Arrowroot powder is a versatile and nutritious starch extracted from the roots of the arrowroot plant.
This gluten-free powder has been used for centuries as a thickening agent and to provide health benefits.
What is Arrowroot Powder?
Arrowroot powder is a fine, white starch powder extracted from the rootstock of the arrowroot plant. Also known as Maranta arundinacea, arrowroot is a tropical tuber plant native to South America.
The arrowroot plant produces rhizomes, similar to ginger roots or turmeric. To make arrowroot powder, these rhizomes are first washed, peeled, and dried. Once dried, they are ground into a fine, white powder.
Key Takeaway: Arrowroot powder is a fine, white starch made by drying and grinding the rhizomes of the arrowroot plant. It's also called arrowroot starch or arrowroot flour.
The History of Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder gets its name from its traditional use in treating poison arrow wounds. The native people of Central America used the fresh arrowroot plant to draw out toxins from injuries caused by poison arrows. They would apply the plant pulp directly to the wound.
The arrowroot plant is native to the humid, tropical climate of Central America and the northern part of South America. It has been cultivated and used as a food source for over 7,000 years in these regions.
Arrowroot was first exported from the West Indies to Europe in the early 1700s. Europeans recognized both the culinary and medicinal benefits of this starch. Arrowroot quickly became popular and was even used in medicines and baby formulas.
Today, arrowroot is still widely used in cooking for its versatile properties as a thickening agent. It's appreciated by those following gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, and vegan diets. The medicinal uses are also still valued today, as arrowroot is linked to digestive and immune system support.
Where Does Arrowroot Powder Come From?
Genuine arrowroot starch comes from the Maranta arundinacea plant. The arrowroot plant produces arrowroot rhizomes, which grow beneath the surface of the soil much like ginger roots.
The plants thrive in warm and humid tropical climates, growing up to 6 feet high. They produce a rosette of long, green, veiny leaves, along with delicate white flowers above ground. Below ground, the long, thin rhizomes can reach 3 feet in length.
When fully mature, these underground arrowroot rhizomes are harvested. They are then washed, peeled, and dried in the sun or over heat. The dried rhizomes are subsequently mashed or ground into a fine, white powder.
Many other tropical plants produce similar underground tubers, but true arrowroot only comes from Maranta arundinacea. The specific growing conditions give the powder its unique properties.
Key Takeaway: Genuine arrowroot powder comes from the rhizomes of the Maranta arundinacea plant, which is native to tropical South America and the West Indies.
Arrowroot Powder Nutrition
Arrowroot powder is composed mainly of starch and carbohydrates. In 100 grams of arrowroot powder, roughly 88 grams are carbohydrates. The remaining nutrition is very minimal:
While high in carbohydrates, arrowroot powder has very little protein, fat, or micronutrients. However, the small amount of iron, potassium, and B vitamins contributes to the many medicinal uses of arrowroot.
The high starch content gives arrowroot its usefulness as a thickener. When arrowroot powder is mixed with liquid, the starch molecules absorb the moisture, resulting in a thickened consistency.
Benefits of Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder doesn't stand out in terms of macronutrients, but it provides some health benefits:
- Digestive aid - The high fiber content makes arrowroot powder an excellent digestive aid. Fiber supports healthy bowel movements and digestive health.
- Gluten-free - Unlike many other starches and thickeners, arrowroot powder is naturally gluten-free. This makes it useful for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.
- May boost immunity - Early studies on mice indicate arrowroot may stimulate the immune system. More research is needed, but the high carbohydrate content provides energy for immune function.
- Anti-inflammatory - Arrowroot has been used in folk medicine to calm irritation, rashes, and other inflammatory conditions. More research is needed, but arrowroot appears to have natural anti-inflammatory abilities.
- Soothes skin - When applied topically, arrowroot powder is reputed to heal skin irritations, rashes, wounds, and sores. It likely has antibacterial and antifungal properties that support skin health.
