Arrowroot works wonderfully in the kitchen as a great thickening agent for sauces and pie fillings; it helps by adding a great body and creating a clear gel for sweets like puddings, jams, and jellies. It helps in baking, creating crunch in fried food, and being just a simple carrier for herbs and spices.
Arrowroot powder is one of those kitchen staples that generally gets overlooked on the pantry shelf as cornstarch or similar are the first that are reached for, primarily out of habit. Arrowroot powder is a much superior product and has many healthier advantages.
It has a long history, from the way it was eaten hundreds of years ago as a whole food by many past civilizations to how it is now processed in many countries commercially to be used as a starch for the most straightforward kitchen culinary pursuits.
We have expanded below on the nine different ways to use Arrowroot in your kitchen to give you more information on the how and why, hopefully.
- Ice-cream making
- Homemade staples
- Egg replacement
- Frying for crunch
- Cornstarch replacement
1. Why use Arrowroot Powder when making Ice-cream?
Arrowroot powder, when used in ice-cream making, not only gives it body, it acts as a stabilizer. When making ice- cream, the freezing process grows ice crystals with the water/juice content within the mix, and these will become coarse and icy very quickly.
Stabilizers slow down this process and help make much smaller ice crystals; this allows for a much more excellent texture and mouth feel.
In traditional custard-style recipes requiring eggs, the eggs act as the stabilizer; however, if you want to make eggless ice cream, this is an excellent way to help achieve that.
If you are moving away from dairy and want to try coconut ice cream, then using Arrowroot powder significantly improves the texture of coconut milk-based ice creams by working the same way as above. It helps reduce the gritty iciness (ice crystals), which helps make the ice cream creamier.
2. When to use Arrowroot Powder to make simple desserts.
Some fruit pie recipes or fruit cobblers call for cornstarch to thicken the fruit filling; when this happens, reach for the Arrowroot powder instead and use one tablespoon of arrowroot for every 1.5 cups of fruit.
When making desserts like custards, puddings, fruit compotes, and sweet pie fillings, the use of Arrowroot powder helps give structure and body to these simple desserts and thicken the fruit mix. One significant benefit is that it will not interfere with the color of the dish as it sets to a clear gel.
Much like when used to thicken savory sauces, Arrowroot powder can help create sweet fruit sauces by thickening a pureed fruit mix, which can be enjoyed over ice cream, baked goods, and crepes.
You can also use arrowroot powder in many sweet fillings and creamy desserts without compromising any delicate flavors, as it has no added taste, unlike cornstarch.
It would be best if you didn’t use it with dairy as it doesn’t mix well, creating a slimy mixture. However, for acidic (citrus) desserts, arrowroot is a better choice than cornstarch because this loses its thickening potency in acidic mixtures.
3. Can you use Arrowroot Powder to improve baking with grain-free flours?
You can use arrowroot powder, as it adds some necessary body to gluten-free nut flours when baked as it helps to lighten the texture and helps to hold the structure of baked goods. It gives greater crumb strength while at the same time increasing the overall tenderness.
While it works as a thickening agent, it also helps bind the ingredients together. Potentially overly dense muffins, crumbly cookies, or heavy pancakes will happen less with the added use of arrowroot powder.
When using Arrowroot powder, combined with other flours like cassava flour, it will bind and hold well together to make simple tortillas or flatbreads.
Bread baking is a game of trial and error. You have different course flours, low/high starch, humidity, water content so many other aspects. However, the added arrowroot does help. With that being said, baking without gluten is all about getting the correct ratio of arrowroot starch in relation to the “grittier” grain-free flour of your choice.
4. How does Arrowroot Powder work as a thickener?
Arrowroot powder as a thickener produces a lovely transparent gravy with a smooth glossy texture that doesn’t feel ‘heavy.’ To thicken with arrowroot powder, mix the powder with liquid (broth or water) until it dissolves before introducing it to a recipe.
If making a hot gravy with arrowroot, be aware that extended high heat of vigorous boiling, will reduce arrowroot’s thickening properties. This will cause your lovely thick gravy to be reduced to a thin watery mix again.
The heat breaks down the gelatinization process, and this is why arrowroot shouldn’t be boiled. It is best to cook the meal to avoid this situation, then 10 to 15 minutes before you plan to dish up, use 1/2 cup of cool liquid (this can be broth, water, or stock) and add 2 1/2 teaspoons to make a slurry.
