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Arrowroot is a dry white powder of almost pure natural starch. Arrowroot is a neutral tasting and non-odorous powder and used as a thickening agent for gravies, casseroles and jellies. Arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than flour or cornstarch to a perfect gel and is less likely to become sour during digestion than farinaceous foods, so is good for the sick and delicate.

Arrowroot takes its name from the Native American name, Araruta (flour root), for Maranta arundinacea. Maranta is a perennial herb that grows 2 - 6 ft tall (0.5 - 2 m), with branching stems, broad pointed leaves and small white flowers. To make arrowroot, the fleshy roots of year old plants are dug up, washed, peeled, crushed between rollers, and strained through a sieve. The pulp is washed repeatedly and the sediment is dried and reduced to a white powder.

Arrowroot is loosely applied to similar starch products wherever true arrowroot was not available. Such other arrowroots include: Brazilian arrowroot (from cassava - Manihot esculenta); Florida arrowroot (from Zamia floridana); East Indian arrowroot (from Curcuma angustofolia); Tous-les-mois, Tulema or Queensland arrowroot (from Canna edulis). Oswega arrowroot is an old name for cornflour.

Using Arrowroot

Arrowroot is easy to use as a thickening agent:

  • Put a teaspoon into a bowl or mug and add a little water to make a paste - then add a spoon of the sauce you wish to thicken, mix it up and pour all the contents of the mug / bowl into the sauce. Arrowroot adds a lovely sheen to the sauce as well as being less prevalent to lumping up.
  • For gluten free diets, substitute one teaspoon of arrowroot for one tablespoon of wheat flour.

Arrowroot starch is a delicate product that is useful for invalid food. Arrowroot makes a light-textured, translucent paste with little flavour of its own. In China, it is used to thicken sauces and soups where corn starch gives an opaque liquid.

Other Languages

Language Arrowroot
French Arrow-root
German Pfeiwurz
Italian Maranta, Tubero edule
Spanish Arruruz

Nutritional Data

Energy Value 320 kCal / 1360 kJ
Fat 0.5
- saturates 0.0
- mono-unsaturates n/a
- polyunsaturates 0.0
Carbohydrate 79.2
- sugar 0.5
- polyols n/a
- starch n/a
Salt 0.0
Fibre n/a
Protein 0.5

These can be compared to reference intakes, but these have not been shown in the table above, because they are not particularly useful for thickeners.

Further Reading

  • Dowell, P., Bailey, A. (1980) The Book of Ingredients, Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0718119150.
  • Stobart, T. (1981) The Cook's Encyclopedia: ingredients & processes, Harper & Row. ISBN 0060141271.