Arrowroot powder is a versatile ingredient used as a thickener and binding agent in cooking and baking. However, you may sometimes need a substitute if you run out or want an option that fits your dietary needs.
What is Arrowroot Powder?
Arrowroot powder is a starch obtained from the roots of the arrowroot plant, Maranta arundinacea. The roots are dried and ground into a fine, white powder that resembles cornstarch.
Arrowroot has been used for thousands of years in regional cuisines of South America and the West Indies. Today it has gained popularity worldwide as an alternative to cornstarch and wheat flour.
Some key benefits of arrowroot powder include:
- Gluten-free - Unlike wheat flour, arrowroot contains no gluten so it's suitable for gluten-free diets.
- Neutral taste - Arrowroot has a very mild flavor that won't affect the taste of foods.
- Clear thickener - Creates a clear, glossy texture in sauces without making them cloudy.
- Freezer-stable - Maintains thickening power when frozen, unlike some starches.
- Versatile uses - Can be used to thicken liquids, bake, fry, bind ingredients, and replace eggs in some recipes.
Due to its unique properties, arrowroot is ideal for thickening dairy-based sauces, fruit fillings, and gluten-free baked goods.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot powder is a gluten-free, versatile starch used to thicken, bake, and bind ingredients without altering flavors.
How to Use Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. Here are some of the most common uses:
Thickening sauces and gravies - It thickens at low temperatures so is added at the end of cooking. Create a slurry by mixing the powder with a bit of water before adding it.
Fruit fillings and jams - Helps create a clear, glossy texture unlike cornstarch.
Gluten-free baking - Replaces wheat flour as a binding agent and adds lightness.
Frying - When coated on foods, arrowroot creates a crispy exterior when fried.
Replacing eggs - Can help bind vegan recipes, like veggie burgers.
Soups and stews - Thickens broths and narrows flavors.
For thickening, use around 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder per 1 cup of liquid. It's best to use a slurry method by dissolving it in cold water before adding it.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot powder excels at thickening, baking, frying, binding, and egg replacement in various recipes from sauces to veggie burgers.
15 Best Arrowroot Powder Substitutes
If you don't have arrowroot on hand, don't worry. Here are 15 convenient substitutes and how to use them:
Cornstarch is the most widely used replacement for arrowroot powder. It provides similar thickening power and glossy finish.
Substitute an equal amount of cornstarch for arrowroot powder (1:1 ratio). For a slurry, use 1 tablespoon cornstarch per 1 tablespoon water.
Unlike arrowroot, cornstarch breaks down with prolonged cooking. It also leads to a slightly cloudy appearance with high acid foods.
2. Tapioca Starch/Flour
Tapioca starch, sometimes called tapioca flour, offers a nearly identical texture and thickening ability to arrowroot.
Extracted from the cassava root, tapioca starch can be swapped 1:1 for arrowroot in recipes. It works especially well in dairy-based dishes.
3. Potato Starch
Another excellent choice is potato starch. This gluten-free, root-based starch has a neutral taste and can withstand high temperatures.
You can substitute an equal amount of potato starch (1:1 ratio) in place of arrowroot powder. It provides a clear thickener for soups, stews, and sauces.
4. All-Purpose Flour
A common pantry staple, all-purpose flour makes a decent substitute in many recipes. Use 2 tablespoons of flour per 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder.
Keep in mind flour has a distinct flavor. It also creates a cloudy appearance and doughy texture compared to arrowroot.
5. Rice Flour
Rice flour is another gluten-free substitute. It works best in puddings, stews, and other thick recipes. Use equal amounts as arrowroot powder (1:1 ratio).
It won't provide the same clarity in sauces and adds a slightly grainy texture. Consider white rice flour instead of whole grain.
6. Sweet Rice Flour
Also called sweet rice starch or glutinous rice flour, this substitute offers more thickening power than standard rice flour.
Replace arrowroot powder with half the amount of sweet rice flour (1:2 ratio) for the same results. It provides glossiness and can withstand freezing.
7. Tapioca Flour
Not to be confused with tapioca starch, tapioca flour comes from dried tapioca roots. It acts similarly to arrowroot and can be swapped 1:1 in recipes.
Tapioca flour has more fiber than the starch so offers some variation in texture. But it still creates a light end product.
8. Kudzu Root Starch
Also called Japanese arrowroot, kudzu is a root starch like arrowroot that creates excellent clarity in sauces. Use the same 1:1 ratio when substituting kudzu powder.
Keep in mind that kudzu root starch can be more expensive and harder to find than arrowroot.
