Can You Use Baking Powder Instead of Cornstarch?

by Charlie
Can You Use Baking Powder Instead of Cornstarch

Anyone who has ever run out of cornstarch in the kitchen will have spent time hunting around for a replacement. If you’ve got plenty of baking powder available, you might be wondering whether this will work instead.

Can you use baking powder instead of cornstarch? You can’t use baking powder as a replacement for cornstarch. Although the two may look somewhat similar, being white and powdery, they serve very different purposes in the kitchen, and they are not interchangeable. Baking powder is a leavening agent, while cornstarch is a thickener.

Can You Use Baking Powder Instead of Cornstarch?

No, you cannot use baking powder instead of cornstarch and get good results in most cases. Baking powder is used to help baked goods rise. It has quite a strong taste, so it will alter the flavor of the dish if you use it instead. Cornstarch has little flavor and is used as a thickener.

Cornstarch works well in sauces and stews, being used to absorb some of the liquid and make them thicker. You can stir it into most meals without any noticeable change in the flavor, and it will make the food thicker. You can put quite a lot of cornstarch into a meal without it affecting the taste.

By contrast, baking powder is usually used in cakes and other baked goods. It tends to be included in very small quantities so that the flavor isn’t noticeable in the baking. If you add a large amount of baking powder, you will certainly be able to taste it.

Will Baking Powder Thicken a Sauce?

Cornstarch is a good thickener because it absorbs water when its particles expand. However, baking powder doesn’t absorb liquids well. It may soak up a bit of moisture, but it generally melts when it gets wet.

Because of this, baking powder may not have the same effect on the meal as cornstarch, even if it doesn’t alter the flavor. It will leave your sauce thin and unpleasant.

Overall, therefore, you cannot use baking powder instead of cornstarch. It has too much flavor and it doesn’t behave in the same way, so it’s an unsuitable substitute.

What Happens If You Use Baking Powder Instead of Cornstarch?

If you put a small amount of baking powder in the dish, you may not particularly notice it. It will not make the sauce thicker, but it might not affect the flavor, and the meal will probably remain similar to its state before the baking powder was added.

If you put a large amount of baking powder in, it will probably ruin the meal. The powder is acidic and has a distinctive flavor that can have a major impact on the overall taste.

Even recipes that require baking powder usually only call for about a teaspoon, because it has such a strong flavor. Don’t use large quantities of baking powder in anything you cook.

What Substitutes Can You Use Instead of Baking Powder?

If you have run out of cornstarch, you might be unsure about what else will work, but there are plenty of substitutes that are better than baking powder. For example, you can use ordinary flour, rice flour, arrowroot, tapioca, xanthan gum, and pureed vegetables.

Any of these should help to make sauces and stews thicken, either because they are thick themselves (like pureed vegetables), or because they have the ability to absorb water and expand. That means you can add almost any of the above to a sauce that is too thin, and it should work to make it thicker. The particles will expand when they hit the water, soaking it up.

If you want to use wheat flour instead of cornstarch, you will need to use slightly more, because it doesn’t contain as much starch. Mix it with a bit of water to create a paste before adding it to a stew, because otherwise it may form lumps.

Rice flour should similarly be mixed with water before you add it to a stew, or it will become lumpy. You will again need more rice flour, so for every tablespoon of cornstarch, you should add two tablespoons of rice flour.

The same goes for arrowroot, which is considered a particularly good thickener. It forms a clear gel when mixed with liquids, and it’s great for bulking out sauces. You should again use about double the amount of arrowroot as you would cornstarch.

You can do the same if you have tapioca flour. Because cornstarch has so much starch in it, most alternatives will need to be doubled in order to produce the same results. However, if you are using xanthan gum, use only a pinch or two for a teaspoon of cornstarch. It thickens quickly and effectively, and may alter the taste if you add too much.

Pureed vegetables and heat reduction are further options for thickening a sauce. Cook some vegetables that will work well with your recipe, and then process them in a food processor and tip them in to lend your sauce a bit more bulk.

Alternatively, simmer your sauce over a low heat for a long time so that the water evaporates and the sauce gets thicker.

Can You Use Cornstarch Instead of Baking Powder?

You cannot use cornstarch instead of baking powder, because it has a neutral pH. Baking powder is acidic and it reacts with alkalines in the recipe to create a fizzy reaction that helps baked goods to rise. Adding cornstarch will not have the same effect.

In most cases, adding cornstarch to a recipe that doesn’t call for it will ruin the recipe, because the cornstarch will soak up the liquid, making the recipe too dry. It will not aid the rising, so the recipe will stay flat and unappealing. Altogether, cornstarch will not work as a replacement for baking powder.

Final Thoughts

You can’t use baking powder instead of cornstarch or cornstarch instead of baking powder. These two ingredients serve very different purposes and have very different properties, so they aren’t suitable for replacing each other. You can replace cornstarch with another starchy thickener, such as flour, tapioca flour, or arrowroot.

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