Cornflour - The great binder

by Sanjeev Kapoor

I have been often asked what is the difference between cornflour and cornstarch. Well the two are same – in U.S. it is known as cornstarch and in Britain it is known as cornflour. But yes corn flour (two words) is different – it is what we in India know as makkai ka atta (corn meal) which is yellow in colour. Cornflour or cornstarch is white in colour, powdery to touch.

Cornflour or cornstarch is the starch of the corn or maize grain. Corn flour is got from the whole kernel whereas cornstarch is got from the endosperm portion of the kernel. It is corn flour that is used to make corn tortillas whereas cornflour or cornstarch is used mostly as a filler, binder and thickener. 

While buying cornflour make sure it is white and powdery with no lumps whatsoever. And yes, also watch out for expiry date so that it gives the best results.

Another question that I have to answer quite often is what are the different ways that one can use cornflour. Well, there are quite a few. For example, it can be used as a binder in puddings or croquettes or as a thickener in sauces, stews or soups

The best part of this flour is that it is gluten-free and therefore can be used by those who are allergic to gluten and cannot have flours that have gluten. Use it in cakes or cookies, pies or puddings it will stand you in good stead since it does not impart any additional flavour.

It should first be mixed with cold water and then added to heated foods in order that no lumps form. Another point to remember is that cornflour should never be overcooked because then it will break down and thin out. While cooking make sure to stir continuously but gently for vigorous stirring can lead to loss of texture. Cornflour should be added towards end of cooking. Once it is added cook over medium heat, let it boil for a minute, remove from heat and serve. To get an idea of its usefulness try adding 1 tablespoon of cornflour instead of 1 egg to cutlet mixture as binding - good option for vegetarians. If chocolate sauce is not available, crush chocolates and boil with milk. Add cornflour and little sugar. A yummy sauce is ready! In order to obtain crisp and crunchy French fries sprinkle little cornflour on them before frying.

One thing to remember is that any dish that has cornflour in it should not be frozen. Do not freeze any cooked recipe that contains cornflour because the texture is affected when the dish reheated.

Easiest way to keep cornflour indefinitely is in an airtight container in a dry and cool place. Alternatively, you can put it in a plastic bag and store in a refrigerator. 

When it comes to looking at the density of calories, cornflour works out fine as it has 488 calories per cup. It can therefore be said that it is beneficial for athletes or others who are highly physically active. Research has proved that ½ cup of cornflour provides enough fuel for more than an hour of weightlifting, or 1 cup of cornflour provides enough calories for 57 minutes of swimming!

It is also rich in carbohydrates and would be ideal for those who are high-carbohydrate diet as 1 cup cornflour has 117 g of carbohydrates. It is also nearly fat free as each cup has less than 0.1 g fat. It is low in protein so it can be good for people who are recommended low protein diets to treat conditions such as gout or liver or kidney problems. It is also low in sodium and therefore good for people suffering from high blood pressure. 

What is Karachi Halwa without cornflour? Or the glaze given to Chinese stir fries? I love to bake Eggless Mawa Cakes and they need cornflour as a binding factor. 

Have some quick recipes for you that can use cornflour : 

Crispy Onion Rings

Cut 4 onions into thick slices. Separate into rings and use the outer big rings. Sift 2 cups maida, 3 tablespoons cornflour, salt, ½ teaspoon white pepper powder, ½ teaspoon baking powder. Add ½ cup oil and sufficient water to make a thick batter. Dip the rings in batter and deep fry in hot oil till crisp. Remove and drain. Serve hot.

Corn and Cheese Balls

Mix 1½ cups boiled, mashed sweet corn kernels, 2 cups grated cheese, 2 boiled potatoes, 1” chopped ginger, 2 chopped chillies, 2 tablespoons chopped coriander, salt, 1 teaspoon chilli powder, 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder, 2 tablespoons cornflour, 1 tbsp maida. Shape into bite sized balls, deep fry till golden. Drain and serve hot.

Mango Wontons

Mix 3 tablespoons cornflour in ½ cup water. Add 1 cup tinned mango pulp. Cook mixture in wok till thick. Cool. Make firm dough with 2 cups maida, ½ cup warm water. Roll out dough into large thin square sheet about 1 mm thick. Cut sheet into 3” squares. Place mango filling in centre. Fold into a triangle, twist edges and bring them together, seal. Deep fry till golden. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

Baby Corn Manchurian

Heat 1 teaspoon oil, add 8 chopped garlic, ½” piece chopped ginger, 2 sliced spring onion, 18 slit baby corn. Stir fry till they are tender. Add ½ cup vegetable stock, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, salt, ½ teaspoon pepper powder, 1 teaspoon cornflour dissolved in 2 tablespoons water. Cook till gravy is smooth and glossy. Serve hot, garnished with 2 spring onion greens. 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.