The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is exactly cornflour?

nicodvb's picture

What is exactly cornflour?

Sorry if the question is stupid, but someone wrote me that cornflour is actually corn *starch* rather than a more finely milled corn *meal*.

Can someone disambiguate the term, please? I'm losing my sleep :-)


Mebake's picture

True, Nico, Corn flour is a highly refined Corn Flour containing only the starch in the endosperm.

True Corn Flour however is named Corn meal due to its gritty consistency.


mrfrost's picture

"Cornflour" as explained by Wikipedia:

  • Called corn starch in the USA.
  • Called cornflour in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, except in Canada, where it is also known as corn starch. Not to be confused with cornmeal.
  • Called maize starch in Europe.
  • Often called maizena in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain, Latin America, and Indonesia after the brand.

In the US, what is called "corn flour" is pretty much exactly that; finely ground corn meal. And of course, we also have corn starch(not pictured)

nicodvb's picture




Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mine in Austria (they have several names as previously mentioned) the one in my kitchen is called  Mais Stärkemehl  or  Corn starch flour.  

Broken down there is no protein, no fat, and all carbohydrate 87g to a 100g.  So it is starch in flour form.  

I know corn whole corn contains protein and fat so if the whole is ground into flour, the value information would contain more than just carbohydrates.

Does that help? 


Daisy_A's picture

Hi nico,

Khalid's explanation is pretty concise and accurate from a UK point of view.

What we call 'cornflour' (nearly always written as one word), is a highly-refined starchy white powder used typically to thicken soups, stews and blancmanges. 

I find it pretty slimy stuff when mixed with water and also find I don't need it much. I prefer to use good quality stocks or juices and reduce them sufficiently, include starchy ingredients such as potatoes in soups and use other setting agents for puddings.

Hence I have a ton of the stuff sitting at the back of the cupboard and am able to provide the picture below! This is what most Brits would think of if you united 'corn' and 'flour'.

We can buy corn meal here. I can get a great organic coarse grind of yellow corn to make tortillas. I get it at my local whole food cooperative. For disambiguation and to prevent confused Britons having yellow gravy, they call it 'maize flour'. This to me is a more American phrase, but I see from Mr Frost's post that the preferred phrase stateside is 'corn meal'. Interesting world…

Pictures below: Cornflour, UK style

Just used up my organic maize flour so here is a picture of a homemade maize flour tortilla instead!

Kind regards, Daisy_A


gary.turner's picture

As a Texian, I've grown up eating tortillas.  They are an inseparable part of any Tex-Mex meal. As a lifelong fan of the tortilla, a bit of a tortilla nazi even, I should point out that the proper tortilla is not made with cornmeal, but with ground hominy (see Wikipedia), corn treated with lye, lime, or soda in a process called nixtamalization. Hominy is a more digestible and more nutritious form of corn. The poor, who cannot afford meat, and depend on corn as their dietary staple, tend to suffer from pellagra unless their corn is nixtamalized. Converting to hominy makes the niacin available, and in my opinion, improves the taste.

If you don't wish to make the ground hominy from scratch* (though not difficult, it is time consuming), start with packaged hominy grits, or with masa harina (hominy flour) and a bit of cornmeal for texture and color.



* The lady who comes to deep clean my house, which I am disinclined to do myself, will occasionally bring a jar of hominy and her mortar (an inclined trough of lava rock) and pestle (a rolling pin shaped lava rock) to make fresh tortillas for  tacos or enchiladas or to go with her homemade pozole or caldo de res. I have come to the opinion that women are constitutionally unable to believe that a single retired man is capable of feeding himself. :-p --gt

Daisy_A's picture

Thanks Gary for the lowdown!

¡Ya lo se! Wish I could get authentic hominy in the UK but it's pretty tough outside of specialist Spanish or Latin American stores, which are rarer outside of London and other larger cities. I don't think I've ever seen hominy grits in my life...

I've read about nixtamalization on A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa and understand the lye has a softening effect. Bet the homemade hominy tortillas are the bees' knees!

Picture was there to show nico what passes for maize/corn flour in the UK, as opposed to cornflour, not to say this is an authentic tortilla, as made in Texas/Latin America... I've looked into what tortillas are made of and if I could have got hominy I would have been delighted to have used it...

I like to support the whole food coop and this is the nearest they get and it's organic.  I have seen some 'masa harina' online but postage is quite prohibitive. Would like to make these as authentically as I can, having honed my technique on the best of what was to hand. i will have to have another look for ingredients when I 'go to town'...

Kind regards, Daisy_A

gary.turner's picture

Use freshly ground coriander instead of cilantro. Cilantro's flavor and aroma are lost due to the heat. Char the anchos over a flame if you have a gas range. Otherwise, use your broiler. To the garnishes, add sliced, fresh jalapeños and shredded cabbage. Both supply flavor and textural focal points to an otherwise homogeneous stew.  Don't skimp on the lime; the juice mitigates the peppers' heat and enhances the flavor and aroma of the coriander and cilantro. Lose the cheese. It is not appropriate to this dish.

If you like tripe, use it instead of the pork tenderloin. The pozole (hominy) is optional. The dish becomes menudo, the traditional morning after the night before cure-all, if you know what I mean, and I'm sure you do. For me, pozole is the choice. If we were meant to eat tripe, we wouldn't call it tripe, we'd call it meat.

I think the recipe's author cut the alkali soak short. I've always given it three days. The bran and nib will separate on their own. Skim off the bran, and remove the nibs through a sieve. When I lived in a commercial loft space, there was a tortilla factory behind me. They made hominy from dried corn in one day, but they boiled the corn for the better part of the night in a more caustic solution of lye than I'd care to mess with.



Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

This thread reminded me of a very interesting video, demonstrating the ability of ... well watch the video and you'll see. It's fascinating. A demonstration by New Scientist, I believe.

I love mixing cornflour (or 'custard powder' which is mostly cornflour) because if you stir it it's liquid but if you hit it with a spoon it's solid.

Watch and enjoy!


Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

Looks as though I didn't put the link in so here's another. It's not in English but it's a lot of fun!

Federico Pacheco's picture
Federico Pacheco


The real deal is this.

Cornmeal is a more coarse grounded product that cornflour. They can both be made from whole corn. Typically corn flour is refined and they only use the endosperm of the corn, to have a better texture. However it is not as healthy as Whole corn flour. Corn four is thinner than conrmeal. Cornflour in my country is used to make arepas.

On the other side, corn starch is something different. 

Manufacture of Corn Starch

The corn is steeped for 30 to 48 hours, which ferments it slightly. The germ is separated from the endosperm and those two components are ground separately (still soaked). Next the starch is removed from each by washing. The starch is separated from the corn steep liquor, the cereal germ, the fibers and the corn gluten mostly in hydrocyclones and centrifuges, and then dried. (The residue from every stage is used in animal feed and to make corn oil or other applications.) This process is called wet milling. Finally, the starch may be modified for specific purposes. (Wikipedia)

Pia the cook's picture
Pia the cook

Interesting... I am from Slovenia, Europe. We use corn meal only for the purpose of making polenta which is called zganci here and is an old traditional meal, topped with warm cream, milk or pork greaves. And the corn flour is called edible starch, very rarely used. What I find interesting is that corn flour is used for making the icing sugar, what I until now believed is a medium grinded sugar (something between the regular sugar and powder sugar). But it is actually the same amount of corn flour and castor sugar (castor sugar = superfine sugar, finer than the regular sugar, but 10 times less fine than powder sugar) mixed together.