If you’ve ever tried gluten-free baking or vegan cooking, chances are you’ve seen arrowroot starch on an ingredient list. This powdery substance is made from a plant native to Latin America and has thickening properties that make it great for recipes like stews, sauces, and some desserts.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to find arrowroot starch in your local grocery store. It is considered more of an exotic ingredient and if you don’t live close to a health food store, you may have to order it online.
Fortunately, there are several great arrowroot starch substitutes:
- Gluten-free Flour
- Tapioca Flour
- Xantham Gum
- Kuzu Starch
- Guar Gum
- Potato Starch
Arrowroot Starch Overview
Arrowroot starch is a powder that is commonly sold as a thickening agent and cornstarch or flour substitute. It can be used to make gluten-free baked goods and be used as a substitute for flour or cornstarch in different recipes like gravies and creamy sauces.
This white powder is made by grinding up the roots of the arrowroot plant. This plant forms root vegetables, similar to those found on potato plants and yucca. Once it is ground up, this root vegetable can be used as a flour substitute and its starch can be used to thicken up different foods.
It is a common ingredient found in vegan puddings or pie fillings. That way you don’t have to use gelatin which some people either don’t want to or cannot eat.
Are Arrowroot and Cornstarch the Same Thing?
Although they frequently serve a similar function, arrowroot starch and cornstarch are not the same things. Arrowroot starch is made from the ground tubers of the tropical arrowroot plant. This results in a white powdery substance that can be used as a flour substitute or to thicken up various recipes.
Cornstarch is made by grinding up the inner part of a corn kernel. This results in a powder that can be used as a thickening agent and as a main ingredient in some recipes. Cornstarch is very commercially available and is easy to find in your local supermarket.
To find arrowroot starch you may have to go to a health food store or order it online.
What Can I Use in Place of Arrowroot Starch?
The main downside to using arrowroot starch in your recipes is that sometimes it can be hard to find. It is not a super common ingredient and if you live in a small town, you may have to order it online to get access to it. Although it is uncommon, some people may also have an intolerance to arrowroot starch.
Fortunately, several other substitutes can serve a similar function in your recipes.
Of course, the most obvious substitute for arrowroot starch is cornstarch. Cornstarch is made by grinding up the inner part of a corn kernel. This produces a white or pale yellow powder that can be used as a vegan thickening agent or in a gluten-free flour mixture.
When used as a thickener, cornstarch has a very similar texture to arrowroot starch and a mild flavor. This makes it a great option in any recipe where you are using arrowroot starch as a flavor and other ingredients are included to help cover up any corn-like taste.
If arrowroot powder is being used as the base for a baked good in your recipe, regular flour can be a great substitute for arrowroot starch. It can be used in baked goods such as cakes, muffins, and cookies and has a very mild flavor. This allows it to be used in various recipes and it often holds together better than arrowroot powder.
Flour can also be used as a thickening agent in some sauces and is a traditional ingredient in sausage gravy. You’ll simply add enough flour to the gravy to allow it to reach your desired texture and you’re good to go.
3. Gluten-Free Flour
If you are sensitive to gluten but don’t have access to arrowroot starch for your next baked good, try using gluten-free flour. There are many types of gluten-free flours on the market but the best tend to be made from a flour blend instead of a single flour. This will provide the best texture to your foods.
The one issue with gluten-free flour is that it can tend to be kind of gritty and absorb a lot of liquid. It can still be used as a thickening agent, but it may result in a lumpy texture that is unpalatable. If you are using this arrowroot starch replacement as a thickener, you may be better off using one of the other options on this list.
4. Tapioca Flour
Another great substitute for arrowroot starch in a recipe is tapioca flour or tapioca starch. The flour version is made from the unrefined plant ground up whereas tapioca starch is made from just the starch of the plant. The flour can be used as a flour substitute whereas the starch works better as a thickener.
Tapioca has a very slight sweet flavor which is something to keep in mind when using it as a replacement for arrowroot starch. Due to this flavor, it is frequently used for sweet foods like mochi. If you use it in a savory recipe like gravy, some of the sweetness may still be present once you are done cooking.
Tapioca also tends to do poorly when freezing so use a different substitute if you have to freeze your recipe before baking, as is the case with some cookie dough.
Tapioca starch can be used as a 1:1 substitute for arrowroot starch.
5. Xantham Gum
Another great substitute for arrowroot starch that can be used in many recipes is xantham gum. Xantham gum is made from sugar that has been fermented in a lab. This creates a thickener that can be used in everything from your favorite sauces to lotion and other cosmetic products.
To use xantham gum in your next recipe all you’ll have to do is mix it in with the rest of your dry ingredients then add water. Once the water is added the product will activate and start to thicken the rest of the food.
