What is Arrowroot Powder?

Arrowroot Powder Use in Cooking and Where to Find It

Photo by FotoosVanRobin / Getty Images

Arrowroot powder is a white, flavorless powder used to thicken sauces, soups, and other foods. Arrowroot powder is comprised of starches extracted from various tropical tubers, such as the arrowroot plant and cassava. Some lower quality arrowroot powder blends may also contain potato starch, so be sure to read ingredient lists carefully.

Why Is Arrowroot Powder Used in Cooking?

Arrowroot powder is twice the thickening power of wheat flour and, because it contains no protein, arrowroot is gluten free.

Unlike corn starch, arrowroot powder creates a perfectly clear gel and does not break down when combined with acidic ingredients, like fruit juice. Arrowroot also stands up to freezing, whereas mixtures thickened with corn starch tend to break down after freezing and thawing.

How is Arrowroot Used?

Because arrowroot can stand up to acidic mixtures, it is excellent for thickening fruit gels and fruit sauces, like cranberry sauce, or acidic sauces like sweet and sour sauce. Arrowroot powder is excellent for making smooth homemade ice cream, as it interferes with the formation of large ice crystals and is not affected by freezing. Although it is good for ice cream, arrowroot powder is not suggested for use with other non-frozen dairy products, as it can produce a slimy or undesirable texture.

Similarly to corn starch, arrowroot is also excellent for thickening soups, sauces, and gravies. It may be used instead of corn starch or flour for these recipes.

Tips for Using Arrowroot

Just as with corn starch, arrowroot powder should be mixed with room temperature water to create a "slurry" before adding it to a hot liquid. Adding arrowroot powder to a hot liquid will cause the starch molecules to swell immediately and form clumps before it is able to be evenly mixed into the liquid.

Overheating arrowroot powder can cause it to break down, resulting in a thin sauce. Heat mixtures with arrowroot powder just until it is thickened, and then remove from the heat.

Substituting Arrowroot for Corn Starch or Flour

  • Arrowroot powder can be substituted for corn starch in most recipes at a ratio of two teaspoons arrowroot powder for every one tablespoon of corn starch.
  • Arrowroot powder can be substituted for flour thickeners at a ratio of one teaspoon of arrowroot powder for every one tablespoon of flour.

Where to Buy Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is not commonly sold in most major grocery stores, although this may change as gluten-free cooking becomes more widespread. Larger chains that have a sizable stock of natural or health food items may carry arrowroot powder. It can usually be found near flour, grains, or baking supplies. If there is a gluten-free specialty section in the market, look there.

Natural food stores or health food stores often carry arrowroot powder because it is a commonly used ingredient in gluten free cooking. It may be found at a gluten-free specialty market. Arrowroot powder can also be conveniently purchased through several online vendors.