Can You Substitute Cornmeal for Flour?

Flour is available in many varieties, which allows bakers to select the specific type that works best for their baking endeavors. Sometimes, grains other than flour can be used as a substitute in certain recipes. 

You can substitute cornmeal for flour in some instances where a grainier texture is desired. Oftentimes cornmeal is substituted for flour as a breading, because it creates a great consistency. 

Cornmeal can even be used in place of flour for baking. However, it doesn’t make a good alternative in roux or as a thickening agent. So, you wouldn’t want to use cornmeal in frozen gravy or cheese sauce. Cornmeal is a versatile grain, and it can be substituted for flour in many instances. 

Ratio for Substituting Cornmeal for Flour

When substituting cornmeal for flour you can opt for white or yellow cornmeal, but the replacement ratio doesn’t waiver. In general, you can sub out 1 cup of white or yellow cornmeal straight across for 1 cup of all-purpose flour. 

Depending on the density and texture you are going for, you can also substitute more cornmeal for flour if it suits you. The more cornmeal you use, the more crumbly and gritty your product will be. In comparison, the more flour you add the more cakelike your bread will be. 

Is Cornmeal or Flour a Better Option for Baking?

The answer to this question is circumstantial. Cornmeal has about 20 more calories per cup than flour. However, cornmeal also has fewer carbs and more fat, but is quite comparable to flour in its protein content. 

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Here are a few more ways cornmeal and flour compare: 

  • Cornmeal has higher levels of vitamin B6 and thiamin.
  • Cornmeal is an excellent source of iron.
  • Cornmeal contains high levels of potassium. 
  • Flour has 12% more protein than cornmeal.
  • Cornmeal has substantially more dietary fiber than flour.
  • Cornmeal is higher in fat than flour. 

Tips for Substituting Cornmeal for Flour

When replacing flour with cornmeal, there are a few tried and true rules you should follow and tips to consider. To begin with, if you’re substituting cornmeal for flour in baking you’ll need to measure its replacement by weight instead of volume. Flour is more compact than cornmeal, thanks to its smaller, powdery granules. 

If you’re replacing the flour in a recipe in its entirety with cornmeal, you’ll need to add some sort of gluten. When you’re only replacing a portion of the flour with cornmeal, this isn’t as big of an issue. 

During baking, you’ll need to take a few extra steps when replacing flour with cornmeal. The main goal of flour is to help bread and other baked goods rise, which isn’t a quality of cornmeal. Beating air into your mixture for certain recipes and using extra eggs can help. 

Due to its density, a cup of cornmeal doesn’t weigh the same as a cup of flour. So, you’ll always want to calculate your substitutions based on volume, instead. This isn’t surprising, as there are also differences in the weight between different types of flour, too.