Discover uses for this kitchen pantry staple that go even beyond the kitchen.

By Melanie Fincher

Cornstarch has a place in every kitchen cabinet. This starch is often used as a thickening agent in stir-fries, soups, sauces, and more. But turns out this humble ingredient does far more than just that. Learn all about cornstarch and its many uses that can go even beyond the kitchen.

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What Is Cornstarch?

Not to be confused with corn flour, which is made from whole kernels, cornstarch is made from the endosperm found at the center of the corn kernel. The starches inside the endosperm are removed, rinsed, dried, and milled into a fine powder. This leaves us with cornstarch — a white, chalky powder that has a variety of uses in the kitchen. It is most commonly used as a thickener for sauces and stews.

What Is Cornstarch Used For?

Cornstarch is primarily used as a thickening agent. It's made up of a long chain of starch molecules that will unravel and swell when heated in the presence of moisture. This swelling, or gelatinization, is what causes thickening.

While thickening soups, stews, sauces, or custards, is what cornstarch is famous for, there's a lot more you can do with this kitchen pantry staple.

What Can I Use Instead of Cornstarch?

If you ran out of cornstarch (it happens), don't worry about your sauces and stews. You can still thicken them by substituting a few other pantry staples:

All-Purpose Flour: This flour contains about half the thickening power of cornstarch, so for every tablespoon of cornstarch required, you'll need to use two tablespoons all-purpose flour.

Rice Flour: Like all-purpose flour, rice flour also has half the thickening power of cornstarch, so you're going to want to measure accordingly.

Arrowroot Powder: If you happen to have this starch on hand, you’re in luck: it has the same thickening power as cornstarch. But one caveat about arrowroot — it doesn't hold or reheat well.

Potato Starch: Like arrowroot, this starch has strong thickening powder, but it doesn't last long after cooking.

Tapioca Starch: Tapioca is extracted from cassava, a root vegetable found throughout South America. It doesn't have quite the thickening power of cornstarch, so for every tablespoon of cornstarch required, you'll need to use two tablespoons tapioca starch.

12 Ways to Use Cornstarch

While you know cornstarch as a thickening agent, this versatile kitchen helper goes even beyond the kitchen. Between a little crowd-sourcing here in the office and a little online research, I found some pretty unique uses for cornstarch. We reached out to members of the Allrecipes team, as well as some members of our sister brands for their best uses for cornstarch. Read on for 12 ways to use cornstarch — some expected and some not so expected.

Michelle Arnold/EyeEm/Getty Images

1. Thicken Sauces

Okay, this one goes without saying. To thicken sauces and other liquids, mix a bit of cornstarch with water in a small bowl to create what's called a "slurry." Then whisk the slurry into the liquid you want to thicken as it simmers.

2. Coat the Fruit in Pies

What's the secret to a thick, almost gel-like pie filling? Cornstarch, of course. As the fruit cooks in pie, it releases juices. Without a little cornstarch, your pie would turn into a soupy mess. To avoid clumps, mix cornstarch with sugar before adding it to your filling.

3. Use in Place of an Egg in Baked Goods

Cornstarch is key in vegan baking, or anytime you don't have an egg on hand: "I add it to my baked goods in place of egg," says Penelope Wall, executive editor of EatingWell.com. Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of warm water and you have a great egg substitute in cookies, cakes, or breads.

4. Add to Waffle Mix

Kimberly Holland, senior editor at Allrecipes says, "A friend adds it to her waffle mix to cheat getting a really crispy waffle crust." Three cheers for no more soggy waffles!

5. Dust the Counter for Rolling out Fondant

This trick for keeping fondant from sticking to the counter comes from Frances Crouter, a Culinary Institute of America-trained baker and a member of the Allrecipes content team. The great thing about cornstarch is it is virtually flavorless and colorless, so it won't alter your fondant.

6. Mix With All-Purpose Flour When You Don't Have Cake Flour

No cake flour? No problem. Allrecipes Recipe Manager Laura Fakhry suggests mixing cornstarch with a bit of all-purpose flour and baking powder to create this cake flour substitute when you're in a pinch.

7. Make Fluffy Omelets

For fluffy omelets every time, mix a pinch of cornstarch with an egg, beat, and cook the omelet.

8. Crisp Meats and Vegetables (Gluten-Free)

"I use it to 'bread' chicken, shrimp, or tofu to get it crispy instead of flour or breadcrumbs," says Michelle Edelbaum, director of digital content strategy for Allrecipes, MyRecipes, and EatingWell. Get a gluten-free crispy coating on your meats and veggies just like that of your favorite take-out.

9. Remove Grease Splatters From Walls

Any well-loved kitchen is bound to have a little wear and tear. Remove pesky grease splatters from your walls or kitchen backsplash by sprinkling a bit of cornstarch on a soft cloth and rubbing away the grease spot.

10. DIY Silver Polish

Return the sparkle and shine to your silverware without buying polish. Simply make a paste using cornstarch and water, and use a damp cloth to apply it to your silverware. Once the paste dries, rub it with a soft cloth. The cornstarch will buff away the dullness without being too abrasive.

11. Untie Knots

Cornstarch will reduce friction between the fibers on a rope or shoelace, allowing you to untie even the tightest knot. Simply sprinkle a bit on the knot and rub it in.

12. Make Homemade Slime

A bit of cornstarch, water, and glitter or food coloring, makes a simple craft that kids will love. This "slime" can be stored in a plastic bag or airtight container for later use. Now you can keep the little ones entertained using a few pantry staples.

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