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Can I Use Baking Soda Instead of Corn Starch?

The other day a friend called and told me she ran out of corn starch and wanted to make gravy. All she had handy was baking soda. After I helped her, I decided that this is a worthy topic for an article to help other people out.

Baking soda and corn starch are not interchangeable in recipes because they have completely different purposes in cooking. Cornstarch is typically used as a thickening agent in sauces and soups, while baking soda is a leavening agent that will help baked goods rise.

Now that you know substituting baking soda is a bad idea, let’s go more into detail about why. I’ll also give you a list of what can be used instead of cornstarch.

What’s the Difference Between Cornstarch and Baking Soda?

Baking Soda Box with a Glass Bowl of Baking Soda in Front

Cornstarch is precisely what it sounds like: a starch made from kernels of corn. It is most commonly used in the kitchen for thickening but can be added to soups or sauces in order to provide a less watery, more gelatinous texture. Cornstarch can also be used in fruit pies and pastries to prevent the filling from getting too wet and soaking the crust.

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a leavening agent that can be used to help baked goods rise. Recipes that call for baking soda usually also call for an ingredient with acidic properties, such as buttermilk, lemon juice, or sour cream. When baking soda interacts with an acid and is exposed to heat, it will produce a chemical reaction that will cause your baked goods to rise.

To sum up the difference:

  • Cornstarch= Thickener
  • Baking Soda= Leavening Agent

Can You Ever Use Baking Soda to Thicken Sauce?

Adding baking soda to a sauce will not cause it to thicken. Since baking soda is considered a “base” in chemistry, it must be combined with an acid in order to produce a reaction.

Even if baking soda is added to an acidic sauce, like tomato sauce, the reaction that it produces will not achieve a thickening effect. Instead, it will most likely produce a bubbling or foaming reaction.

Also, baking soda will affect the flavor of the sauce, making it taste salty or metallic. If you have accidentally added a small amount of baking soda to your sauce, try neutralizing the taste with a splash of vinegar. Add the vinegar slowly until you can no longer taste the baking soda.

What If I Accidentally Put Baking Soda Instead of Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and cornstarch.

Adding baking soda in the same quantity in a recipe that calls for baking powder will result in a metallic flavor and an uncontrollable rise. It’s possible that the dessert may not rise at all, or that it will rise so much that it collapses.

If you have accidentally added baking soda instead of baking powder, it may be easiest to throw out the mixture and start over.

If you still want to try the recipe with the original mixture, you will need to make some significant adjustments.

  1. First, add two teaspoons of lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar for every teaspoon of baking soda that has been added.
  2. Then, because baking soda is approximately three times stronger than baking powder, you will likely need to triple the recipe in order to ensure the baked good rises correctly.

What Can Be Used Instead of Cornstarch?

If you are attempting to thicken a sauce and do not have any cornstarch, many other ingredients can be added in order to achieve a thickening effect.

Is There a Difference Between Cornflour and Cornstarch?

Corn Starch or Corn Flour on a Spoon Leaning Against a Cob of Corn

Cornstarch and cornflour are words that are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the fine white powder that is used to thicken sauces. However, there is a difference between the two ingredients.

  • Cornstarch is made only from the endosperm of the corn kernel, and the hull and the germ of the kernel are discarded. The endosperm is then ground into a fine white powder.
  • Cornflour, on the other hand, is made from the whole kernel. Cornflour is often used for breading and frying and can add a delicious flavor to fried meat and vegetables. It can also be incorporated into waffle or pancake batter for a hearty breakfast.

Please keep in mind that in recipes from the United Kingdom, cornflour and cornstarch both refer to cornstarch. However, in American recipes, it can be assumed that cornflour refers to the ground powder of the entire corn kernel, and cornstarch refers to the ground powder of the endosperm of the kernel.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, my friend averted a complete cooking disaster. I hope this article did for you as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

For more, don’t miss 6 Delicious Ways to Make Gravy Without Milk.