cornstarch vs baking powder

Cornstarch Vs Baking Powder

Have you ever wondered about the differences (or similarities) between cornstarch and baking powder? I had run out of baking powder recently and discovered that cornstarch was listed as a possible substitute for baking powder. This surprised me as I thought they were very different products. Turns out…I was right!

Cornstarch and baking powder are both ingredients commonly used in baking, but they serve very different purposes and have distinct differences in terms of their chemical properties and uses.

What Is Cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a fine, powdery starch made from the endosperm of the corn kernel. It is a thickening agent and is often used to thicken sauces, gravies, and puddings.

When added to a liquid mixture, the starch granules absorb water and swell, creating a thick, smooth texture. Cornstarch can also be used as a dry coating for fried foods, as it helps to create a crisp exterior.

what is cornstarch

What Is Baking Powder?

Baking powder, on the other hand, is a leavening agent that is used to help baked goods rise. It is a combination of baking soda, an acid (such as cream of tartar), and cornstarch.

Baking powder reacts with liquid ingredients when heated, releasing carbon dioxide gas which causes the dough or batter to expand and rise. It is commonly used in baking to make cakes, cookies, and other baked goods light and fluffy.

difference between cornstarch and baking powder

Difference Between Cornstarch And Baking Powder

So we’ve established that cornstarch and baking powder are not the same thing, but let’s find out more about what makes them different.

One of the main differences between cornstarch and baking powder is their chemical properties. Cornstarch is a pure starch and does not have any leavening properties, while baking powder is a mixture of ingredients that includes baking soda, which is a leavening agent. Additionally, cornstarch is used as a thickening agent while baking powder is used to make the dough or batter rise.

Another difference is the amount of time required for the ingredients to take effect. Cornstarch needs heat to activate, while baking powder starts reacting as soon as it gets wet.

Can You Substitute Cornstarch For Baking Powder?

It’s worth noting that cornstarch can be used as a replacement for baking powder in some recipes, but only by using the cornstarch as an ingredient to make your own baking powder.

For example, if a recipe calls for baking powder, but you don’t have any on hand, you can use a mixture of 1 part baking soda to 2 parts cream of tartar, plus 1 part cornstarch as a substitute. But I don’t know if I’d really call it a substitute in this instance as you’ve really just used the cornstarch to make your own homemade baking powder.

How To Tell The Difference Between Cornstarch And Baking Powder

how to tell the difference between cornstarch and baking powder

If you’ve stored your cornstarch and baking powder in the pantry without labeling the canisters or storage containers, you might have some difficulty in telling them apart – they are both white powders after all.

There are a couple of different ways to distinguish between cornstarch and baking powder:


As stated, both are white powders but cornstarch is a fine, white powder, while baking powder may have a slightly off-white color due to the addition of baking soda and other ingredients.


Cornstarch is a very fine, powdery texture, while baking powder may have a slightly grainy texture due to the inclusion of baking soda and other ingredients.


Cornstarch is virtually tasteless, while baking powder has a slightly bitter taste due to the baking soda.

So, if in doubt, taste a small amount of each substance, you should be able to detect a slight tang or bitterness in the baking powder, while there should be virtually no taste in the cornstarch.

So, Are Cornstarch And Baking Powder The Same Thing?


Cornstarch and baking powder are both ingredients that are commonly used in baking, but they have distinct differences and serve different purposes. Cornstarch is a thickening agent, while baking powder is a leavening agent, and understanding these differences can help ensure your baked goods turn out as desired.

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