An increasingly popular and extremely versatile ingredient, arrowroot powder is often used in vegan, gluten- free and paleo cooking. But what if you can’t manage to find it?
Don’t worry! There are plenty of great arrowroot powder substitutes out there. We’ll take a look at 6 of the best arrowroot alternatives and weigh up the pros and cons of each.
But first, let’s delve into the detail of arrowroot powder, discover its uses and find out a little bit more about where it comes from.
what is arrowroot powder?
Sometimes referred to as arrowroot starch or arrowroot flour, arrowroot powder is a white natural starch that comes from the root of the Maranta arundinacea plant (that’s the arrowroot plant to you and I).
A very popular ingredient in West Indian and South American cooking, powdered arrowroot has a strong resemblance to other tubers such as cassava, kudzu or yuca.
Its popularity is soaring in the US and across Europe, as more and more health-conscious foodies look for gluten-free, grain-free, vegan-friendly produce.
arrowroot powder uses
Arrowroot powder is a great natural thickener. Ever made soups, stews, gravies or sauces that have come out way too thin and watery? This is where arrowroot comes in!
When adding a thickener, you want something that changes the texture and body of your dish, not the taste. That’s why arrowroot powder is perfect.
It has a neutral taste and adds a glossy sheen to soups and sauces, finishing off a dish in style. Try Anthony’s Premium Arrowroot Flour – it’s one of the best arrowroot products on the market.
To use arrowroot as a thickener, mix it into a cold liquid such as water or a non-dairy milk, and whisk until it forms a smooth paste. Then simply pour into your dish and voilà!
But it’s more than just a thickening agent… arrowroot also crisps up nicely when cooked, making it a great addition when sprinkled over sweet potato fries or chicken drumsticks.
For those with a sweet tooth, arrowroot powder is also a very effective thickener in pie fillings, pancakes, jams and custards.
6 arrowroot powder substitutes
Arrowroot powder is without doubt an amazing ingredient, with a versatility that makes it a key kitchen-cupboard item. But it’s not irreplaceable! So let’s take a look at 6 of the finest arrowroot substitutes available and find out which one works best for you.
Probably the closest arrowroot substitute, tapioca (sometimes called tapioca starch or tapioca flour) comes from the cassava root and shares many attributes with ground arrowroot. It’s very neutral in taste, is gluten free and gives a glossy texture when added to dishes. This makes it a great option if you’re looking for a natural, gluten-free thickener.
Much like arrowroot, tapioca keeps its form and remains stable, even at low temperature. So it’s an ideal thickening agent if you’re planning to freeze that delicious soup or sauce.
One thing to keep in mind – unlike arrowroot, tapioca isn’t a great thickener for acidic dishes, so avoid using it in a tomato-based sauce for instance – it’ll break down and lose its form. But it’s perfect for non-acidic dishes, especially gluten-free and vegan soups.
Cornstarch is extracted from the corn kernel and is another great thickening agent. Like arrowroot powder, cornstarch has a neutral flavour and won’t overpower your dish. What’s more, it’s also gluten free.
It’s definitely one of the most popular thickeners. Most kitchens have probably got a packet, tin or tub of cornstarch stowed away for a rainy day.
But while it’ll definitely make your soup or sauce a little bit more unctuous, it won’t quite bring that beautiful gloss to your dish in the same way that arrowroot does. Also, much like powdered arrowroot and tapioca, it’s not great as a thickener in acidic dishes.
Another gluten-free thickener, rice flour is made from finely milled rice and is often used in Asian cuisine. It’s the perfect thickener to use if you’re planning to chill or freeze your dish, as it stops the liquid from separating.
Rice flour is most effective as a thickener when added at the beginning of the cooking process and with dishes that are cooked slowly.
Something that makes rice flour different to most thickening agents is that it works well with acidic dishes. So, if you need to thicken a sauce for your noodle dish or your gluten free spaghetti bolognese for example, rice flour is a good option!
Be aware that rice flour is a grain starch, which means it’ll give your dish a cloudy or matte appearance. So if you’re looking to add shine to your sauce, check out one of the other substitutes on this list.
An excellent thickening agent, wheat flour can be used as an alternative to arrowroot. It contains gluten, so if you’re looking for a gluten-free substitute for arrowroot powder give it a miss and check out the other options on this list.
To use wheat flour as a thickener, you need to mix it with butter and cook gently for several minutes to make a roux. Then you add this to your dish, normally at the end of the cooking process.
You’ve probably seen its name written a million times on commercial food labels. This is because xanthan gum helps to give a creamy texture to all kinds of liquids and sauces. But aside from being the go-to thickening agent for processed foods, xanthan gum also acts as a great thickener when cooking at home.
Produced by the natural fermentation of corn, soy, wheat, or cabbage, xanthan gum is 100% vegan and gluten free. It’s a great natural thickener for use in dairy-free cooking or baking too, and is ideal for those with food allergies.
It’s best to make xanthan gum with a blender, using about 1/8 teaspoon per cup of liquid.
Sometimes referred to as Japanese arrowroot, this super thickener will take your sauces, soups and other dishes to another level.
Just in terms of aesthetics, it’s great – kuzu makes sauces look fantastic, giving them a sparkling gloss and a smooth texture. It’ll give your dish extra body without taking away from the taste – kuzu has a completely neutral flavour – and won’t leave your dish all starchy like some other thickeners can from time to time.
It even helps balance the acidity of sweet dishes, making it a delicious addition to puddings, pie fillings and other sweet treats.
It may be pricey, but it’s worth its weight in gold! And while it may be hard to find (maybe more so than arrowroot powder) its practicality, nutritional benefits, and healing properties make it the highest quality thickening agent out there.
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