If we think about cornstarch, we immediately imagine a tender piece of beef or chicken schnitzel! Alternatively, for our veggie friends a thick, creamy soup also does the trick.
Let’s face it, most of us enjoy a small amount of creamy sauce on our food. Cornstarch is commonly used to thicken sauces and soups giving them a creamy, delicious flavor. Sadly, cornstarch is not keto-friendly!
When trying to eat a low-carb, keto diet with as few as 20 grams of net carbs per day, adding these are not really an option.
Don’t fear, this doesn’t mean you are missing out on delicious food while on the keto diet! You can still find ideal keto-friendly cornstarch replacements, including popular, better, and healthier low-carb replacements such as xanthan gum and glucomannan powder.
And the best part, they also work in a wide range of recipes, from sauces to soups, gravy, stews, deep-fried foods, and even baking.
Why Is Cornstarch Not Allowed on Keto?
In order to be a keto-friendly ingredient, the carb content has to be below. However, cornstarch not only includes high carbohydrates but also little proteins, lipids, and fiber.
In summary, 1 ounce of maize contains around 106 calories, with carbs over 25 g. Such nutritional data, especially compared to fiber and protein amounts, for keto diets of approximately 1g each are very inadequate. And worse, cornstarch does not even add any vitamins or minerals to your diet.
Additionally, 100 grams of cornstarch contains (*):
- 381 calories
- 91.27 g carbs
- 0.26 g protein
- 0.9 g fiber
- 0.05 g fat
The large number of carbs turns cornstarch into a horrible keto thickener. So why add it to your net carbs anyway?
Continue reading to learn about cornstarch substitutes for low carb- and keto dieters.
What Can I Use Instead of Cornstarch on Keto?
Since we’ve ruled out cornstarch from keto diets since it’s not low carb, and we identified other ingredients that can conveniently do the same job cornstarch does in recipes. What’s more, most of them could be used in baking and cooking low-carb meals. Down below are a few cornstarch substitutes:
8 Best Keto-Friendly Cornstarch Substitutes
1. Almond Flour
As you probably can guess, almond flour is made from dried and grounded almond nuts. And it outperforms cornstarch in so many different ways. It’s the perfect alternative. Almond flour is richer in nutrients, containing a bunch of vitamin E, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and even manganese.
The good thing about almond flour is that it’s also high in fat but still low enough in carbs, making it a perfect match for keto dieters. It’s fantastic for those low-carb diet gravy thickening, soups, stews, and baking.
Next up, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the “healthy seeds”…
2. Chia seeds
You wouldn’t believe how many benefits chia seeds have! Besides being overloaded with fiber, chia seeds also have:
- 138 calories per 28g ( which is about two tablespoons of chia seeds)
- 4.7 g of proteins
- 10g of fiber
- 2 grams of net carbs.
Chia seeds also contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B, and zinc. Since chia seeds are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids they can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve bone function. A new study demonstrates that chia seeds can effectively be extracted and used as a thickener, emulsifier or stabilizer in the form of gel when put into water (*).
3. Flax Seeds
Linseed is also known to be obtained from the plant Linum usitatissimum- such a long name! They are available in two colors: brown and golden-yellow.
When flaxseeds are blended with water, they act as a thickener, it becomes like a thick jelly. The glue-like viscosity of the jelly also allows the components to be combined in a blend, which makes it a suitable substitute for baking and cooking all kinds of foods.
The omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, in flax seeds, provide an important supply of omega-3, with plenty of calories, and lucky for us keto dieters, with few calories.
If keto health is important to you, keep reading how you can use glucomannan powder as a low-carb cornstarch substitute…
4. Nutricost Glucomannan Powder
Glucomannan powder is commonly known as keto cornstarch! If you are on a keto diet, this is another great option to keep your net carbs low and your fiber high.
Try to imagine a sponge, a sponge absorbs water, right? Nutricost glucomannan powder also absorbs water and then expands. That is also why it is frequently used as a thickener, as it performs the same function when added to a sauce. Just remember, it is best to whisk the powder in cold water before adding it to hot liquids; otherwise, lumps will form.
