Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder, also called flour or starch is an effective thickening agent used to add texture and structure in cooking and baking applications. Learn how this grain-free starch is used to thicken sauces, fillings and lighten up the texture of alternative flour baked goods.

Arrowroot powder in a wooden jar and on a wooden spoon

Arrowroot powder is made by extracting the starches from the tubers of the arrowroot plant, Maranata arundinacea and is cultivated from tropical climates. However, it is often commercially manufactured from the cassava root, which is popular in Brazilian cuisine, though it likely includes other ground tropical tubers.

Occasionally, it will contain potato starch, so take care when reading labels. It’s also sold as arrowroot flour and arrowroot starch, depending on the brand. This easily digestible starch is an excellent nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and corn-free thickener and binder. A huge plus is that it is flavorless, so it can be seamlessly added to savory dishes and baked goods.

Wooden spoon holding a scoop of arrowroot powder

What is Arrowroot Powder?

Cornstarch is a near-ubiquitous thickener and binder used in a wide variety of recipes, but it’s something that is not allowed for those who are on the Whole30 or Paleo diet. That’s where arrowroot steps in.

The arrowroot starch is a very fine white powder that has excellent thickening abilities similar to cornstarch. It also has no pronounced flavor and does not add opacity to sauces. If you’re avoiding corn, potatoes, and gluten, arrowroot starch is a good substitute for a thickening agent.

Cooking with Arrowroot Powder

Make a Slurry: When incorporating into a hot sauce a 2-to-1 room temperature water, to arrowroot slurry should be made.

Thickening: It’s best to add the arrowroot slurry to a simmering liquid at 185-206°F (85-96°C) at the very end of cooking. It only takes about one minute to thicken a hot liquid. Wait until you get the texture you want, and then remove it from the heat. You’ll know if the liquid is too hot–it’ll start to clump and will become unusable.  To make a medium consistency sauce, start with 4 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder, combined with 3 tablespoons water to make a slurry, then add to 1 cup of hot liquid. You can use 3 tablespoons less hot liquid for a thicker sauce.

Watch the Temperature: The sauce or mixture will start to thin out if overheated or reheated because arrowroot does not keep its thickening power as long as cornstarch or wheat flour.

Adding Acid: What’s even better, arrowroot powder doesn’t break down in acidic ingredients, like cornstarch does with fruit juices, it creates a clear gel, freezes well and thaws properly. Anything with acid, like cranberry sauce or sweet and sour sauce, will do well with the thickener.

Uses: Soups, stews, gravies, sauces, pancakes, pie fillings and custards are all great uses for arrowroot powder. It’s great as a coating for meat and fish, especially for fried foods.

Substituting

When substituting arrowroot powder for cornstarch, the ratio to follow is 4 1/2 teaspoons of arrowroot powder for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Use 2 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot powder for every 1 tablespoon of wheat flour.

What is arrowroot NOT good for?

It’s not compatible with cream-based sauces as it undesirably changes the texture. It’s also not recommended for any non-frozen dairy products, seeing as it will create a slimy and undesirable consistency.

Closeup photo showing clumps of white arrowroot powder on a wooden spoon

Baking with Arrowroot Powder

Baking with a gluten sensitivity or while on a special diet can be a pain for many reasons. While the restriction of grains is an obvious one, there are other ingredients hidden in baked goods and other cooked foods that can prove a sneaky culprit for those with any kinds of sensitive eating needs. That’s why many baking recipes that do not contain gluten use a blend of different alternative flours and starches.

One of the hallmarks of arrowroot is that it’s a useful ingredient to help lighten the textures in cakes, quick bread, and cookies in gluten-free and grain-free baking. It has become a favorite ingredient to use in conjunction with almond flour to make those products less dense. If you’re baking and need to use eggs as the primary binder, adding arrowroot powder will significantly help the process.

Arrowroot recipes

Purchasing Arrowroot Powder

Now, the downside. Finding arrowroot powder is easy online, more difficult in stores. Every day grocery stores won’t carry it, though many Whole Foods or specialty health food stores will almost definitely have it in stock. Wherever you shop, look for it in the grains or baking supplies aisle or if there is a gluten-free section. Arrowroot powder is also called arrowroot starch and arrowroot flour on labels and recipes.

Popular on Amazon

Here are a few of the most popular Arrowroot powder products listed on Amazon.com

Three bags of Arrowroot flour found on Amazon

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you!

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Cheryn Pelton says

    Cornstarch is allowed on a gluten free diet for celiacs though perhaps not on a paleo diet. It often makes up a large component of gluten free flour mixes that are considered safe for celiacs.

    • Dani says

      Just FYI, for people with celiac and gluten issues, histamine is a huge contributor to their inflammatory symptoms. Cornstarch is not recommended due to its histamine prompting effects.

  2. Shannon says

    Hi Jessica! This is a great post! I love how you have really dove into all of the uses and ways arrowroot can be used. You mentioned that cornstarch is not something that is allowed for those who are gluten free but isn’t cornstarch naturally gluten free? As someone who has gluten sensitivity and has used cornstarch in gluten free cooking/baking quite often I’m wondering what I’m missing in my understanding of cornstarch as a gluten free thickening agent. The only issue I see that could arise with cornstarch is if you purchase a brand that is processed and packaged in a facility alongside other grains that are not gluten-free. Popular cornstarch brands like Argo & Kingford’s and Bob’s Red Mill actually list their cornstarch as gluten free. Anyways, I think this a great post nonetheless!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Shannon- Thank you for your insightful comment! I see where I was mistaken and made the update to the post.

  3. Penny says

    My beef stroganoff recipe calls for 1/4 wheat flour as the thickener, mixed into 8 oz. of sour cream. Should I use arrowroot or cornstarch as a substitute??? and same amount 1/4 cup???

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Penny- It’s totally up to you which you would like to use. If you use arrowroot than use 4 teaspoons, if you use cornstarch, use 8 teaspoons. Make sure to add either thickener to cool water first, about 2 parts water to 1 part thickener, whish and then add to the hot liquid for the stroganoff. You can always add more if needed to achieve the proper thickness.

  4. Doris says

    Great post! So I know what the arrowroot to liquid is for the slurry but what is the recommended amount of slurry to liquid in the dish?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great question Doris! To make a medium consistency sauce, start with 4 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder, combined with 3 tablespoons water to make a slurry, then add to 1 cup of hot liquid. You can use 3 tablespoons less hot liquid for a thicker sauce. I just updated the post 🙂

  5. Melissa says

    Hi! Great post and information. I have a son with a bunch of allergies. If you can use arrowroot for pie filling then it could possibly be used in making jam or jelly, correct? If so, any suggestions? Thanks in advance! 😀

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think it would be more of a compote, like a thickened fruit sauce, but you can’t reheat it once it cools or it will become thin in thickness. I would start with for every 1 cup of cooked fruit (perhaps 2 cups fresh), add in an arrowroot slurry at the very end. Give 4 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder, combined with 3 tablespoons water to make a slurry, then add to 1 cup of hot fruit. Cook until the jam thickens about 1 minute, and immediately take it off the heat. If this isn’t enough thickness increase the arrowroot with the next batch. It will likely thicken more as it cools.

  6. Jo says

    Good info thanks. Still 1 question since you mentioned “cream”(sauces). I want to make a chocolate mousse cake. For my chocolate mousse im using whipping cream that i want to stabilize egg free, gelatin free and cornstarch free. Arrowroot is suppose to do that??? Its cold cream….wil that be an issue?

  7. David Sanua says

    I need to make hamentashen (a cookie folded in three with a filling inside) for the Jewish holidays, and can’t use wheat because of my wife and son’s sensitivities. I was planning to use barley flour, but was wondering how to thicken it so it’s foldable. Will arrowroot powder do? If it does, how much powder to flour do I use? Thanks.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi David- I believe barley is a related grain to wheat? To be on the safe side I would try bob’s redmill 1:1 gluten free baking flour, it already has starches and gums to help with texture.

  8. Karina Hines says

    Hi Jessica,
    Thank you for your work, fantastic, its so refreshing to read your site and explanations on food science!!!
    I am a chef and a herbalist and currently developing an online recipe program to assist people who need to make dietary changes due to health/medical. I am recipe developing simple, accessible, affordable gf, v, baked goods and I am wondering what the science action in baking difference is between using arrowroot v’s tapioca to create “structure and lift” please? IE what would be better 2 tbsp arrowroot or 2tbsp tapioca in a zucchini bread with an oat flour base and flax eggs…is there a notable difference. Thanks for your time K

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