Corn flour vs cornmeal

Corn flour is another name for cornstarch, which is basically just corn ground into a very fine powder. It is typically used to thicken liquids in cooking.

Note: the two word formation for corn flour is the preferred spelling inside the United States. Outside it is cornflour. Also be aware that cornstarch is a North American term

Cornmeal is also just corn ground into a powder, but this is more coarse and not as fine as corn flour. This is logical since one definition of meal is coarsely ground seeds.


Note: outside the US, cornmeal may sometimes refer to other ground seeds, besides corn. Specifically, in Scotland it may refer to ground oats or oatmeal.

There is also a plant named the cornflower and is known for its vivid blue color. This is also spelled as one word.


They are a round flatbread made from cooked corn flour, grilled by the Garridos — father David and son Christopher — to create a toasty-crisp exterior and cushiony interior. [Detroit Metro Times]

White, powdery cornstarch binds to sebum’s fatty-acid chains through weak electric interactions called van der Waals forces. [Wired]

Week three was coleslaw, and week four was a chocolate blancmange of cornflour and cocoa powder, decorated with tinned mandarins and Dream Topping. [The Guardian]

A variety of breakfast plates come with a tomato-and-onion egg scramble and various sides, including simple black beans, a tomato-shot shredded beef sauté (mechecada), glistening rounds of white cheese and diminutive arepitas – junior versions of the fluffy white cornmeal cakes that are a Gusto Gourmet specialty. [Houston Chronicle]


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  1. GoatGuy says:

    Please don’t take this wrong, but there is not a synonymy between corn flour and cornstarch, at least in the U.S. I’m a bit of an industrial materials specialist … so of these things I have unusual knowledge.

    Cornstarch is ground dried maize, which is repeatedly sluiced in cold water while being milled, to wash away (transport) the microscopic grains of starch contained in the endosperm of the seed. The proteinaceous and fibrous material is not included in the wash.

    Corn flour would be the flour prepared from degermed maize kernels, ground dry in a conventional flour mill. It neither implies that the hull would be incorporated (whole corn) or absent (hullless).

    In other countries who have a far more tenuous cultural relationship with maize, corn flour may well be synonymous with cornstarch. Just don’t tell the peoples of Hindustan / Bharat / India, as they use both materials copiously, and to entirely different end.

    Lastly, whilst on the educational front, cornmeal nearly always refers to the coarsely ground maize kernel meal, which in the U.S. usually has its hull intact. Indeed, the manufacturing of corn-meal utilizes a unique density sorting machine after sizing, which preferentially blows away all chaff (unfixed hulls and germ), leaving a more uniform and easily digested meal.

    Now you know more than enough for Jeopardy.


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