Cornstarch Vs. Baking Powder | What’s The Difference?

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Cornstarch and baking powder are commonly used in many recipes. They have a similar appearance and are used in many baked goods. But can you use them interchangeably? No.

Cornstarch Vs. Baking Powder

Cornstarch and baking powder are two different things. Cornstarch is a dense white powder that thickens gravies, sauces, and dressings. 

On the other hand, baking powder is a leavening agent made with a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and starch that helps bakery goods to rise and create a fluffy texture.

Are you surprised to know this difference? Keep reading to find out more details about cornstarch and baking powder to use them correctly. 

Cornstarch Vs. Baking Powder | Difference Table

Basis Of DifferenceCornstarchBaking Powder
TasteTastelessSalty, bitter
IngredientsMade of corn flour
Monocalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and cornstarch
UsesThickening Agent
Leavening Agent

What Is Cornstarch?


Cornstarch is also known as cornflour. It is made from the starchy portion of corn kernels known as the endosperm. This white powdery substance is used for culinary, household, and industrial purposes.

Cornstarch was found by Thomas Kingsford, who worked for a wheat starch factory. He created cornstarch while trying to separate endosperms from corn kernels in 1842 in New Jersey. Today, it is produced in corn-growing countries like the United States, China, Brazil, and India.

For several years, cornstarch was used for laundry. It was later that it was bottled and marketed for the kitchen.

Today cornstarch is used throughout the world as a thickening agent for gravies, marinades, sauces, glazes, soups, pies, and casseroles.  

Cornflour is a gluten-free product. For this reason, it is an excellent gluten-free alternative to flour thickeners in gravy and sauce recipes.

When heated and exposed to moisture, it begins to absorb moisture and thickens the liquid it is added to.

What Is Baking Powder?

baking powder

Baking powder is a chemical leavening agent. It is made by mixing an acid (like cream of tartar), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and cornstarch. 

When combined with liquid, it creates a reaction, releasing carbon dioxide into the batter or dough. This helps the wet mixture to expand and rise in size.

Harvard professor Eben Horsford developed the first baking powder in 1856.

Cornstarch Vs. Baking Powder | What’s The Difference?

Cornstarch Vs. Baking Powder

1. Texture

Cornstarch and baking powder may look similar from afar with their white color. But if you rub them between your fingers, you find a difference in their texture. 

Cornstarch has a smooth and silky texture, whereas baking powder has a fine powdery texture.

2. How They Work

Cornstarch and baking powder have different functions. Cornstarch’s functional property is gelatinization. Starch molecules are broken down with heat and water, which results in thickened liquids.

Baking powder is a leavening agent, which means it produces carbon dioxide gas upon mixing with liquid to make fluffy baked goods. 

3. Uses

The uses of cornstarch and baking powder are entirely different when added to other ingredients. While one is a thickening agent, the latter is a leavening agent. 

Besides being a thickening agent, cornstarch is also used as an anti-caking agent. Cornstarch is sprinkled over powdered sugar or shredded cheese to prevent it from clumping. It also helps to absorb moisture from condensation.

One of the advantages of cornstarch is its potential to produce crispy coatings on fried foods. When added to baked goods, cornstarch helps to soften the texture because of the absence of gluten.

On the other hand, baking powder is one of the main ingredients found in any baking recipe. It makes cakes, cookies, pancakes, waffles, and bread.

4. Shelf Life

A major difference between cornstarch and baking powder lies in their shelf life. 

Baking powder loses strength as a leavener over time. An unopened can of baking powder will last up to 18 months. 

However, an opened container of baking powder would stay in good condition for three to six months, depending on how much it was exposed to air and humidity. 

The shelf life of properly stored cornstarch is indefinite. It works well as long as it remains dry.

Top Recipes With Cornstarch

1. Custard Pudding

Custard Pudding

Custard pudding is one of the simplest and most delicious desserts made by our grandmothers. It’s a great sweet treat that can be topped with fruits, nuts, cake pieces, and jelly to make a party dessert. One of the key ingredients in making custard pudding is cornstarch. It is safe to say that this dessert makes the best use of cornstarch.

2. White Sauce

White Sauce

White sauce is popularly used in many cuisines. It can be drizzled over chicken or fish dishes, it is used to make white sauce pasta, and it’s also the base for many other favorites like classic creamed spinach and biscuits. The unique quality of a white sauce is that it adds a creamy texture to the dish. Thanks to the use of cornstarch, that helps to thicken the sauce in the silkiest way.

