Corn Flour Vs Cornstarch

When it comes to cooking and baking, corn flour and cornstarch are two commonly used ingredients, especially in gluten-free recipes. While they may seem similar, there are distinct differences between the two that can greatly impact the outcome of your dishes. So, let’s take a closer look at the differences between corn flour and cornstarch and explore their various uses and benefits.

Key Takeaways:

  • Corn flour and cornstarch have different compositions and culinary applications.
  • Cornstarch is primarily used as a thickening agent in sauces and custards.
  • Corn flour contains not only starch but also fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat.
  • The terminology for cornstarch and corn flour differs between the UK and the US.
  • Both yellow and white corn flour can be used interchangeably in recipes.

What is Cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a fine white powder that is extracted from the starchy endosperm of corn grains. It is obtained through a process of separating the starch from the rest of the corn grain, including the bran and germ. This extraction process involves steeping the corn in water and then separating the starch by centrifugation or sedimentation.

The resulting cornstarch is almost 100% starch, making it a highly pure and refined product. It does not contain any fiber, protein, or fat, which contributes to its white and powdery appearance.


Cornstarch is widely used as a thickening agent in various culinary applications. Its ability to absorb and hold water allows it to effectively thicken sauces, gravies, soups, and custards. When heated, the starch granules in cornstarch swell and gelatinize, creating a thick and smooth texture.

Due to its neutral flavor, cornstarch does not alter the taste of dishes significantly, making it a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes. Its fine texture also ensures that it dissolves easily and creates a velvety consistency without any lumps.

What is Corn Flour?

Corn flour is a versatile ingredient that is created by grinding entire dried corn kernels into a fine powder. This process results in a flour that not only contains starch but also fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat. With its golden hue and rich texture, corn flour adds depth of flavor and unique characteristics to various dishes.

The Two Varieties of Corn Flour

There are two commonly used types of corn flour: yellow corn flour and white corn flour. Yellow corn flour is made from yellow corn kernels, while white corn flour is made from white corn kernels. Both varieties can be used interchangeably in recipes, allowing for flexibility and creativity in the kitchen.

The Nutritional Benefits of Corn Flour

Corn flour is a good source of protein and fiber, making it a valuable addition to a well-balanced diet. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, while fiber promotes healthy digestion. The combination of these nutrients in corn flour contributes to its satiety factor, helping you feel fuller for longer.

Using Corn Flour in Culinary Applications

Corn flour is widely used in a variety of culinary applications. Its fine texture makes it ideal for baking, where it adds structure and moisture to breads, cakes, and pastries. Corn flour can also be used as a thickening agent in soups, stews, and sauces, providing a velvety texture and enhancing the overall flavor of the dish.

Cornstarch vs Corn Flour: US and UK Terminology

The terminologies for cornstarch and corn flour can vary between the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), leading to confusion for individuals who are not familiar with the specific terms used in each country. In the UK, cornstarch is commonly referred to as cornflour, while corn flour in the US is equivalent to maize flour in the UK.

This variation in terminology can be attributed to the cultural and regional differences in the usage of these ingredients. It is important to note these differences when following recipes or purchasing products, especially when navigating between US and UK sources.

To provide clarity, let’s summarize the key terminologies:

Terminology US UK
Cornstarch Cornstarch Cornflour
Corn Flour Maize Flour Corn Flour

By understanding the differences in terminology, you can ensure that you select the correct ingredient for your recipes and avoid any confusion in the kitchen.

*Please note: The term “maize flour” may refer to a different product in the US or in other countries, so always refer to the specific terminology used in the region you are in.

Now that you’re aware of the terminological differences, let’s explore the uses of cornstarch and corn flour in gluten-free baking.

Cornstarch vs Corn Flour

Uses of Cornstarch and Corn Flour in Gluten-Free Baking

Both cornstarch and corn flour play crucial roles in gluten-free baking, offering unique properties that contribute to the texture and flavor of baked goods. Understanding how to use these ingredients properly will help you achieve delicious and satisfying results in your gluten-free creations.

