Flour and cornstarch are two ingredients that are commonly used in cooking and baking. They both serve as thickening agents, but they have distinct differences. Flour is a common ingredient used in baking, while cornstarch is often used in savory dishes. But what happens if you run out of cornstarch and only have flour in your pantry? Can you use flour instead of cornstarch? In this blog post, we will explore the differences between flour and cornstarch and answer this question.
Differences between Flour and Cornstarch
Flour is a powdery substance made from grinding grains, seeds, or roots. It contains gluten, a protein that gives baked goods structure and elasticity. Cornstarch, on the other hand, is made from corn kernels and contains no gluten. Because of its lack of gluten, cornstarch is a popular ingredient for gluten-free cooking and baking.
Flour and cornstarch also have different thickening properties. Flour requires heat to activate its thickening power, while cornstarch thickens immediately when it comes in contact with liquid. This is why cornstarch is often used in dishes that require a clear and smooth texture, like sauces and custards, while flour is used in recipes that need a thicker, heartier texture, like stews and gravies.
When it comes to nutrition, flour and cornstarch have similar calorie counts, but flour is higher in protein and fiber. Cornstarch is a simple carbohydrate and can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, so it is not recommended for those with diabetes or on low-carb diets.
Pros and Cons of Using Flour Instead of Cornstarch
While flour and cornstarch are both used as thickening agents, there are pros and cons to using flour instead of cornstarch.
- Flour is readily available and inexpensive
- It can add a heartier texture to dishes
- It is a good source of protein and fiber
- Flour requires heat to activate its thickening power, which can result in a longer cooking time
- It can make dishes cloudy or opaque, which may not be desirable in certain recipes
- It may alter the flavor of the dish, depending on the type of flour used
When to Use Flour Instead of Cornstarch
Flour can be used instead of cornstarch in certain recipes, especially in dishes that require a heartier texture. Here are some examples:
- Stews and soups: Flour can be used to thicken stews and soups, giving them a heartier texture. To use flour as a thickener, combine it with water or broth to make a slurry, then add it to the stew or soup and cook until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Gravies: Flour is a common ingredient in gravies, as it gives them a thick and creamy texture. To make a gravy with flour, start by making a roux with equal parts flour and fat, like butter or oil. Cook the roux for a few minutes to eliminate the raw flour taste, then gradually add liquid, like broth or milk, whisking constantly until the desired thickness is achieved.
- Baked goods: Flour is a key ingredient in most baked goods, like bread, cakes, and cookies. It provides structure and texture to these foods and helps them rise.
How to Use Flour Instead of Cornstarch
If you’re going to use flour instead of cornstarch in a recipe, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Use more flour: Since flour is less potent than cornstarch, you’ll need to use more of it to achieve the same level of thickening. A good rule of thumb is to use twice as much flour as you would cornstarch. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, use 2 tablespoons of flour instead.
- Make a slurry: To prevent clumping, it’s best to mix the flour with a small amount of liquid to make a slurry before adding it to the dish. This will ensure that the flour dissolves evenly and doesn’t form lumps.
- Cook longer: Since flour requires heat to activate its thickening power, you may need to cook the dish for longer than you would if using cornstarch. This will give the flour time to thicken the sauce or gravy.
- Adjust seasoning: Keep in mind that using flour instead of cornstarch may alter the flavor of the dish, so you may need to adjust the seasoning accordingly. Taste the dish and add more salt or other seasonings as needed.
Recipes that Use Flour Instead of Cornstarch
Here are some recipes that use flour instead of cornstarch:
- Beef Stew: Beef stew is a classic comfort food that can be made even heartier by using flour instead of cornstarch. To make the stew, coat cubes of beef in flour, then brown them in a Dutch oven. Add chopped onions, carrots, and celery, along with beef broth and seasonings, and simmer until the beef is tender and the sauce is thick and hearty.
- Chicken Pot Pie: Chicken pot pie is another classic dish that can be made with flour instead of cornstarch. To make the filling, cook chicken in a skillet, then add vegetables like carrots, peas, and onions. Make a roux with flour and butter, then gradually whisk in chicken broth and milk to make a creamy sauce. Combine the sauce with the chicken and vegetables, then pour into a pie crust and bake until golden brown.
- Gravy: Gravy is a staple side dish that can be made with flour instead of cornstarch. To make gravy, start by making a roux with flour and butter, then gradually whisk in broth or milk until the desired thickness is achieved. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs like thyme or sage, then serve over mashed potatoes or roasted meats.
In conclusion, flour can be used instead of cornstarch in certain recipes, but it’s important to keep in mind the differences in their thickening properties and nutrition. Flour is a good option for dishes that require a heartier texture, like stews and gravies, but may alter the flavor of the dish and require a longer cooking time. If you’re going to use flour instead of cornstarch, be sure to adjust the amount and follow the steps carefully to achieve the best results. Happy cooking!