Cornstarch Is the Unsung Hero of the Pantry — Here Are 5 Smart Ways to Use It

published Jun 10, 2021
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Corn starch container and measuring spoon with corn starch
Credit: Kitchn

When a sexy baking ingredient comes to mind, cornstarch isn’t at the top of the list. I mean crème fraîche? Of course. Bourbon? Well, yeah. Rye flour? Totally. But cornstarch? Not so much. When we think of cornstarch, we think of thickening puddings and pie filling, and that’s about it. But guess what? When cornstarch is added to baked goods, fried foods, and even ice cream, the results are pure magic. Below is a list of some of my favorite ways to use this unsung pantry hero.

5 Places to Add a Little Cornstarch Magic

1. Cookies

Cornstarch does kind of incredible things to cookies. I mean not only does it give them soft centers, prevents them from spreading, and makes them somewhat thick (in a good way), but it also contributes to the chewiness factor, which, in my opinion, is the most important cookie attribute. You can use anywhere from 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of flour (although I’m partial to the larger amount).

Credit: Lauren Volo

2. Brownies

Cornstarch is a miracle worker when it comes to brownies, too. For chewy brownies that taste (in the best way) like those that come from a boxed mix, use about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per 1/2 cup of flour. You can also substitute cornstarch for the flour in a brownie recipe to make the most fabulous fudgy and chewy gluten-free brownies around.

3. Ice Cream

A little-known fact: Some of the best ice cream is made with cornstarch. It stabilizes the liquid ingredients and prevents ice crystals from forming, creating an ice cream with a creamy, otherworldly texture. Try adding anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon for every cup of liquid. The more you add, the thicker and creamier the ice cream will be. When you first try, use a measurement in the middle — say, 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Credit: Faith Durand

4. Dutch Babies

The best Dutch babies have custardy centers and crispy edges. The eggs and assembly take care of the centers, but to achieve those coveted crispy edges, try substituting cornstarch for some of the flour; about 25% does the trick. And this crispy-edge trick works for other things, too. Fritters develop a wonderfully crispy exterior when cornstarch is substituted for some of the flour; use about 1/2 cup cornstarch for every cup of flour.

5. Chicken Fingers

Finally, nothing crisps up fried food (think: chicken tenders and cubes of tofu) like cornstarch. It coats and protects your food in ways that flour can only dream about, preventing the oil from seeping in, and leading to less-greasy (read: crispier) fried treats. For a block of tofu, about 3 tablespoons will do the trick.