5 Things You Need to Know About Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is frequently used in gluten-free, paleo cooking. Before you dive in, here are 5 things you need to know about arrowroot powder.
Two years ago I wrote a blog post that became quite popular – 5 Things You Need To Know About Cassava Flour. At the time, cassava flour was just coming onto the radar of folks in the gluten-free and paleo cooking communities.
Arrowroot powder is another lesser known, alternative flour and I use it frequently in my recipes. Many of you have never cooked with arrowroot powder before and I receive emails weekly with questions about it.
So today I thought I’d follow suit with my cassava flour post and write 5 things you need to know about arrowroot powder. I even stopped by my local Asian market to grab some arrowroot to show you what they look like. Would you have guessed what these are?
After this post, hopefully you’ll know a little bit more about arrowroot. Let’s dive in!
1. Arrowroot powder is gluten-free, grain-free and paleo-friendly
Arrowroot powder is a starchy substance that’s extracted from the root of a tropical plant known as Maranta arundinacea. When the arrowroot is harvested, it looks similar to other underground tubers such as cassava, yucca or kudzu, which are oblong in shape.
But important to note is how the starch is extracted, which is unlike cornstarch. Arrowroot powder is extracted in simpler, more traditional methods, without the use of high heat or harsh chemicals.
Sometimes arrowroot powder is known as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch and they’re all the same thing. It’s simply a white, powdery starch that’s naturally gluten-free, grain-free, vegan and paleo-friendly.
2. Arrowroot powder can replace cornstarch as a thickener
Arrowroot powder is gaining in popularity (at least in the Western world) as people are looking for substitutes and alternatives to cornstarch, either due to corn allergies and sensitivities or to avoid anything GMO and pesticide-laden.
Cornstarch is the traditional thickener used in cooking for things such as gravies, stews and sauces. But good news – arrowroot powder is a great thickener and can easily replace cornstarch. Even better, arrowroot powder has no taste and leaves food glossy and clear, whereas cornstarch has a slight taste and leaves food cloudy and opaque.
3. Arrowroot powder can also be used in baking, roasting and frying
Arrowroot powder is enormously versatile, so you’d be remiss to only think of it as a thickener. In baking, I typically use arrowroot powder as a blend with other flours, such as almond flour, coconut flour and tapioca flour for bread and dessert recipes. But I find that it can definitely stand on it’s own as well, in small quantities.
If you’d like to make things crispy or crunchy, arrowroot powder is great for that. You could coat sweet potato fries in a dusting of arrowroot to make them crispier. You could also mix arrowroot powder with a blend of dried herbs to coat chicken before frying.
For a little recipe inspiration, I’ve used arrowroot powder in my Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Triple Berry Compote, Citrus Ginger Sauce, Baked Lemon Donuts with Blackberry Glaze, Cranberry Almond Biscotti, Pear Pomegranate and Maple Crumble, Mini Chicken Pot Pies and many, many more recipes.
4. Arrowroot powder has some nuances when you use it
Like most gluten-free and paleo flours, arrowroot powder isn’t typically used on a 1:1 ratio of whatever it’s replacing. Therefore, if you’re using it as a cornstarch replacement, your best bet is to start with 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of cornstarch required.
I once added too much arrowroot to a sauce and it turned into a gloppy, jelly mess. So it’s best to add conservatively.
When using arrowroot powder as a thickener, remember two things:
- Always make a slurry first. Stir the arrowroot powder with a small amount of cold liquid first (like water) to create a slurry, before adding to your recipe.
- Always add the slurry at the very end of the recipe. You don’t really want to cook with arrowroot as it will break down at higher temperatures, so stir in right before serving. Bonus: arrowroot holds up beautifully when used with acidic ingredients or frozen (not so with cornstarch), so feel free to batch cook and freeze your recipes.
5. Arrowroot powder has multiple health benefits
Because arrowroot is not a grain, many people (especially those with digestive issues or sensitivities) find that arrowroot powder is more easily digestible. It also contains more fiber than potatoes and other starches, keeping things “moving” and helping to stave off hunger.
Arrowroot contains a good amount of potassium, iron and B vitamins, which is great for metabolism, circulation and heart health. Studies have even shown that arrowroot can stimulate immune cells and boost the immune system.
As always, ensure that whatever brand of arrowroot you purchase is high quality. This is the brand of organic arrowroot powder that I use and recommend.
Have you cooked with arrowroot powder before? Let me know in the comments below! And if you’d like a peek inside my pantry, to see all the products and ingredients I use, make sure to watch my Pantry Organization video.