When using xantham gum, you won’t get the exact same texture that you are used to with arrowroot starch powder. It will create more of a jelly-like consistency, especially when used in high quantities. This makes it a great arrowroot starch replacement in things like pies and puddings, but less ideal in your favorite salad dressing.
Xantham gum is also more likely to irritate some people’s stomachs due to the bacteria that is used to ferment the sugar. If you have a sensitive stomach or are typically sensitive to foods like broccoli or cabbage, you should try a different arrowroot starch substitute.
6. Kudzu Starch
If you have tried most of the substitutes on this list but just haven’t found the right one quite yet, kudzu starch may be the way to go. This powder is made from the kudzu plant, a vining plant that is native to most of Asia but is so adaptable that it can now be found in most parts of the world.
It is frequently considered an invasive species so many people are surprised to find out that it has culinary uses.
To create kudzu starch the plant is ground up and then the starch is extracted and makes a white powder. This powder is then traditionally used as a thickener in Japanese sweets like jellies. It is also commonly used in red bean paste to make it thicker and hold together better when used as a filling.
It has a very similar effect to arrowroot starch in that it will thicken liquids, but won’t let them fully solidify. This makes it ideal for recipes like stews and soups where you want a thicker broth, but want to avoid a jelly-like consistency when it cools down.
The main downside to kudzu starch is that, depending on where you are in the world, it may be difficult to find. However, if you are located in Asia, you should be able to find kudzu starch at any of your local supermarkets.
7. Guar Gum
A very potent arrowroot starch substitute that you can find fairly easily is guar gum. Guar gum is made by grinding up the seeds from a guar bean plant and then drying out the resulting product. Once it has been fully processed, it is sold as a white powder that is one of the most common thickening agents used in foods today.
If you check the ingredient list at your local grocery store you are likely to find guar gum in everything from candy to baked goods to ice cream.
Guar gum is particularly useful in baked goods and can even provide some benefits that arrowroot starch does not. Guar gum can help to hold a baked good together and keep it moist for an extended period. This makes it a common ingredient in bakery cakes that need to stay fresh tasting even as they sit in the display case for a couple of days.
Guar gum is also very easy to use and does not require any heat to activate. Just use it as you would normally use arrowroot starch and watch as your recipe almost instantly thickens up.
8. Potato Starch
If you are planning on using your arrowroot starch as a thickener or as a coating for fried foods, potato starch could be a great substitute.
This white powder is extracted from potatoes and is most frequently used to coat foods before frying them. It fries up nicely and helps to create a crispy layer surrounding whatever food you’re frying.
A lesser-known use of potato starch is that it can also be used as a thickener. Simply add it to liquid and it will thicken it up very quickly much like arrowroot starch.
Potato starch is also more commercially available than arrowroot starch and can be purchased in bulk if you’re cooking for a large number of people.
Depending on the recipe that you’re making, gelatin could be a good arrowroot starch substitute.
Gelatin is made by boiling the bones, ligaments, and tendons of large animals like pigs, horses, and cows. After a certain amount of time, the bones are removed and the water is boiled down until only a small amount remains. This is processed until it becomes the white powder that is sold as gelatin.
When it is reactivated with hot water, gelatin is colorless and flavorless, forming a clear jelly that can be used in various recipes. It is most well-known for being used in jello and pudding, but what a lot of people don’t know is that it is also a common ingredient in baked goods.
Gelatin is frequently used in baked goods as a way of holding them together and keeping them moist. It can help to thicken the batter and make it extra moist even after a couple of days.
Gelatin, just like xantham gum, will create more of a jelly-like texture. Make sure to consider this when deciding which recipes to put gelatin in. It likely won’t work very well if you’re trying to thicken up gravy but can make a fantastic arrowroot starch substitute in things like pie fillings and other desserts.
Which of the Following is the Best Substitute for Arrowroot?
Out of all of these substitutes, the best substitute for arrowroot powder is cornstarch. Cornstarch can be used in all of the same ways as arrowroot powder and provides a very similar texture and flavor.
Cornstarch is also very commercially available and can be found in every supermarket, unlike arrowroot powder and some of the other substitutes on this list.
The one thing to keep in mind with cornstarch is to make sure that it has been sifted and to add it in slowly. If you add it too quickly or don’t sift the cornstarch before using it, you may have lumps in your recipe that will be difficult to get out once the liquid is added.
If you look at a recipe and realize that you don’t have the arrowroot starch it calls for don’t worry, multiple substitutes can produce the same effect. In most recipes, arrowroot starch acts as a thickener and fortunately, there is more than one ingredient that has a thickening effect.
The most accurate arrowroot starch substitute that you can find is cornstarch. This substitute has a very similar texture and neutral flavor that allows it to be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Just make sure to sift your cornstarch before using it to make sure your recipe stays as smooth as possible.