Glucomannan powder is extracted from the roots of the Konjac plant. Glucomannan powder is commonly used in tablets to help suppress appetite. Glucomannan powder, like xanthan gum, is made of soluble fiber that can absorb liquid, creating a feeling of fullness and aiding in appetite control.
Glucomannan powder is also known to be used in cooking as low carb, gluten-free, and keto-friendly cornstarch substitute. (*)
And the best things about this powder?
- It’s low in carbs, prebiotic, and helps with a variety of gastrointestinal issues.
- It’s also tasteless, so you never have to worry about it influencing the dish’s flavor.
- It’s high in fiber.
5. Coconut Flour
High in fat and high in fiber content! That’s what we like to hear!
This is another option for keto dieters since it contains almost 60% fat and the calories are only a small amount. Why we love coconut flour so much is because it’s directly made from dried and grounded coconut meat. No added calories or artificial processing. That means that every nutrient from this tropical fruit is kept in the flour.
So why do we say it’s an ideal substitute for a traditional thickening agent? Because it has a high absorption capacity and you will often notice a slightly sweet tropical taste in the dish.
Luckily, coconut flour can be used by mixing with water to create a goo-like consistency, which you can then add to soups, stews, gravy, and other sauces.
6. Guar gum
Guar gum is a solublele fiber type. In that respect, the rate at which the body absorbs glucose can slow down digestion. That means by taking guar gum your body will feel more full and satisfied. It will also help to damper your appetite.- bonus!
This can be highly effective for people with insulin-sensitive diabetes as it helps to regulate blood sugar. Syneresis, as one of the main difficulties, leads to change with dairy products, in particular cheeses. Guar gum improves this process by altering the liquid part (*).
On that note, Guar gum is usually used in dry soup mixes. You only need to use a ¼ spoon of guar gum to create a thick texture. The dry mixture can then be added to thicken stews, soups, or other foods.
7. Xanthan Gum
Another ultimate keto diet alternative I xanthan gum! An alternative to cornstarch, keto dieters can use xanthan gum in sauces, soups, when baking and even in smoothies.
When you add this to liquid recipes, it creates a creamy texture that looks similar to cornstarch. But it’s low in carbs with no added flavor. Not only does xanthan gum acts as a thickening agent but it’s also an emulsifier, stabilizer, and binder since it’s a soluble fiber that absorbs water and turns into a creamy texture.
The good thing about xanthan gum? You only have to mix one teaspoon to replace cornstarch for every 3 cups of liquids.
8. Cauliflower (and cauliflower rice)
When you start a keto lifestyle, rice is one of the hardest foods to avoid. It’s omnipresent, multi-functional, and—if you make it right—a great treat for the tastebuds.
Unfortunately, this is not low carb and not keto-friendly. Luckily, we have cauliflower rice to our rescue! It tastes surprisingly similar to white rice and even the texture looks the same.
It’s also very easy to prepare. You just have to cut up the florets, not the stems, and squeeze the raw rice into a paper towel. After removing the moisture you can cook it in a pan for 5 minutes- yes only 5 minutes!
However, nobody will judge you if you buy already made frozen cauliflower rice.
Cauliflower rice fits well into your Keto diet with just 3 grams of net carbohydrates per cup. Plus cauliflower includes a number of chemicals that are currently being examined for its anti-cancer effects (such as sulforaphane). [*]
I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty good to us! Low carb and good for your health!
5 Alternatives to Corn Starch that is NOT Keto Friendly
1. Wheat Flour
A common way to make wheat flour is to grind wheat into a fine powder. Unlike cornstarch, which contains no protein and is an inert, inedible product, wheat flour contains protein and fiber, resulting in the protein and fiber being usable in a variety of ways.
This means that you can substitute cornstarch for flour, but you’ll need more of it to achieve the same results.
Usually, it’s recommended that you use twice as much white flour as cornstarch when thickening a soup, stew, or sauce. So if you need 1 tablespoon of normal thickening agent, use 2 tablespoons of white flour.
Brown and whole-grain flour have more fibers than white flour. Therefore, while these meals can be thickened, you need much more fiber to achieve the same outcome.
Just as a gentle warning, if you want to use wheat flour as an alternative, remember that it’s not gluten-free, so it won’t be suitable for people with celiac disease.
