9 Best Substitutes For Pasta Water – You’ll Never Know The Difference!


Pasta water is an excellent thickening agent, but you can’t always boil the pasta separately when you just want its water only.

Based on my own experience and the experience of other chefs, here are some great pasta water substitutes for such situations!

Substitute For Pasta Water

1. Cornstarch + Water + Salt

A gluten-free substitute 

Mixing cornstarch and water gives you a gel-like material that works as a binding agent, emulsifier, and thickener in your recipes.

It is a gluten-free starch that you can readily add to all kinds of soups, gravies, and stews.

But since the combination of only water and cornstarch creates a neutral-tasting alternative, you can add some salt to enhance its taste.

Never add cornstarch directly to warm liquids because it forms lumps and destroys the smooth texture of your dish.

Here’s how you can thicken sauces and gravy using cornstarch and water:

2. Cornflour

A protein-rich alternative 

Useful for making various kinds of bread, batters, and thickening soups and sauces, corn flour is available in yellow and white colors.

It is also gluten-free and has high amounts of protein, fewer calories, and minimum fat. It provides a great flavor with a rich, thick texture when used instead of pasta water.

Cornflour is also a cheap and commonly available ingredient that shows more gel-like consistency than pasta water on cooking. So, it’s better to use it only in small quantities.

Try this Kentucky fried chicken recipe with corn flour:

3. Potato Starch + Water

Potato starch, when cooked correctly, produces almost the same texture as pasta water.

It is almost flavorless and available in many types, including grain-free, dairy-free, and soy-free starch. Hence, it is great for people with gluten allergies.

You can use it for thickening soups and sauces or add it to baked dishes and fried foods.  To replace pasta water, simply mix potato starch with water. It results in a sweeter substitute.

Here’s how you can make shrimp dumplings and veg momos using potato starch and water:

4. Xanthan Gum

The quickest acting substitute

The best property of xanthan gum is that it doesn’t require any heating or cooling procedures to perform quickly as a thickening agent. It does its job in a quantity of no more than ⅛ teaspoon for every cup of fluid used.

Hence, it is a good alternative.

However, while mixing xanthan gum in sauces, you must also add a bit of oil to it for better results.

It instantly enhances your dish’s texture but some people might face digestive issues on consuming it in large amounts. So, use it sparingly.

Watch this video to cook keto naan bread using xanthan gum:

5. Flour and Water

Cheapest alternative 

Add small quantities of flour to water by continuously stirring it with the help of a spatula to create a smooth blend.

You can use it instead of pasta water. It is the most readily available and one the cheapest alternatives. 

But always make sure that you cook the flour properly after adding it to your recipe otherwise, it will cause indigestion. 

Here’s how you can make gravy with flour and water:

6. Arrowroot

Mix 4-5 teaspoons of powdered arrowroot and three tablespoons of water to make a paste. You can use it as a thickener and add it to the hot stock, sauces, and stews.

Don’t forget to cook it well for the best results.

Other dishes that arrowroot fits well into including chocolate quinoa cake, beef and broccoli, enchilada sauce, lime curd tart, and chocolate pudding.

7. Boiled Potato

Take a boiled potato, cut it into thin slices and boil these slices until they become super soft and start disintegrating.

Remove the water, mash these potato pieces to form a paste, and then use it as a thickener instead of pasta water. 

You can also use boiled potatoes to make lamb pie, omelet, smoked salmon, fish cakes, potato pancakes, salad, leek soup, and cottage pie cakes.

Watch this video to make a creamy potato soup using boiled potatoes:

8. Corn Flour, Oil, And Salt

Combining corn flour with oil and salt gives you a silky fluid that works excellently as an alternative.

Since cornflour is flavorless, salt adds some taste, and oil works as a smoothening agent that improves texture.

The mixture is great for thickening sauces and soups, and your dish would not have any unnecessary changes in the overall flavor profile. 

See this video to make crispy corn flour chips:

9. Tapioca Starch / Tapioca Flour

Tapioca starch has a thick texture similar to glue with a neutral flavor.

It is versatile and works well with baked items like cakes, biscuits, bread, and granola bars. You can also use it as an alternative for thickening soups and sauces.

Moreover, it also works amazingly as a binding agent for meatballs and patties.

Try this recipe to make tapioca pearls and bubble tea:


Q1. What can I use instead of pasta water?

Ans. To substitute pasta water, a mixture of water and cornstarch works well enough for thickening as well as adding some starchy taste to your dish.

Q2. Which pasta water substitute should I use if I don’t have cornstarch?

Ans. You can use ⅛ teaspoon of Xanthan gum.

Q3. Can you use regular water instead of pasta water?

Ans. Yes, you can use regular cooking water if you don’t have pasta water. 

Bottom Line

So there you have it, nine substitutes for pasta water.

From thickening agents to deglazing liquids, I have got you covered.

And don’t forget, these substitutes can be used in a variety of situations – not just when you’re out of pasta water.

Be sure to share this article with your friends and family so they can get in on the cooking action too. Buon appetito!

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About Amanda Jones

Amanda is a person with an eye for detail. She has been cooking since her childhood and loves to bake too. Recently, she's made the decision to pursue baking full-time and quit her 9 to 5 job. In the meantime, she still enjoys cooking and baking for friends and family, especially when it comes time for special occasions like birthdays or holidays!

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