The following is a general guide to using ingredient substitutions for corn allergy. Please verify the ingredients and safety of any products named to make sure it is safe for your child.
If you need additional help in finding product suggestions or where to find ingredients for substituting, post a message in the KFA Food and Cooking Support Forum (registration is free) to get suggestions from other parents who are also managing the same food allergies.
Basic Ingredient Substitutions for Food Allergies
Many common allergens are also common ingredients in your favorite recipes. There are some ingredients which can be easily substituted. There are others that may be more challenging.
Whether or not a “safe” version of a recipe can be successfully made often depends on two important factors. First: what is the role of the ingredient in the recipe? Second: how many of the recipe’s ingredients require substitutions? If the recipe only has 5 ingredients and you need to swap out 4 of them, the end result might bear little resemblance to the original dish. The bottom line: sometimes you can create a “safe” version of a recipe, and sometimes you are better off finding a different recipe altogether.
Substitutes for Corn Oil
Highly refined oils are generally regarded as safe for allergy concerns. But if you are looking for a different option, corn oil can be substituted with another oil safe for the allergies you are managing. Canola oil has a mild flavor and is a good substitute for baked goods or desserts, while oils with a distinct flavor such as grapeseed oil or olive oil can be substituted in savory dishes. Other options include sunflower oil, rice bran oil, soybean oil, etc.
Substitutes for Baking Powder
Most commercial baking powders contain cornstarch. You can make your own corn-free baking powder. For each teaspoon of baking powder, replace it with:
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (this is not a milk product – it is a byproduct of fermenting grapes for wine)
Substitutes for Corn Starch
To replace corn starch used as a thickener for sauces, gravies and puddings, try one of the following:
- 1 1/2 tsp arrowroot starch
- 1 Tbsp wheat starch
- 1 1/2 tsp tapioca starch
- 1 1/2 tsp potato starch
- 2 tsp quick-cooking tapioca
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
Arrowroot works well with cold acid fruits. It does not need to boil to thicken. It does not need to be cooked to removed the “raw” taste of starch. When used in a sauce that is served hot, it does not keep very long and does not reheat well.
Potato starch requires less simmering than flour-based sauces. It makes a more delicate sauce than flour. It is somewhat translucent. Potato starch starts to lose its thickening power at high temperatures. Hot sauces made with potato starch will not stand long, because it does not have much holding power.
Tapioca starch works well in fillings that are to be frozen. It does not break down like flour-based sauces do. Be aware that tapioca will get “stringy” if boiled.
Substitutes for Corn Syrup
There are other liquid sweeteners available such as honey, agave nectar, or golden syrup (sugar cane syrup). You can also replace 1 cup of corn syrup with 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water.
Substitutes for Powdered Sugar
There are commercially available brands of powdered sugar that do not use cornstarch in their ingredients. They use tapioca starch or wheat starch instead. Always read all ingredient labels. You can also make your own powdered sugar. Grind 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 Tbsp potato starch in a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor. Note: This does not turn out as fine as the “real thing,” and grinding sugar in this way can burn out the motor of your appliance if it is run too long for this purpose.
Substitutes for Vanilla Extract
You can buy corn-free vanilla extract (can be difficult to find) or make your own: Drop 2 vanilla beans into a small bottle of potato vodka; let sit for 1-2 months and then remove the beans.
Updated December 2022.