5 Things You Need to Know About Arrowroot Powder


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Arrowroot powder is frequently used in gluten-free, paleo cooking and it’s extremely versatile in the kitchen. But before you dive in, here are 5 things you need to know about arrowroot powder.

Arrowroot powder is frequently used in gluten-free, paleo cooking. Also known as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch, 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.

Arrowroot powder is frequently used in gluten-free, paleo cooking. Also known as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch, here are 5 things you need to know about arrowroot powder.

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, Orange Glazed SalmonTriple 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Arrowroot powder is frequently used in gluten-free, paleo cooking. Also known as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch, here are 5 things you need to know about arrowroot powder.

Arrowroot powder is frequently used in gluten-free, paleo cooking. Also known as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch, here are 5 things you need to know about arrowroot powder.

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 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.

About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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  1. Just curious
    What do they use the roots from the catn9tail for?
    A friend was trying to get me to collect it with her for health food stores.

  2. I use Bob’s Red Mill Arrowroot starch/flour. It worked well in the gluten free recipes I made. I currently make a Tater Tot-Paillasson Poutine (found in “Culture”) and substitute the all-purpose flour. The sauce comes out fine. After refrigeration or freezing the sauce gets a littler watery around the edges. I just reheat and pour over most meat or vegetable.

  3. Hi there
    I grew up eating arrow roots and still do. I boil the root and eat with veges or stew of your choice. You can also make baked crisps. Or deep fried. It a traditional food in kikuyu tribe from Kenya.

  4. So glad I found this article (and website). I was just going to buy some arrow root starch and start cooking away. With the info I learned here I’ll know what I’m doing.

  5. Arrowroot remind me my childhood my dad use to plant and harvest then make arrowroot powder ! Handmade ! I make arrowroot biscuits lovely !also arrowroot s flowers are stunning … Réunion island indian ocean near Mauritus .

  6. Here, we use arrowroot powder, when we have stomach upset. we mix it in milk and add some sugar and eat it. really yummy too!

    thanks for this post. i had no clue it was so good!

  7. Arrow root is great, this is a good article. It is hard to get in my area I have to get it online. I love using it to cook with. Once you get the hang of it, things come out much better using arrow root and seem to taste better to me.
    The problem isn’t the gluten. It is the BT Toxin in Genetically Modified foods. Studies have shown that our bodies react the same to it as it would if we had food poisoning. They have found BT Toxins in mothers placenta. Hard to say what it is doing to infants. Also the glyphosate and glufosinate they spray on many GM products and some grains and beans to dry them have been shown to cause many metabolic issues which can eventually lead to chronic illness. They have also been shown to kill our good gut bacteria which makes us gluten and dairy intolerant.

  8. Forgot to mention that in the past i made my gravy for the chicken fried steak by using the pan drippings from frying the cube steak and making a roux from flour and some of the drippings. I then slowly add in milk, salt and pepper and whisk until it thickens over med heat.

    1. You could do the exact same thing with the arrowroot powder – super easy! :)

  9. I’ve never used arrowroot before but am interested in trying to make a cream gravy to go with my chicken fried steak.  Any suggestions?

  10. I have found just the opposite of what everybody is saying about Arrow root. it breaks down as it gets cooler and I have to reheat it to get it rethickened. therefore, therefore, I can only use it in something that’s going to stay hot. Also, it is wrong to say that cornstarch makes food look milky. All you have to do is cook it and it turns totally clear. I don’t know where you people are getting all this weird stuff. and then everybody says that you have to use less arrowroot then cornstarch. Again not true I have to use at least three times as much arrowroot as cornstarch. I was trying to make a pudding with it, and it turned out beautifully using a lot of arrowroot and cooking it and leaving it hot. But once it cooled, it turned totally watery. I do not find it versatile whatever, as was stated.

