Most of us think of cornstarch as a thickening agent. It’s great to add to soups and sauces to provide a thicker consistency and is a popular addition to cookies for a chewier texture. Cornstarch certainly has its place in the kitchen and is a pantry staple, but just how universal is it? If it’s used as a thickener, could it be used to thicken beverages like coffee?
Yes and no. It can be added to coffee when prepared correctly, but you can’t simply stir cornstarch into your morning coffee. There are several reasons for this, which I’ll explain in more depth throughout this article, along with whether or not adding cornstarch to coffee has any real purpose or benefit.
What is cornstarch?
Let’s start from the beginning and break down what cornstarch is. Cornstarch is derived from a specific part of the corn kernel called the endosperm and it is the most common among the starches, including tapioca, arrowroot, rice, potato, and wheat.
Interestingly enough, it was invented in the 1800s in New Jersey and used for laundry purposes. Fun fact: it can be used to get pesky oil stains out of your clothes! But today we know it as more of a kitchen staple than anything else.
Is there any nutritional value to cornstarch?
We generally consider most vegetables to be a healthy choice for our diet, corn being one of them. But as it turns out, the process by which the starch is actually derived from the corn kernel removes much of the nutritional value from the final product.
In order to make cornstarch, the endosperm has to be separated from the bran and germ of the corn kernel. Unfortunately, the bran and germ are the most nutritional part of the plant, so we lose out on the fiber and fat that they provide. The starch from the endosperm is then extracted through a process known as wet milling, dried, and packaged.
Because of this multi-step process to finally get to the cornstarch, it is considered a highly processed food. It is typically recommended that highly processed foods are limited as part of a healthy diet.
Consider this: while most of the time we consume cornstarch in small quantities, one cup or 122 grams of cornstarch contains nearly 500 calories, but virtually no protein, fiber, or vitamins. It is essentially full of empty calories, which doesn’t offer much of a benefit.
What does cornstarch taste like?
Contrary to popular belief, cornstarch does not taste like corn. Cornstarch actually has a very neutral, bland flavor, which makes it ideal to add to dishes of all sorts as a thickening agent because it won’t alter the flavor in any way.
Why add cornstarch to coffee?
At this point, you may be wondering why anyone would want to add cornstarch to coffee, and it’s a valid question. The only real benefit of adding cornstarch to coffee is to thicken it, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.
Cornstarch in hot coffee
Cornstarch cannot simply be sprinkled into a hot liquid, as this will spell disaster. If added straight to a hot liquid, cornstarch is unable to fully dissolve and will just clump instead. Of course, nobody wants clumps of cornstarch in their coffee.
When used to thicken cooking juices, soups, or other hot liquids, cold water must be mixed with the cornstarch to create what’s called a slurry. This slurry is then added to the hot liquid and the thickening will begin.
Cornstarch in iced coffee
This might lead one to believe that cornstarch could be added to iced coffee and dissolve with no problem, but that’s also not the case. First of all, the cold slurry must be added to a hot liquid for any real thickening to occur. Second, and perhaps most importantly, cornstarch should not be consumed raw.
Raw cornstarch can be difficult to digest, which can cause really uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloat. On top of that, raw cornstarch can carry bacteria that could make you ill, so it’s definitely not worth the risk of eating it without cooking it first!
Is there any benefit to adding cornstarch to coffee?
Since adding cornstarch to either hot or iced coffee would require cooking or heating it first, and considering it has little to no nutritional value, it’s likely just not worth the trouble. There’s no real benefit to adding it to either cold or hot coffee and it’s not a simple process even if you did want to try it.
Cornstarch boba coffee
This isn’t to say, however, that coffee and cornstarch can never join forces. If you’re familiar with boba tea, you’ll know that it’s a cold beverage served with edible pearls typically made out of tapioca starch. It has its origins in Asia but has become popular all over the world in recent years. If you’re a boba lover or are interested in trying something new, consider making this recipe for boba pearls made out of cornstarch.
All it takes is water, cornstarch, and brown sugar. And while it can be challenging, the reward is well worth it! These cornstarch boba pearls can be added to any cold beverage, including coffee! It makes for an incredibly unique treat and you might just find yourself hooked on those little pearls after trying it.
Another unique way to combine coffee and cornstarch is by making coffee jelly, a dish that’s been popular in Japan for decades. While the original recipe does not call for cornstarch, the gelatin can be substituted for cornstarch to create a slight variation of the dessert that resembles more of a pudding than a jelly. Honestly, a coffee pudding sounds delicious to me!
So while adding cornstarch to your coffee probably isn’t the best option, adding the two together, along with other ingredients, can create some pretty yummy concoctions. I suggest you try either one of these recipes for a unique, coffee-flavored treat!