Food Storage: How to Store and Use Cornstarch


Cornstarch is a versatile staple in the kitchen. It enhances the texture and taste of sauces, soups, baked goods, fried foods, and desserts. Cornstarch is also a valuable ingredient in homemade personal care products such as deodorant, baby powder, and dry shampoos.

In this post, we are going to explore how to use and store cornstarch. It is definitely a valuable resource that I always want to have on hand.  

What is cornstarch?

Cornstarch is a fine white powder derived from the endosperm of corn kernels. It consists primarily of amylose and amylopectin, two types of complex carbohydrates. It has excellent moisture-absorbing properties and is a reliable thickening agent. Cornstarch has a fine texture and neutral taste which can be used in various dishes without altering their flavor profiles.

Cornstarch is about 8.32 percent moisture according to the US Department of Agriculture. The low moisture content makes it a good candidate for long-term storage.

What is the actual shelf-life of cornstarch?

Cornstarch has an incredibly long shelf life when stored properly. Storage conditions will impact the actual shelf life. Cornstarch does not spoil or become unsafe to consume. It may lose its thickening power and effectiveness as a cooking and baking ingredient over time. Officially, cornstarch has an indefinite shelf life.

How to store cornstarch in long-term food storage

Cornstarch has an indefinite shelf life when stored correctly. That makes it an ideal candidate for long-term food storage. It will store for many years without needing to be rotated. The following tips will help you maintain high quality over time.

Store in the correct container to protect cornstarch.

Cornstarch may be stored in its original packaging if it protects the flour from moisture and light. Paper or cardboard containers will allow moisture to contaminate the corn starch over time. Plastic bags are fine for short-term storage but not good for long-term storage.

Repackaging cornstarch in air-tight containers including glass jars, plastic containers, Mylar bags, or number ten cans can increase the shelf life. It is a good idea if you are storing for the long term. You can place original containers inside of a sealed plastic bucket for additional protection.

Keep cornstarch cool and dry.

Store the cornstarch in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat sources. Exposure to moisture can cause corn starch to clump and lose its thickening properties. A cool, dry storage environment helps to prevent moisture absorption, clumping, and the potential for the growth of mold or bacteria.

Avoid temperature fluctuations. Do not freeze cornstarch.

Cornstarch is sensitive to temperature changes. Store it in a place with a consistent temperature such as a basement or inside a climate-controlled home. Avoid placing it near stovetops, ovens, or other heat-emitting appliances. Cornstarch can be adversely affected by freezing temperatures and may lose its thickening properties when thawed.

Should I store cornstarch with an oxygen absorber?

You do not need to add an oxygen absorber to corn starch for long-term storage. Cornstarch is a stable product with a long shelf life when stored properly. It is not particularly susceptible to spoilage or degradation when exposed to oxygen.

Protect cornstarch from insect infestation.

Cornstarch can attract pests such as pantry moths or beetles. Before storing cornstarch, inspect it for any signs of pests, such as tiny holes, webbing, or live insects. If you notice any signs of infestation, discard the affected product to prevent the spread of pests. Store cornstarch in an air-tight container and keep it tightly sealed to create a barrier against pests.  

Protect cornstarch from mice.

Mice have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to food sources, especially those high in carbohydrates. Store cornstarch in rodent-resistant containers. I like to place original packages of corn starch in a plastic bucket or tightly sealed tote to add a layer of protection in storage. Keep the area clean and immediately address the problem if you notice any signs of mouse activity.

What is the nutritional value of cornstarch?

Cornstarch is primarily a source of carbohydrates and lacks significant amounts of other essential nutrients. Quite frankly, it provides little nutrition and is high in calories.

