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Cornstarch vs Flour (What You Need to Know)

Cornstarch vs Flour (What You Need to Know)

Looking for the difference between cornstarch and flour? Or maybe you’re wondering if it is better to use cornstarch or flour for a particular recipe.

No matter what questions you have, you will find the answers to all your cornstarch and flour questions in this quick article.

Complete Guide to Using Cornstarch or Flour

baking dish of flour on wooden table

Both of these kitchen staples have countless kitchen uses. From thickening soups, sauces, and marinades to baking tasty desserts, savory dinners, or fantastic breakfast recipes.

Cornstarch and flour are both quite versatile. There are times when you can use either of these ingredients, while for other types of dishes one will perform better than the other.

Let’s break down the most common questions we get when it comes to flour vs cornstarch.

Are Cornstarch and Flour the Same Thing

bowl of cornstarch on table

While they have a lot of overlap in use, cornstarch and flour are not the same ingredient.

Cornstarch, sometimes called corn flour, is produced by extracting the carobohydrates from the endosperm of a kernel of corn. The endosperm is the majority of the weight of a kernel of corn(1). The carbohydrates comprise only about 20 percent of the weight of a kernel of corn.

Once extracted the carbohydrates are ground into a fine powder, resulting in cornstarch.

Cornstarch is most commonly used as a thickening agent. It can be used to thicken everything from soup, marinade, gravy, and sauces.

Flour, on the other hand, is produced by milling or grinding grains. Wheat is the most common type of flour, but flour can be produced from any type of grain.

Flour is very versatile and has many culinary uses. It is a common base for baked goods like cookies and cakes, as well as for baking bread, and to thicken similar recipes as cornstarch is used for.

Related: Cornstarch vs potato flour

Thickening with Cornstarch vs Flour

Gravy boat full of turkey gravy.

Cornstarch can be used to thicken all types of dishes. It is creates gravies with a mouthwatering consistency as well as providing a hardiness to soups ideal for those cool autumn dinners.

Cornstarch can also be turned to for thickening those sweet and tasty desserts like pie. Cornstarch gives your fruit pie filling the perfect amount of structure, thus avoiding an unappetizing, runny pie filling.

When it comes to pudding, custard, or even ice cream, cornstarch still reigns supreme. There is almost no limit to what you can thicken with cornstarch in the kitchen.

Flour can also be used as a thickener, though it is best suited for recipes that are cooked. It can be used in just about any recipe that needs thickening or that would traditionally call for cornstarch.

Flour can be used to thicken up cream sauces, gravy, or even desserts.

Flour does tend to give light colored dishes a cloudy, almost gray appearance. But as long as your recipe is properly heated after the addition of flour, the flavor will not be adversely effected.

So if you are wondering if you can substitute cornstarch for flour, or flour for cornstarch, when thickening, the short answer is yes.

Related: Cornstarch substitutes

Cornstarch vs Flour for Frying

fried fish and french fried

When it comes to frying with cornstarch or flour, the answer may not be what you expect.

For a wonderfully crisp and flavorful frying batter, mix cornstarch and flour in equal parts. Go with all purpose flour and any fried recipe you want to whip up will have a wonderful golden brown color and an amazing flavor.

Can you Mix Cornstarch and Flour for Frying

closeup of fried popcorn chicken

Not only can you fry with a mix of cornstarch and flour, it’s how I recommend you make your fry batter.

As stated above, the combination of the two creates a great color, texture, and flavor to all sorts of fried recipes.

Go with a 50/50 mix of cornstarch and all-purpose flour to make your batter.

Can you use Cornstarch instead of Flour for Beef Stew

rustic platter of homemade beef stew

Both flour and cornstarch can be used to thicken the broth of beef stew. I’ve seen many recipes calling for both ingredients, so their isn’t a consensus on which is best.

And that is because both flour and cornstarch are a great thickening agent for beef stew. Use a 1:1 ratio when subbing one for the other.

Can I substitute Cornstarch for Flour

spoon of all purpose flour and measuring cup cornstarch

Yes cornstarch can be used instead of flour in most recipes.

When using it as a thickener, use equal amounts of cornstarch to flour.

Baking with cornstarch instead of flour is not recommended. While cornstarch can be added to some baked goods to enhance texture, it does not do well as a straight substitute for flour when baking.

Related: Flour substitutes when baking cookies

Cornstarch vs Flour for Gravy

homemade biscuits with white sausage gravy

Both cornstarch and flour can be used to thicken gravy. Both ingredients produce a similar finished texture and little effect on flavor will be noticed.

Use equal amounts when substituting one for the other.

Cornstarch vs Flour Texture

fresh baked cherry pie on table

Both cornstarch and flour come as a fine powder. They both can provide a similar texture to recipes when used as a thickening agent.

While flour produces light and fluffy textured baked goods, cornstarch can enhance the chewiness of certain baked goods when added. It is an excellent texture enhancer for cookies.

Cornstarch vs Flour Fried Chicken

homemade fried chicken with coleslaw and corn

You can use either flour or cornstarch for frying chicken. But for the best results, use a 50/50 mixture of flour and cornstarch when making your fried chicken batter.

This combination produces a crispy texture and wonderful flavor.