Arrowroot: Might it just be the best food thickener on the planet?

Updated: May 25, 2021

Recently, I was scrolling through Black Bean Burger recipes and I found one that called for Arrowroot. I didn’t have any and wondered if I could just use traditional cornstarch. But then that got me thinking about why I would want to use Arrowroot in the first place. As it turns out, Arrowroot may be my new favorite thickener. Here’s why:

Food Thickeners

As the name gives away, food thickeners are used to increase the viscosity of liquid food items, giving them a desired thickness and consistency. They provide body and increased stability without impacting the overall flavor of the dish, making them suitable for a variety of foodstuffs such as puddings, sauces, soups, and more! It’s more than likely that you have some thickeners in your pantry right now!

Some popular food thickeners include corn starch, flour, gelatin, and eggs. But, did you know that some organic thickeners, such as Arrowroot, work just as well (and maybe even better)? In this post, we are going to dive into the world of Arrowroot, looking specifically at why it is perfect for all of your saucy needs!

The Science Behind Thickening Food

First, let’s take a look at the science behind food thickening and what makes it work. Food thickeners come in the forms of polysaccharides (starches, vegetable gums, and pectin), proteins (eggs, collagen, gelatin, blood albumin) and fats (butter, oil and lards). Arrowroot just so happens to fall under the starch category - the most popular category.

Looking specifically at starches, these carbohydrates are formed by a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. These serve as an energy store and, in its purest form, present as a white, tasteless and odorless powder. Starches thicken through a process known as gelatinization in which the intermolecular bonds of the starch are broken down in the presence of heat and water, thereby allowing the starch to be dissolved into the water. Following this, the individual starch granules absorb the water, swelling up to 30 times their size, leaving a thickened product.

Arrowroot? What is that?

Arrowroot, in itself, is the word used to refer to the starches extracted from the rhizomes (rootstocks) of several West Indian herbaceous plants, typically Maranta arundinacea. Typically used in the kitchen, it is ideal for children and older adults in need of a gentle diet due to its higher protein amount and easy digestibility. It’s also great for gluten allergies and/or intolerance.

In addition to being used in cooking and baking, Arrowroot can be used in a variety of projects such as homemade dry shampoo, deodorants, talcum/baby powders, and makeup.

Arrowroot in Cooking

When looking at using Arrowroot for thickening foods, it can be used at a 1:1 ratio with traditional cornstarch. Just replace the cornstarch with the same amount of Arrowroot and expect the same desired result.

The problem with many thickeners is that they link to genetically modified crops. Even though organic and non-GMO thickeners exist, there is still risk. According to the Non-GMO Report, 25 percent of organic corn has been contaminated with GMOs due to cross pollination. However, Arrowroot is much more controlled in that it isn’t correlated with GMOs in any capacity and most on the market are non-GMO.

Additionally, Arrowroot is extremely nutrient rich, boasting significant levels of copper, iron, calcium, and fiber.

Finally, Arrowroot is more versatile than other thickeners in its ability to withstand more acidic foods, tolerate freezing, lack of gluten, and ability to retain food colors and give off a smooth silky texture with shine.

Fun Facts

  • Arrowroot is gluten free.

  • Arrowroot is low in calories.

  • Arrowroot has nearly twice the protein content than other starches.

  • “According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, being a low-glycemic index foods, Arrowroot consumption in fact helps in better regulation of blood glucose levels in diabetes patients.”

Arrowroot is a great option for thickening foods, with a host of benefits that make ideal for just about any dish!

Hungry Gene is proud to include Arrowroot in our variety of premium spices!

Click to View Resources, Research, and Evidence

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