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Cornstarch, or cornflour in the UK is a gluten-free starch derived from corn grains. Cornstarch is commonly used as a thickening agent in cooking and baking projects such as pie fillings or gravy, although it is sometimes used as a wheat flour substitute.
Aside from being gluten-free, the advantage of using cornstarch over something like all-purpose flour is that it can blend smoothly with water and can give a shiny appearance to food. Most importantly, however, it has no discernible taste of its own which makes it ideal to use in foods without altering their taste.
However, you may be cooking one day and realise you don’t have cornstarch, but you do baking powder. In such a scenario you may wonder, can I use baking powder instead of cornstarch?
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Cornstarch Vs. Baking Powder in Cooking
Cornstarch despite having a few uses in food is predominantly employed as a thickening agent or gluten-free replacement for wheat flour. Additionally, due to the lack of discernible flavour, it can be used in a wide variety of both savoury and sweet and sweet dishes.
Baking Powder on the other hand is primarily used as a leavening agent. The taste of baking powder will be lost in the food it is used as an ingredient for. However, in large quantities enough quantities or if improperly mixed it may leave a bitter taste.
Are Baking Powder and Cornstarch The Same Thing?
Despite both ingredients being rather ubiquitous in a variety of different cooking and baking recipes, cornstarch and baking powder are very distinct things. As such they will not be able to perform each other’s jobs adequately.
Difference between cornstarch and baking powder
As mentioned above, cornstarch is often used as a thickening agent in a variety of different recipes from gravy and pies to even something like ice cream. For this purpose, cornstarch is very effective. However, as a leavening agent, it would be a terrible choice.
Equally, baking powder makes a phenomenal leavening agent due to being derived from baking soda. However, whilst some baking powder may contain cornstarch it is not an ideal substitute for cornstarch in its purest form due to not having the same thickening power.
Cornstarch is a white powder that is both tasteless and odourless. This powder is pure starch that has been derived from corn kernels. As such when heated cornstarch is excellent at absorbing water along with which helps to thicken any mixture it is added to that contains water.
In addition to being an excellent thickener, cornstarch is also used in a variety of ways for cooking and baking:
- Marinading Meat or Fish for stir fry or in fried rice dishes
- Supplementing Flour in Shortbread
- Making Fried Food Extra Crispy
Properties Of Baking Powder
Baking Powder is a leavening agent that comes in the form of a dry white powder. It is a mixture of a bicarbonate such as bicarbonate soda and a weak acid. Additionally, a buffer will be used to stop these two from reacting prematurely. Baking powder is primarily used as a leavening agent due to how it creates carbon dioxide bubbles when the bicarbonate soda and acid react. These bubbles then cause the mixture to increase in volume/raise along with lightening their texture.
Uses For Baking Powder
Baking powder makes for an excellent leavening agent when used in the kitchen. However, outside of baking or cooking, it can be used in a variety of ways. Some examples include:
- Neutralising Odours
Cautions and Substitution in Using Cornstarch and Baking Powder
Baking powder may be able to be used instead of baking soda, however, it cannot replace cornstarch. All swapping cornstarch for baking powder would do is slight raise your mixture.
Despite this though, there are plenty of cornstarch substitutes available. One thing to remember though is that even the best cornstarch substitutes aren’t as universally applicable as cornstarch. Additionally, these cornstarch substitutes will likely alter the dish somewhat.
Recommendations For The Best Cornstarch Substitutes
Potato Starch As A Cornstarch Substitute
Whilst the thickening power of potato starch doesn’t last too long after baking it can be an excellent substitute for the food you plan to immediately eat. The delicate flavour makes potato starch makes it ideal for sauces. To replace cornstarch simply add one and a half teaspoons of potato starch for each tablespoon of cornstarch.
Rice Flour As A Cornstarch Substitute
Rice flour makes for one of the best cornstarch substitutes. However, be careful not to confuse it with glutinous rice flour or sweet rice flour. When using rice flour as a cornstarch substitute, use 2 tablespoons of rice flour for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
All-Purpose Flour/Wheat Flour As A Substitute For Cornstarch
In baked pie fillings, wheat flour (or all-purpose flour) makes an excellent cornstarch substitute. Like with rice flour, for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, you should use 2 tablespoons of wheat flour. Due to how flour doesn’t mix smoothly though, making a roux with flour and butter before mixing it is recommended.
Tapioca Starch/Tapioca Flour As A Substitute For Cornstarch
Tapioca starch (or tapioca flour as its also known) is derived from Cassava roots. Like wheat flour or rice flour, it is recommended to use two tablespoons of tapioca starch per one tablespoon cornstarch. Tapioca starch has a very neutral flavour and unlike cornstarch can be frozen.
Arrowroot Powder As A Substitute For Cornstarch
Similarly to potato starch, arrowroot powder (or arrowroot flour) can be used as a cornstarch substitute in equal quantities. Meaning that for one tablespoon of cornstarch, a tablespoon of arrowroot powder can be exchanged. However, just like potato starch, arrowroot powder doesn’t hold its thickness very long and should only be used when eating will be done within roughly ten minutes of preparation.