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5 Thickening Agents for Cooking and Baking That Aren’t Flour

If you’re a budding chef looking for a way to thicken sauces and soups or just looking to create a deliciously fluffy cake, it is helpful to know the options available when it comes to food thickening agents.

Many cooks have discovered that there are ingredients they can use in place of flour as a thickening agent, which opens up greater possibilities in the kitchen.

Learning how to cook and use alternative food thickening agents will elevate your cooking skills and expand your culinary repertoire.

From cornstarch to agar powder, discover five food thickening agents for cooking and baking without flour.

What are Food Thickening Agents?

Thickeners are ingredients commonly used in the food processing and culinary industries to give a thicker consistency to food products.

These thickeners provide structure to a dish, whether it be by improving its texture, flavor, or both.

Common thickening agents include cornstarch, arrowroot flour, agar powder, egg yolks, heavy cream, and more.

Each of these ingredients works differently upon being cooked.

Whey starches create a smooth and glossy feel after being boiled with liquid, whereas arrowroot creates smooth sauces without any graininess in the texture.

Egg yolks add richness to custards or as light cream while also increasing their viscosity due to albumen proteins present within them.

Furthermore, agar is a vegan alternative for vegetarians who want to make jellies and desserts as it forms gels under cooling conditions that are very stable and thick as compared to other thickeners.

Knowing which thickening agent to use can make all the difference in making delicious dishes that have just the right texture without compromising on taste.

5 Thickening Agents for Cooking and Baking That Aren’t Flour

If you’re looking for alternatives to flour as a thickening agent, there are several options available.

While they won’t provide the same body or texture that flour can, these other thickeners can be used in many recipes to make sauces, gravies, and fruit fillings thicker without using wheat-based products.

1 – Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a common and versatile ingredient in the kitchen.

It is a type of starch made from the endosperm of corn kernels and has an incredibly fine texture that creates a creamy and almost glossy consistency when cooked.

In its dry form, it is flavorless and very light in color.

When cooked with other liquids or stews using long-cooking heating methods, it takes on a slightly sweet, comforting flavor that meshes well with soups, sauces, and gravies alike.

Additionally, it thickens without changing the flavor profile dramatically like flour does, making it an excellent flour substitute when creating certain dishes.

You can substitute cornstarch for flour in recipes by combining two tablespoons of cornstarch with one tablespoon of cold water per tablespoon of flour required initially – then add the mixture into your recipe as normal.

2 – Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch is an intriguing pantry staple made from the root of the cassava plant.

It’s an odorless, tasteless white powder that has a variety of culinary uses, as well as being traditionally used in baking, seafood coating, and desserts like tapioca pudding.

The texture of dishes prepared with tapioca starch can be described as somewhere between gummy and crunchy, making them unique and delightful.

As a thickening agent for sauces and soups, you can use tapioca starch instead of flour in equal amounts to achieve the desired consistency.

Additionally, tapioca starch is gluten-free and releases just enough moisture during the cooking process to help bind ingredients together without leaving a gritty residue.

Incorporating this complex ingredient into your recipes will make them more flavorful than ever before.

3 – Arrowroot Starch

Arrowroot starch (also known as arrowroot flour) is a grain-free, gluten-free powder made from the root of the Maranta arundinacea plant.

It has many benefits for those who are trying to keep gluten and grain out of their diets due to sensitivities or allergies.

Aside from its health benefits, it also has a very light, sweet flavor and a velvety texture that makes it ideal for use in a variety of recipes.

As an added bonus, arrowroot starch can be used as a thickening agent in place of flour; just mix one tablespoon of arrowroot starch with one tablespoon of cold liquid until smooth and add it to your hot sauce or gravy to thicken up desired consistency.

Other than thickening agents, arrowroot can be enjoyed in countless ways – try using it as part of a cake or pastry recipe or simply adding some to milk for an extra creamy treat.

4 – Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a popular, versatile ingredient known for its ability to help create texture and hold ingredients together.

It is a popular choice among those seeking gluten-free substitutes for flour, as it can be used as an effective thickening agent.

Xanthan gum adds a unique texture and taste that resembles that of some gelatins; it has a tiny bit of sweetness but also a light sourness.

To substitute flour as a thickening agent with xanthan gum, the ratio used is generally one teaspoon to one cup of liquid.

With the right preparation and balance of other ingredients, using xanthan gum can make dishes indistinguishable from their flour-based counterparts.

5 – Agar Powder

Agar powder is a fantastic substitute for flour when it comes to thickening recipes.

It’s made from the algae extract of red seaweed, so it’s 100% vegan and full of natural goodness.

Agar has an opaque, jelly-like texture when it sets–once boiled and cooled, you can use it as a gel in baking or your favorite jams or jellies.

Its neutral flavor pairs well with all kinds of food, while its earthy color makes it ideal for presentation purposes too.

To substitute agar powder as a thickener in recipes where you’d usually use flour, add 1/2 teaspoon of agar powder per 2 tablespoons of liquid and boil until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.

Enjoy experimenting with this fantastic ingredient.


In conclusion, when trying to thicken recipes without using flour, there are a variety of alternatives you can try.

You can use cornstarch, tapioca starch, arrowroot starch, xanthan gum, or agar powder as thickening agents in place of flour.

All of these ingredients are gluten-free and have unique textures and flavors that can add depth to your dishes.

Experiment with various ratios and combinations to find the perfect substitute for flour.

Yield: 1 Serving

5 Thickening Agents for Cooking and Baking That Aren't Flour

5 Thickening Agents for Cooking and Baking That Aren't Flour
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • Cornstarch
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Arrowroot Starch
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Agar Powder


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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