1. Cornstarch

Cornstarch, derived from the starchy endosperm of corn grains, is a versatile ingredient widely used in gluten-free baking. It serves as an excellent thickening agent, but its benefits extend beyond that.

When used in baking, cornstarch:

  • Contributes to the lightness and fluffiness of cakes, cookies, and pastries.
  • Absorbs moisture, leading to a tender crumb.
  • Helps create a smooth texture in custards and puddings.
  • Enhances the structure of gluten-free breads and doughs.

To substitute wheat flour in gluten-free recipes, you can use cornstarch as a 1:1 ratio replacement. However, keep in mind that cornstarch lacks protein, so it is best combined with other gluten-free flours to maintain structure and add nutritional value to your baked goods.

2. Corn Flour

Corn flour, obtained by grinding dried corn kernels into a fine powder, offers distinct benefits in gluten-free baking. It has a unique flavor profile and adds structure to various baked goods.

When incorporating corn flour into your gluten-free recipes:

  • Expect a slightly sweet and nutty taste, which enhances the overall flavor of bread, muffins, and pancakes.
  • Benefit from the protein content in corn flour, which helps provide structure and improve the overall texture of gluten-free baked goods.
  • Combine corn flour with other gluten-free flours like rice flour or tapioca flour for a comprehensive flour blend that delivers optimal results.

With its rich flavor and structural contributions, corn flour is often a key ingredient in cornbread, tortillas, and other traditional corn-based recipes.

gluten-free baking

Finding the Balance

The key to successful gluten-free baking is finding the right balance between cornstarch and corn flour in your recipes. This ensures a harmonious combination of lightness, structure, and flavor in your gluten-free baked goods.

Experimentation and adaptation are encouraged, as each recipe may demand specific ratios and combinations of these ingredients. It’s advised to follow tried-and-tested gluten-free recipes to achieve the best results, initially, before exploring your own variations.

Now that you understand the distinctive uses of cornstarch and corn flour in gluten-free baking, you can confidently create a wide array of delectable treats that are free from gluten but bursting with flavor and texture.

Yellow Corn Flour vs White Corn Flour

When it comes to corn flour, two common varieties that often come up in recipes are yellow corn flour and white corn flour. Many people believe that the color of the corn determines its sweetness, but this is actually a myth. The yellow hue of yellow corn flour comes from carotene, not sugar content. In terms of flavor, both yellow and white corn flour offer a deliciously distinctive taste that adds depth to your dishes.

Yellow corn flour and white corn flour can be used interchangeably in recipes, as they have similar properties and can achieve similar results. The main difference between the two lies in the color imparted to the final dish. Yellow corn flour can give your food a vibrant yellow hue, while white corn flour preserves the natural color of the other ingredients. Ultimately, the choice between yellow and white corn flour depends on the aesthetic appeal you’re aiming for in your dish.

Uses of Yellow Corn Flour and White Corn Flour

The versatility of both yellow and white corn flour is evident in the wide range of dishes they can be used in. From savory to sweet, the possibilities are endless. Here are some popular uses for each:

  • Yellow Corn Flour:
    • Perfect for making tortillas, cornbread, and other Mexican-inspired dishes.
    • Provides a slightly sweet and rich flavor, adding depth to your baked goods.
    • Offers a vibrant yellow color to your dishes, enhancing their visual appeal.
  • White Corn Flour:
    • Ideal for creating delicate batters for frying, such as tempura.
    • Delivers a mild taste, allowing the flavors of other ingredients to shine through.
    • Preserves the natural color of your dishes, making it a versatile choice for a wide range of recipes.

Both yellow corn flour and white corn flour are excellent additions to your pantry, providing you with endless possibilities in your culinary adventures.

yellow and white corn flour

Yellow Corn Flour White Corn Flour
Rich, slightly sweet flavor Mild taste, allows other flavors to shine through
Imparts vibrant yellow color to dishes Preserves natural color of dishes
Ideal for Mexican dishes like tortillas and cornbread Suitable for delicate batters like tempura

Corn Flour vs Cornmeal (Polenta)

When it comes to corn-based ingredients, corn flour and cornmeal (also known as polenta) offer distinct differences in coarseness and texture. Understanding these variations is essential, especially in gluten-free recipes where the right choice can enhance the overall quality and taste of your dishes.