2. Potato Starch
Potato starch is another wonderful thickener. It is manufactured by grinding potatoes to extract their concentration of starch and dehydrate them into a powder. This is not a grain, like arrowroot, so there is no gluten in it. That’s great news for gluten-free eaters but bad news for keto dieters!
Furthermore, it is a concentrated starch that contains very little fat or protein and is heavy in carbs. Potato starch also tastes relatively bland like other tuber and root starches, which means that you will not add unwanted taste to your recipes.
In a 1:1 ratio, you should replace potato starch with maize starch. This means switch for 1 tablespoon of potato starch when your recipe needs 1 tablespoon of maize starch.
Root or tuber starches such as potato or arrowroot absorb water and thicken considerably faster than stocks. If it’s warmed up for too long, it will lose its thickening properties.
- Potato starch is a wonderful substitute for a thickener because it tastes bland and does not contain any gluten.
- This will add to your daily net carbs since it is extremely high in carbs. This is not one of the cornstarch substitutes recommended for keto dieters.
3. Rice Flour
This is often used in Asian cultures in delicious dishes like rice noodles, soups or often used as a snack. You guessed it, rice flour is made from rice! As the name suggests, it’s made from grounded rice into a flour-like powder.
It’s also a gluten-free cornstarch substitute for traditional wheatmeal. Therefore it can also boost your health, especially for those with celiac disease.
In the recipes, rice flour may also be used as a thickener in foods, which makes it an efficient replacement for traditional thickeners. It’s so versatile, if you mix it with water, it is colorless and can be very helpful in thickening transparent liquids. To get the same effect as wheat flour when cooking or baking, twice the amount of rice flour is recommended to be used.
Unfortunately, this is high in calories and not suitable for the keto diet due to the many carbs and no fat.
Arrowroot is a starchy flour derived from the roots of the plant Maranta genus, which grows in tropical regions. The roots of the plants are dried and ground into a fine powder that can be used as a thickener in cooking to make arrowroot.
Because it contains more dietary fiber, some people prefer arrowroot to cornstarch. When mixed with water, it forms a clear gel, making it ideal for thickening clear liquids (*).
Remember, you should use twice as much as usual.
Tapioca is a processed starch product from cassava, a root vegetable found in South America. The product is manufactured by molding the cassava roots into a pulp and filters its rich starch liquid into tapioca flour. However, certain manatees contain cyanide, thus manure must first be cleaned to make sure it is safe (*). Tapioca is also gluten-free and can be purchased as mele, perl, or flakes.
Other Cool Hacks How to Thicken without Cornstarch
Other than almond flour, chia seeds, and another low-carb thickening agent, various other ways can also help your recipes thicken.
Simmering: You could always cook your meal at a lower heat for a longer time. This will help to vaporize some of the liquid resulting in a thicker sauce.
Sour cream or Greek yogurt: Do you want creamier and thicker sauce? Then simply add sour cream or greek yogurt to your sauces. It’s fresh and healthy!
Blended vegetables: This is a lifehack! Puré your leftover veggies and make a tomato-based sauce thickener that adds more nutrients. A bonus? his thickening “agent” is low in net carbs too!
As you can see there are many ways to prepare delicious, low-carb food without the use of cornstarch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there other substitutes for cornstarch?
Besides the above replacements, psyllium husk and agar-agar can also be used as an option for cornstarch.
Is it True that Xanthan Gum is artificial?
Xanthan gum is a natural ingredient made from sugar. The sugar could be extracted from soy, dairy, wheat, or even corn, among other sources. And though it’s a recommended keto-friendly ingredient, those with allergies need to check the label to know where the sugar is gotten.
Can Eggs make sauces thicker?
Yes! Yolks of eggs can thicken a creamy sauce and can work for dressings and salads. And as protein is plentiful, but carbs are minimal, they’re good for a keto diet. Low carb and high in protein!
A Final Word
With all the keto-friendly alternatives mentioned in this article, you can still prepare dishes that are deliciously thick and creamy without feeling left out because of a low-carb diet!
So, make sure to choose one (or more) alternatives to use instead of traditional cornstarch. You can use these alternatives when cooking and baking. Trust us, your body will thank you later.