Cornmeal vs Corn Flour—What’s the Difference?

We’ve all been in a situation where we realize that we don’t have an ingredient mid-recipe. In that case, we might want to consider using another ingredient as a substitute.

So, if you need cornmeal, can you replace it with cornflour or vice versa?

In this article, we’ll show you the differences between cornmeal vs corn flour so that you know when and how to use them.

Aesthetic Differences

Cornmeal has a yellow color that resembles the corn it comes from. That said, the yellow color varies depending on the type of corn used. 

Another key characteristic of cornmeal is its texture. It has a gritty feel, and when setting a spoon of cornmeal and corn flour side by side, the cornmeal is evident based on texture alone.

It’s easy to mistake corn flour for regular flour when you first look at it; it typically has a white color and comes in a soft, powdery form. Nevertheless, upon touching it, you’ll feel that it isn’t the same. Corn flour is also denser than standard flour.

How It’s Made

Since cornmeal and corn flour both originate from corn, their differences stem from how manufacturers produce them and the part of the corn they use.

Cornmeal comes in three textures: fine, medium, and coarse. 

Modern-day cornmeal involves taking dried corn and putting them through steel rollers. Doing so strips the corn of most of its husk and germ, making the product less likely to decay since it’ll have a lower fat content.

In contrast, manufacturers grind and retain all parts of whole corn kernels when they make corn flour. The result is a product that contains many nutritional values in corn, including protein and fiber. 

If you happen to hand-grind dried corn at home to make cornmeal, take care not to over-grind it. Otherwise, you’ll end up with corn flour!

Culinary Uses

When comparing cornmeal vs corn flour, a notable difference is how you use these products. The hearty texture of cornmeal makes it an excellent option for being the primary ingredient in recipes. On the other hand, corn flour serves as one ingredient among many other ingredients in a dish.

Corn flour can serve as a partial or full replacement for flour. In addition, it helps to thicken liquids, and it can change the flavor of certain recipes where flour is usually the main ingredient.  

Examples of foods that you can make with cornmeal include:

  • Cornbread
  • Corn muffins
  • Grits
  • Hushpuppies

Foods that you’re better off making with corn flour are:

  • Pancakes
  • Fish or okra batter
  • Cakes
  • Tamales
  • Tortillas

You might be wondering—is it possible to interchange cornmeal and corn flour in recipes? 

Yes, it is. So, if you realized that you ran out of corn flour, feel free to substitute it with cornmeal and vice versa. Just keep in mind that the texture of your food will change based on the ingredient you use.

Health Benefits

You’ll undoubtedly receive more nutrition from cornmeal than corn flour since cornmeal isn’t as processed. 

In a study performed on various corn products, the results showed that when comparing 100 grams of unenriched cornmeal and corn flour, the outcome was as follows:

NutrientCornmealCorn flour
Protein (g)7.10
Total lipids (g)1.80
Thiamin (mg)0.140.07
Vitamin B6 (mg)0.180.10
Calcium (mg)3.02.0

That said, many companies enrich their corn flour to return some of its nutrient content to how it was before they processed it.

As a result of its higher fat and nutrient content, cornmeal has a slightly higher calorie content than corn flour. 

When it comes to how healthy these products are, it depends on who you talk to—there are many myths about the corn grown in the United States. While corn supports the digestive system and eyesight, it’s also high in carbohydrates and starches, ranking high on the glycemic index. 

Overall, consuming cornmeal and corn flour in moderation is likely the best approach.

Similarities and Differences

To round out this article on cornmeal vs corn flour, let’s review the similarities and differences of these products.

Similarities

  • Both ingredients originate from corn
  • You can (mostly) use them interchangeably in recipes (although it changes the texture)

Differences

  • Cornmeal has a more yellow hue 
  • Corn flour has a powdery texture
  • Cornmeal has more nutritional value
  • Corn flour serves as a better thickening agent

As a final note, many people use “corn flour” and “cornstarch” interchangeably. However, in the United States, manufacturers use different processes to make them, with corn flour having a coarser texture than corn starch.

By now, you should be able to get back to your recipe or grocery shopping. Although cornmeal and corn flour have significant differences, they ultimately come from the same source, so you can use them interchangeably if you’re in a bind. 

For more ingredient substitutes and culinary principles take advantage of our wealth of knowledge in the Kitchen Ambition Cooking School.

Photo of author

Jessica Annmarie

About the author

Jessie is an on-the-go mother of two, who takes pride in introducing her kids to fresh, healthy options from local growers. She is an author and documentary-style photographer focused on natural light work with food, families and community organizations.

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