Cornstarch vs Corn Flour: What’s the Difference & Substitutes

Some recipes call for cornstarch, others corn flour. What gives? Are cornstarch and cornflour the same thing? Can they be used interchangeably, or are they polar opposites? While cornstarch and corn flour are made from corn, they are not the same.

Corn flour is made by grinding whole, dried corn kernels into a fine, yellow powder. It is used similarly to other types of flour. Cornstarch, on the other hand, is more refined. It is made from the starchy center of a corn kernel and used mainly as a thickening agent.

Well, hey, there! I’m Michelle, and I love baking. My pantry is filled with tons of ingredients, including cornstarch and corn flour. Throughout my baking journey, I have had to learn about different components, including these two. I’m going to share everything I know.

Find out more about cornstarch vs corn flour! 

Cornstarch vs Corn Flour: Key Differences

It’s true that cornstarch and corn flour are both made from corn. However, they aren’t the same product. There are some critical differences between the two, from their appearance to how they’re used in baking.

Let’s take a closer look at the dissimilarities.

1. What They’re Made From

As I mentioned previously, cornstarch and corn flour are both products from corn. That doesn’t mean they’re exactly the same, though.

Corn flour comes from the entire kernel. The corn kernels are dried and ground to make a yellow powder known as corn flour.

Cornstarch is solely made from the starchy innards of a corn kernel. 

2. Nutritional Content

Another key difference between corn flour and cornstarch is their nutritional content.

Because corn flour is made from the whole kernel, it contains added nutrients. For instance, corn flour includes three grams of protein and two grams of fiber per ¼ cup. It also has several vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B and magnesium.

Cornstarch is made the starchy center of a corn kernel and, therefore, lacks nutrients. It is mainly made up of carbohydrates.

3. Flavor Profile

Another difference between cornstarch and corn flour is the flavor. 

Cornstarch has next to zero flavors, which is why it’s used as a top-notch thickener in many recipes, from soups to sauces.

Corn flour has a mild flavor that combines sweetness with earthy tones. It provides a subtle corn taste to any dish it accompanies, such as pancakes.

4. How They’re Used

The final dissimilarity between these two ingredients is how they’re used.

Cornstarch is primarily used as a thickener.

Corn flour is used like most other flours. It is predominantly used in thicker, coarser items, though, like bread and donuts.

Can You Use Cornstarch Instead of Corn Flour?

Cornstarch and corn flour have similar names. They even look relatively alike. And, since they come from corn kernels, it’s easy to see why people might think these two components can be used interchangeably.

However, cornstarch and corn flour cannot be used interchangeably.

Each product serves very different purposes in baking and cooking and cannot be swapped for one another.

Top 2 Substitutes for Corn Flour

If your recipe calls for corn flour, but you don’t have any on hand, don’t reach for the cornstarch. Here are the top two substitutes for corn flour that’ll work like a charm.

1. All-Purpose Flour

Ah, all-purpose flour, is there anything you can’t do?

All-purpose flour is a kitchen staple. It is used for just about anything, from cakes to cookies, pizzas to fried chicken.

Needless to say, it’s an excellent sub for corn flour. The best part is that the flavor and texture will hardly change too.

When using AP flour instead of corn flour, double the amount (2:1 ratio). So, if your recipe calls for one cup of corn flour, you’ll use two cups of AP flour.

2. Cornmeal

OK, so we’ve discussed corn flour and cornstarch. Great. But did you know that another corn-derived product is used for baking and cooking? It’s called cornmeal, essentially the same as corn flour – the only difference is that it’s milled differently, giving it a gritter texture.

If you don’t mind your recipe coming out with a bit more texture and crunch, you can go the cornmeal route. Use in a 1:1 ratio.

Top 2 Substitutes for Cornstarch

What if your recipe needs cornstarch, but you’re all out? No worries. Here are the top two swaps for cornstarch.

1. Potato Starch

Potato starch is undeniably the best alternative to cornstarch.

Potato starch is made from crushed potatoes with a mild flavor and easily thickens. Therefore, it’s a top-notch swap for cornstarch. You won’t be able to tell the difference between these two ingredients.

Use potato starch for cornstarch in a 1:1 ratio.

2. Rice Flour

The second option is rice flour.

Rice flour works in the same way as potato starch, making it an excellent alternative. It has a mild flavor and is colorless when added to other ingredients, so you won’t have to worry about ruining your dish.

Use rice flour in a 1:1 ratio. 


I hope you learned everything you wanted to know about cornstarch and corn flour. If not, I have included a few more questions below so you can learn more!

Can I just use flour instead of cornstarch?

You can use all-purpose flour instead of cornstarch in a 2:1 ratio. However, keep in mind that using all-purpose flour will render a thicker result. Your product will also look more opaque.

Can you substitute baking powder for corn flour?

Unfortunately, you cannot use baking powder instead of cornstarch. 

Can you thicken without cornstarch?

There are many ways to thicken without using cornstarch. The most straightforward swap is to use all-purpose flour in a 2:1 ratio. However, you can also reach for potato starch, rice flour, arrowroot powder, and tapioca powder.

Cornstarch and Corn Flour Are Very Different!

Although they look and sound the same, cornstarch and corn flour are quite different. Cornstarch is made from the innards, and corn flour is made from the whole kernel. They can’t be used interchangeably, so you’ll need to find a different substitution.

Do you like cornstarch? Do you like corn flour? Do you have anything to add?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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