Arrowroot… Truly one of the most amazing gluten free, grain free ingredients available. Let me start by saying this: if you’re not gluten free, arrowroot will be of little use to you. If you’re not corn free, the same applies. For those who can have gluten, wheat (of all variations) is the preferred ingredient to use, rather than a blend of pseduograins and starches.
So What Exactly Is Arrowroot?
Arrowroot is a starch. It’s usually obtained from tropical plants. Arrowroot is NOT the same as tapioca. It comes from the Maranta Arundinacea plant where tapioca comes from cassava.
Once extracted, arrowroot is sold as a white powder. Make sure you’re getting pure arrowroot, and not something mixed with other starches. Arrowroot has a distinct smell in my opinion, but it’s mild. Also, arrowroot has very little taste, unless you use it in a cold application such as ice cream. Hint: DON’T use it in ice cream.
You’ll see the term “arrowroot” but the terms arrowroot powder, arrowroot starch, and arrowroot flour all refer to the same product. This is important because potato starch and potato flour are NOT the same thing.
If you’re curious about the nutritional profile of arrowroot, here’s the USDA info sheet. There are many article online about the health benefits of arrowroot if you want to take a deeper dive.
When To Use Arrowroot
Arrowroot is great for soup, sauces, glazes, foods you’ll freeze, and non-dairy recipes. A cooking tip to remember: arrowroot should generally be added at the end of a recipe if you’re using it as a thickening agent. If you heat it for too long, it can become too thick, and also start to breakdown.
Related Allergy Inspiration: Gluten Free Pineapple Tart
Arrowroot plays well with acid unlike some thickeners, however, I’ve been told it does not play well with dairy. Interestingly, I’ve never experienced this first hand because everything I create is dairy free due to severe allergies in our home.
Arrowroot Is Important For Gluten Free Flour Blending
If you’re new to making gluten free flour blends, here’s the most important piece of advice I can share: flour blending is critical to your success. CRITICAL. For a gluten free flour blend to be effective, you need flours of different weights. Learn more about gluten free flour in this article.
Arrowroot is a lightweight starch that helps bring fluffy to the table. Without a light starch in your mix, you can end up with a dense gluten free product, and that’s no fun. The only time you shouldn’t flour blend: if you absolutely can’t due to dietary restrictions.
Arrowroot In Gluten Free Baking
Once you have an idea of how you’d like to go about flour blending, arrowroot should be experimented with. You can also use potato starch in baking which lends to a more delicate crumb. Interestingly, I sometimes use both together 🙂
It’s very common for each recipe developer to have a go-to combination of flours and amounts. I have my favourite combo of millet, sorghum, oat, and arrowroot. My recipes will use these in different amounts based on what I’m going for, but arrowroot is almost always a small (but very important) component.
Related Recipe: Gluten, Grain, & Corn Free Lemon Cake
To understand this better, bake a recipe with and without arrowroot. It will help you see and feel what it does to your recipes. Additionally, bake the same recipe and only use arrowroot as the flour. You’ll really get a good idea of how it behaves.
Arrowroot In Paleo and AIP Paleo Baking
Arrowroot is approved for both the Paleo and AIP Paleo diets. It is NOT for Keto, GAPs, or SCD.
Like with regular gluten free flour blending, you’re going to want a blend of flours for grain free baking. My favourite combination is cassava, tiger nut (NOT a nut, tuber), and arrowroot. I use this combination because it’s very allergy friendly.
Like with standard gluten free baking, arrowroot is a small, yet important component of grain free baking.
Related Recipe: Gluten, Grain, and Corn Free Cupcakes
Tip: if you’re using cassava only, do not use cassava and arrowroot as the only two flours in your mix. You really need the trifecta of cassava, arrowroot, and tiger nut for best results. This is especially true if you’re baking egg free like me. If you’re able to use eggs in your baking, cassava only works pretty well. In fact, you’ll find some awesome recipes on the Otto’s Naturals website.
Arrowroot in Corn Free Baking
Arrowroot is naturally corn free, like many other raw materials. However, it’s the processing you’ll need to be concerned about. When purchasing arrowroot, be sure to ask the company about everything from start to finish including the cleaning products used and packaging materials.
Related Recipe: Corn Free Maple Cookies
You may find it’s easier to make purchases in wholesale sizes (25 – 50 pounds) instead of retail packaging sizes. This is because there’s less handling of the ingredients. I have had a lot of success with this method.
Arrowroot In Cooking: Slurry Power
As you cook more at home, you’ll see recipes that call for a slurry, and it’s usually cornstarch based. A slurry is a starch mixed with water, then added to what you’re cooking to act as a thickening agent.
Related: Amazing Corn Free Lemon Tart
Arrowroot is awesome at being a slurry. I’ve used it in soup, “custard”, caramel sauce, and more. The mistake most people make when using this starch in cooking: they add the arrowroot straight to the recipe. For example, tapping arrowroot directly into your sauce and stirring (I’m guilty too).
Arrowroot is most effective when mixed with water and stirred until it dissolves. Then, pour this mix into your recipe. The magic will leave you in awe.
Arrowroot in Ice Cream
Yes, arrowroot can also be used in ice cream. You would use it as an alternative to xanthan gum. However, since most ice cream bases can be made in the blender, rather than the stove-top, you’ll be missing the heat element. Arrowroot’s real magic shines through when heat is in the equation. Without the heat, you’re left with raw arrowroot and in the final ice cream, it won’t taste pleasant.
With ice cream, we sometimes use kudzu, which is a Japanese version of arrowroot.
A Little Arrowroot Goes a Long Way
If you use too much arrowroot, you’ll end up with undesirable results. In many of my recipes, arrowroot may be as little as 10% of the flour weight.
When making a slurry, if too much of this starch is used, you’ll end up with a thick steaming mess.
Arrowroot In Frying
Some fried food recipes call for corn starch to be used as a coating. Whilst arrowroot is also a starch, it is less effective in this situation. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It means that the crispiness you get with cornstarch fried foods is not the same with arrowroot fried foods. For this reason, I opt to create a flour blend when frying.
Personally, I’ve had so much success with arrowroot that I’m forever grateful for it. I use it almost daily, and the recipes I’ve shared are fantastic because of it. If you’re new to gluten free and don’t have issues with products such as Cup-4-Cup, there’s no harm in using them.
I am unable to use any commercial blends due to my severe corn allergy, therefore, EVERYTHING must be made from scratch at home. One of the benefits to that is a reduced food cost (although I still pay with my time).
Going gluten free or grain free or corn free can be so incredibly difficult at first. However, armed with the right information and recipes, it can get much easier (and delicious).