When Can I Use Cornstarch Instead of Baking Powder? ANSWERED

Published Categorized as Baking, Ingredients Tagged ,

Need baking powder but only have cornstarch on hand? You may be wondering if you can use cornstarch instead of baking powder. In this post, we will take on the answer to that question as well as let you know what substitutes actually work if your recipe calls for baking powder and you have none. So let’s dive in.

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When Can I Use Cornstarch Instead Of Baking Powder? Answered

Table of Contents

Is Baking Powder the Same as Cornstarch?

Is Baking Powder and Cornstarch the Same Thing?

So, is baking powder the same as cornstarch?

Not at all. Just as  baking soda vs cornstarch are two completely different entities, baking powder and cornstarch are also very different!

Baking powder is used as a leavening agent and can make baked goods airier and less dense.

Baking Powder, 8.1 oz. (New Version)

In contrast, cornstarch is used to thicken liquids, such as stews, soups, and sauces. Cornstarch can sometimes be used to create a crispy coating when frying

Clabber Girl Corn Starch, 6.5 Ounce

As you can see, baking powder and cornstarch are nothing alike. They do not yield the same results when baking and cooking.

Both are used for entirely different purposes. So swapping one out for the other, even with alterations, can quickly turn into a major recipe failure.

Cornstarch vs Baking Powder

To break down the differences between baking powder and cornstarch even further, we’ve broken down both products into several categories to help you see how different they really are:

Origins

  • Baking powder is formed by combining a powdered acid (like cream of Tartar) with sodium bicarbonate
  • Cornstarch is extracted from the endosperm within the corn kernel and then ground into a fine powder.

Uses

  • Baking Powder – Baking powder is used in baked goods to make them light-tasting and not dense. 
  • Cornstarch Is used to thicken liquids like soups, sauces, chili, and sometimes even drinks

Chemical Reaction Caused

  • When added to a baked good, air bubbles can form which gives your desserts height. This is why baking powder is used as a “leavening agent”.
  • Heat and starch molecules intensify the thickening reaction which is why cornstarch mixed with any liquid is often heated to encourage additional thickening. 
Bob's Red Mill Baking Powder, 14 Ounce (Pack of 1)

Cost

  • Baking powder is inexpensive and generally costs around 18 cents per ounce.
  • Cornstarch is also inexpensive, but may prove even cheaper than baking powder. You usually get more ounces for around the same price that you would with baking powder. 

Appearance

  • Baking Powder is white and powdery.
  • Cornstarch is white, velvety, and also powdery.

Is Baking Powder the Same as Corn Starch?

Is Baking Powder Cornstarch?

If you find you have no baking powder on hand, you may be tempted to reach for anything that looks like it. Because cornstarch and baking powder look identical and have a similar texture, it is not only easy to get the two confused, but it may also seem like a good idea to reach for one over the other. 

But this is not a good idea! It may ruin your baked goods or savory dishes that require a sauce.

The following segments help detail exactly what might happen if you swap one of these two ingredients out for the other. 

Bob's Red Mill Baking Powder, 14 Ounce (Pack of 1)

Cornstarch Instead of Baking Powder

If you choose to opt for cornstarch over baking powder in a recipe, you will ruin whatever it was that you were baking.

Baking powder acts as a leavening agent. So without it, your baked goods will not rise. Depending on what the recipe was, the final product will likely turn out flat and dense.

This isn’t to say that your baked goods won’t be edible…they may still taste quite good! But don’t purposefully swap these two ingredients for wedding cakes or desserts for other special occasions. The result won’t be what you had expected, and the texture may be unappetizing. 

Argo Baking Powder - 12 oz, Pack of 2

Baking Powder Instead of Cornstarch

Believe it or not, some forms of baking powder have cornstarch in them! It is for this reason that some people recommend using baking powder to thicken sauces. However, we find that when you do so, whatever liquid you’ve added the baking powder to can come off as having a bitter taste which can ruin your recipe.

Not old, but some baking powders do not contain cornstarch at all! This means that adding baking powder to a sauce or slurry will do anything to help, and in fact, will likely just alter the taste of what you are cooking for the worst. Therefore, we cannot recommend swapping baking powder for cornstarch in such cases. 

Argo Baking Powder - 12 oz, Pack of 2

Baking Powder Substitutes

With all of this in mind, it can be helpful to know what can be used in place of baking powder when baking so that you still get the desired results without altering the flavor of your baked goods.

The following are great substitutes for baking powder when you don’t have any on hand: 

Yogurt + Baking Soda

Use ½ cup of yogurt and ¼ tsp of baking soda as a replacement for every 1 tsp of baking powder.

Yogurt and baking soda work because yogurt has an acidic pH which when combined with baking soda can do well for leavening. Just ensure that the yogurt that you buy is plain, as this sort of yogurt does not impart any extra flavor to your dish and also has a higher acidity level than other yogurt types.

When making this substitution, you may wish to slightly reduce the number of other liquids added to the recipe. Yogurt tends to make baked goods very moist so this can be an added bonus depending on what you are baking!

Vinegar + Baking Soda

Don’t want to use a dairy substitute? Try using vinegar and baking soda instead. 

You likely already have these two staples stashed in your pantry, so when you’re in a bind this combination works quite well. It is also ideal because it adds little to no liquid to your recipe, so the recipe you are adding it to can pretty much stay as written.

To substitute baking powder with vinegar and baking soda, simply add ½ tsp of vinegar and ¼ tsp of baking soda to your recipe in place of every 1 tsp of baking powder. 

Assuming you stick with these ratios, you probably won’t even make any difference when it comes to the final product. Stick with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to avoid changing the flavor profile of your baked goods too much. 

Lemon Juice + Baking Soda

Out of vinegar but still want to swap out baking powder? No problem! Lemon juice and vinegar work the exact same way. 

Simply replace 1 tsp of baking powder with ½ tsp of lemon juice and ¼ tsp of baking soda to get similar results… You’re welcome! 

Note: Lemon juice has its own flavor that may or may not alter the flavor profile of whatever you are baking. For this reason, it is best to only use this substitute when your recipe only calls for a small amount of baking powder (such as one teaspoon). Using this substitution as a replacement for a lot of baking powder will still yield similar baking results but will result in a more “lemony” final product. If this flavoring will work well for your baked goods, then bake on! But if not, consider trying a different substitution for baking powder instead. 

Club Soda (A Stand Alone Replacement!)

Don’t want to worry about nit-picky measuring when replacing baking powder? Then using club soda might be the next best thing!

Often used for adding a little extra fluff to baked goods, club soda is an easy replacement for baking powder that doesn’t require you to break out your measuring spoons. Simply choose a liquid that already exists in your recipe to replace with club soda and you’ve got an instant replacement for baking powder.

Note: Club soda is known only to provide a little lift to baked goods which may not be enough for your particular recipe. Therefore, club soda is best used as a replacement when only a minimal amount of leavening is required. 

Canada Dry Club Soda, 33.8 Oz, Pack of 3

Self-Rising Flour

Yes, you read that right. 

You can actually purchase a certain type of flour that does the rising for you without you needing to purchase additional leavening agents. This is a wonderful option if you have no baking powder on hand. 

If you use this substitution, be sure to replace the original type of flour with self-rising flour in your recipe (rather than adding it separately), and remember to omit the baking powder and lower the amount of salt in the recipe. 

Note: If your recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda, you will want to ensure you still add the baking soda. 

White Lily Self Rising Bleached Flour - 5Lb (Pack Of 4)

Cornstarch Instead of Baking Powder? Don’t Do It!

The differences between cornstarch and baking powder are plenty and because of this, we don’t recommend that you try substituting one for the other. 

Baking powder functions as a leavening agent while cornstarch is used as a thickener. Though baking powder does sometimes contain cornstarch, it is not recommended that you use it to thicken your sauces and stews because it may add a bitter and unpleasant taste to what you are cooking. 

If you are in need of a great substitute for baking powder, consider the ideas mentioned previously in this post. Hopefully, this article has served to clear things up for you. 

See you next time! 

FAQs

What can I use if I don’t have baking powder?

If you don’t have baking powder and need a quick substitute, you can use ½ tsp of vinegar and ¼ tsp of baking soda to get the job done. This is a great substitution because it doesn’t alter the taste of your baked goods much while still achieving the same results.

Is baking powder and cornstarch the same?

Baking powder and cornstarch are not the same. Cornstarch is used as a thickener, while baking powder is used as a leavening agent.

What happens if you use cornstarch instead of baking soda?

Baking soda is a leavening agent much like baking powder is. Therefore, using cornstarch instead of baking soda will cause your baked goods not to rise. However, for goods such as pancakes and cookies, you may be able to leave baking soda out completely…they will still taste the same although your final product won’t be as fluffy.

Is cornstarch ever used in baking?

Yes, cornstarch can be used in baking. It is often used to add a tender and crumbly texture to cakes and cookies, and it is also used for fillings in various desserts including pumpkin pie.

Can you drink cornstarch?

Some people add cornstarch to drinks like hot chocolate because it makes the drink more decadent. If you do this, only add a little at a time. Adding too much can make it too thick.

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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