If you are looking for a good replacement for cornstarch in a variety of recipes, you should try out xanthan gum. This food additive is commonly used in gluten-free baking to provide elasticity and stickiness.
What is xanthan gum?
Xanthan gum is a food additive commonly used in gluten-free baking, though this isn’t its only application. It’s a fine powder made from fermented corn sugar and can act as a thickening agent or provide elasticity.
This white powder is great if you have celiac disease and need to follow a gluten-free diet, but love to bake things like bread, cake and cookies. Overall, using xanthan gum in gluten-free baked foods is the better option compared to leaving it out. It really improves the texture of the final product.
What is cornstarch?
Cornstarch, or sometimes spelled corn starch, is a white powdery substance which acts as a great thickening agent in a variety of dishes. It is truly a pantry staple and is a common ingredient in a variety of Asian sauces and Mexican dishes.
When adding cornstarch to a hot soup or sauce, be sure to create a cornstarch slurry, which is a thin white liquid made by combining cornstarch and water. If you fail to do this, the cornstarch will form little clumps that won’t dissolve in the liquid.
To create a cornstarch slurry, combine one part cornstarch with three parts cold water. For example, one tablespoon of cornstarch and three tablespoons of cold water could be used in a big pot of soup to thicken it up.
Is xanthan gum a good substitute for cornstarch?
Xanthan gum can be a great substitute for cornstarch since they are both thickening agents. If you are making a soup, gravy or sauce and need it to be thicker, both cornstarch and xanthan gum will do the job, and do it well.
Some people choose xanthan gum instead of cornstarch because they have an allergy to corn or they prefer a lower carb option. Either way, it is a good replacement. It can also be a good choice if you simply don’t have any cornstarch on hand or dislike the taste.
How to use xanthan gum as a substitute
For similar results, use ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum to replace 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Since it’s a much more powerful thickener compared to cornstarch, you will only need a small amount.
Unlike cornstarch, you will not want to make a slurry with cold water. Xanthan gum will form clumps in both cold and warm water. Instead, combine the xanthan gum with oil for the best results.
Start with one part xanthan gum to five parts oil. For example, you can mix ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum with 1 ¼ teaspoons of oil or ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum with 2 ½ teaspoons of oil. The final product should be well combined with no lumps.
Overall, xanthan gum is a good choice for thickening up your soups, gravies or sauces. It works great in place of cornstarch, just be sure to mix it with a bit of oil beforehand to avoid clumping in the cooking process.
What recipes use cornstarch?
Cornstarch is used in a variety of dishes from across the world. It’s commonly used in Asian cooking in sauces as well as to coat pieces of meat or tofu for frying. Here are a few recipes on my blog that use cornstarch:
- Crispy Vegan Air Fryer Korean Cauliflower
- Japanese Style Mapo Tofu
- Salt and Chili Chicken
- Air Fryer Sesame Tofu
Is xanthan gum bad for you?
Good news, xanthan gum is not bad for you. In large amounts, it may cause some gastrointestinal distress, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for the small amount found in food.
Along with this, there are some health benefits of xanthan gum. It can be used for lowering blood sugar levels and total cholesterol for those with diabetes, as a laxative or as a saliva substitute for those with dry mouth.
One teaspoon of xanthan gum contains about 10 calories, 2.4 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of fat or protein. It provides very minimal amounts of potassium, sodium and iron. Xanthan gum is not considered a good source of any of these nutrients.
The best xanthan gum brands
If you are doing a lot of gluten-free cooking, you will need to get some xanthan gum at the grocery store or online. Here are a few of the best brands to purchase from.
Bob’s Red Mill
This brand is my favorite when it comes to all my baking needs. It’s an employee owned business, which is very cool, plus their products are high quality and come in a very cute packaging. The back of the package has a useful guide as to how much xanthan gum to add to various baked goods. This will definitely come in handy! You should be able to find this brand in stores as well as online. For in store, try Whole Foods or Sprouts, since they have a pretty expansive section.
It’s literally just xanthan gum. I love how simple and straightforward the packaging is on this product. This product has a stand-up pouch which is resealable, making it easy to pull out, use, zip up and return to the pantry. Super easy! Each package is third party tested, which means the product is analyzed in a facility to ensure they meet quality standards and don’t contain any fillers. Overall, this product is a great choice and very popular on Amazon.
NOW Foods is a popular brand and has a variety of products, including supplements and snacks. This product comes in a bottle that is resealable. If you prefer this method of storage, this product may be for you. This product has a 4.6 star review on Amazon with over 7887 ratings, so you can be confident that this product works as intended.