  • Carbohydrates – Cornstarch is mainly composed of carbohydrates, specifically starch. It contains approximately 91 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, making it a high-carbohydrate food.
  • Calories – Cornstarch is relatively high in calories. It provides about 381 calories per 100 grams.
  • Fiber – Cornstarch contains negligible amounts of fiber and is a poor source of dietary fiber with less than 1 gram per 100 grams.
  • Protein and Fat – Cornstarch is almost devoid of protein and fat. It contains less than 1 gram of both macronutrients per 100 grams.
  • Vitamins and Minerals – Cornstarch is not a significant source of essential vitamins and minerals. It contains trace amounts of certain nutrients, such as potassium, phosphorus, and small amounts of B vitamins. However, these levels are generally too low to provide substantial nutritional benefits.

Culinary uses and tips for using cornstarch in cooking.

Cornstarch is the magic ingredient in many recipes. A little bit of cornstarch can seriously change the final dish. Let’s explore the culinary uses of cornstarch and share a few valuable tips.

Thickening Agent

One of the primary uses of cornstarch is its ability to thicken liquids. Cornstarch is a vital ingredient in gravies, sauces, soups, and puddings. When heated, the starch granules absorb moisture, swell, and create a viscous consistency, giving dishes a delightful texture.

How to use cornstarch as a thickening agent

To use cornstarch as a thickening agent, follow these simple instructions:

  • Create a slurry: In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with a small amount of cold liquid. Stir until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. The general ratio is 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every 1 cup of liquid.
  • Add to the recipe: Gradually pour the cornstarch slurry into the hot or warm liquid you want to thicken, stirring constantly. The heat will activate the thickening properties of the corn starch.
  • Cook: Cook for a few minutes until the desired consistency is achieved. Cornstarch requires heat to thicken. It is important to cook the mixture for a short time to remove any starchy taste.

Baked Goods

Cornstarch can be incorporated into baked goods to enhance their texture. It softens the crumb, resulting in moist cakes, cookies, and pastries. I personally use cornstarch as a substitute for wheat flour in my gluten-free baking. I like to add other gluten-free flour such as chickpea flour, oat flour, sorghum flour, and amaranth flour to make up for the nutrition that corn starch is lacking. The combination works well.

Desserts

Cornstarch is an important ingredient in a variety of desserts. It creates silky custards and velvety puddings to fruit pie fillings and glazes. Cornstarch creates a smooth and glossy finish while stabilizing and thickening the sweet treats.

I like to mix a little bit of cornstarch in the liquid from canned or bottled fruits and bring it to a boil. Then I reduce the heat and add the fruit to make a quick pie filling or topping for pancakes. It is a great way to turn basic ingredients into tasty treats.

How to use cornstarch in baking and desserts

Cornstarch can be used in baking and dessert recipes to improve texture, stabilize mixtures, or create a smoother consistency. Here are a few ways to incorporate it:

  • Baked Goods: Substitute a portion of the flour in your baking recipe with cornstarch. This can result in a lighter and more tender crumb. Start by replacing 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup of cornstarch and adjust as needed.
  • Puddings and Custards: Cornstarch is a key ingredient in creamy puddings and custards. Mix cornstarch with a small amount of cold milk or liquid, then add it to your heated milk mixture. Cook and stir until thickened.
  • Fruit Fillings: When making fruit pie fillings or fruit sauces, toss the fruit with a mixture of cornstarch and sugar before cooking. The cornstarch will thicken the fruit juices as they cook, creating a delicous filling.

Coating Agent

I like to replace the flour in my coating recipe with cornstarch for fried (or baked) chicken for gluten-free results. It creates a crispy exterior while sealing in moisture, resulting in delicious fried foods like chicken tenders, tempura, and crispy vegetables.

How to use cornstarch in coating and frying

Cornstarch can be used as a coating agent for frying, creating a crisp and golden exterior. Here’s how to use it:

  • Preparing the Coating: Mix cornstarch with seasonings, such as salt, pepper, and herbs to enhance the flavor.
  • Coat the Food: Lightly coat the food, such as chicken, vegetables, or tofu, with corn starch mixture, shaking off any excess. You may want to moisten the food before dipping it in the cornstarch mixture. Mixed eggs or water work fine. This will create a thin and even coating.
  • Frying: Heat oil and fry the coated food until it’s crispy and cooked through. The cornstarch coating will help retain moisture and create a crunchy texture.

