The effects of stearic acid addition followed by hydrothermal treatment on the functional properties of maize starch were studied. Addition of stearic acid followed by hydrothermal treatment resulted in non-gelling starch. Starch with stearic acid had significantly (P < 0.05) higher viscosity as compared to heat-moisture treated starch. There was no significant difference on the pasting properties of starch with stearic acid alone and in combination with annealing. Stearic acid addition followed by heat-moisture treatment significantly reduced starch susceptibility to acid hydrolysis as compared to stearic acid alone and heat-moisture treatment alone. These changes related well with the increased amylose lipid complexes and relative crystallinity observed by the DSC and XRD, suggesting that heat-moisture treatment promoted amylopectin side chain crosslinking and amylose-stearic acid complex formation. Stearic acid addition followed by hydrothermal treatment produced a ‘clean label’ starch that can potentially substitute chemically cross-linked and non-gelling starch in the food industry.