The Best Substitutes for Cornstarch

Craving pudding but out of cornstarch? You can still whip up a batch with one of these easy substitutes.

5 Cornstarch Substitutes set on a colorful background.
Alison Bickel

If you have plans to make a creamy batch of chocolate pudding, a decadent pie filling, or simply need to thicken gravy, you’ll likely need cornstarch. But what if you’re out or don’t keep the ingredient stocked in your pantry?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to make a trip out to the grocery store! These quick substitutes will do the trick—and you probably have at least one in your kitchen right at this moment.

What Is Cornstarch?

Cornstarch, sometimes known as corn flour, is a white powder made from the dried and ground endosperm of corn.

It’s most commonly used as a thickening agent in sauces, gravy, soups, puddings, and pie fillings because its starch molecules swell and gelatinize when heated, thereby thickening whatever it’s added to. 

Cornstarch is sometimes used in combination with flour when frying foods to lend extra crunch and a golden-brown color. It’s also occasionally used in baking, particular in cookies, to lend a crumbly yet tender and delicate texture.

5 Cornstarch Substitutes on a marbled background.
Alison Bickel

5 Cornstarch Substitutes

Depending on what you’re cooking or baking, these alternatives to cornstarch will work just as well as the original:

1. All-Purpose Flour

Of all the cornstarch substitutes, you’re most likely to have this one within reach. All-purpose flour is an excellent thickening option for gravy, soups, and pie fillings. Just note you may want to cook whatever you're thickening a couple minutes longer to get rid of the raw taste of the flour.

How to sub: Use 2 tablespoons of flour for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

2. Arrowroot

Arrowroot powder, also known as arrowroot starch or flour, is made from dried and ground arrowroot tuber. It’s best used to thicken sauces and gravies. Just be sure to add it soon before serving, as it doesn’t hold its thickening power for an extended period of time.

How to sub: Use a 1-to-1 substitution. It’s as strong a thickening agent as cornstarch.

3. Potato Starch

Potato starch, made from dried and ground potatoes, is a versatile cornstarch substitute. Use it to thicken gravies and soups, and in place of cornstarch when baking and frying.

How to sub: Use a 1-to-1 substitution. Be sure to whisk it well, as it has a tendency to clump!

4. Rice Flour

Rice flour is made from dried and ground medium- or long-grain white rice. It makes a fine cornstarch substitute for frying, making pudding, and especially baking, since it lends the same tenderness to baked goods as cornstarch.

How to sub: Use 2 tablespoons of rice flour for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

5. Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch, also known as tapioca flour, is made from dried and ground cassava tuber. It’s an excellent thickener for pie fillings and sauces. Just be careful not to boil it for too long, which can cause it to lose its thickening power.

How to sub: Use 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch for every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.