If you’ve heard of arrowroot, chances are it’s because you’ve given an arrowroot teething biscuit to a baby. This unusually named powdered starch is especially good for babies because it’s nearly allergen-free. It also may have some stomach-soothing properties.
Arrowroot starch comes from the tuberous roots of plants such as tapioca, cassava (also known as manioc), and kudzu. These tend to grow in warm climates and are staples of the native cuisines of the Caribbean and South America.
You might be able to find piles of these tubers in the supermarket produce section, but you probably don’t want to make arrowroot powder at home. To get to the starch that becomes arrowroot powder, the tuber has to be peeled, boiled, ground, and then dried. The result is a little like cornstarch, only less fine.
When you mix arrowroot with water, you get a jelly to which you can add all sorts of flavors. For example, British cooks of the 19th century used arrowroot to prepare jellied beef consommé, a gelatinous broth served cold. Arrowroot is also traditionally used to make custards and dessert jellies.
How to Use Arrowroot
Like cornstarch and potato starch, arrowroot is also a good thickening ingredient for sauces. Try substituting it for flour or any other common starch in a recipe. You’ll usually only need about one-third the amount of arrowroot as the ingredient you’re substituting for.
When cooking, whisk the arrowroot into a cooled liquid before you add it to a hot preparation. Adding arrowroot (or any cooking starch) to hot liquid will prevent the starch from breaking down and leave your food lumpy.
What Is Arrowroot’s Nutritional Value?
Don’t look to arrowroot for any nutritional benefit. While it contains no gluten or other potential allergens like corn or soy, it offers next to nothing in terms of vitamins, minerals, or protein.
Despite coming from a fibrous root, arrowroot’s highly processed form offers no fiber. Eaten in quantity, it can even cause constipation. This may be why arrowroot is credited with stomach-healing properties. While there’s no scientific evidence to back this claim, most foods used to make jellies, like gelatin and alum, are also often used to curb diarrhea.
Great for Teething
In everyday baking, arrowroot doesn’t make a good substitute for wheat or even gluten-free flours, but it can be used to make teething biscuits for tender mouths. Baking arrowroot biscuits become very hard — you know just how hard if you’ve heard a teething biscuit banged on a highchair tray. That’s good news for baby, since no dangerous chunks will break off in their mouth.
If you want to show off by making your own arrowroot crackers, you can modify the recipe below by replacing the apple juice with chicken broth. The result will be a plain, dense cracker that is perfect for flavorful dips and toppings. Your gluten-free friends will be especially grateful.