What is Corn Starch (Cornflour)?

Also known as  Cornstarch, Corn Starch (USA, Canada) Cornflour, Corn flour (UK), Maize Starch, Maize Flour Starch or Corn Flour Starch, Maizena, Fécula de Maíz; Mais Stärkemehl.

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Corn Starch (UK-Cornflour) is a highly-refined white starch powder extracted from corn (maize) by wetmilling and used to thicken soups, stews and tart fillings.

This means that the bran, germ and proteins are removed from the kernel during wet milling, leaving only the starch.

The term corn starch is used in Canada and the USA. The term cornflour is used in Britain and commonwealth countries. Cornstarch is often called maizena in  in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain, Latin America, and Indonesia after the brand, Maizena. It can also be called Maize Starch or Corn Flour Starch.  

Composition of Maize (Corn) Kernel

The major chemical component of the maize kernel is starch, which accounts for up to 72 to 73 percent of the kernel weight. Also present are simple sugars such as glucose, sucrose and fructose that account for 1 to 3 percent and are mainly found in the germProtein accounts for 8 to 11 percent of the kernel weight, and is mostly found in the endosperm. The oil in the maize kernel is mainly found in the germ, is genetically controlled, and ranges from 3 to 18 percent. Dietary fibre is mainly found in the bran. About 78 percent of the minerals found in maize kernel are found in the germ.  ( FAO Gross Chemical Composition of Maize Kernel)

Making Cornstarch (Maize Starch)

Corn starch  is made by soaking maize (corn) in a weak acid for several hours. The germ is separated from the grain and both are wet-milled separately. The bran and non-starchy components are separated from the wet ground corn starch, which is then dried.

Using Corn Starch (Cornflour)

Cornflour (Corn Starch)  is gluten free and has virtually no flavour. It thickens very quickly and easily, and forms a clear sauce with a glossy sheen, after brief cooking.

Cornstarch will clump up if added directly to hot liquids. It must be mixed with equal part of cold liquid before being added to a simmering liquid, such as gravy or pudding.

A mixture of cornstarch and liquid is called slurry. It can also be mixed with cold liquid and then heated gradually, while stirring until it thickens.

Culinary Use

  • It’s used for thickening soups, stews, sauces, gravies, pie and tart fillings and custard.
  • It’s also used in recipes that require a crumbly and tender texture in the finished product like, shortbread.
  • A small amount of cornflour can be added to all-purpose flour to make a substitute for cake flour.
  • Cornstarch is  also used in the manufacture of corn syrup and other sugars.

Substitute for Corn Starch (Cornflour)

  • A good substitute for cornstarch is arrowroot or tapioca powder.
  • Tapioca and arrow root are better substitutes if you are planning to freeze whatever you’re cooking.
  • Arrowroot powder is not ideal for thickening cream or milk-based sauces.

Non-culinary uses

Cornflour (cornstarch) is also used in the manufacture of adhesives, bioplastics, and sizes for paper and textiles


In the USA, the term corn flour refers to finely ground corn meal.

In Africa and commonwealth countries, finely ground Corn Meal (aka corn flour in the US) is referred to as Maize Flour or Maize Meal.

Whereas Corn Starch is only made of starch. Corn Meal or Maize flour is more nutritious and is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

2 thoughts

  1. I like these informative food post you are doing very much. Great job. It’s so helpful to have a better understanding of other names when I am reading recipes from across the pond.

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