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Arrowroot: What is it? 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



All-Purpose Flour


Potato starch

Rice flour

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