August 16

Why Do People Eat Cornstarch? Why Raw?

Written by: Dolly

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One of the joys of living in the age of the Internet is seeing all the weird things that other people get up to in their free time. 

So, if you’ve been scrolling mindlessly as of late, you may have noticed some videos popping up of folks eating cornstarch straight out of the box. If not, I promise you they’re there. 

Say what? Cornstarch? But isn’t that just bland, white powder? Those are all questions you may be asking yourself right now. 

I’m here to tell you that yes, in fact, cornstarch is just powdered, dehydrated corn kernels. Yet this bland, white powder has captivated the internet with a ferocious intensity. 

Unlike cornmeal, cornstarch is comprised of only the soft, starchy, white part inside of the hard shell.

Fun fact: those soft bits that are ground into cornstarch are called the endosperm of the corn. 

Cornstarch has a ton of uses, both in the kitchen and out. However, not many people eat it by the handful.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the classic uses for cornstarch as well as some information about those who just can’t get enough of the stuff. 

Why Do People Eat Cornstarch Out of the Box?

man-with-question-mark

It’s easy to judge people who eat fistfuls of cornstarch, but there is often a very real and tangible cause behind their strange “cravings.” 

Pica (pie-kuh) is an eating disorder defined by the subject’s craving and ingestion of non-food items, such as dirt, hair, talcum powder, or paint chips.

And, you guessed it, cornstarch! 

Those with pica may have an iron deficiency or some other nutritional imbalance that is leading to those cravings. 

So, if you’re hankering for a tub of cornstarch, consider getting your blood tested before reaching into the pantry. 


Is it Safe to Eat Corn Starch Straight out of the Box (“raw”)?

white-powder-in-bowl

No. Unfortunately, cornstarch is not safe to eat straight out of the box. 

Raw cornstarch, just like other raw ingredients, may contain harmful bacteria that could do severe harm. Plus, cornstarch is a non-nutritive, high-caloric food item. Meaning, your body will most likely not appreciate large quantities of such a substance. 

Again, if you’re craving cornstarch or eating large amounts of it, consider seeing a doctor and getting your blood tested. 

Eating small amounts of cooked cornstarch in your favorite stew or pudding is safe and usually delicious! Large amounts of raw cornstarch, on the other hand, are a serious no-go. 


Why Do People Use Cornstarch in the First Place?

Cornstarch is a kitchen necessity for a reason! There are so many uses for cornstarch, both edible and non-edible, but here we’ll only cover those that’ll go in your dinner. 


Thickening Agent

bowls-of-chili

Whether you’re thickening spaghetti sauce, chili, or pudding, cornstarch slurries go a long way. To make a slurry, add a little bit of cornstarch to some cold water and stir! Easy as can be.  

But it’s not just for liquids. This Sticky Sesame Cauliflower uses cornstarch as a thickening agent and honestly made me drool. 

Remember: cornstarch is one powerful beast, usually twice as powerful as flour when used as a thickening agent. So, go slow with it and add in one teaspoon at a time, stirring in between each addition. 


Coat & Fry

tofu-salad

As an avid fan of tofu, I often use cornstarch in my lunch and dinner menu. 

After seasoning your cornstarch (at least a little salt and pepper), coat your tofu in it (or other fry-able foods) and then lightly fry them. 

The cornstarch helps them crisp up and have a nice crunch. Game changer! 


Best Fried Chicken

fried-chicken

Is there anything better than a juicy but oh-so-crispy piece of fried chicken? No, there is not. And the key to achieving such heaven? Cornstarch!

By adding cornstarch in with your flour to make the batter, you are ensuring your chicken will be as crispy as is physically possible. And that’s a necessity when it comes to fried chicken. 


No-Stick

Corn starch is used to keep ingredients from sticking together. For example, many processors use cornstarch to keep shredded cheese separate in their packaging.

Cornstarch soaks up excess moisture too, so it’s great for preventing things from spoiling! 

Honestly, what can’t cornstarch do? 


What Does Cornstarch Taste Like?

Cornstarch, like other starches, has a very neutral flavor. In fact, it basically tastes like nothing!

So, you don’t have to worry about overpowering other flavors when adding cornstarch to your favorite dish. 

Again, if cornstarch suddenly sounds and tastes amazing, please go see a doctor. 


Cornstarch Nutritional Value

cooking-supplies

Well, as you might have guessed, cornstarch is nutrition shallow, or, more accurately, nutrition-less. 

Yep, cornstarch has an extremely low fiber level, and it’s a refined carb. Both of those things can be detrimental to your blood sugar levels and may increase your risk of coronary heart disease. 

Also, cornstarch is very high in calories, despite not having any significant vitamins or minerals.  

Cornstarch may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and gastrointestinal issues, such as bloating and poor digestion. 

That being said, cornstarch is safe and relatively healthy (nutrition-less, but healthy) when ingested in small, cooked amounts. 

So, coat that tofu, make some gravy, or bake that cake worry-free. Just know that eating cups of cornstarch at a time isn’t doing you any favors. 


Does Cornstarch have Gluten in it?

Since it’s made of dehydrated corn kernels (which are gluten-free), the obvious answer is no. 

But wait, there’s more! 

Pure cornstarch is very much so gluten-free, but if it’s manufactured in a facility that makes other gluten goods, it may be contaminated.

So, if you or those you care about have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, be sure and check for those GF labels before purchasing. 


Telltale Signs of Bad Cornstarch

powder-on-fingers

Cornstarch doesn’t really go bad. 

Let me rephrase that: in ideal conditions unaffected by moisture, external forces, or insect life, cornstarch could live on in infinite bliss.

However, once moisture sneaks into the canister, the clock starts ticking. 

Cornstarch has extremely low water content, so it’s relatively uninhabitable for bacteria like mold or insects. So, mold can only begin to grow once it’s been exposed to moisture. 

With that in mind, here are some telltale signs of bad cornstarch: 

  • Bugs–black or dark brown dots

  • Mold

  • Sour smell

  • Sour taste

  • Clumps or lumps

If your cornstarch is clumpy, then you’ll know moisture has gotten in, so it may be going bad. 

Of course, if it smells or tastes bad, off, or sour in any way, please throw that moldy powder out and save your stomach! No need to make yourself sick for a tablespoon of cornstarch. 


Conclusion

There you have it, folks. Cornstarch is an invaluable kitchen necessity that is not meant for heavy consumption. 

It’s great when used as a thickening agent, crisper-upper, and anti-stick tool. However, it’s not meant to be ingested in large quantities. 

To simplify, cornstarch is for texture, not taste, people! 

So, get out there and use cooked cornstarch (in small quantities) to your heart’s delight. 

Dolly


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About the author

Dolly is a student at Goldsmiths, University of London and an avid cook. After managing a miniature organic farm for a year, she fell in love with the art of cooking and the taste of homegrown greens. Dolly first became plant-based eight years ago, and she is now a full-blown vegan; her plant-based journey has made her creative and experimental in the kitchen. If she’s not writing or cooking, Dolly can be found on her front porch, strumming her guitar and singing for anyone who will listen.

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