Corn Flour Vs Cornstarch: What Are The Major Differences?

There are some kitchen ingredients that have very similar names. Two of them that used to confuse me were corn flour vs cornstarch. Anytime one of these two ingredients would turn up in a recipe, I’d have to search to figure out which one I owned and which one I needed.

Have you ever wondered what the difference between these two corn-based products is? Thankfully for you, I’ve already done the research!

Let’s take a look at what corn flour and cornstarch really are so you can understand when to use which of these useful ingredients!


What Are Corn Flour And Cornstarch?

This can be a very confusing question because different products have different names all over the world! My answers will be based on the US wording, but I’ll be sure to give descriptions that help you figure out what product you have.

Corn meal is a coarse ground maize product.

Corn flour is a finely ground maize product. Both of these products still contain both corn protein, starch, and fiber. The corn protein gives corn flour and corn meal the distinctive flavor and color that it brings to products like corn bread.

Cornstarch is a thickening agent that is made from refined maize starch. If you’re not sure if you have cornstarch or something else, rub a bit of it together. It should make a small, squeaky noise if it is pure starch.

Cornstarch is a carbohydrate that is extracted from corn kernels to create a gluten-free product with no taste or smell, making it the perfect thickening agent!

How Are Corn Flour and Cornstarch Different?

There are a few main differences that should be highlighted between these two corn products:

  • Corn flour is finer than cornstarch.
  • Corn flour is made from cornmeal and carries the flavor of corn.
  • Cornstarch is more starchy and flavorless.
  • Both corn flour and cornstarch contain starch.
  • Corn protein is refined through wet milling out of cornstarch so that you are left with a pure starch.

Basically, cornstarch is made from only the endosperm of the corn kernels. Corn flour, on the other hand, is made from by mixing the endosperm with corn gluten. There is no gluten in cornstarch, which is why it is a popular choice for gluten-free baking.

While both corn flour and cornstarch start as the same product, the end products and uses for these two corn items are very different.

Why Do Some People Say They Are The Same Thing?

It all comes down to naming practices. While researching about the differences between cornstarch and corn flour, I found that some people were saying things like:

  • “When I was in England, what I call 'corn starch' was labeled 'corn flour.' 'Corn meal' was 'polenta' (slightly different, dent corn and flint corn, respectively), and I couldn't find corn flour or grits anywhere.”
  • “Flour made from corn (i.e., maize) is not the same thing as cornflour. In the UK, ‘Corn’ is what is known as ‘Wheat’ in North America. Check any recipe and make sure that what is being called for isn’t actually corn-meal, or corn-meal flour.”

Confusing, right? Why would we call something “corn flour” if it isn’t “flour made from corn?” Unfortunately, that is the confusion of the English language and its use around the world!

Some videos like this will even say that cornstarch and corn flour are the same product :

The reality is the corn flour and cornstarch are similar products made from maize that go through different refining processes. Depending on where you are in the world, they may have a different name, so you should get to know their properties!

How Can I Buy The Right Product?


Since the naming of these products is so confusing, it can be hard to make sure you buy the right product.

The best way to be sure that you are buying cornstarch is to check that it is a white powder that makes a squeaky noise when it is rubbed together.

When buying corn flour, you should read the ingredients list to discover if it is made from dried corn or corn meal, or if it is made from wheat.

Which One Should I Use?

Now, you’re probably wondering how you can know which type of corn product you should use if your recipe is not specific.

Here is a very simple way to divide cornstarch and corn flour usage:If you want a lighter texture, use cornstarch.

  • If you’re going for something gluten free, use cornstarch.
  • If you want a denser texture, use corn flour.
  • If you're making corn bread or muffins, then use corn flour.

Corn starch is often used for making gravy to thicken sauces as it is a pure starch and flavorless. Corn flour, on the other hand, if finely ground cornmeal and is used for making breads, muffins, cookies, etc, which will benefit from the corn flavor.

Using these points will usually help you to decide which corn agent you want to use in your cooking or baking. My main suggestion is to always follow the recipe, but if you are doing some experimenting, these tips should help you.

Which Do You Prefer?

Now, do you understand the difference when it comes to corn flour vs cornstarch? While both these products start from a corn base, they have different properties and different uses in the kitchen.

I like to keep them both stocked in my pantry because I’ve found them to be very useful when making some of my favorite recipes.

What about you? Do you prefer one of these ingredients over the other? Let me know in the comments which of these corn products you use more and why. Then, share this article with other kitchen amateurs who may want to learn more about these common ingredients!


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Sophia Gardner

I'm Sophia, food blogger, dog lover, homemade cooking and travel passion. I really hope you enjoy my blog, i'll do my best to share great recipes, healthy living tips and just general 'food' thoughts!

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