If the soup or sauce you are cooking needs to be thicker, but you don’t have any flour on hand or want to avoid the chalky flavor and lumps that flour can sometimes add to foods, you probably have a reliable substitute in your pantry. Substitutions for flour can thicken your dish quickly and easily.
Arrowroot is a white, unflavored powder sold in the spice section of most grocery stores. This powder can be used to thicken soups and sauces instead of flour. Mix arrowroot with equal parts water to create what is known as a slurry. Add the slurry to the sauce or soup that needs to be thickened. Do not use arrowroot for milk or cheese-based sauces, as arrowroot has a tendency to give these substances a slimy texture.
Beans can be used in savory dishes as a thickener rather than flour. Mash the beans into a paste-like texture. Mix the beans with some of your cooking liquid to create a slurry. Add the bean slurry to your dish and stir thoroughly to get rid of any lumps. Beans work well in dishes such as chili or soups, where they are already being used as an ingredient.
Masa is used in many Mexican or Spanish dishes as a thickener. Masa is simply crushed corn or tortilla chips added to your soup or sauce. Add warm water or cooking liquid and crush the chips in a mortar and pestle or put them in a sealed plastic bag and crush with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin. Add the mixture to your soup or sauce instead of flour.
Cornstarch has a texture similar to flour and can create the same consistency in your sauces and soups. You only need to use a small amount, about 1 tbsp. per 1 cup of liquid. Mix cornstarch with equal parts water to create a slurry and stir for about two minutes to prevent lumps or a starchy taste in your soup or sauce.
References and ResourcesThe Cook's Thesaurus: Starch Thickeners
"Bobby's Flay Mesa Grill Cookbook"; Bobby Flay; 2007