Cornstarch is one of a chef’s most precious ingredients that they can have on hand for recipes.
While not every recipe calls for it, it is the go-to thickening agent in recipes where your dish hasn’t boiled down as much as you expect, or to help make a sauce or soup just the right consistency and texture for your sauce or soup.
However, for many people with dietary restrictions, there is a lot of confusion over cornstarch, and whether or not it is okay for people who are gluten intolerant or people that are trying to stick to a vegan diet.
Well, that’s what we’re here to answer!
In this short guide, we are going to explain why most corn starches are safe to eat for vegans and people with gluten intolerances, where you should be careful, as well as a few alternatives you can try instead of cornstarch if you are concerned.
Is Cornstarch Gluten-Free & Vegan-Friendly?
Before we start covering other food items, we should probably explain how, why, and even if cornstarch is good for people on dietary restrictions.
Well, to sum up, the production of this ingredient, cornstarch is made from, obviously, corn kernels. The inside of the kernel also referred to as the endosperm, is removed from the outer coating, and ground into the fine powder that we know, use and love today.
So, because the corn that cornstarch comes from doesn’t contain gluten, neither does the powder, making it safe for gluten-intolerant people!
However, it should be noted that some manufacturers do sell cornstarch that is prepared alongside other ingredients and food items, so make sure that you check the brand you are purchasing before buying if you want to avoid gluten.
Coming from a completely plant-based product, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that cornstarch is also vegan-friendly, alongside being gluten-free!
So, the answer should be pretty clear at this point. Cornstarch is safe for vegans and gluten-intolerant people to eat or include in a recipe, or in their diet in general.
However, if you are concerned that you may accidentally buy a brand that includes additives in your cornstarch, you may want to look for a few alternatives.
Fortunately, while probably one of the most popular thickening agents, it is not the only one you can buy out there
One of the most popular thickening agents out there outside of cornstarch, arrowroot starch powder is probably one of your best options to choose from.
Similar to cornstarch, arrowroot starch is made by grinding down the roots of the tubular arrowroot plant.
This creates a similar white powder to cornstarch, whose similarities don’t stop at just their appearance. They also create a smooth texture when added to a soup or sauce as a thickening agent, as well as leaving a fine shine once thoroughly mixed in, just like cornstarch.
Plus, being made from a root, this powdery thickening agent is also vegan friendly, as well as containing no gluten, just like cornstarch.
If you need a thickening agent, and don’t want to or can’t use cornstarch, arrowroot is an excellent substitute.
Everyone knows what potatoes are. But what many people aren’t so aware of is that they also make an excellent thickening agent when prepared right!
When ground down and dried in the same fashion as arrowroot or cornstarch, potato starch functions just as well as a thickening agent, whilst also having many of the same beneficial traits, such as having no gluten, and being vegan friendly.
Plus, you don’t even have to alter the ratios that you are working with, so just use this starch powder to a 1:1 amount that you would cornstarch.
Many people are also not aware that some types of flowers can also be used as thickening agents, at least in certain circumstances.
Wheat flour is one of the best, keeping the gluten-friendliness factor that the previous options have, as well as the vegan ingredients that are used.
However, it should be noted that wheat flour isn’t quite as strong of a thickening agent as the other options, so you will need to use more of it than you would with any of the previous options.
Make sure to use around twice the amount of wheat flour as you would for cornstarch when using it for thickening purposes.
Tapioca flour is a similar powder ingredient that, like wheat flour, makes for a serviceable thickening agent if you don’t have any dedicated ones like corn or potato starch handy.
However, like with wheat flour, you’ll need to use about twice as much flour as you would normal cornstarch, so keep that in mind.
So, as you can see, cornstarch has quite a few alternatives that you can use.
And all of them, like cornstarch, is friendly for both vegans and gluten-intolerant people too!