Cornmeal is known for its coarser grind, resulting in a gritty texture. This type of corn product is commonly used to make classic cornbread, adding a delightful crunch and earthy flavor to the dish. Its unique coarseness contributes to the characteristic texture of cornbread, making it a favorite among corn lovers.


Corn flour, on the other hand, is finely ground and boasts a floury texture. This fine consistency makes it ideal for use in gluten-free recipes, providing a smooth and consistent texture to baked goods. With its subtle flavor, corn flour adds depth to various dishes while lending a soft and tender mouthfeel.

It’s important to note that corn flour and cornmeal are not interchangeable in gluten-free recipes. Due to their different coarseness and texture, using one instead of the other can significantly impact the outcome of your dishes. So, be sure to choose the right ingredient based on the recipe’s requirements to achieve the desired results.

Comparing Corn Flour and Cornmeal

Corn Flour Cornmeal (Polenta)
Finely ground Coarsely ground
Floury texture Gritty texture
Used in gluten-free baking Used for cornbread and polenta dishes

As seen in the table above, corn flour and cornmeal have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different culinary purposes. By understanding their coarseness and texture, you can make informed decisions when selecting the appropriate ingredient for your gluten-free recipes.

Corn Flour vs Masa Harina

While both corn flour and masa harina are derived from corn, they have distinct differences in terms of their texture, preparation, and culinary applications.

Differences between Corn Flour and Masa Harina

  1. Corn Flour:
  • Made by grinding dried corn kernels into a fine powder.
  • Has a smooth and floury texture.
  • Contains fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat.
  • Can be made from either yellow corn or white corn kernels.
  • Used in various recipes, such as gluten-free baking and thickening sauces.
  • Masa Harina:
    • Milled from corn kernels that have been soaked in a solution to remove the hull.
    • Has a coarse texture, similar to a fine cornmeal.
    • Does not contain the same proportions of fiber, protein, and fat as corn flour.
    • Primarily used in Latin American cuisine to make traditional dishes like corn tortillas and tamales.

    Corn Tortillas and Latin American Dishes

    Masa harina is the key ingredient for making authentic corn tortillas, a staple in Latin American cuisine. The combination of masa harina, water, and a touch of salt forms the dough for corn tortillas, which are then pressed and cooked on a hot griddle. The result is a flavorful and versatile tortilla that can be used as a base for various fillings and toppings.

    In addition to corn tortillas, masa harina is also used in the preparation of other Latin American dishes such as tamales, pupusas, and gorditas. The unique texture and taste of masa harina contribute to the authenticity and distinctiveness of these traditional recipes.

    Can Corn Flour Be Substituted for Masa Harina?

    No, corn flour cannot be used as a direct substitute for masa harina in recipes that specifically call for masa harina. The differences in texture, flavor, and consistency will significantly alter the outcome of the dish. Masa harina has undergone a specific soaking and grinding process that gives it its unique properties for making corn tortillas and other Latin American dishes.

    If you don’t have masa harina on hand and need a substitution, consider using a mixture of cornmeal and all-purpose flour instead. While this won’t replicate the exact flavor and texture of masa harina, it can be a suitable alternative in a pinch.

    Corn Flour Masa Harina
    Smooth and floury texture Coarse texture similar to fine cornmeal
    Used in recipes such as gluten-free baking Primarily used in Latin American dishes
    Contains fiber, protein, and some fat Different proportions of fiber, protein, and fat
    Can be made from yellow or white corn kernels Milled from corn kernels soaked and dehulled

    It’s important to use the appropriate ingredients for authentic and delicious Latin American dishes. Masa harina brings a unique flavor and texture to traditional recipes like corn tortillas, making it an essential ingredient in Latin American cooking.

    Can You Substitute Cornstarch for Corn Flour (and vice versa)?

    When it comes to gluten-free baking, the choice between cornstarch and corn flour is crucial, as they serve different purposes and possess distinct properties. While it may be tempting to substitute one for the other, it is important to understand their differences and the impact it can have on your recipe.


