Find out if cornstarch is safe for a gluten-free diet, the health benefits, and discover some gluten-free cornstarch brands.
Cornstarch is a common ingredient in many cooking and baking recipes. It is often used as a thickener for sauces, soups, and even puddings. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you may have wondered if this ingredient is safe to use if you’ve seen it on ingredient lists or called for in recipes.
In this post, we’re going to answer the question “Is cornstarch gluten-free?” by diving into what cornstarch is made of, how it’s made, and discussing if there’s cause for concern about gluten hiding in this ingredient.
What is cornstarch made of?
Cornstarch is the carbohydrate, or endosperm, extracted from corn kernels (source). Cornstarch comes from just one ingredient: corn.
In some parts of the world, cornstarch is called corn flour, and that name tends to make folks who are gluten-free cause to pause and think about if this ingredient is safe for them to use.
Though the term flour is often associated with wheat and gluten, cornstarch and cornflour are in fact, gluten-free as it is made from only corn.
How is cornstarch made?
Cornstarch is made by removing the hard shell of corn kernels to leave behind the starchy soft white parts of the inside of the kernel (think popcorn). This part of the corn kernel is called the endosperm and is the carbohydrate of the kernel.
With this starchy part of the kernel removed, it is then ground into a fine powder that can be used in cooking and baking.
What is cornstarch used for?
Cornstarch is used for a number of different tasks in the kitchen, such as:
- Thickening sauces, marinades, stews, or soups
- Making pudding
- To thicken pie fillings
- To help keep ingredients from sticking together in recipes or in manufacturing (such as shredded cheese)
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Is cornstarch gluten-free?
Since corn is not a gluten-containing grain and is naturally gluten-free, it is considered safe for a gluten-free diet.
You’ll want to be sure that the brand you’re using isn’t processed on the same equipment as other gluten-containing grains. If they are shared equipment, the risk of cross contamination is higher and you may in fact be ingesting gluten without knowing.
You can look for a note on the packaging of the cornstarch you buy to have the words “gluten-free” on them.
What can I substitute cornstarch with?
If you avoid cornstarch or don’t have any on hand for your recipe, you can also substitute this ingredient with arrowroot starch, tapioca starch, potato starch, or a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend.
These have the same properties as cornstarch and will give the similar results in your recipes.
Gluten-free Cornstarch Brands
If you’re looking for some brands you can count on to be gluten-free, look for some of these options next time you’re at the store.
If you’ve been on the hunt for a gluten-free cornstarch, I hope this post has pointed you in the right direction. Feel free to add cornstarch to your gluten-free diet, as long as you’ve done your due diligence to make sure the brand you’ve chosen is gluten-free.
If you have more questions about what foods are gluten-free, please check out the FAQ’s in my Gluten and Dairy-free Basics.