  11.  Your information regarding Arrowroot was quite helpful. I’ve only used the powder to make meringue cookies. If you have any recipes you’d like to share that include Arrowroot, I would be very happy to try them out. Thanks again.
     Cheers! Rena 

    1. Glad you found the post helpful Rena! And I have numerous recipes on this website that use arrowroot, including my pancakes, cakes and other baked items. You can find them under the recipes tab. :)

  12. After doing some searching, Imfound that Authentic Foods has an arrowroot powder/flour that is from the plant Maranta arundinacea. Most of the products labeled arrowroot for sale on amazon are cassava flour. For the person with concerns about nut allergies, it is labeled “nut free”.

  13. The link to the brand off arrowroot flour you recommend opens in Amazon for a product that is manihot esculenta, which is cassava, not the arrowroot you describe in the article. As Lee commented, this can cause an issue for someone with food allergies or sensitivities.

    1. Thank you for mentioning sensitivity. I’m highly sensative to this flour . It makes me sick for days and I get a horrible rash. I’m concerned that this will be used in place of other flours  in restaurants. I’m already on a gluten free diet so it will be even more challenging to have to find gluten and cassava free foods. I made some pancakes with this flour and didn’t realize it was in the mix. The texture and color were not similar to other pancakes and fell apart. If you read up on this plant it really is not very good for you. 

  14. I accidentally bought tapioca based arrowroot(I’m allergic to tapioca but didn’t know this) from a company called ‘Feel Good’ and it’s considered authentic. What I learned is it’s also called Brazilian arrowroot. I know now that to tell the difference, real actual arrowroot is ‘Maranta arundinacea’. Cassava based is ‘Manihot esculenta’. Lol for this, so that this way you know you’re getting the real thing.

  15. Actually in our Tripura State under India the travel people are using this arrowroot stamp as a vagitable items since early.It is locally known as
    “SHIMULALU”in Bengali language.
    Lot of Thanks !

  16. I use arrowroot all the time. It is the finest thing if you have tummy problems. I you get a runny tummy mix two heaped spoons full in a drop of milk and drink. I have never had more than two doses and it always cures the problem. It also helps with cistitis. Crazy but true.

  17. back in the ’70s I used arrowroot to make a clear sauce for fish like cod. Now I’m full blown Paleo after trying to go other places. For me, Paleo is less painful and by learning how to make more meals and dishes, esp. dessert, I hope to move on from the food/pain focus.

  18. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on arrowroot. I have often wondered how it is used. I do all the cooking at our house and use cornstarch. My brothers call me the family chef. I only cook from scratch, but I do know a lot of short cuts. I have been cooking for over 40 years and I am a retired butcher.

  19. Does arrow root help with reactive hypoglycemia, is it a slow release glucogen.
    Can it help those of us that suffer with post prandial sleepiness and somnolence.
    Corn starch is given to children at night as it’s a slow release glucose for hypoglycemia disorders  can arrow root do the same.

    1. Unfortunately, I can’t answer that. You’d be best to ask a doctor that question. :)

  20. I am needing to find arrowroot that has been produced in a nut free facility. My family member has a serious nut allergy. Do you know of any such brand that will work for us?

    1. Hi Kim – Unfortunately I don’t know of any brands off hand. Your best bet is to reach out to the manufacturers directly. :)

  21. Hello, thanks for this helpful information. The arrowroot starch I has a strange taste to it. My husband said the sauce I made with it has a slight ‘tinny’ aftertaste and he didn’t like it at all. Could it be the brand I’m using or is that how it tastes? Can I substitute Tapioca starch/flour for Arrowroot powder? Thank you.

