Cornstarch is one of the most popular starches globally, and it is mainly used as a thickening agent for soups and sauces.
However, there are concerns about whether it contains gluten and is safe for people with celiac or other gluten-related diseases.
Is cornstarch gluten-free?
Yes, cornstarch is gluten-free because it is a by-product of corn, a gluten-free grain. Although in some cases, this might not be the case.
Continue reading to learn more about cornstarch and its gluten content.
What is cornstarch?
Cornstarch is a cream powder obtained from the wet grinding of whole corn grains. It is made by removing the outer shell of the corn kernels, leaving behind its starchy white part, called the endosperm.
This endosperm extracted is ground into a fine powder known as cornstarch.
Uses of cornstarch
Aside from being used for sauce thickening and baking, people often use cornstarch in the following ways;
- DIY silver polishes
- As stain removal
- Fruit glazing
- Cheap remedy for skin itches and sunburn
- Matte nail polish
- Untying knots
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat plants and several grains, and it works as a binding agent to hold processed foods together and give them shape.
The only concern about this protein is that the body cannot completely break it down. As a result, the undigested gluten moves to permanently reside in the small intestine.
While most people can handle the indigestible gluten with no problems, gluten can trigger a severe autoimmune response in other people.
This condition is known as celiac disease, a chronic digestive disorder that damages the small intestine, preventing it from absorbing nutrients.
Because of this, many people try to avoid gluten as much as possible.
Does cornstarch contain gluten?
Cornstarch is equally gluten-free since corn does not contain gluten and is considered safe for a gluten-free diet.
The only occasion your corn starch may contain gluten is if it was exposed to wheat or other gluten ingredients; this can happen if the grains were processed in a shared facility.
So, you’ll want to be sure that the brand you’re buying isn’t processed with the same equipment as other gluten-containing grains.
To do this, look out for the note “gluten-free” on the cornstarch’s packet before purchasing the product. This is especially important if you have allergic reactions to gluten or have celiac.
What are the gluten-free substitutes for cornstarch?
If you are not sure your cornstarch is gluten-free or want to avoid corn altogether, you can opt for other grain substitutes known to be 100% gluten-free.
Listed below are some popular ones.
Arrowroot is a white powdery starch made from the roots of the Maranta arundinacea, a plant grown in the tropics. It is high in fiber and also has an excellent thickening effect.
Ground flaxseed is another good cornstarch alternative, and it is obtained from the seed of the flax plant and is highly nutritious.
This is available as flour, pearls, and flakes.
To get the best thickening effect from tapioca, substitute one tablespoon of cornstarch with two tablespoons of tapioca flour.
Guar gum is one of the most natural gluten-free foods. It is obtained from seeds of the guar plant, a legume plant native to India.
It is an excellent thickening agent, especially in baking.
This is made by crushing and drying potatoes into powder. As well as carbs, potato starch also contains fats and protein.
Rice flour is another substitute for cornstarch.
Use the same measurement ratio as tapioca (1:2).
The fermentation of glucose and sucrose produces xanthan gum. It is gluten-free and is safe for people with celiac.
Trusted gluten-free cornstarch brands to purchase
Perhaps you are unsure of what cornstarch products to buy; below are some top gluten-free brands to choose from.
Ways to use cornstarch in your diet
As sauce thickeners
To thicken sauces and other liquids, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with cold broth or water in a small bowl and stir till it forms a smooth paste (slurry). Then whisk the slurry into the hot simmering liquid you want to thicken.
As a substitute for cake flour
You can mix cornstarch with plain (all-purpose) flour when you don’t have cake flour.
Make fluffy omelets
Mix a tiny amount of cornstarch to your egg, beat, and cook the omelet.
Make fried food crispy
Frying with cornstarch can give your meal a nice crispier look and taste.
To do this, dip your food into a slurry before dropping it into the hot oil.
Frequently asked questions
Is modified cornstarch gluten-free?
Since modified cornstarch is made from corn, a non-gluten-containing grain, it is gluten-free.
Is cornstarch vegan?
Yes, non-genetically modified cornstarch is vegan. It is made of 100% corn kernels.
Is cornstarch the same as cornflour?
No. cornstarch should not be confused with cornflour. Cornstarch is made from processed corn kernels, while cornflour is derived from dried corn.
How many calories does a tablespoon of cornstarch contain?
Cornstarch contains about 30 calories per tablespoon.
How do I know if my cornstarch is gluten-free?
There is no definite measure to check if your cornstarch is gluten-free; however, you can rely on the integrity of the gluten-free label in the cornstarch pack.
But if you have reservations about the product, you can consider other starch products like arrowroot and ground flaxseed which are 100% gluten-free cornstarch substitutes.
Corn and cornstarch are gluten-free but can be contaminated if exposed to gluten-containing grains like rye, barley, and wheat.
If you are on a gluten-free diet or show allergies to gluten, you need to observe non-gluten cornstarch brands before purchasing.
Alternatively, you can go for starches like tapioca and ground flaxseed; they have the same properties as cornstarch and will give similar results in your recipes.