Thickening Apple Pie With Cornstarch (7 Beginner Tips)

Apple pie and cornstarch… These two buddies go together like peas and carrots. Or peanut butter and jelly. Or… well, you get the point!

If you’re thinking about making a sweet, delicious apple pie, or you’re in the middle of baking a tasty pie right now but you have some questions about thickening your pie filling with cornstarch, then keep reading.

In this article, I’ll share how cornstarch works in apple pie, why you should use it, how much to use, and what some alternatives are. If you want to ensure your apple pie comes out with a thick, heartwarming filling then remember to follow these 7 crucial tips!

Let’s dive in!

Here’s Whether Cornstarch Is Necessary for Apple Pie:

Apple pie doesn’t require cornstarch. However, some type of thickener is necessary to ensure the pie filling doesn’t come out too runny. Cornstarch is the most popular thickener for apple pie. However, you can use an alternative like all-purpose flour or tapioca starch.

Do You Need Cornstarch for Apple Pie?

No, you don’t need cornstarch to create a delicious apple pie. However, you absolutely need to make sure you’re using a thickening agent. While most apple pie recipes will call for the use of cornstarch to thicken your pie filling, you can get away with using a few alternatives.

Other thickening agents you could use include flour and tapioca starch. Just remember, these thickening agents aren’t as powerful when it comes to thickening pie filling as cornstarch is. You’ll want to use twice the amount of flour or tapioca. For instance, if your recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, start with 4 teaspoons of flour. 

If you do decide to use cornstarch rather than an alternative thickening agent, one tip is to mix your cornstarch with sugar to help prevent clumping and smoothen out your filling.

How Much Cornstarch Should You Put in Apple Pie?

How much cornstarch you need in your apple pie depends on a variety of factors. For instance, if you’re baking a pie with a lot of filling in it, you’ll need a bit more. 

Also, if you prefer a recipe with a thicker filling, then you’ll also want to add more.

The general consensus is to use about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for your apple pie recipe. Start there, and if you find you’re needing a bit more, add one teaspoon (which is 1/3 of a tablespoon) at a time. Most apple pie recipes won’t require more than 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Spoon with cornstarch on it

Why Do You Put Cornstarch in Apple Pie?

When you’re baking an apple pie—or any other fruit pie like cherry or strawberry rhubarb—there’s one certainty: fruit is extremely juicy!

And, fruit gets even juicier when you put it in the oven and bake it into a pie! Apples are a particularly juicy fruit (just look at all the apple juice in the stores!). 

Cornstarch helps your apple pie from getting too juicy, runny, and soggy. Cornstarch is a thickening agent that binds to a liquid to increase its viscosity (which is how thick a liquid is).

Similar to flour, cornstarch is a white, powdery ingredient that turns semi-cloudy or transparent when added to a pie filling. If you add too much, it can give your filling a starchy taste though, so you have to be careful not to add too much.

Does Apple Pie Need Flour or Cornstarch?

Apple pie can be thickened with either flour or cornstarch.

Apple pie without a thickening agent like cornstarch or flour will be runny, messy, and quite soggy. In other words… it won’t work.

If you just pile a bunch of fruit into your pie crust and throw it in the oven, you’ll wind up with a mess. This is because fruit has a ton of juice locked up inside of it. While squeezing fruit unleashes the juice within it, heating it up is another way the juice gets released.

Apple pie beside cinnamon sticks and apples

When you heat up an apple pie, the juices are released and the mixture will be extremely liquidy without flour or cornstarch.

When it comes to whether cornstarch or flour is better, the general consensus is to use cornstarch. This is because cornstarch is finer, and has a greater ability to bind and thicken pie filling for a nice, thick consistency throughout your entire pie.

However, you’re not out of luck if you don’t have (or don’t want to use) cornstarch. You can certainly replace cornstarch with flour. However, you will likely need to increase the amount of flour you’re using.

Cornstarch has twice the thickening power of flour. So, if your apple pie recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, you’ll want to start with 2 tablespoons of flour. Just remember, flour can get really clumpy inside a pie filling if it’s not properly mixed. Remember to mix the flour into your filling and stir well so it doesn’t get lumpy.

How Much Flour Do You Use to Thicken an Apple Pie?

Are you looking to use flour to thicken your apple pie instead of cornstarch or tapioca starch? Well, just remember you’ll probably need to adjust your recipe a little bit.

Flour has about half the thickening power that cornstarch has. This means you’ll likely have to double the amount of cornstarch required. For instance, if your apple pie recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, start with 2 tablespoons of flour. 

All purpose four spread out next to wheat

The same is true if you’re using tapioca starch instead of cornstarch. You should use twice the amount of tapioca starch as cornstarch to get the same consistency.

You may find that your pie filling is still not thick enough when using flour. If you feel like you need a bit more than double the amount of cornstarch, slowly and carefully add one additional teaspoon of flour at a time to get the desired consistency.

What Can I Use Instead of Cornstarch in Apple Pie?

Wondering what you can use to thicken apple pie filling? But… maybe you don’t want to use cornstarch? Or, perhaps you don’t have any cornstarch in your cupboard.

Well, don’t give up on your apple pie recipe just yet. There are a couple of handy cornstarch alternatives you can use to ensure your apple pie has a thick and delicious filling.

Here are a few of the most popular cornstarch alternatives:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Tapioca starch
  • Arrowroot powder
  • Potato starch
  • Rice flour
  • Xanthan gum

Something you need to keep in mind if you do decide to use one of these alternatives… You will most likely need to use twice the amount of thickening. For instance, if your apple pie recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, start with 2 tablespoons of the alternative thickener.

Slice of apple pie on a plate with a fork beside apples

Why Isn’t My Apple Pie Filling Thickening?

Are you struggling to get your apple pie filling to thicken? This can be one of the most frustrating parts of baking pies! If you’re asking yourself, “Why is my homemade apple pie watery,” don’t worry, there are a few reasons why your apple pie filling might not thicken:

  • Leave it in the oven for longer. Most thickening agents like cornstarch only activate after maintaining a certain high temperature for long enough. If you pull your pie too early, it may not allow the cornstarch to do its job and thicken the filling. One tip is to wait to pull your pie until you start to see the filling bubbling up.
  • Bake your pie at a higher temperature. As mentioned above, your thickener needs to reach a certain temperature for long enough. But, even if you bake it for a long time, you might still not get the right thickness if your oven isn’t set high enough. Make sure to put your pie in the oven at a minimum of 140 F (as the majority of thickeners need this temperature to activate).
  • Double check you used the right measurements. The amount of thickening agent you use will greatly impact the thickness of your pie recipe. Make sure you’re putting the right amount in. If necessary, you can try adding an extra teaspoon of cornstarch to get it a little thicker.
  • Let the pie cool for longer. There’s no greater reward than taking that first bite of fresh apple pie. As tempting as it may be to dig in right away, the proper way to eat a pie is to ensure it cools completely before the first bite. This allows the pie filling to thicken. While 24 hours is most optimal, you can get away with letting it cool for 3 hours before having a slice.
  • Let your fruit soak up sugar before baking. One trick to reduce excess moisture in your pie filling is to put your apples in a colander, sprinkle some sugar on them, and stir it all up. Let the sugary apples sit for 30-60 minutes before adding them to your pie recipe.



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