Arrowroot powder is a versatile and healthy starch that can be used to thicken sauces, bake lighter treats, and add a crispy texture to fried foods. This fine, white powder offers a neutral taste and smooth texture that makes it a handy ingredient for gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, and vegan recipes.
While arrowroot is often used as a substitute for cornstarch, it has some unique benefits and ideal uses that set it apart. Read on to learn all about how to cook and bake with arrowroot powder!
What is Arrowroot Powder?
Arrowroot powder is extracted from the roots of the arrowroot plant, Maranta arundinacea. This tropical tuber is harvested and processed to extract just the starchy content, which is then dried and ground into a silky, white powder.
Some key facts about arrowroot powder:
- Also called arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch
- Neutral in taste and color
- Naturally gluten-free and grain-free
- High in carbohydrates but low in protein
- Contains iron, potassium, and B vitamins
- Easily digested and soothing to the gut
Unlike cornstarch, arrowroot powder is extracted through more traditional methods without harsh chemicals or high heat. This helps it retain its nutrients and natural composition.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot powder is a natural, gluten-free starch extracted from the arrowroot plant. It offers health benefits and versatility in cooking.
Thickening Power of Arrowroot Powder
One of the primary uses for arrowroot powder is as a thickening agent. Its starchy content allows it to absorb moisture and thicken up liquids when heated.
Here are some tips for using arrowroot as a thickener:
- Make a slurry first - Blend arrowroot with a bit of cool liquid before adding it to a hot sauce or gravy to prevent clumping.
- Add at the end - Stir in arrowroot slurry at the end of cooking right before serving to retain its thickening power.
- Use sparingly - Start with less arrowroot than a recipe calls for cornstarch, as it thickens more efficiently.
- Simmer don't boil - Once added, gently simmer arrowroot sauces, don't boil vigorously.
Arrowroot creates clear, glossy sauces and gravies. It can withstand freezing and thawing without breaking down. The powder is also able to thicken acidic liquids like fruit pie fillings or sweet and sour sauce without curdling.
For these reasons, arrowroot is ideal for making fruit sauces, jams, chutneys, and all kinds of sweet and savory gravies.
Key Takeaway: When used properly as a slurry added at the end, arrowroot powder excels at thickening sauces with a clear, glossy finish.
Baking with Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot isn't just for savory dishes. This versatile powder can also lend a hand in gluten-free baking and desserts.
Here are some of the benefits of adding arrowroot powder to baked goods:
- Improves binding - Arrowroot helps hold ingredients together for fluffier texture.
- Enhances structure - It adds body to replace wheat flours in tender cakes and muffins.
- Lightens texture - Arrowroot creates a lighter crumb and more rise compared to dense nut flours.
- Aids flexibility - It allows paleo doughs made without grains to stretch easier.
- Prevents crumbling - Cookies hold together better thanks to arrowroot's binding power.
For best results, arrowroot powder works well when blended with other gluten-free flours like almond flour, coconut flour, or tapioca flour. The arrowroot imparts fluff while the other flours provide flavor and grain-free bulk.
Try adding arrowroot powder to recipes for breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, and paleo doughs that need a lift. The powder contains no flavor so Arrowroot powder blends seamlessly into all kinds of batters and doughs.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot gives structure to gluten-free baked goods, lightening texture and improving binding so treats don't crumble apart.
Crisping with Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot isn't just a thickener for sauces or a binder for baking. This versatile powder can also help give foods a light, crispy coating when fried.
Here are some clever ways to use arrowroot for extra crispy foods:
- Coat proteins - Toss chicken, tofu, or fish in arrowroot before pan frying for a crisper crust.
- Toss with herbs - Mix arrowroot powder with dried herbs and spices to season before frying.
- Switch up fries - For crispy fries, lightly coat potato or sweet potato wedges in arrowroot before baking.
The dry powder provides a thin, crunchy layer on the exterior of foods. Arrowroot releases moisture and dries out the surface while frying, allowing it to get ultra crispy.
Use arrowroot powder anytime a recipe calls for dredging proteins or veggies in cornstarch or flour before frying or baking. The arrowroot offers a crisp texture without the grit of cornstarch or wheat.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot powder adds a light, crispy coating to proteins, veggies and other foods when used to dredge before frying.
