When it comes to baking, all-purpose flour has been the go-to ingredient for decades. But in recent years, another type of flour has made its way into the kitchens of bakers everywhere—corn flour. So, is it really a better alternative to all-purpose flour? Let’s find out!
First, let’s look at the differences between all-purpose flour and corn flour.
Comparing corn flour vs all-purpose flour
|Corn flour||All-purpose flour|
|Substitution ratio||1:3 or 1:2, depending on the recipe||N/A|
|Common Allergens||Corn||Wheat, gluten|
|Liquid absorbency||Medium (slightly higher than all-purpose flour)||Medium|
|Pantry shelf life (unopened/sealed)||9-12 months (best in freezer)||6-8 months (2 years in freezer)|
|Best for baking||Cornbread, biscuits, fritters, spongecake, and pancakes.||Non-yeast recipes (think cookies, biscuits, and some breads)|
Corn flour is a finely ground cornmeal made from whole dried corn kernels. This is different from corn starch, which is a highly refined powder made from the endosperm of the kernel. Sometimes they call corn starch cornflour in the UK, so be careful not to get them mixed up!
All-purpose flour is made from a combination of hard and soft wheat varieties, which are milled down to separate the bran and germ. The endosperm that remains is then ground into flour.
While corn flour can substitute for all-purpose flour when baking or provide extra texture in savory dishes such as pancakes or muffins, corn starch is typically used as a thickening agent when added to sauces, soups, or stews. Corn flour is also an ideal substitute for someone with wheat or gluten allergies, as corn flour doesn’t have either. In fact, corn flour is one of the best flours for allergies since it doesn’t have any of the top nine allergens in it.
With that in mind, if you’re looking for either Keto-friendly flours or paleo-friendly flours, neither corn flour nor all-purpose flour is great for either diet. (In fact, both received the dubious honor of being named to our list of flours that are NOT paleo-friendly!)
Differences between corn flour and all-purpose flour
The biggest difference between corn flour and all-purpose flour is their ingredients. All-purpose flour is made up of wheat, while corn flour contains no wheat. As a result, corn flour is naturally gluten-free.
All-purpose flour has a slightly finer texture than corn flour, while corn flour can be a bit more coarse. Baking with corn flour requires additional knowledge, as it behaves differently than all-purpose flour. Corn flour is coarser and more absorbent than all-purpose flour, so you’ll need to adjust your recipes accordingly or risk a dry, dense end product. You’ll also need to increase the amount of liquid in the recipe, such as milk or water, to compensate for the higher absorbency of the corn flour. If you want to go deeper on this, check out our full explainer on all the major types of flour.
Baking with corn flour vs baking with all-purpose flour
Corn flour is a popular choice for gluten-free baking. It’s lighter in color and slightly sweeter, so it gives baked goods a different flavor profile than regular all-purpose flour. It also adds an extra dimension of texture that creates unique baked goods like cakes, muffins, and of course, cornbread. It can also be used in savory dishes such as polenta and taco shells.
As with many gluten-free recipes, you may require extra binders when working with corn flour. In my experience, xanthan gum, guar gum or psyllium husk are generally best to replace the structure that is usually provided by gluten.
But if you’re making bread, I suggest all-purpose flour over corn flour, since it has more protein and gluten for a lighter, fluffier result. All-purpose flour will produce a more mild flavor and traditional texture, making it suitable for a wide range of recipes including cakes, muffins, cookies, pastries, pancakes and waffles.
Ingredients in corn flour vs all-purpose flour
Good quality corn flour has one simple ingredient: ground corn (weirdly enough, corn is actually a grain AND a fruit). All-purpose flour, on the other hand, contains wheat flour and some other things. Many people aren’t aware all-purpose flour isn’t JUST flour. You may see some common additives like ascorbic acid or amylase or preservatives. Some all-purpose flours are also enriched with vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and iron, and may contain barley, mustard, oat, rye, or soybean.
For the best quality all-purpose flour you can buy, I recommend buying an all-purpose flour with no additives, preservatives, or bleaching agents.
Corn flour vs all-purpose flour nutrition facts
|Per 1/4 cup serving||Corn flour||All-purpose flour|
|Carbs||24 g||23 g|
|Fiber||3 g||1 g|
|Fat||1 g||0 g|
|Protein||2 g||4 g|
|Glycemic index score||70||85|
All-purpose flour is higher in protein, iron, and B vitamins than corn flour. But on the flip side, corn flour is higher in fiber and has more antioxidants than all-purpose flour.
Corn flour and all-purpose flour are both grain flours that are high in carbs, so they are neither keto- or paleo-friendly. Both are also considered high glycemic index flours, so if you’re diabetic or trying to balance your blood sugar, you’re better off going with something like coconut flour or almond flour instead.
For cornbread without all the carbs, try this keto cornbread recipe.
Corn flour vs all-purpose flour storage
All-purpose flour has a longer shelf life than corn flour if you store it properly. Both flours should be stored in airtight containers in a cool and dry place. This way, all-purpose flour will last around 6-8 months in your pantry or 2 years in the freezer. Meanwhile, corn flour will keep for up to 1 year if stored in the freezer or fridge.
Corn flour vs all-purpose flour: The full scoop
So there you have it—the full scoop on corn flour vs all-purpose flour!
So, what’s the verdict? Is corn flour better than all-purpose flour? Well, it really depends on what you’re trying to make. For gluten-free baking or tasty savory dishes, corn flour is an excellent option. But for traditional baked goods and if you just want something easy to use in any recipe, all-purpose flour is probably your best bet. The choice is yours!
Yes, you can substitute corn flour for all-purpose flour. However, the result may be slightly denser and have a more distinct corn flavor. When baking with corn flour, you may need to add additional liquid to the recipe to help make up for the drier consistency.
For a gluten-free alternative, rice flour is the best substitute for corn flour. It’s great for baking cakes, breads, pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods. Other good substitutes include almond flour or coconut flour if you’re looking to avoid grains altogether.