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What is Arrowroot Powder?

Arrowroot uses, tips, and availability.

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Arrowroot Plant

Arrowroot Plant

Photo by Grailbeard [flickr]

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 Arrowroot?

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

Tips for Using Arrowroot

Just as with corn starch, arrowroot powder should be mixed with room temperature water to create a "slurry" before adding 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.

Over heating 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.

Arrowroot 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

Arrowroot powder is not commonly sold in most major grocery stores. 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. Natural food stores or health food stores often carry arrowroot powder because it is a commonly used ingredient in gluten free cooking. Arrowroot powder can also be purchased through several online vendors.

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