Bring the sauce to a simmer, and then pour the arrowroot liquid into the mix. Lower the heat and constantly stir until the mixture thickens. It should only take a couple of minutes.
As arrowroot powder has no flavor or taste, it makes an excellent choice for thickening sauces that use eggs or other ingredients that shouldn’t boil. As the mixture thickens during the simmering (not boiling) process time, it will gel up wonderfully, allowing the use of arrowroot to leave a superior finished result.
5. Where can I replace Arrowroot powder as the binder?
If you are looking to cook nut, corn, soy, or dairy-free, you can use arrowroot powder as a binder in these recipes. If a recipe calls for egg, gum, flour, or nut protein, then arrowroot, as a general rule, can be used as the binder.
As Arrowroot powder helps to stabilize and create a structure to the mix, it can be called in to replace many of the binders used. However, there are some recipes that it simply won’t work in.
This is the trial and error side of any cooking situation. This is where good cooks improve if they can inter-change their recipes when needed by learning what does and does not work.
A significant advantage of Arrowroot powder is its ability to thicken acidic foods, unlike cornstarch. This is why it works as a superior binder in tomato or citrus-based foods.
In many Vegan plant-based loaf recipes, arrowroot powder is the binder used to allow easier slicing by keeping it all ‘together.’
Arrowroot powder is a popular binding agent for those following a Vegan, Paleo, and Gluten-free lifestyle. The lack of gluten in arrowroot flour makes it a good replacement for wheat flour.
6. Simple pantry homemade staples made with Arrowroot powder.
In almost all Pantries, you will find 3 similar items that everyone uses: Baking powder, Powdered sugar, and an essential Seasoning mix. If you want, need, or have to make your own, I have included below a quick set of instructions on how to do it yourself for all 3.
We like to be as self-sufficient as we can and have replaced many store versions with homemade ones over time. Below are simple back-ups for 3 everyday pantry staples to create your own homemade replacements using Arrowroot powder.
Making your own couldn’t be simpler. You may already have the ingredients needed in your pantry now.
Instructions for 3 simple shelf staples
makes 1 cup
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup cream of tartar, and
- 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
- Measure out the amount you need for the recipe, and store the remainder in an airtight container.
makes 1 cup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- You will need to use a strong food processor or small spice blender
- Add sugar and arrowroot powder ( the arrowroot powder helps to keep it dry and stops it from clumping)
- Blend all together until fine. Depending on your machine will determine how long it takes. 4-5 mins approx
- give it all a good mix and do a couple more minutes if needed.
- Feel the mixture with your fingers. If it feels gritty, continue. If fine and smooth, then Stop
- Store in an airtight container
SEASONED COATING MIX
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp celery
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ginger
- pinch cayenne or chilli (optional)
- 1/4 cup arrowroot flour
- Mix all together and keep in a sealed jar
7. Can I replace eggs in recipes with Arrowroot powder?
Not all recipes will work if removing the egg component. You can still replace an egg in some recipes by incorporating Arrowroot powder simply by whisking together 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and ¼ cup water. This will replace one egg.
When mixing your ingredients, if wanting to reduce the moisture that an extra egg would create, using Arrowroot Powder as the binder here is beneficial. Works best in meatloaves, casseroles, and some baked goods.
Making gnocchi and pasta with arrowroot powder works well by replacing the egg and wheat binders with arrowroot where needed. This works exceptionally well if wheat gluten and eggs are ingredients you want to avoid or cut down on.
The gluten and eggs lend that classic elasticity and chewy texture to gnocchi. Taking them out leaves the arrowroot to thicken and gel with the other ingredients, which creates a binding effect.
- Not all gluten-free flour will make pasta, so the arrowroot will not ‘magic’ it into working. As I mentioned in another section earlier, this is very much a trial-and-error way of cooking. You need to know why that item is there and its purpose in the dish and replace it only if possible.
For example, just because you can replace an egg with Arrowroot doesn’t always mean you should. If you learn to understand why the egg is in the recipe, then switching out for Arrowroot will be much easier, knowing the pros and cons. It also allows for a much better success rate in your cooking ventures.
