Arrowroot is a starchy root vegetable similar to yam, cassava, sweet potato, and taro. It is a white, flavorless powder most often used to thicken sauces, soups, and other foods like fruit pie fillings. It is comprised of starches extracted from various tropical tubers, including Maranta arundinacea, the arrowroot plant.
Use arrowroot powder like you would cornstarch. It has twice the thickening power of wheat flour. Known as arrowroot starch or flour, it is made from tropical plant roots that are dried and ground. Arrowroot does not turn food cloudy or change the color. Arrowroot will also stay intact when mixed with acidic ingredients. For these reasons, it is often favored as a thickener for jellies and fruit fillings.
Arrowroot has a neutral flavor and adds a glossy finish to foods. Arrowroot is gluten-free, vegan, and paleo-friendly, and also has a very long shelf life.
Arrowroot has been used for its medicinal properties. Most of its potential health benefits are linked to its starch content and composition.
Like many starches, it’s high in carbs but offers various nutrients. A 1-cup serving of sliced, raw arrowroot contains the following:
- Calories: 78
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Folate: 102% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Phosphorus: 17% of the DV
- Iron: 15% of the DV
- Potassium: 11% of the DV
Arrowroot has a higher protein content than other tubers at 5 grams per 1 cup, compared with 2.3 grams in the same amount of yam.
Additionally, it provides over 100% of the DV for folate (vitamin B9), which is essential for development during pregnancy and DNA formation. Low levels of this vitamin are associated with an increased risk of birth defects and chronic diseases like cancer.
Arrowroot powder is 32% resistant starch, which your body cannot digest. It forms a viscous gel when mixed with water and behaves like soluble fiber in your gut. Foods high in fiber and resistant starch slow your rate of digestion, giving you a prolonged feeling of fullness.
Arrowroot’s resistant starch content may stimulate your immune system. It is a potential source of prebiotics, which are a type of fiber that feeds your gut bacteria. Beneficial gut bacteria may boost your immune health, as they produce multiple vitamins and absorb key minerals that your immune system needs to function properly.
Arrowroot provides a natural source to prevent heart problems. Potassium is a vasodilator. And it functions to relieve tension in your arteries and blood vessels.
As in other roots and tubers, arrowroot too is free from gluten. Gluten-free starch is used in special food preparations for celiac disease patients.
According to US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, being a low-glycemic index foods, arrowroot conumption in fact help in better regulation of blood glucose levels in diabetes patients.
How to Buy
Arrowroot powder can be found in most grocery stores and co-ops. It can usually be found near flour, grains, or baking supplies, or in the gluten-free specialty section in the market.
Some lower quality arrowroot powder blends may contain potato starch, so be sure to read ingredient lists carefully.
How to Store
Keep arrowroot in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. When stored properly, arrowroot powder will last three to four years.
How to Cook
Arrowroot is excellent for thickening soups, sauces, and gravies, and can be used as a substitute for cornstarch. It is added at the end of cooking time since extended heat can cause the arrowroot to break down, resulting in a thin sauce. This powder is also incorporated into desserts and jellies and is used to coat tofu to create a crispy finish when pan-frying.
Arrowroot starch is odorless and has a neutral flavor and therefore can’t be detected in the recipes.
You can eat it raw, roasted, boiled or stewed without losing the potency and nutrients. Here are a few quick serving tips:
- Prepare crunchy fries by dipping potatoes in salt pepper and arrowroot powder and then fry them
- It can be substituted for eggs as a binder
- Use it as a food thickener for better consistency
- Mix this flour to give better shapes to pastries, biscuits, and cookies
Arrowroot stands up to freezing, whereas mixtures thickened with cornstarch tend to break down after freezing and thawing.
If you cannot find any arrowroot powder, there are other ingredients to use as a substitute. Instant tapioca is the best option as it also holds up well when frozen and offers a glossy sheen to foods. Just keep in mind that tapioca doesn’t dissolve fully when cooked, so grinding it to a powder before using. You can also use cornstarch in place of arrowroot, but it will not work well in acidic recipes or dishes that will be frozen; cornstarch will also result in a cloudy instead of a shiny finish.