    1. No, it shouldn’t have a tinny aftertaste. In fact, it shouldn’t really have any taste at all. Perhaps you have a bad batch? As far as substituting, it really depends on the recipe and other ingredients, but I’d say most of the time, yes. :)

  22. I am looking into arrowroot tonight, before trying it out it in gluten-free recipes that I make at home, to make sure it doesn’t have anything (besides gluten, which of course I know that it doesn’t have) in it that I might want to avoid. I typed in “arrowroot” in a search engine, and this page was the very first link provided, even higher than the link to the Wikipedia entry on arrowroot!
    I’m glad to learn more information on it here. Thank you for the bright, clear photos of the beautiful roots themselves. This is the first time I have come across your site, and I have bookmarked your recipes page for further perusal (the arrowroot-containing cranberry almond biscotti are already calling my name)! I skimmed around a little and read your post saying that you had updated your site design. I don’t know what it used to look like, but I appreciate the minimalistic, modern, airy feeling of the current version. It helps to make your nice photos stand out. You mentioned somewhere that you had an instagram story about some hormonal issues, but didn’t elaborate on those issues, and I don’t do instagram (or twitter or facebook etc.) so I don’t have access to that — do you replicate everything on your site that you put on other social media channels? If you don’t, I would suggest that it might be nice to have this website as a central repository that contains everything (at least a “copy” of everything), as opposed to putting some of your content only on one platform or the other. Not only for people like me who are not into social media (it’s a conscious decision I’ve made not to spend time on those platforms), but also for time-pressed readers in general who might want to be able to keep track all of your content easily and quickly and don’t realize that it’s fragmented, in different locations. [I think you wrote somewhere that you might create a closed Facebook group where people could write more openly about their health issues, which naturally would take a lot of time to set up if you were to try to create a private forum on your own site, so I do realize that some platforms are better for some initiatives/conversations than others are.] Anyway, to me your site “feels” attractive, friendly, mature, clean, poised, and calm, which is appealing, and I’ve bookmarked it to return on another day when I can spend more time looking for new recipes! Good luck and take care.

    1. Hi Dot, thanks so much for your note and kind words about my site. I’m happy you love the design and recipes. I do put different items/topics on different platforms, as some are just more conducive to video, interactions, etc. But if you subscribe to my email list (listed at the bottom of this website), you’ll get the vast majority of content. :) x

  23. How many carbs does arrowroot powder have per tablespoon? I have just started a Keto diet(similar to Paleo diet) where I need to severely restrict my carb intake, but can have butter, heavy cream etc. I want to make a simple white sauce without using cornstarch or flour as they are on the “no no list” for a Keto diet. Wondering if I can substitute arrowroot powder?

    1. According to online nutritional calculators, there’s approximately 8g of carbs per tablespoon. And yes, you can easily make a white sauce with arrowroot powder.

  24. How would you use it in a slow cooker recipe that calls for 2 Tbsp. of flour mixed with everything at the beginning and then cooked for 6 hours on low. Would you add about 1 Tbsp. arrowroot in a slurry at the beginning or remove liquid at the end and heat slurry in a pan and add back to ingredients?

  25. Hi there, I’ve heard that tapioca powder is able to be sold as arrowroot here in the U.S. Is there a brand you suggest that I could trust for authenticity?

    1. Hi Raquel – I haven’t heard that, but will have to do a little investigative digging! While both come from root vegetables, they’re entirely different plants. It would be like saying russet potatoes and sweet potatoes are the same. I usually buy Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour: http://amzn.to/2DTkMek and it works beautifully! :)

  26. To respond to Adrian’s post, I notice in Australia that ‘Arrowroot’ flour has an under label with ‘Tapioca’ clearly written. I can’t see how this would be illegal at all, because it is informative and the buyer still has the choice of buying it or not.

    After the War in the 1940’s Arrowroot biscuits (were made as far as we know from Arrowroot flour) and was highly recommended for babies and the aged as an easily digested and nourishing food. According to Australian information by ABC’S Gardening Australia, the tips of the leaves are a good source of protein, the roots can be soaked and baked. I have also heard, they make great fried chips, can be boiled and mashed, and from memory the flour is weevil resistant.

    1. It’s likely not illegal, but it’s certainly misleading and confusing to the consumer. It would be like selling a bushel of sweet potatoes and calling them russet potatoes. So I’d say it’s rather “mis-informative.” ;)

      But yes, arrowroot can be more easily digestible, nourishing and it’s an extremely versatile vegetable. I love the fact that it’s starting to go more mainstream!

