Ingredient Intelligence

The Best Cornstarch Substitutes: Here’s What to Use If You’ve Run Out

updated Feb 9, 2023
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Corn starch container and measuring spoon with corn starch
Credit: Kitchn

Cornstarch, a super-fine powder made from the pure starch from corn, is an often-overlooked ingredient that really does work magic. It makes silky pie fillings, gorgeous gravies, and crackly, crispy fried chicken; it crisps tofu and softens chicken for stir-fries; it makes your powdered sugar last longer on baked goods and keeps taco seasoning stay fresh in the pantry.

Running out of cornstarch might not ruin your day the same way running out of butter might, but it might throw a wrench in your dinner plans. Luckily, cornstarch isn’t entirely irreplaceable. Whether you need it for cooking or baking, here are six smart pantry substitutions you can make for cornstarch.

The Best Cornstarch Substitutes

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Substitute All-Purpose Flour for Cornstarch

All-purpose flour is an easy substitute for cornstarch; in fact you may see recipes for thickening pie fillings or soups with either. You’ll need 2 tablespoons of flour for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a recipe. Be sure to add the flour as directed — either by cooking it with other liquid, as for a pie filling, or by making a slurry of flour and water to add towards the end of cooking, like with soups or gravies.

How to Substitute Arrowroot Powder for Cornstarch

This gluten-free starch comes from tropical tubers like arrowroot plant and cassava. Arrowroot powder has double the thickening power of all-purpose flour, sets a beautiful gel in pie fillings and puddings, and it doesn’t weep when mixed with acid. Arrowroot works best when baked and cooled or in gravies that you’ll serve right away; it does not like to gel and then be reheated. Swap 2 teaspoons of arrowroot powder for 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

How to Substitute Rice Flour for Cornstarch

Rice flour is ground from the same rice most of us keep stocked in our pantries: long- or medium-grain white rice. Rice flour works especially well in puddings and in shortbread cookies. Like with all-purpose flour, substitute 2 tablespoons rice flour for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

How to Substitute Potato Starch for Cornstarch

Potato starch is one of our favorites for thickening soups and making gluten-free gravy. Potato starch gives these warm preparations a silky, creamy mouthfeel, but doesn’t hold up well for longer cooking (think: pie fillings or puddings). You’ll need 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch for every 1 tablespoon cornstarch in soup and gravy recipes.

Read more: Can I Bake with Cornstarch Instead of Potato Starch?

How to Substitute Tapioca Starch for Cornstarch

Tapioca starch is the pure starch of cassava tuber. It has a super-fine texture that works well in gelling pie fillings, puddings, and sauces. Word to the wise: Avoid boiling tapioca starch for too long or it loses its thickening power. Swap 2 tablespoons tapioca starch for every 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Substitute Wondra for Cornstarch

No doubt you’ve grabbed Wondra flour for some oddball baking project and then stashed it in the pantry to be forgotten. This “instant flour” is derived from a particular wheat cultivated for its starchy structure and then finely milled. You can use Wondra as you would cornstarch or flour, but you’ll need half as much: Use 1 1/2 teaspoons of Wondra for every tablespoon of cornstarch in your recipe.

Swaps and Substitutions

Even the most well-stocked kitchens run out of pantry staples from time to time. Whether you’re trying to limit your grocery shopping or you need to make a last-minute ingredient swap, we’ve got you covered. This series will walk you through the best substitutions and replacements for common cooking and baking ingredients.