Healthy Living

Cornstarch vs. Corn Flour: What’s the difference?

Cornstarch and corn flour are both made from corn but from different parts of the vegetable once cut open. Hence, it tends to be confusing to people as they are referred to interchangeably in many countries outside the U.S. What's the difference that is not clear to them? Cornstarch is taken from the starch present in the endosperm of the corn's kernel, while corn flour comes from the whole kernel of the corn. Both varieties are ground into powder, processed and used for various culinary purposes. 

Although they might seem one and the same, the differences lie in the flavors, color and nutritional profile. A recent explanation provided by Healthline gives a clear understanding based on different factors. 

Flavor 

Cornstarch is completely bland, while corn flour has a sweet and natural taste. Sometimes, corn flour is substituted for wheat flour when cooking bread and pastries to provide this sweet taste associated with carbohydrates. On the other hand, cornstarch is primarily used to add thickness to dishes in order to blend them together through its texture. 

Processing 

Since corn flour comes from grinding the whole corn kernel, it has all the nutrients from the whole corn vegetable, with many nutrients. Additionally, it holds fiber, protein and starch. It is yellow in color unlike cornstarch which is a white powder after subjected to processing. 

Cornstarch is comparatively more refined as it is formed from only the endosperm of the corn kernel, which has all of the starch content in the corn. 

Nutrition

Corn flour has 110 calories overall with 22 grams of carbs and 3 grams of protein. Also, 29 grams contain only 2 grams of fiber and 1.5 grams of fat, making it a healthy choice of snack. On the other hand, cornstarch has 120 calories and 28 grams of carbohydrates. It has zero vitamin B nutrients and has lesser magnesium, iron and potassium. Other than starch, it has no real benefit. 

Names

In other countries, other than the U.S. they refer to cornstarch as corn flour and corn flour as corn meal without applying the same logic. Figuring out how the ingredient has been used in the recipe is the best way to identify which of the two it is outside of the U.S. 

If it is being used in place of wheat flour, then it can be taken to mean that it is corn flour. But if you need an ingredient to thicken your soup, then cornstarch is the correct choice and it is up to you to identify it accurately. 

Interchangeability 

The two products of corn cannot be used for the same requirement in a recipe as they serve different purposes. For example, corn flour is not rich in gluten, it makes wheat products easily crumble and more dense than needed.  

And cornstarch is used as an thickening agent for stews, curries and sauces. Mixing with a cold liquid prior to being used in a hot dish can prevent lumps from forming in the dish. 

Corn Corn at a Farmer's Market where locally grown produce is sold in Fairfax, Virginia, (Aug. 13, 2015). Getty Images/AFP/PAUL J. RICHARDS

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