What is arrowroot powder, how to use it and what are its health benefits? Learn everything you need to know about this grain-free starch in this ultimate guide to arrowroot.
As much as I love sharing all my delicious recipes, once in a while I also like to take you guys into my pantry and show you my all-time-favorite ingredients. After our little talk about coconut sugar and agar agar, I would love to chat about arrowroot today.
What is arrowroot powder and what is it used for?
Arrowroot powder is a white, powdery starch that’s naturally gluten-free, grain-free, vegan and paleo-friendly. It is extracted from the root of a tropical plant known as Maranta arundinacea. When the root is harvested, it looks pretty similar to cassava root, or yucca, so it's oblong in shape.
As a grain-free starch, many people with sensitive bellies find it more easily digestible. Another bonus worth mentioning is that it contains quite a bit of fiber which helps to keep things “moving” plus it fills you. A bit like oatmeal, if you know what I mean.
And there are more health benefits! Arrowroot contains a noteworthy amount of potassium, iron and B vitamins, which is great for speeding up that tired winter metabolism, and it helps with circulation and heart health.
Arrowroot powder is also known as arrowroot flour and sometimes also called arrowroot starch. They’re all the same thing. Most grocery stores sell it near flour, grains, or other baking supplies. You want to choose a high-quality brand and store it tightly sealed in a cool, dry place.
Now that we have established that it is generally awesome, let's move on to its most common uses!
How to use arrowroot as a thickener:
Arrowroot is a well known thickening agent and what I love about is that it stands up to acidic mixtures. I love using it for thickening fruit sauces like cranberry sauce or really any slightly acidic sauces like sweet teriyaki sauce.
And then there is the whole savory world of sauces, soups, and gravy!
When using arrowroot powder as a thickener for sauces and gravy, there are a couple of things to remember.
- Just like with cornstarch, always make a slurry first. Stir the powder with a small amount of cold liquid first and stir until very smooth. This is called making a slurry, and you always do this. Depending on the sauce, you can use broth, wine, or fruit juice instead of water. Avoid adding arrowroot powder to a hot liquid. This will cause the starch molecules to swell immediately and form ugly clumps.
- It is important to know that arrowroot will break down at higher temperatures. Other than with cornstarch, which needs to be cooked a bit to reduce that starchy mouthfeel, we do NOT want to cook this starch. That is why we add the slurry at the very end of the recipe, right before serving.
- Make sure you stick to the amounts listed in the recipe. When added too liberally, your sauce or gravy might turn into a gloppy, jelly mess.
How to use arrowroot powder for baking:
Even though its mostly used as a thickener, arrowroot powder has many more uses in the kitchen. I use arrowroot powder in many of my sweet baked treats blended with other flours, such as almond flour, coconut flour or tapioca flour. Awesome for bread and dessert-type recipes.
I reach for arrowroot whenever I would like to make things a little bit crispier or crunchier, which is why I like to add some to crumbles, crisps or crumble bars. You could coat sweet potato fries in a dusting of arrowroot powder just before baking to make them crisp up some more.
And why not mix arrowroot starch with a blend of dried herbs to coat chicken before frying or baking as I did with my healthy chicken schnitzels?
How to Substitute Arrowroot:
- Arrowroot powder can be substituted for cornstarch in most recipes. You want to do so at a ratio of two teaspoons arrowroot powder for every one tablespoon of cornstarch.
- It can be substituted for flour thickeners at a ratio of one teaspoon of arrowroot powder for every one tablespoon of flour.
Arrowroot vs cornstarch:
Cornstarch is the traditional thickener we all know, used in cooking as a thickener for gravies, stews, and sauces. Unlike cornstarch, arrowroot powder is extracted in a simple, more natural method, without the use of high heat or harsh chemicals. The tubers are washed, the outer skin is removed, the roots are bashed and thrashed into a pulp. The pulp is strained and drained of the liquid, and the liquid dries into a fine white powder. Voila. You have arrowroot.
Due to corn allergies and to avoid anything GMO and pesticide-laden, more and more people are looking for substitutes and alternatives to cornstarch. So arrowroot has rapidly gained popularity.
Arrowroot powder is a great thickener and can easily replace cornstarch. It has no taste and leaves your food glossy and clear, whereas cornstarch has a slight taste and often leaves food looking a bit cloudy and opaque.
What is a good replacement for arrowroot powder?
Per 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder needed in any given recipe, you can use one of these alternatives:
- 1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
- OR 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch
- OR 1 teaspoon mashed potato flakes
The best Keto substitute for arrowroot thickener in baking and dessert making is Xanthan Gum. It provides a creamy texture, and works as an emulsifier, encouraging liquids that usually don't like one another to mix together. Another great ingredient to add to your pantry, should you be flirting with the idea of going keto.
Sweet & Savory Recipes using arrowroot:
For a little healthy recipe inspiration, here are my favorite sweet and savory dishes using arrowroot starch:
Teriyaki Sauce for my Sheet Pan Chicken
Sweet recipes using arrowroot powder:
Have you cooked with arrowroot powder before? Let me know in the comment section below! I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for more deliciousness and behind-the-scenes!