3. Cornstarch Shortbread Cookie

Cornstarch Shortbread Cookie

If you haven’t tried cornstarch shortbread cookies yet, you must. This cookie contains cornstarch along with all-purpose flour in the cookie dough. The cornstarch gives a crispy and melt-in-the-mouth texture and prevents the cookies from becoming too crumbly. These cookies are perfect for serving with coffee or tea.

4. Fruit Pie Filling

Fruit Pie Filling

Fruit pie fillings are the most delicious items to amp up any dessert. They can be poured over cakes, pies, custards, and more. Moreover, you can make them with any fruit. But what makes the filling come together is the presence of cornstarch. Try out the fruit pie filling to make the best use of cornstarch.

5. Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is the ultimate snack to binge on. The crispy exterior and juicy interior make this food item so special. But do you know what makes fried chicken so crispy? It’s the presence of cornstarch in the dipping batter that does wonders. 

Top Recipes With Baking Powder 

1. Sandwich Bread

Sandwich Bread

If you want to bake your own bread and don’t have yeast, you should try out this sandwich bread recipe that makes the best use of baking powder. You will not be able to tell the difference.

2. Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are loved by all. They are the ultimate cookies to go with your coffee. They are crisp and crumbly in texture. Thanks to baking powder for this texture. 

3. Vanilla Cake

Vanilla Cake

If pillowy soft crumb cakes are your choice, you must try this vanilla cake recipe to make the cake of your dreams.  

4. Savory Cheese And Herb Biscuit 

Savory Cheese And Herb Biscuit

Savory biscuits are a great item to serve for high tea. This biscuit brings the goodness of cheese and herbs. But what stands out in this biscuit recipe is its crumbly texture. You will surely fall in love with the biscuit. 

Are Cornstarch And Baking Powder Interchangeable?

While both cornstarch and baking powder are powdery white substances used in cooking, they cannot be used interchangeably. They serve entirely different purposes when added to other ingredients.

Cornstarch cannot be used as a leavening agent, and baking powder cannot be used as a thickening agent.

Since baking powder is made using cornstarch as one of the ingredients, you might assume that it can be used as a replacement for it. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The amount of cornstarch present in baking powder isn’t enough to cause the desired thickening effect. Adding baking powder in large quantities will leave a bitter, sour, and salty taste in your food.

So, while you cannot replace the baking powder with cornstarch, you can make the former using the latter.

To make around 4 tsp of homemade baking powder, you will need 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cornstarch, and 2 tsp cream of tartar.

Cornstarch Vs. Baking Powder | Which One Is More Versatile?

If we look at the uses of cornstarch and baking powder, it’s quite clear that they are used for different purposes. Replacing them with one another is not quite possible. 

But if we look at the range of food that can make good use of one of the two ingredients, then baking powder is more versatile. It is not just used as a leavening agent in baked goods. You can also use it for fried foods like chicken.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the purpose of baking powder?

Baking powder is a chemical leavening that helps baked goods rise and expand.

Can I make baking powder at home?

Yes, you can make baking powder at home by combining 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cornstarch, and 2 tsp cream of tartar.

What are the disadvantages of baking powder?

The baking powder, when used in more quantity than required, leaves a bitter and sour taste.

What is the rule of baking powder?

The general rule is to use 1 to 1-¼ teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour.

Is there an alternative to baking powder?

A mixture of vinegar and baking soda is a great alternative to baking powder.

What happens if you use too little baking powder?

If you use baking powder in lesser quantities than asked in the recipe, you will not get similar results.

What is the use of cornstarch?

Cornstarch is often used as a thickening agent when added to soups, stews, and gravies.

Are cornstarch and flour basically the same thing?

Cornstarch is an all-starch powder that is made of the endosperm of the corn kernel. It is gluten-free. Flour can be made from any kind of grain.

What does cornstarch do to fried chicken?

When paired with all-purpose flour, cornstarch helps prevent gluten development, which makes the flour coating crispier.


I hope you enjoyed learning about the difference between cornstarch and baking powder. This guide will help you choose the right ingredients while cooking. If you are curious about more such ingredients and their differences, visit our website.

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