitute for flour in shortbread, and to make food extra crispy.
What Is the Purpose of Baking Powder?
Baking powder is a useful ingredient in cooking as well as a leavening agent in baked goods.
Baking powder, which is commonly used to make pancakes and waffles light and fluffy, is also used in recipes such as American-style dumplings, Middle Eastern falafels, and other fritter-like fried foods.
Baking powder can be single-acting or double-acting, with most commercial varieties being the latter because they begin releasing carbon dioxide as soon as moisture is introduced.
The heat of the oven or griddle releases the remainder of the gas.
Professional pastry chefs, on the other hand, use single-acting baking powder, which skips the first rise of double-acting baking powder and reacts only to high temperatures.
Is it possible to substitute cornstarch for baking powder?
Can you use cornstarch instead of baking powder? They’re both powdery, white substances used in cooking that have a similar appearance and feel. Is that to say they’re interchangeable? Certainly not.
The primary distinction between the two is that cornstarch is a thickening agent used in a wide range of recipes, including gravies, sauces, pies, and even ice cream, whereas baking powder is a leavening agent.
When combined with other ingredients, they serve entirely different functions and are not interchangeable.
While they are excellent choices for their respective purposes, they would be poor choices if switched. Cornstarch and baking powder cannot be used as leaveners or thickeners, respectively.
Because baking powder is made of cornstarch, you might think it can be used in its place. Regrettably, this is not the case.
The amount of cornstarch in baking powder is insufficient to produce the desired thickening effect as actual cornstarch. In addition, using a lot of baking powder in your recipe will give your food a bitter, sour, and salty flavor.
While you cannot substitute baking powder for cornstarch, you can certainly make the former from the latter.
Create Your Own Baking Powder
To make 1 teaspoon, combine cream of tartar, cornstarch, and baking soda – the same three ingredients found in baking powder. Use 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon of the remaining ingredients, and you’re set! Double or triple the proportions to make more.