Corn is naturally gluten free. It is gluten free because it is not wheat, barley or rye. In a world without wheat, barley or rye, corn would always be gluten free. That’s not to say that everyone will choose to eat corn or cornstarch. They may avoid it because of it’s impact on their blood sugar levels, or because they have an intolerance or allergy to corn, or because they only eat non-GMO corn. However, corn in its unadulterate natural state is gluten free.
I’m somewhat picky about cornstarch. Although corn is inherently gluten free, I do not trust that corn starch is gluten free by the time it gets to the supermarket shelves.
Is that distrust well-founded? I don’t know. Some companies like Clabber Girl make several brands of cornstarch; their Clabber Girl cornstarch is labeled gluten free, their Rumford cornstarch is not. I’d rather not worry about contamination, so I only use cornstarch that carries a gluten free label. If it’s certified to be gluten free, that’s even better.
My preferred brand of corn starch is Argo. It does carry a gluten free label and is widely available throughout the country under either the Argo or Kingsford brands. The screw-on lid container is also a huge plus because it makes it very easy to measure out the large quantities of corn starch that are needed in many gluten free recipes.
Cornstarch is an ingredient in several other items that you probably keep in you pantry – baking powder and confectioner’s sugar (i.e., powdered sugar). Therefore it’s important to look for brands that contain at least a gluten free label when shopping for those too.
I usually buy Clabber Girl baking powder, which also carries a gluten free label.
I’ve had considerable trouble finding a brand of confectioner’s sugar that carries a gluten free label – so much trouble that I don’t feel comfortable recommending a brand.
My rule of thumb is to always read labels, and if a product contains cornstarch then I only buy that product if it also has a gluten free label.
If you can’t find gluten free baking powder or confectioner’s sugar, you can always buy gluten free corn starch and then make the baking powder and confectioner’s sugar at home.
Someone recently asked on one of Gluten Free Cooking School’s Facebook groups if the amount of cornstarch in a recipes was a mis-print. “Surely,” they said “that’s too much. I’ve never used that much corn starch in my life!”
As much as I hate, from a nutritional aspect, to use cups of cornstarch in a recipe, I still use it. When I bake gluten free, I want my recipe to test as good or better than the best gluten-filled recipe that you’ve ever had. Large amounts of starch make this possible. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to eat those foods every day. We limit the high-starch, high sugar foods to one day a week.
If you can’t have corn, or just prefer not to eat it, then stock up on the gluten free versions of other starches like tapioca and arrowroot. You can make your own baking powder and confectioner’s sugar from scratch using these and be all set for gluten free, corn free baking.