9. Wheat Flour
For those who can consume gluten, wheat flour substitutes well for arrowroot powder. Use 2 teaspoons wheat flour for every 1 teaspoon arrowroot.
It works for thickening but alters appearance and taste more than arrowroot would. Best for gravies and stews rather than desserts.
10. Xanthan Gum
A little xanthan gum goes a long way when substituting arrowroot powder. Use just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum per 1 cup liquid in place of arrowroot.
It serves as an excellent thickener and binder. But excessive amounts can lead to unpleasant, slimy textures.
11. Psyllium Husk Powder
Psyllium is a soluble fiber that turns into a thick gel when mixed with water. Use approximately 1/2 teaspoon of psyllium powder per 1 teaspoon arrowroot flour.
It works well as a binding agent in baked goods and thickens broths without overpowering flavors. Too much psyllium can create a gritty texture.
12. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are another soluble fiber that forms a gel. For 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, substitute 1 tablespoon chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water.
Let it sit until gelatinous before adding it. The texture won't be exact but offers a vegan, nutrient-dense alternative.
13. Flaxseed Meal
Like chia seeds, flax meal makes an egg replacement when combined with water. Use 1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water to substitute 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder.
This substitution adds nutritional value but may alter texture and flavor somewhat.
14. Gelatin Powder
It's not vegan or gluten-free but offers similar stability when frozen. Gelatin only dissolves in hot liquids.
15. Guar Gum
Guar gum is a vegetable-based thickener and emulsifier. A little goes a long way - start with just 1/4 teaspoon guar gum for 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder.
It withstands freezing and high temperatures. But guar gum needs ample liquid to fully hydrate and incorporate.
Key Takeaway: Excellent replacements like cornstarch, tapioca starch, potato starch, rice flour, xanthan gum, and psyllium provide nearly identical results to arrowroot powder in recipes.
Choosing the Best Substitute
With so many options for arrowroot powder, which one is right for your needs? Here are some factors to consider:
- Dietary restrictions - Choose gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free or vegan substitutes as required. Cornstarch, tapioca, rice flour, potato starch and xanthan gum work for gluten-free diets.
- Type of recipe - Starchy thickeners like cornstarch work well in gravies and sauces. Fiber-based substitutes like psyllium husk powder are better for baking.
- Flavor additions - Substitutes like wheat flour and rice flour influence taste more than arrowroot would. Avoid in delicate recipes or desserts.
- Temperature and stability - If freezing or heating the dish for an extended time, potato starch, tapioca, and kudzu root starch hold up best.
- Appearance - For clear sauces, fruit fillings and glazes, choose substitutes like tapioca starch that won't add cloudiness.
Consider the recipe requirements, dietary needs, and how the substitute will impact texture and taste. Test new substitutes in small amounts first to ensure suitable results.
Key Takeaway: Select arrowroot powder replacements that fit your dietary needs and recipe style, minimizing flavor and appearance changes as needed.
Thickening Substitutions Guide
Here is a quick guide for transforming recipes that call for arrowroot powder to use a thickening substitute instead:
- Cornstarch - Replace 1 tablespoon arrowroot with 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Potato starch - Substitute 1 tablespoon arrowroot with 1 tablespoon potato starch
- Tapioca starch - Use 1 tablespoon tapioca starch per 1 tablespoon arrowroot
- All-purpose flour - Substitute 2 tablespoons flour for 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- Rice flour - Swap 1 tablespoon rice flour for 1 tablespoon arrowroot
- Xanthan gum - Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum for 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
For slurries, combine the substitutes with cool water before adding to hot liquids to avoid clumping and uneven thickening.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder?
Yes, cornstarch makes an excellent substitute for arrowroot powder. Replace it 1:1 in recipes for similar thickening power.
What is the best substitution for arrowroot in sauce?
For thickening sauce, cornstarch, tapioca starch, or all-purpose flour work very well in place of arrowroot powder.
What can I use if I don't have arrowroot for baking?
Great baking substitutes include tapioca flour, potato starch, rice flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, and psyllium husk powder.
Is arrowroot powder gluten-free?
Yes, arrowroot powder is naturally gluten-free. It makes a useful thickener and binder for gluten-free baking recipes.
Can I substitute arrowroot powder for eggs?
Arrowroot doesn't perfectly replicate eggs but can help bind vegan baked goods when combined with water or plant-based milk.
While arrowroot powder is a handy kitchen staple, there are plenty of viable substitutes available.
From cornstarch and tapioca starch to psyllium husk powder and rice flour, you can find an alternative to suit your recipe's needs and dietary restrictions.