Arrowroot: What is is? How can it be used?

What is Arrowroot?

Arrowroot is an easily digested starch extracted from the roots of the arrowroot plant, Maranta arundinacea. The plant is native to the tropics of South America, where it has a long history of cultivation by native peoples. (Some Indians also used arrowroot medicinally, they believed that is would draw out toxins in wounds made from poisoned arrows.)

How is it Used?

Arrowroot starch is used as a thickener in many foods such as puddings and sauces. It can also be used in cookies and other baked goods. The starch has an extremely bland taste, which makes it suitable for neutral diets. It is believed that arrowroot helps to soothe upset stomachs/nausea.

Arrowroot powder should be whisked into a cool liquid before adding to a sauce or other liquid based recipe, and it should be added towards the end. As overcooking can destroy the gelling properties of arrowroot. Unlike many starches, arrowroot will turn clear as it sets, and will not interfere with the color of the dishes it is included in.

Storing Arrowroot

Store arrowroot in an air-tight container marked with the date of purchase. You will want to use the starch up within 2 months of purchase, as it tends to lose its thickening properties over time.

Can I use Arrowroot in place of Cornstarch?

The answer is yes! You can use arrowroot in most recipes calling for cornstarch. You can also use it where recipes call for all-purpose flour for thickening. You just have adjust the amounts and be sure not to overcook. Please see my note below on experimenting with arrowroot.

For every 1 Tbsp. of Cornstarch, substitute approximately 2 1/2 tsp. of Arrowroot.
For every 2 Tbsp. of All-Purpose Flour, substitute approximately 2 1/2 tsp. of Arrowroot.

Note on Experimenting with arrowroot: You can adjust the amount of arrowroot to get the desired amount of thickness in the dish you are using it in. So if you are making a sauce and want it thin, use less. If you want it thicker, use a little more. My experience with arrowroot is that it is a great thickener and binder, but there are just some recipes that may not work with all arrowroot powder. For example, puddings – I have found arrowroot just does not thicken milk/cream based sauces enough (at least by itself) to do that. I usually use part arrowroot and part all-purpose flour when making puddings. But for pie toppings, arrowroot works wonders…..It gives a great gel and leaves the sauce nice and clear. When making other sauces, such as savory sauces, and/or soups, I use either arrowroot or garbanzo bean flour to thicken. But please be sure to experiment for yourself to find what works for you.

Some Characteristics of Other Thickeners

Arrowroot

  • Good resistance to thinning when overcooked.
  • Fair gel formation.
  • Does not reheat well.

Cornstarch

  • Good resistance to thinning when overcooked.
  • Good gel formation.
  • Does not freeze well.

All-Purpose Flour

  • Poor resistance to thinning when overcooked.
  • Fair gel formation.
  • Does not freeze well.

Tapioca

  • Fair-Poor resistance to thinning when overcooked.
  • Poor gel formation.
  • Freezes well.

Potato starch

  • Fair resistance to thinning when overcooked.
  • Poor gel formation

Rice flour

  • Good resistance to thinning when overcooked.
  • Poor gel formation.
  • Freezes well.

If you would to read more about Arrowroot and its wonderful properties, check out Wikipedia.

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Disclaimer: The information in this post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.


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Comments

  1. Ginny Jakes says:

    Shannon, I found a chicken recipe that I could modify for the Healing Diet but it calls for tapioca as a thickener. Can I use it or should I switch out to arrowroot? And where would I find arrowroot?

    Say hi to Jeff for me.

    • You can try looking for arrowroot (called arrowroot powder or arrowroot flour) in any local health food store. Though, I purchase my arrowroot in bulk at Amazon.

      Arrowroot is high in calcium and manganese and also has 3 times the fiber (and none of the sugar) that tapioca has.

      But if you cannot find arrowroot, it would be OK to use tapioca since the recipe shouldn’t call for much of it anyway.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

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