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Is Cornstarch Gluten-Free, or Does It Contain Gluten?

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Updated June 02, 2014

Is Cornstarch Gluten-Free, or Does It Contain Gluten?

Only some cornstarch brands are gluten-free

Getty Images/James Baigrie

Question: Is cornstarch gluten-free, or does it contain gluten?

Answer:

It depends on the brand. Pure cornstarch is made from corn kernels, which do not contain the gluten protein that causes problems in people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Therefore, pure cornstarch is gluten-free. But not all brands meet the level of purity you need when gluten — even a tiny bit of gluten — makes you sick. You need to consider whether the cornstarch you're buying has been manufactured in a way that avoids potential sources of gluten cross-contamination.

Unfortunately, many of the brands on the market are made in shared facilities or on equipment shared with wheat products, and so they aren't considered gluten-free. However, there are a few brands out there that are safe on the gluten-free diet.

Cornstarch Is Extremely Useful for Gluten-Free Cooking

To create cornstarch, manufacturers take corn kernels, grind them and then wash them in order to separate the starch component from the corn's protein, fiber and oil components. The result is a fine, powdery substance that can be used in cooking and baking. You also can use cornstarch to starch your clothes, to clean silver, to make holiday ornaments or even to polish your car.

Cornstarch appears frequently in gluten-free recipes — you can use it to thicken gravies and soups, and it serves as an important component of many gluten-free flours, cakes and breads.

Here's the list of gluten-free cornstarch brands:

  • Argo & Kingsford's cornstarch. Argo & Kingsford's makes only two products: cornstarch and baking powder (which includes cornstarch). According to the company's frequently asked questions page, both products are considered gluten-free.

  • Bob's Red Mill cornstarch. This cornstarch is made on Bob's dedicated gluten-free equipment (note: the equipment also processes the company's gluten-free oatmeal, so if you're sensitive to oats, you might need to steer clear). Bob's Red Mill tests its gluten-free products to make sure they contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten (GF-20).

  • Clabber Girl. Clabber Girl (a well-known manufacturer of baking powder), also manufactures Rumford, Davis and Hearth Club brands of baking powder, along with Rumford and Hearth Club cornstarch. According to Clabber Girl's frequently asked questions page, only Hearth Club corn starch — not Rumford cornstarch — is gluten-free. The Hearth Club cornstarch is tested to 20 parts per million (GF-20) levels, according to Clabber Girl.

Brands of cornstarch that are not considered gluten-free (usually due to cross-contamination issues in the manufacturing process) include:

  • CREAM cornstarch
  • Frontier Natural Products bulk cornstarch
  • Hodgson Mill cornstarch
  • Rapunzel cornstarch
  • Rumford cornstarch

Gluten-Free Craft Projects with Cornstarch

Once you've found a gluten-free cornstarch you like for baking, you may want to consider branching out into craft projects with it. Since so many conventional craft projects call for wheat flour as an ingredient (a real risk to use, even if we don't eat it, due to reactions from inhaling airborne gluten), I was thrilled to find the following gluten-free, cornstarch-based craft ideas:

  • Craft Clay. This simple, three-ingredient clay from About.com's Guide to Toddlers and Twos dries hard enough to paint.

  • Oobleck. If you've never played with Oobleck, you need to give this a try — it's perfect for a science project or just to amuse the kids (and yourself) on a rainy day.

  • Stress Ball. Gluten-free life got you down? Try making this cornstarch-based stress ball.

Clearly, cornstarch has all kinds of potential uses beyond just making good gluten-free gravy.

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