Homemade DIY Personal Care Products Made with Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a handy ingredient when making personal care products at home. Remember to store homemade personal care items in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. It is a good idea to perform a patch test on a small area of skin before using any homemade products.

Dry Shampoo

Combine ¼ cup cornstarch and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Add a few drops of essential oil and mix well. Apply it to the roots and oily areas of your hair. Gently massage it in and brush it to distribute the powder in your hair. Wait for a few minutes and then brush or shake out your hair.

Body Powder

Combine ½ cup cornstarch and ½ cup arrowroot powder. Add a few drops of essential oil and mix well. Store in a container with a shaker top. Apply to areas prone to moisture or chafing.

Homemade Deodorant

Combine ¼ cup cornstarch and ¼ cup baking soda. Gradually add 3-4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil until it reaches a paste-like consistency. Add a few drops of essential oil. Mix well. Apply a small amount under your arms using your fingertips. Store in an air-tight container.

Face Powder

You can make a homemade face powder using cornstarch as a base. Simply mix cornstarch with a small amount of cocoa powder to match your skin tone and create a natural-looking face powder. Adjust the ratio of corn starch to cocoa powder based on your preference and skin tone.

Body Spray

Mix 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and several drops of your preferred essential oils in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use and spritz it on your body for a light, scented mist.

Baby Powder

Make a gentle and natural baby powder by combining corn starch with a small amount of finely ground oats. This mixture can help absorb moisture and soothe your baby’s skin.

Foot Powder

Create a homemade foot powder by mixing cornstarch with a few drops of tea tree oil and a sprinkle of baking soda. This combination helps absorb moisture and neutralize odors. Apply the powder to your feet and inside your shoes to keep your feet fresh and dry.

What can I substitute for cornstarch if I run out?

I love having cornstarch always handy in my pantry but if you run out you may be able to substitute these ingredients in your recipe. When substituting cornstarch with any of these alternatives, keep in mind that they may impart slightly different textures or flavors to your dish.

Arrowroot Powder: Arrowroot powder is a gluten-free starch derived from the root of the arrowroot plant. It has similar thickening properties to cornstarch and can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute.

Potato Starch: Made from dried and ground potatoes, potato starch is another gluten-free option. It works well as a thickening agent in soups, stews, and sauces, but it may not hold up as well in high-heat applications. Use it in the same quantity as cornstarch.

Tapioca Starch/Flour: Tapioca starch, derived from the cassava root, is a versatile thickening agent. It has a slightly different texture and may create a glossy finish in recipes. Use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.

Rice Flour: Rice flour can be used as a thickener in certain recipes. It is particularly suitable for gluten-free applications and can be used in the same quantity as cornstarch.

Wheat Flour: You will need to use about twice as much wheat flour as cornstarch to achieve the same results.

Guar Gum: Guar gum is a natural thickening agent derived from the guar bean. Start by using half the amount of guar gum as corn starch and adjust as needed.

Xanthan Gum: Xanthan gum can be used as a thickener in sauces, dressings, and baked goods. It only takes a little bit so use it sparingly and follow the recommended usage instructions on the packaging.

Cornstarch is a great addition to your prepper pantry!

I store cornstarch because it is inexpensive, has a long shelf life, is a critical staple in my homemade dishes, and is an important ingredient in homemade personal care products. I use it frequently.

One caution is that while it has calories, it is not a good source of nutrition. I use it like I do salt and sugar, sparingly. And like salt and sugar, it makes a huge difference in the dishes I serve to my family.

Cornstarch is not easy to make at home so stocking up against a time of scarcity just makes sense. It is a great barter item if you happen to have more than you need.

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones

Kylene

Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.

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