Judee’s is a small business that provides high quality xanthan gum as well as other products. The back of this package contains different methods in which to use xanthan gum such as in baking, smoothies and salad dressings. Plus, if you have certain allergies this product is great because it’s made in a dedicated gluten-free and nut-free facility in Ohio. This product also comes in a resealable package, which is a plus.
Anthony’s xanthan gum is a good choice if you are looking for the cheapest option. The one pound pack is about $1.09 per ounce, cheaper than its competitors. This packaging also lists recommended measurements for different cooking applications such as baking, breads and salad dressings. Along with this, Anthony’s is a small business.
Best substitutes for cornstarch
If you are looking for the best cornstarch substitutes, you should try these out as well as xanthan gum.
All-purpose flour is a great substitute for cornstarch in a variety of recipes and is commonly used as a thickener. Flour is commonly used when making a roux, which is a mixture of flour and fat cooked together. This is typically the base for dishes like gravies. You can also make a slurry using flour by combining one tablespoon of all-purpose flour and two tablespoons of cold water. It has half the thickening power as cornstarch, so use twice as much.
Arrowroot starch is a great replacement for cornstarch and works pretty similarly. It’s made from the roots of the arrowroot plant, Maranta arundinacea. It’s gluten-free and corn-free, making it a great alternative to flour or cornstarch. You can also make it into a slurry, by combining it with cold water. I would start with a one to two or one to three ratio and see how well it combines. Add more water if needed.
Potato starch is another good alternative to cornstarch. Potato starch is made from, you guessed it, the starch in potatoes. You can use it very similarly to arrowroot starch and cornstarch by making a slurry. The ratio you use is up for debate, so start with a one to two ratio of potato starch to cold water and add more water as needed to fully dissolve the starch and create a slurry.
Rice flour is another alternative to cornstarch. It has half the thickening powder compared to cornstarch, so you will need to use twice as much. So if a recipe calls for one tablespoon of cornstarch, use two tablespoons of rice flour. To make a slurry, combine rice flour and cold water in a one to two ratio. Add more water if needed to fully dissolve the rice flour and stir to fully combine.
Cassava flour is made from the cassava root, which is a tubular root plant found in Africa, South America and Asia. This flour is commonly used in gluten-free cooking and baking because of its mild flavor and light texture. Plus, it’s a nutrient dense flour. It has less thickening power compared to cornstarch so use twice as much, similar to all-purpose flour and rice flour. Make a slurry using a one to two ratio and add more water if needed.
Tapioca starch is another good replacement for cornstarch. This starch comes from the cassava plant, similar to cassava flour, it just only contains the starch portion of the plant. This is not to be mistaken for tapioca pearls, which are used to make tapioca pudding. It has less thickening powder than cornstarch, so use twice as much. You can make it into a slurry by combining it with cold water, using a one to two ratio.
Guar gum is made from the endosperm of cluster bean. It is used in a variety of applications including as a thickening agent like cornstarch. It is a stronger thickening agent than cornstarch, so you will need to use much less when using it as a replacement. For every two tablespoons of cornstarch, use ¾ a teaspoon of guar gum. Since it’s a gum like xanthan gum, you will need to mix it with oil in a one to five ratio. For example, you can combine ¼ teaspoon of guar gum with 1 ¼ teaspoon of oil.
Other thickening agents
Other thickening agents that can be used as agar agar, ground flaxseed and chia seeds. These options are tough to use as a replacement for cornstarch in recipes like gravies, soups and sauces. Instead, these ingredients can be used to thicken in alternative recipes like gelatin molds and fruit desserts. When chia seeds and ground flaxseed are mixed with a liquid, they create a gel-like substance. They work great in making puddings or overnight oats.
Recipes using xanthan gum
As mentioned earlier in this article, xanthan gum is commonly used in gluten-free baking to improve elasticity and stickiness. Gluten creates this texture in conventional baking, so when you remove this component you need a replacement like xanthan gum.
This guide provides a framework on how to use xanthan gum in gluten-free baking. Here are some gluten-free recipes that use xanthan gum:
- Gluten-Free Cake Pan Cake Recipe
- Gluten-Free Confetti Cookies Recipe
- Gluten-Free Cream Tea Scones Recipe
Since you only need a small amount of xanthan gum to provide the same results as cornstarch, it’s often used in keto cooking and baking. Ketogenic diets require very low carbohydrate intake. Speak to your doctor before attempting a ketogenic diet since there may be short term and long term health consequences.
Here are a few of keto recipes using xanthan gum: