Is Cornstarch And Cornmeal The Same

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New to baking? Or maybe you’re revisiting old ingredients? If you have heard about cornmeal and cornstarch in your recipes, you may be wondering what the difference is. Many ask, is cornstarch and cornmeal the same?

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In this article we will explore if cornstarch and cornmeal mean the same thing. Also, we’ll have a look if they can be substitutes for one another when used in recipes.

Is Corn Meal And Corn Starch The Same or Are They Different?

No, cornmeal and cornstarch are not the same ingredient even though they are very similar.

The reason cornmeal and cornstarch are often easily confused is because they come from the same ingredient, which is corn kernels. Both cornmeal and cornstarch are ground whole corn kernels. But what’s not the same is what part of the corn kernel they are made from.

Cornstarch is made from the starchy center of the corn kernel which is called the endorsperm. When the corn kernel is ground finely, it will produce a slightly grainy ingredient which is cornmeal. The corn kernel is grounded until it has reached a white powder, which is known as cornstarch. 

Not only are cornmeal and cornstarch different in performance when cooking and baking, but different in other ways too. Cornmeal and cornstarch also differ in texture.

corn kernels in a bowl

Can You Substitute Cornmeal For Cornstarch?

The quickest answer to whether you can substitute cornmeal for cornstarch is no. Even though the two ingredients sound very similar, both cornmeal and cornstarch perform in different ways when they are used in recipes.

The biggest differences between cornmeal and cornstarch are their texture, functions and what part of the corn kernel they come from. Cornmeal is slightly large granules, so its texture is rougher to touch. The weight of cornmeal is quite heavy compared to cornstarch. Cornstarch is ground up to be a very fine powder, making it easier to mix in recipes. It does not have a grainy texture. 

Both cornmeal and cornstarch come from the same ingredient originally which is a corn kernel. But there is a difference in the production of the two ingredients, which give them different purposes. Cornmeal is ground from the corn kernel, whereas cornstarch is from the center of the corn kernel which is the starchy endosperm.

Cornstarch is a great ingredient to thicken sauces and other savory dishes. It is very powerful, so you don’t need large amounts for it to work. You will often only need 1 teaspoon or 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to be added to your recipe to thicken the dish up.

Cornmeal will not be able to provide such a thickening effect to your food. Cornmeal can act as a sweetener but is not as powerful as cornstarch. We do not recommend that you substitute cornmeal for cornstarch as your food may be too thin if you use cornmeal. Your food may also need more cornmeal to start to thicken up, but this could make your dish very sweet.

Cornmeal when added to wet ingredients can also have issues. Unlike cornstarch that mixes well, cornmeal might give a lumpy texture. Therefore, we would recommend that you do not replace cornstarch with cornmeal.

If you do need a good substitute for cornstarch, baking powder is a good option. Baking powder does not taste overly powerful and will not affect the taste of your meal. Baking powder also acts as a leavening agent and can be used to thicken your food.

Can I Substitute Corn Meal For Corn Starch in Baked Goods

Although they are made from the same ingredient, both cornstarch and cornmeal are used in different ways when cooking.

Cornmeal is a common ingredient used in baked goods. It can help the texture and sweetness of the baked outcome. Cornstarch is used as a thickening agent in savory dishes and sometimes also used in baked goods. 

We would not recommend that you substitute cornmeal for cornstarch or use the ingredients interchangeably. If you do decide to substitute cornmeal for cornstarch your food may end up thinner in consistency and also sweeter in flavor to what you were expecting.

Corn Starch Vs Corn Meal For Frying

When comparing cornmeal and cornstarch to fry food, they both produce different results.

You can use both cornmeal and cornstarch to fry foods such as chicken, fish, and vegetables. You can also deep fry these food types in both cornmeal and cornstarch.

If you fry your food with cornstarch, the cornstarch will provide a crispier outer layer compared to cornmeal. Cornstarch can provide a crisper texture to the food you are frying as it absorbs the moisture when cooking and expands which results in the outside turning crispy. 

If you fry your food with cornmeal, you can have a beautiful golden coloring to the outside of your food. Many people prefer to fry with cornmeal compared to cornstarch for a more aesthetically pleasing result. The mouthwatering visuals of food is perfect when cooking a meal for a large amount of people.

cornstarch on a finger

Corn Starch And Corn Meal May Come From The Same Ingredient But They’re Very Different

Both cornstarch and cornmeal are made from corn kernels. They get confused for the same ingredient. Both cornstarch and cornmeal also have very similar names, which sometimes does lead to further confusion.

Cornstarch and cornmeal may both come from corn kernels, but they are different in texture, appearance, and function. What part of the corn kernel they are made from is also not the same.

Cornmeal has a grainy texture, which is often a yellow to brown shade. It is used as an ingredient to help texture and add sweet flavors. Cornstarch is ground down to a white powder and is used to thicken up sauces and other savory meals. Cornstarch is also made from the endosperm of the corn kernel unlike cornmeal that’s made from the kernel itself.

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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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