Here are 7 best corn flour substitutes. Corn flour is kind of like the Scottie Pippen of the kitchen. It’s the underrated star player in countless team efforts, working tirelessly to the benefit of the whole instead of hogging the stage. From breading and baking to thickening, corn flour is a versatile pantry staple that lifts and supports countless recipes.
However, sometimes you don’t have corn flour on hand, or maybe the little bit that’s left in the pantry isn’t quite enough for your recipe. What can you do?
Don’t worry! There’s a few great substitutes, many of which are easy to find in your kitchen or supermarket and not too expensive at all. It’s all about matching the purpose and proportions for your needs, and you’ll forget all about the corn flour you were missing in the first place.
Some of the best corn flour substitutes are corn starch, rice flour, all-purpose flour, wheat flour, and potato flour. Check out this handy list of the best corn flour substitutes to see what they’re best suited for and how much to use.
What is Corn Flour?
Before we can go in depth with our corn flour substitutes, we’ll first need to look at corn flour itself. What is corn flour, and how does it work?
Simply put, it’s flour from corn. Corn flour is finely milled and made from dried corn kernels. It’s a whole grain flour that uses the entire kernel, including the hull, germ, and endosperm. Whole grain flours are a little healthier than others, as they’re super high in fiber which is great for digestion.
Corn flour is gluten free, too! It’s absolutely packed with fiber, protein, starch, vitamins, and minerals. It even comes in a few colors depending on the type of corn used, and can be white, yellow, or bluish in appearance.
Corn flour and masa harina are similar, but not the same. Masa harina is corn flour treated with an alkali like limewater.
Maize flour, however, is exactly the same as corn flour.
Corn Flour Uses
Corn flour has a slightly sweet flavor over an earthy base, not unlike corn itself. That makes sense, considering corn flour is pretty much the whole corn kernel ground into fine particles.
Raw cornflour, if you decide to taste it, is a little bitter, but when you bake, grill, or cook it, its natural sweetness and earthy flavor will become apparent. It’s a great alternative to wheat flour, particularly if you’re gluten intolerant.
Generally, we use corn flour to provide structure to foods and baked goods. It works really well with other star binding agents like eggs, and you can use it to bread meats and your favorite fried foods for a little extra crunch.
We usually prefer Bob’s Red Mill Organic Corn Flour, because it’s 100% organic. It’s ground by stone, and works very well for both baking and breading. It’s versatile, organic, and totally reasonably priced.
The 7 Best Corn Flour Substitutes
Now that you’re an expert on corn flour and all its uses, let’s dive into the wonderful world of cornflour substitutes. These can help you capture the flavor and texture of this MVP ingredient. Let’s take a look.
Because these are both derived from corn, this is an obvious first port of call. Cornstarch is also gluten free, and the starch and flour from corn are so similar to each other that some people still get them confused.
Cornstarch is made only using the starch from corn, not the rest of the kernel like corn flour. They look similar and have a nearly identical finely powdered texture, but cornstarch lacks the depth and strength of flavor of corn flour.
Although the two can be used interchangeably in some recipes, but in others they do not serve the same purpose. Use with caution!
Cornstarch is generally used as a thickening agent, while corn flour makes baked goods dense and crumbly. Cornstarch won’t be as great for baking as corn flour for this reason.
To substitute one for the other, use one tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a small amount of cold water for each single tablespoon of corn flour. The cold water helps prevent your cornstarch from clumping.
Argo’s 100% Pure Corn Starch is our recommendation, generally speaking, as it’s the most diverse cornstarch out there. Perfect for thickening sauces and gravies, but also pretty good for baking.
2. Rice Flour
Rice flour, like corn flour, comes from its namesake. It is made from finely ground grains of rice, producing a white, starchy powder similar to corn flour.
This flour is really common in Asia. You’ll find it in countless recipes, including soups, noodles, and some desserts. As corn flour is commonly used in the Americas and in Europe, so too is rice flour commonly used in Asia.
Rice flour, like corn flour, is gluten free, and is a great option for those avoiding gluten.