How to Use Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is used in cooking to thicken sauces, soups, stews, and other dishes. It can also be used in baking for a lighter texture. Here are some tips for cooking with arrowroot powder:
- To thicken sauces, gravies, and soups, first mix arrowroot powder with water. This prevents clumping and allows even mixing. Then stir the arrowroot slurry into the hot liquid.
- Only add arrowroot at the end of cooking. Extended high heat will break down the starches and prevent thickening.
- Use a 2:1 ratio when substituting arrowroot for cornstarch or a 1:2 ratio for wheat flour. Arrowroot has twice the thickening power of flour.
- For baking, arrowroot creates fluffier and lighter baked goods. Use it in cookies, cakes, breads, and muffins along with other gluten-free flours.
- Arrowroot can also create crispy coatings on proteins when pan frying. Just dredge meats or tofu in arrowroot powder before cooking.
Additionally, arrowroot powder can be used in natural deodorants, dry shampoos, body powders, and face masks. It absorbs moisture well on the skin.
Selecting and Storing Arrowroot Powder
When shopping for arrowroot powder, check for a few key signs of quality:
- Color - Pure arrowroot powder is a white or off-white color. Avoid arrowroot with a yellow tint, which indicates lower quality.
- Texture - High quality arrowroot has a very fine, powdery texture. Coarse arrowroot starch will not dissolve as well for thickening.
- Moisture - The powder should not feel damp or clumpy at all. Discard any packages with moisture inside.
- Ingredients - Some brands add other flours, starches, or fillers to cut costs. Check for 100% pure arrowroot or Maranta arundinacea as the single ingredient.
Store arrowroot powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Keep away from moisture and heat. Properly stored, it will keep for 2-3 years. Arrowroot can also be kept in the freezer indefinitely if well sealed.
FAQs about Arrowroot Powder
How do you cook with arrowroot powder?
To use it as a thickener, first mix arrowroot powder with cold water to make a slurry and prevent clumps. Then stir the slurry into hot soups, sauces, or gravies at the end of cooking. For baking, use it with other gluten-free flours like almond meal.
What can be used in place of arrowroot powder?
The best substitutes are tapioca starch or flour, potato starch, and cornstarch. Use the same amount called for of arrowroot powder. Tapioca provides the most similar texture.
Why is arrowroot powder used in cooking?
It is primarily used as a thickening agent and to provide a glossy, clear finish in cooking. Arrowroot creates thickness without changing flavors like other starches can. It also withstands freezing well.
Is arrowroot starch the same as arrowroot powder?
Yes, arrowroot starch and arrowroot powder are the same ingredient. They both refer to the finely ground starch obtained from the arrowroot plant rhizomes.
Is arrowroot powder Keto-friendly?
Arrowroot powder is low in fiber and high in carbohydrates, so it is not typically recommended on a Keto diet. However, small amounts may be tolerated, especially if counted into daily carb intake.
Does arrowroot powder have protein?
No, arrowroot powder contains very minimal protein at less than 1 gram per 100 gram serving. It is almost entirely carbohydrates in the form of starch.
Can I use arrowroot powder on my baby?
Only use arrowroot powder on babies older than 3 months. Use extreme caution to prevent inhalation and only apply to small areas of skin at a time. Discontinue use if any irritation occurs.
Is arrowroot powder safe during pregnancy?
In food amounts, arrowroot powder is likely safe during pregnancy. But check with your doctor before using topically or in larger medicinal amounts when pregnant.
How long does arrowroot powder last?
If stored properly away from heat, light, and moisture, arrowroot powder lasts 2-3 years before losing potency. Refrigeration and freezing extends shelf life.
Arrowroot powder is a versatile and multi-purpose starch extacted from an edible tropical tuber.
Easy to find and store, non-GMO, gluten-free, and neutral in taste, arrowroot is an excellent staple to keep stocked in your pantry. Speak with your doctor to see if incorporating this ancient medicinal plant into your routine could be beneficial.