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- Normally, cornstarch is gluten-free and fine for gluten-free baking.
- Cornstarch often contains only corn, so it’s ok if you follow a gluten-free diet plan.
- There is a chance of cross-contamination with wheat or another grain with gluten.
- To be on the safe side, look for cornstarch that is certified gluten-free.
- Wheat products, rye products, and barley products contain gluten.
Do you have to avoid cornstarch on a gluten-free diet? Is corn starch gluten-free? How safe is pure cornstarch if you have celiac disease?
Thankfully, you can eat cornstarch on a gluten-free diet. Cornstarch usually only contains corn, and not wheat or any other grains with gluten. Even celiac sufferers that have to strictly avoid gluten can eat cornstarch.
I have gluten sensitivity and have no problems eating cornstarch. However, there is a chance of accidental cross-contamination with wheat. If the corn is processed on machines that also process wheat or barley, some gluten may be in the cornstarch.
Is Cornstarch Naturally Gluten Free?
Corn does not contain any gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is not found naturally in corn.
Cornstarch also isn't supposed to contain any ingredients with gluten in them. However, the same equipment used to process cornstarch might be used to process other grains, including those with gluten.
This means that a small amount of gluten may end up in your cornstarch unintentionally. Whether or not this is harmless depends on how severe your gluten sensitivity is.
Gluten-Free Brands of Corn Starch
Corn starch from Hodgson Mill, Bob's Red Mill, Clabber Girl, or Argo & Kingsford's is labeled gluten-free. Hodgson Mill corn starch has gluten-free certification, and you can probably trust the other three brands.
Brands That Use Shared Equipment
At least the Rapunzel, Cream, and Frontier Natural brands use shared equipment. However, there might only be a small amount of gluten in their cornstarch. You might be ok, depending on how little gluten it takes to give you symptoms.
Different Corn Products
Corn products are usually gluten-free. However, they may be accidentally contaminated with gluten-containing grains.
Cornstarch is made by taking the starchy part of corn and grounding it into powder. It is used as an ingredient in many foods, from soup to gravy.
You can use it to thicken a soup that might be too weak otherwise. Cornstarch is gluten-free as long as it has no other ingredients and was not accidentally mixed with wheat, barley, or rye.
Corn flour is similar to corn starch and is gluten-free if it has no other ingredients. Corn flour contains protein and fat because it is not made only out of the starchy part of the kernel.
It has a wide variety of uses and is not primarily a thickener like corn starch. In recipes, the two are not the same. It may turn out badly if you substitute one for the other.
Corn meal is sort of like corn flour, but rougher. It normally only contains corn, so there won't be any gluten. Look for a gluten-free label if you want to be as careful as possible.
Hominy is made by soaking corn kernels in lime. It is used for tortillas and some other foods. It does not normally contain any gluten.
A lot of popcorn you can buy in stores and even a lot of movie theater popcorn is gluten-free. The main ingredient is corn, and things like butter, salt, and most butter flavoring do not contain gluten.
However, popcorn that contains gluten is also common. There may be spices and flavorings made from gluten-containing grains on your popcorn. Soy sauce often contains wheat and gluten.
Corn and Celiac Disease
Normally, corn should not trigger celiac disease symptoms. Celiac disease only has one trigger - gluten. It is not like irritable bowel syndrome where the triggers are different for different people.
If you get celiac symptoms from eating corn meal or other corn products, your food might be cross-contaminated with gluten. Another possibility is that you have a different food intolerance.
You might be reacting to something else in the corn meal besides gluten. Sometimes, a person has two or more food allergies/intolerances. It can take time to discover the cause of your digestive problems and how to avoid them.
Check the Ingredients
The first thing to do if you get celiac symptoms from corn is to check the ingredients carefully and see if there is any wheat, barley, or rye in your food. Farro (the older forms of wheat) and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye) both contain gluten.
You might also call the company, who might know for sure if their products contain gluten. Don't continue using the product if it gives you celiac symptoms. Repeated allergic reactions can harm your body.
If there is no gluten in your food, you must be intolerant to some other ingredient. Go to the doctor and get tested for allergies. A simple skin prick test can determine if you are allergic to a certain substance.
Many people are allergic to corn, and this can coexist with other allergies. A corn allergy may cause nausea, vomiting, cramps, indigestion, or diarrhea. The symptoms are not that different from what gluten sensitivity may cause, so you might confuse the two.
Even with an allergy test, it can be hard to differentiate between an allergy to corn and an allergy to a different grain. You might not know you have a corn allergy until you repeatedly notice that corn can make you sick even though there is no gluten in it.
Testing for Exposure to Gluten
If you aren't sure whether you have been exposed to gluten, a blood test can tell you. The test can look for certain antibodies your body makes when you have a bad reaction to gluten.
Alternatives to Cornstarch
Since most cornstarch is gluten-free, there is no need for a gluten-free alternative to cornstarch. However, you might still want to try tasty and nutritious alternatives to cornstarch. My favorite is arrowroot powder.
Any of these alternatives are gluten-free unless other ingredients are added:
- Potato starch, which is a bit flavorless but won't change the flavor of your food
- Arrowroot starch is made out of the arrowroot plant and is a powder like flour or cornstarch.
- Guar gum and xanthan gum are fine if you follow a gluten-free diet plan.
- Rice flour works well, although you need to use more of it than cornstarch.
- Ground flaxseed is not very similar to cornstarch, but it is high in fiber and great in many recipes.
- Tapioca is powdered cassava root and works as a substitute for cornstarch. You need to add about twice as much tapioca as you would cornstarch.
If you are using cornstarch as a thickener, remember that it is much stronger than flour. You don’t need nearly as much of it as some other thickeners.