  27. Hi,

    I think it may be worth mentioning that here in the uk, it seems to be perfectly legal to describe and sell Cassava based flour (tapioca) as pure Arrowroot when it is certainly not.
    As this form of “Arrowroot” behaves differently with different caracteristics, it could be worthwhile to point this out to your audience.

    1. Oh wow. Thanks for letting everyone know Adrian. They’re most certainly different and behave differently in cooking. I’m surprised they can get away with saying that?

  28. I love arrowroot, I make these little flatbreads with arrowroot, coconut flour and coconut milk  they were originally a chapati recipe…. they’re a staple for me as I don’t eat bread.
    They make a great sandwich !!! 

    1. Do you share your recipe? Or, perhaps there is one on this blog? Looking for a good flat bread alternative. Thanks. 

  29. I’ve been using cornstarch in a gluten-free sourdough bread recipe. If i use arrowroot as a substitution, should I decrease the amount by 1/3 or 1/2 as you mention above and increase the other flours to make up the difference? I know you don’t bake with grains so this may be a difficult question but I’m absolutely awful with baking lol

    1. Unfortunately it’s hard to say without knowing the specific recipe. But I’d say that’s a good starting point to try! :)

  30. I’ve been using arrowroot powder since
    1972. I found it in a recipe for fruit pies, used as a thickener. I believe it was in the Whole Earth Cookbook which was popular back then. It’s especially useful in gravies. It’s so easy and thickens the gravy right up.

  31. I made a Chinese brown sauce with arrowroot, replacing cornstarch after reading your article, It was GREAT, thank you!

    1. I’d probably start with a tablespoon (assuming you’re making at least 1-2 cups of gravy) and add more as needed. But make sure to make a slurry with water first, then add it to your saucepan, stir until incorporated and thick, then remove from the heat. :)

  32. I’ve used arrowroot for many years. It makes great custard – 2 tsps arrowroot, sprinkle of turmeric, and half pint sweetened soya milk. Of course mix to a paste with a little Soya milk before adding the rest. Cook slowly in saucepan, stirring all the time and VOILA !

      1. I am a gluten free vegan, so arrowroot custard makes a change from soya yogurt. It is also nourishing for delicate digestions. I make it with fortified soya milk as it contains vitamin B12. You could also add chia seeds for extra nutrition. It is great with a banana and all the berries or even apples.

    1. I have some friends with IBS that don’t have any problems with it, but it’s definitely very individual. So you’ll have to do what’s best for your body. :)

    2. I don’t know if it is a no no for ibs but arrowroot is traditionally used as a home remedy for upset stomach in Karnataka (south India)

  33. Followed your link from Forleo comment. :) Go for it!
    I use arrowroot regularly in a crepe recipe and have a hard time finding its carb count. I use 1/4 c for about 4 crepes and wonder if it spikes my blood sugar. Any idea?

  34. Really interesting, i will definitely give it a try!!! (and you have my vote in Saveur… of course!)

    1. Yay, thanks so much for your vote!! Much appreciated. And glad you enjoyed this post on arrowroot. :) xo

  35. what an informative post! I’ve used arrowroot powder several times in my recipes and had no idea! Thank you!

  36. I am familiar with Cassava flour, but have never heard of arrowroot before. Great post!

    1. They’re both great grain-free flours, so you should definitely give arrowroot a try! :)

  37. This is great information. I haven’t used arrowroot but will definitely try it.

    1. It’s always good to have on hand if you have folks who are gluten-free, paleo and/or corn-sensitive.

  38. I’ve used arrowroot powder in baking before – I like that it makes the texture less dense. Thank you for this extensive post and tips! Happy Saturday and almost Sunday xx

    1. Yes, it definitely adds a lightness to gluten-free baked goods, especially when using almond flour and coconut flour. Happy Weekend Liz! :) x