Can you use baking powder instead of cornstarch? One of my favorite aspects of baking is the ability to substitute ingredients in recipes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started baking something only to realize I’m missing a key ingredient!
Cornstarch is one of the most common ingredients that I run out of first, whether I’m baking or cooking. Baking powder was the first powdery substance that came to mind, so I decided to start my experiment.
Baking powder cannot be used in place of cornstarch. Baking powder lacks the chemical components needed to replace cornstarch in recipes because it acts as a thickening agent. The addition of baking powder creates air bubbles but does not thicken the mixture.
When I discovered that baking powder was not a suitable substitute, I put my thinking cap on. I went on to find the best cornstarch substitutes that actually worked! When I’m baking and realize I’m out of cornstarch, I don’t panic because I have so many other options.
What Is the Difference Between Baking Powder and Cornstarch?
When I’m baking in my kitchen, I feel like a mad scientist working in my laboratory to create all of these different concoctions. I should start wearing a lab coat in the kitchen because there are so many ingredients that undergo chemical reactions to create beautiful and delicious desserts!
*You might also be interested in knowing a direct comparison of Baking powder and cornstarch. Find them in our Corn starch vs Baking Powder article.
Ingredients interact with one another to produce a specific result. Cornstarch is one of the ingredients that can be used to thicken liquids.
To use, first prepare a slurry by combining equal parts cornstarch and water. Because it requires heat, this will not thicken your liquid yet. When you add your cornstarch slurry to your mixture and slowly heat it, it will thicken to the consistency you desire.
Baking powder, on the other hand, lacks the properties of cornstarch. As a result, it is a very poor thickening agent and should not be substituted.
Baking powder cannot be used as a substitute because it contains a leavening agent. Baking powder is used in desserts to give them height by releasing carbon dioxide (like I said, very science-y). The formation of air bubbles caused by the release of carbon dioxide is what makes desserts light and airy.
I quickly realized that using baking powder as a substitute for cornstarch is a bad idea after experimenting with it. Adding baking powder will not make your mixture thicker. Instead, it will create air bubbles in your liquid rather than thickening it.
Can You Use Baking Powder Instead of Cornstarch?
Is baking powder the same as corn starch? Baking powder and cornstarch are not interchangeable. Baking powder contains both an acid and a base, as well as an intermediate buffer that prevents the acid and base from reacting until the baking step is completed. Cornstarch is made by extracting the starch from starchy corn kernels.
So, for a moment, let’s pretend we’re mad scientists. When an acid and a base are combined (for example, vinegar and baking soda), a reaction occurs in the form of fizzing and expansion. In order to give our cakes height, we add baking powder to our cake batters.
Cornstarch, on the other hand, is made entirely of starch extracted from corn kernels. Cornstarch thickens a mixture when combined with water and activated with heat. This method is commonly used in baking and cooking (it’s exactly how you make gravy!).
Looking at a side-by-side comparison (see above chart), you’ll notice that, despite their similar powdery appearance, baking powder and cornstarch are quite different.
What can be substituted for cornstarch?
To understand what substitutes for cornstarch actually work and why baking powder is not a good substitute in recipes, we must first understand the science behind this magical thickening agent.
Make use of Arrowroot.
In the last decade, arrowroot powder (also known as arrowroot flour or starch) has grown in popularity. The starches come from the arrowroot plant and are ground into a fine powder. Arrowroot powder is a great substitute for cornstarch because it acts as a thickener in baking and cooking.
Unlike flour, arrowroot is made of pure starch and can be substituted for cornstarch in a 1:1 ratio. If a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, substitute 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder.
In terms of appearance, arrowroot powder mimics the effects of cornstarch by making your thickened mixture’s texture glossy. It produces a lovely opaque finish, whereas other less starchy flours produce a slightly more matte finish.
Tapioca, like arrowroot, is derived from the cassava root plant. Tapioca is one of my favorite foods, thanks to my current obsession with bubble tea. Yes, because of how well tapioca powder thickens (and is so much fun to eat! ), the squishy bubbles in bubble tea are made from it.
The main takeaway from replacing cornstarch with tapioca is that a 1:2 ratio is required. If a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, replace it with 2 tablespoons of tapioca powder. In other words, doubling the amount of tapioca will help you achieve the desired consistency.
Make use of ground flaxseed.
Are you as surprised as I am? I believe so! Ground flaxseed, the common flax seed used in cooking and added to smoothies for its nutritional value, can actually work as a thickener!
Flaxseed contains a lot of fiber by nature. As a result, when added to liquids, it can thicken them. However, because ground flaxseed is lower in starch than cornstarch or even regular wheat flour, more of it is required.
To make a slurry to thicken your mixture, thoroughly combine ground flaxseed and water. To ensure uniform thickening, thoroughly mix the ground flaxseed into the water. To replace 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a recipe, combine 2 teaspoons ground flaxseed and 4 tablespoons water.
Make use of rice flour.
Rice flour is a common staple in many cuisines and has been making its way onto kitchen shelves all over the world. Rice, which is naturally high in starch, is refined into flour and used in a variety of baking and cooking applications. Because of its lack of color, it works well as a thickener for clear liquids.
The substitution is a 1:1 ratio due to its similarity to wheat flour. 2 tablespoons rice flour can be substituted for 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
What is the distinction between cornstarch and cornflour?
Cornstarch is made from only the starchy part of the corn kernel, whereas corn flour is made from the entire kernel. Fiber and protein are included. Corn flour should not be confused with masa flour, which is commonly used in the preparation of tortillas.
Corn flour and cornmeal are similar in that they are both made from whole kernels. The difference is in how finely ground it is. Cornmeal has a coarse grind that is ideal for cornbread, but it is also great for baking and cooking.
Because of how refined cornflour is, it isn’t the best starch to use as a substitute for cornstarch. Cornflour, unlike wheat flour or rice flour, does not contain as much starch to help thicken a mixture without first imparting a tangy and raw flavor.
As a result, rice flour and wheat flour are the only flours listed in the table above. This is due to their higher starch content.