    Cornstarch is a fine and powdery substance that serves as a powerful thickening agent in cooking and baking. Its ability to absorb and bind liquids makes it ideal for creating smooth sauces, gravies, and custards. In gluten-free baking, cornstarch helps lighten the texture, resulting in a soft and tender final product.

    Corn Flour:

    Corn flour, on the other hand, is derived from the entire corn kernel and is richer in protein, fiber, and fat. It contributes to the flavor, structure, and color of gluten-free bakes. Corn flour is often used in recipes for bread, muffins, and pancakes, where its distinctive taste and nutritional properties can shine.

    Due to these fundamental differences, substituting cornstarch for corn flour, or vice versa, can lead to unsatisfactory outcomes. The starchy nature of cornstarch cannot provide the same structure and flavor as corn flour, while using corn flour as a thickening agent may result in a gritty texture.

    However, fear not! If you find yourself in a recipe bind, there are alternative starches and flours that can be used as substitutes for both cornstarch and corn flour in gluten-free baking. Popular alternatives include arrowroot starch, potato starch, and tapioca flour, each with its own unique properties and benefits.

    Experimenting with different substitutes can yield exciting and delicious results in your gluten-free creations. Just be sure to consider the desired outcome of your recipe and choose a substitute that aligns with your culinary goals.

    Further Reading and Gluten-Free Baking Basics

    To gain a deeper understanding of corn-based products and their uses in gluten-free baking, there are several recommended articles and resources available for further reading. Additionally, it is beneficial to explore the fundamentals of gluten-free baking to enhance your knowledge and skills in this area.

    Recommended Articles

    • Gluten-Free Baking Basics: A Comprehensive Guide
    • Essential Tips for Successful Gluten-Free Baking
    • Getting Started with a Gluten-Free Diet: A Beginner’s Guide

    Useful Resources

    Here are some additional resources that can help you expand your knowledge and skills in gluten-free baking:

    • Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Tips
    • King Arthur Baking: Gluten-Free Baking Guide
    • Gluten Intolerance Group: Gluten-Free Baking Resources

    By diving into these articles and resources, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to confidently experiment with cornstarch, corn flour, and other gluten-free ingredients in your baking creations. Enjoy your gluten-free baking journey!


    In conclusion, cornstarch and corn flour are two distinct ingredients with different composition and culinary uses. Understanding the differences between them is crucial for successful cooking and baking, especially in gluten-free recipes. By utilizing their unique properties, you can enhance the texture, taste, and overall quality of your dishes.

    Differences between Cornstarch and Corn Flour

    Cornstarch Corn Flour
    Extracted from the starchy endosperm of corn grains Made by grinding entire dried corn kernels
    Almost 100% starch, no fiber, protein, or fat Contains starch, fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat
    Mainly used as a thickening agent in sauces and custards Contributes flavor and structure to baked goods
    Used in gluten-free recipes to enhance fluffiness Used in gluten-free recipes for added flavor

    By knowing when to use cornstarch and when to use corn flour, you can achieve the desired results in your cooking and baking endeavors. Whether you’re thickening a sauce or adding flavor to a gluten-free cake, these ingredients have their unique roles and benefits.

    Happy Baking!

    If you’re enthusiastic about baking, look no further than our newsletter for the latest baking recipes and tips. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting, our curated collection of recipes will inspire you to create delicious gluten-free treats using cornstarch and corn flour.

    Expand your baking skills and explore the endless possibilities that cornstarch and corn flour offer. From fluffy cakes and cookies to crispy breadings and crusts, these versatile ingredients will take your gluten-free creations to the next level. Discover new techniques, experiment with flavors, and wow your friends and family with your delectable homemade baked goods. The possibilities are truly limitless!

    Subscribe to our newsletter today to stay updated with the latest baking trends and get access to exclusive recipes, helpful tips, and expert advice. Get ready to unleash your creativity in the kitchen and enjoy the joy of baking with cornstarch and corn flour. So put on your apron, preheat that oven, and let’s get baking! Happy baking!

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