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Cornstarch vs. Corn Syrup – Key Differences & Substitutions

Cornstarch and corn syrup are related, but they are different. So here, we’ll look at how they are used, how they differ, and how you can use one in place of the other: cornstarch vs. corn syrup.

Corn syrup is made from cornstarch. But it undergoes a process that transforms it into a thick surgery syrup. Cornstarch, by comparison, is a light powder that is not especially sweet. In some cases, corn syrup can be used as a thickener, the same way cornstarch is used as a thickener.

But cornstarch is incredibly versatile, having an array of uses.

In this article, we’ll find out if cornstarch can be used in place of corn syrup and if cornstarch is the same as high fructose corn syrup. But we’ll also discover if corn syrup can be used in place of cornstarch.

Let’s get started.

corn starch vs corn syrup lg

Can I use cornstarch for corn syrup?

Do not directly replace cornstarch for corn syrup. While corn syrup is derived from cornstarch, its consistencies, cooking qualities, and taste are different. Cornstarch is a thickening agent, while corn syrup is sugar. One cannot be substituted for the other.

You know that you can use corn syrup to soften the texture of a variety of food products, enhance flavor, prevent the crystallization of sugar cane (to prevent sugar from becoming solids after it’s been saturated), and add volume.

Cornstarch, on the other hand, is incredibly versatile. It is used in a variety of ways. It was originally used to starch laundry. In time, its many other uses were recognized.

It is often employed to thicken liquid-based foods such as custards, stews, soups, and sauces. When used in the right amounts, it’s tasteless and translucent.

Looking for a corn syrup substitute?

The following are some of the best substitutes for corn syrup:

  • Dissolved sugar
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave syrup (sometimes called agave nectar)
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Golden syrup

Light corn syrup is used when you want a delicately sweet flavor, and dark corn syrup is used when you desire a more robust color and flavor. The latter would be better for your pecan pie.

Brown rice syrup is also a sweetener, but it is not necessarily the best substitute for corn syrup or sugar. In fact, it has more calories, although it is considered a great natural sweetener.

So for me, the best choice to replace corn syrup is agave nectar. This is because it comes in both a light and a dark form, and its mild flavor is perfect for a wide variety of different products.

Is cornstarch the same as high fructose corn syrup?

Cornstarch is not the same as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), although all forms of corn syrup are made from cornstarch. When cornstarch is broken down into individual glucose molecules, the end product is corn syrup. And then, high fructose corn syrup is derived from corn syrup.

So while related, they are two different products.

To produce high fructose corn syrup, enzymes are added to corn syrup to convert some of its glucose to another sugar known as fructose. It’s naturally occurring in fruits and berries and is also referred to as “fruit sugar.”

Corn starch, as we found out earlier, is starch. It is a chain of glucose molecules joined together.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), on the other hand, is sugar, although not exactly the same as table sugar. It’s a mixture of glucose and fructose. These are examples of simple sugars. Glucose and fructose can be obtained when sucrose is hydrolyzed. This is known as invert sugar.

HFCS is often used in soft drinks.

You’re in the market for honey. Where can you easily find it in the grocery store? 

Check out a recent article of mine where I shared if you could buy raw honey at Walmart and if honey in grocery stores is real. I also shared how to know if it’s real honey or not!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can you use corn syrup instead of starch?

Corn syrup can be used in place of cornstarch to thicken some types of sweet food, such as hard candy, fudge, and cake frosting. It is a sweetener that’s used to soften the texture of food, add volume and enhance flavor, in addition to other uses. 

So, it depends on the specific use.

In some cases, you can. They are both derived from corn kernels. But they have different consistencies, textures, and tastes. Naturally, they have a few common uses too. But if you want to sweeten something, this isn’t the way to go due to the lack of sugar content in cornstarch.

Cornstarch has a lot more uses because of its abrasive and deodorizing qualities, like baking soda.

Apart from its use in cooking, it has tons of uses outside the kitchen, such as industrial applications. In most of these instances, corn syrup would be grossly inappropriate.

Potato starch is considered the best substitute for cornstarch. But wheat flour is also frequently used to thicken products.

Why is corn syrup banned in the UK?

Corn syrup itself is not banned in the United Kingdom. But products made from genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) are, and most forms of corn syrup are made from GMO corn. 

Corn syrup imported from the United States is likely to have been made from genetically modified corn.

In the UK, there is a requirement that food that is genetically modified or that contains genetically modified parts have to be disclosed. And it has to meet a particular threshold.

Similar regulations over the food industry will become mandatory in America starting 2022. Of course, there isn’t absolute proof that GMOs have negative effects on our health. But the concern over them has been growing for over a decade.

Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, are they the same thing? 

That’s the theme of a recent article of mine where I looked at whether corn syrup is as bad as high fructose corn syrup and the advantage of high fructose corn syrup over regular corn syrup. But I also revealed if cane sugar is better than corn syrup.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is corn syrup made from corn flour?

Corn syrup is not made from corn flour; it’s made from corn starch. Corn starch is starchy and powdery because it’s made from the starchy part of the corn kernel. Corn flour, on the other hand, is a fine powder made from the whole corn kernel.

In other words, both cornstarch and cornflour are derived from corn. The first is made from the part of the corn that’s starchy, while the second is made from the whole kernel. Corn syrup is a derivative of the first (cornstarch).

But how’s corn syrup made?

There are two key steps in making corn syrup. The first is separating the starch from corn and then converting cornstarch into corn syrup. Water and sulfur dioxide are added to corn kernels. After the kernels have been softened, the germs (the inner part of the kernel) are removed. It’s then heated and pressed to release the corn oil.

After being separated, the starchy center is mixed with mill starch (a protein mixture) at high speeds.

Then any leftover protein is removed, leaving the starch ready to be converted into corn syrup. Hydrochloric acid is added to the mixture and then heated under pressure.

The heat and the breakdown of the acid create sugar in liquid form. The longer the period, the sweeter the corn syrup. Undesirable flavors and colors are removed, and then the mixture is evaporated to create the final product.

So, corn syrup and corn flour are different. What about corn flour and masa harina, are they the same?

A recent article of mine offers interesting info on this theme. I looked at if you could substitute corn flour for masa harina and if cornmeal is the same as cornflour. But I also shared how you can make masa harina.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


In the article, we found out if cornstarch can be used in place of corn syrup and if cornstarch is the same as high fructose corn syrup.

But we also discovered if corn syrup can be used in place of cornstarch. Then, we considered why corn syrup is banned in the UK (actually, it’s not). And we looked at a great substitute for both cornstarch and corn syrup.

Lastly, we explored if corn syrup is made from corn flour.

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Image by jette55 from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell