Arrowroot Powder Substitute Recipe

Arrowroot Substitute
••• Arrowroot Substitute. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Arrowroot powder (also known as arrowroot starch) is an excellent, gluten-free thickening agent that you can use to thicken pies, jams, and other cooked dishes, but if you don't have any in your pantry, one of these substitutes will work almost as well.


Arrowroot Substitutes to Try

The best option is to replace the arrowroot starch with an equal amount of instant tapioca (often sold as Minute Tapioca).

This substitute holds up to long cooking times and works well in foods that are destined for the freezer. It also gives the filling in fruit pies a nice, glossy sheen.

Since tapioca doesn't fully dissolve when cooked, you may want to grind it into a fine powder before you add it to your recipe. Otherwise, you'll have little balls of tapioca in the finished dish. This won't affect flavor but will change the texture and appearance of your recipe slightly.

In a pinch, replace the arrowroot starch with an equal amount of cornstarch. It doesn't hold up as well in the freezer, breaks down in acidic dishes, and will give fruit jellies and fillings a slightly cloudy appearance, so expect some differences in the finished product, if you decide to make this swap.

Note: While both of these substitutes will get the job done, tapioca is the only gluten-free replacement for arrowroot powder. Of course, you should still check the packaging to make sure the tapioca was processed in a gluten-free facility.

What Arrowroot Powder Is

Arrowroot powder, also known as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch, is a starch derived from the roots of the tropical arrowroot plant, Maranta arundinacea. After it's harvested, it's dried and ground into the powder that we're used to seeing in stores.

It's used as a food thickener, much like cornstarch, but it has unique properties that make it well suited to certain cooking situations, where cornstarch and other thickeners may not excel.

When you add arrowroot to a recipe, it doesn't change the color of the ingredients or make the finished product look cloudy.

Because of this, it works well in jellies and fruit fillings, where you're trying to maintain that amazing color and shine. And since arrowroot doesn't fall apart when subjected to acidic ingredients, this is another reason that it's favored as a thickener for jellies and fruit fillings.

Arrowroot thickens at a low temperature, which can be handy in some applications, but it will lose its thickening power if it's exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time. Adding it towards the end of the cooking time can be a fix for this.

Despite its sensitivity to high temperatures, arrowroot stands up beautifully to freezing temperatures. So, if you're making something that you plan to freeze, arrowroot is an excellent thickener to use.

If you don't see arrowroot powder shelved with the other thickeners at your grocery store, check the natural foods section. You can also order it online.

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