What’s a Good Pasta Water Substitute?

Cooks often add pasta water to dishes due to its thickening properties. 

Pasta water is typically prepared by boiling a pot of water with some salt and oil. Then add raw pasta, frequently stirring as it boils. With a sieve, separate the pasta from the water, and there you have your pasta water.

Unfortunately, you might not always want to have to boil pasta each time you need a thickener. Fortunately, you can use a substitute for pasta water to prepare that favorite recipe. This article will cover some of the best and most nutritious pasta water substitutes you could use.

Five Best Substitutes for Pasta Water

Pasta water has a few alternatives that can come in handy when pasta water is not an option. Some options are easy to make. And with this list, you won’t need to scour your local store searching for a suitable alternative. Here are a few substitutes for pasta water that make excellent thickeners in recipes that call for them.

1. Combining Corn Flour with Oil and Salt

Mixing corn flour, oil, and salt together is one great substitute for pasta water which produces a silky solution. Corn flour alone is tasteless, so salt should be added for flavor. Adding a little oil will result in a smooth look and texture.

You could also use this combination to add thickening richness to your sauce in place of the pasta water. And, since it has no noticeable taste, you won’t be left with an unusual aftertaste in your dish.

2. Mixed Potato Starch with Water

A potato starch and water mixture is one proven pasta water substitute that adds more sweetness to your recipe. If you intend to use this solution multiple times, you can make it in large quantities and store it. However, potato starch should be stored in a moderate to cool area.

When cooking, this substitute for pasta water can be added as a thickening agent. And you’ll find potato starch in most grocery stores, typically in the health or specialty foods section. It’s possible to make your own potato starch from potatoes. But it’s quite a labor-intensive process.

3. Combining Cornstarch with Water

Another substitute for pasta water is cornstarch and water. You could purchase cornstarch at the grocery store or make it yourself. This is done by blending dried corn into a powder form. You could also boil the corn in water for an extended period, then remove the corn from the water. After the water is left to settle for some hours, you can drain the water through a sieve, leaving the cornstarch. 

A cornstarch and water mixture is an excellent substitute for pasta water. It achieves a similar thickening purpose and adds some moreish, starchy flavor to your dish. The pasta water can be substituted using an equal quantity of the cornstarch and water mixture. 

4. Flour and Water

Flour and water can sometimes be a lifesaver when there isn’t any other substitute for pasta water. It’s the cheapest and easiest alternative you could get. Flour can be purchased in any nearby store, and water is always readily available.

This alternative is prepared by adding flour to water bit-by-bit and stirring with a spatula until evenly blended. When you’ve achieved a smooth mixture, you can pour it into your pot or pan to thicken your sauce as it cooks. It’s advisable to make sure you’ve cooked your flour and water additive well, as uncooked flour may cause indigestion.

5. Xanthan Gum and a Little Oil

When looking for an inexpensive substitute for pasta water, opt for Xanthan gum. This powder is so effective that you only need one-eighth of a teaspoon in a cup of liquid. It thickens the moment you stir it into your boiling liquid. Therefore, it makes for an excellent thickening agent and pasta water substitute.

Due to its fast-acting thickening properties, you can easily incorporate it into various soups and stews. However, mix it with very little oil before adding it to any stew you’re preparing for the best results.


Pasta water is very useful in cooking as a healthier option to thicken sauces and add a starchy element to dishes. However, you can use any of the above pasta water substitutes that offer the same results in their absence.

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