It’s a fantastic thickening agent. However, if you were looking to bread some meat, you’ll want to look elsewhere, as rice flour won’t provide the same satisfying crunch as corn flour.
When substituting corn flour for rice flour, simply use two tablespoons of rice flour mixed with water for one tablespoon of corn flour. The water can be hot or cold, and the rice flour will go colorless when mixed with water. This mixture is awesome for thickening clear soups and broths.
We recommend Anthony’s Brown Rice Flour, which is gluten free and has a slightly sweet, nutty taste to it.
3. All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose flour, also known as refined flour or just flour, is made from wheat grains without their brown covering. This smaller section of the wheat is milled into a fine white powder, which is an awesome all-purpose option. Use it for baking almost anything, including bread, cakes, pastries, muffins, and pancakes.
You can also use all-purpose flour when you’re deep frying food. You simply coat the food you’re frying in the flour and you’re good to go. It’s a great thickening agent for soups and sauces, too.
However, its taste and texture are not even close to that of corn flour when it comes to breading fried foods. It can make the food a little chewier and thicker. It lacks the light, crispy texture of corn flour.
Use two tablespoons of all purpose flour for each tablespoon of corn flour.
We like using White Lily’s All-Purpose Flour for our recipes. It is not, however, gluten free.
4. Wheat Flour
Wheat flour has been used for centuries to make a variety of foods. It’s full of nutrients, a true superfood. It’s loaded with starch as well as protein and fiber. This makes it a great substitute for corn flour, except for one thing.
It’s not gluten free.
If you want a gluten free option, this isn’t for you.
Use two tablespoons of wheat flour for one tablespoon of corn flour if you’re using this as a substitute. Mix the wheat flour with cold water to prevent clumping. For some recipes, such as tortillas, you’ll want to use a 1:1 ratio for your substitution.
It can thicken foods, but wheat flour is also great for baking and cooking.
We love King Arthur’s Whole Wheat Traditional Flour because it’s nutrient-dense and traditionally milled.
5. Potato Flour
Potato flour requires a little more effort to make than corn flour. You make potato flour by cooking, drying, and then grinding potatoes into a white, powdery starch. This is commonly used for baking and thickening.
It’s gluten free like corn flour, so if you’re making gluten free food it’s a great alternative.
Potato flour, like the humble potato itself, is high in carbs and fats, so you’ll want to take that into consideration if you’re calorie-conscious. Potato flour will also absorb a LOT of water, so be wary of using it to thicken soup or gravy. The best way to prevent your soup or gravy from overthickening is to only add your potato flour late in the cooking process.
It’s an awesome coating for meats and vegetables, too, as it brings a unique flavor to the recipe.
Substitute one tablespoon of potato flour for each tablespoon of corn flour. We recommend Bob’s Red Mill Potato Flour, made from 100% potatoes.
6. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is made from the arrowroot, a tropical plant. You can use it instead of corn flour as a thickening agent, particularly for clear broths or jellies. It’s also pretty useful for baking.
It’s easy to digest and is very high in carbs and protein. It isn’t perfect for making bread, but it does have a unique texture that some people love.
It will thicken your gravy faster than corn flour does, so we advise using 2 teaspoons of the powder to substitute for 1 tablespoon of corn flour.
Mix your arrowroot powder in cool water to make a slurry before you add it to any hot mixture to prevent lumps from forming.
We recommend Anthony’s Organic Arrowroot Flour, which is gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
Cornmeal is also made from milled, dried corn, but it has a totally different texture from corn flour.
It is coarser and grittier than the smooth, fine texture of cornflour. It’s also gluten free, but as a substitute for corn flour you can expect a serious difference in texture.
Use finely milled cornmeal if you can to mitigate this difference if need be.
Substitute one tablespoon of cornmeal for one tablespoon of corn flour.
You can even grind it yourself with a mortar and pestle if you like.
We recommend Bob’s Red Mill Medium Grind Cornmeal.
Baking Substitutes for Cornflour
We recommend highly structured substitutes like All-purpose flour and wheat flour.
On the other hand, for a coating on fried food, you’ll want to use cornstarch or potato flour. These are also our recommendations for thickening.