Gluten-Free & Grain-Free Baking
Arrowroot starch offers the binding powers of gluten and structure of grain flours, but without the allergens. This makes arrowroot a handy ingredient in allergy-friendly baking.
Some reasons arrowroot powder shines in gluten-free recipes:
- Replaces wheat flour for improved binding and moisture retention.
- Lightens dense texture of nut and seed flours used in grain-free recipes.
- Provides elasticity needed for shaping and rolling paleo doughs.
- Helps baked goods like cookies hold together instead of crumbling.
- Works as a thickener for dairy-free pie fillings and custards.
While arrowroot can be used on its own in small amounts, it truly shines when combined with other alternative flours. Try adding a couple tablespoons of arrowroot powder to recipes using almond flour, coconut flour, cassava flour, and tapioca flour to improve texture.
Look for it as an ingredient in many gluten-free flour blends to provide the starchy binding powers of traditional wheat flour. Arrowroot helps create the light and fluffy crumb in gluten-free muffins, cakes, and bread.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot mimics the binding and moisture retention of gluten to improve texture in allergy-friendly baking.
Vegan Egg Replacer
Eggs provide vital binding, moisture, leavening, and structure to baked goods. When baking without eggs, arrowroot powder can stand in to recreate some of an egg's effects.
Here is a simple way to use arrowroot powder to replace eggs:
- Blend 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or non-dairy milk
- Add 2-3 tablespoons water until it forms a thick, glossy gel
- Use this arrowroot "egg" substitute in place of 1 whole egg
The arrowroot-liquid mixture mimics the moisture retention and binding ability of eggs to help hold baked goods together. Add this combo to recipes for vegan cookies, muffins, brownies, and cakes in place of the eggs.
While not a perfect swap, arrowroot combined with oil and water does an admirable job lending structure and moisture in vegan egg-free baking.
Key Takeaway: When combined with oil and water, arrowroot powder can substitute for eggs in vegan baking recipes.
Arrowroot Powder vs. Cornstarch
Arrowroot powder works similarly to cornstarch as a thickener, so which one should you choose? Here are some key differences:
Clarity - Arrowroot makes glossy, clear sauces while cornstarch turns sauces cloudy.
Flavor - Arrowroot is neutral tasting, while cornstarch can sometimes impart a starchy flavor.
Acidity - Acidic ingredients like citrus or tomatoes can cause cornstarch sauces to thin or curdle. Arrowroot stands up well to acid.
Freezing - Frozen foods thickened with arrowroot reheat without thinning. Cornstarch breaks down when frozen and thawed.
While they work interchangeably in some recipes, arrowroot is better for clear finishes, delicate flavors, acidic ingredients, and cooked foods you intend to freeze or reheat later.
Storing Arrowroot Powder
To retain freshness, arrowroot powder should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Avoid moisture and heat, as this can cause clumping.
Properly stored, arrowroot powder will keep for 2-3 years. It lasts several months at room temperature, and up to a year in the refrigerator or freezer.
Still have some questions about cooking with this gluten-free starch? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Does arrowroot powder thicken dairy?
Arrowroot isn't recommended for thickening cream-based sauces, as it can cause an unpleasant slimy texture. However, it works well to thicken non-dairy milks.
Can you use arrowroot in place of all-purpose flour?
Arrowroot doesn't substitute perfectly for wheat flour in baking due to lack of gluten. For best results, mix arrowroot with other flours like almond or coconut flour.
Is arrowroot better than cornstarch?
Arrowroot is preferable for clear sauces and acidic liquids. Cornstarch works better for recipes cooked at high heat for a long time.
Can arrowroot powder replace eggs?
Not as a direct substitute, but mixing arrowroot with oil and water can replace some of the binding effects of eggs in baked goods.
Does arrowroot powder contain gluten?
No, arrowroot powder is naturally gluten-free. This makes it useful for gluten-free cooking and baking.
Arrowroot powder is a versatile starch with many uses in cooking and baking. This gluten-free ingredient excels at thickening clear sauces, lend binding to baked goods, and creates light, crispy coatings on fried foods.
Keep arrowroot on hand for allergy-friendly recipes, paleo baking, and livening up your favorite meals. With its neutral taste and beneficial properties, arrowroot is a healthy pantry staple.