8. Can Arrowroot Powder make Fried Foods Crunchier?
Arrowroot powder can make fried foods crunchier if combined with all-purpose flour by preventing gluten development, making the flour coating crispier when fried or baked.
Using your favorite fried chicken recipe ( or mix from above), replace part of your AP flour using 1/4 of the mix with Arrowroot powder. For example, instead of 2 cups of all-purpose flour, use 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of arrowroot.
I do the following
- Place prepared chicken in a container big enough to shake in.
- Add 1/4 cup of seasoned mix plus 3/4 cup plain flour into a container and shake to coat.
- (if using a batter here, dip, drip, and cook)
- Proceed to cook the way you like. I prefer to either bake or pan-fry.
- Using the Seasoned coating mix from above, try coating freshly cut potatoes, sweet potatoes, or other vegetables of your choice and roast or fry for a lovely crunchy coating.
9. Can I substitute arrowroot powder for cornstarch?
Yes, Arrowroot powder can be a substitute for cornstarch in almost all instances that it is called for in recipes. There are only a couple of times when the cooking process required may not suit; however, as a general rule, this is a great product to use instead.
Unlike cornstarch, the one bonus about arrowroot is that you can use it to thicken recipes made with citrus or other acidic ingredients.
The second bonus is that arrowroot turns clear as it sets; it doesn’t make your product cloudy like cornstarch does, resulting in a ‘cleaner’ taste.
Cornstarch, however, is a grain starch that is great for food that will cook over a long time. It can be used at the beginning of a recipe ( think dusted meats/Veg for long cooking where thickening happens over time at a higher heat).
Whereas Arrowroot Powder is a root starch that doesn’t do as well when cooked over a long time. So using Arrowroot Powder at the end of the cooking process instead (added as a cool slurry) will thicken the same meal without having that lingering taste of cornstarch flavor.
Arrowroot would fit the bill in almost all other situations where cornstarch is asked for. Depending on the recipe, the ratio of Arrowroot to Cornstarch may vary. This really is trial and error.
The general rule of thumb is a 1:1 ratio; however, I prefer to use a smaller proportion of 3/4: 1 as our Arrowroot powder is pure starch with no additives.
- If interested, what do you use arrowroot flour for? This is another article I have written which includes a list of the Pros and Cons of Arrowroot and Corn flour.
What is Arrowroot Powder and how is it made?
Arrowroot powder is predominantly grown and produced in countries like Indonesia and India from the variety of Canna Lily known as Maranta arundinaceae. It is made by extracting the starch from the rhizomes of this plant.
Sometimes the product you may buy from the stores will have various degrees of quality depending on what brand you are buying. Extra additives may be added; please make sure you read the labels to get pure arrowroot powder.
As I mentioned earlier, ours is a pure Arrowroot as we make our own powder from the starch extracted from the rhizomes of the Canna Lily plant Canna Edulis (Queensland Arrowroot).
It is a relatively simple process if only a little time-consuming, as there is a lot of waiting for starch to settle. If you are interested in reading more about how we go about the process of How to make Arrowroot Powder in more detail, feel free to check it out.
- We also have a video of the process taken over the 3-day process from plant to powder in the same post.
How long does Arrowroot powder keep?
On store-bought packaging, the use-by dates can range anywhere from a year up to 3 or 4 years (not all brands seem to agree on this). However, I’ve had arrowroot powder last much longer on our shelf and it is still perfectly fine to use.
Arrowroot is almost pure carbohydrate and devoid of protein, so if Arrowroot powder is kept dry and in a sealed jar, it will last almost indefinitely. It is a starch, not a food that can quickly deteriorate and go ‘off’.
- We store ours in mason jars, and vacuum seal them. I have one I use for day-to-day use, and the rest gets sealed in a jar and left on the shelf, only being opened when it’s time to be refilled.
Once I learned the many benefits of using Arrowroot powder and its many benefits in my cooking, I was sold.
As a family, we like to replace as many store-bought products with homemade pantry staples as possible. Making them for ourselves from scratch is what being self-sufficient in our Home-Life is all about.
- We not only grow our own arrowroot but process it. However, you may not be able to do this. I encourage you to swap out other starches in your diet with arrowroot by purchasing the best organic powder you can. You simply can’t go wrong.
This article was written by Tui Blanch. She is Co-owner of TheTropicalHomestead.com and has well over 20yrs experience in preserving and storing food.