Arrowroot is the rhizomatous part of the arrowroot plant. This perennial herb is largely cultivated for harvesting its starchy rhizomes, which contain about 23 percent starch. In the food industry, the powder version of arrowroot tuber is simply referred to as arrowroot or arrowroot flour. In fact, it is the base product released in the market for use as a starch thickener. Even though, the fleshy rootstock is not a popular vegetable, arrowroot is a common pantry item.
Arrowroot powder is a fine textured, white colored, lightweight, odorless powder derived from the fleshy tuber of arrowroot plant. When combined with boiled water, it swells up and emits a faint starchy scent. Upon cooking, this powder jells perfectly and gives a consistently smooth base. Due to its neutral flavor, arrowroot is considered superior, as compared to other commonly used starch powders, like cornstarch and tapioca.
In production process of arrowroot powder, superior quality tubers are selected. The outer papery scales are removed first, after which the tubers are rinsed thoroughly with water. The cleaned rootstock is grounded to make pulp. Milky fluid yielded in the process is sieved through a cloth, for obtaining liquid starch. Finally, this liquid is sun dried in the conventional manner, or dried with the help of a drying machine. The resulting fine flour is then packaged for release in market.
The food safety of arrowroot is understandable from the fact that, it is used in baby food formula. In 50 g. of arrowroot starch, the nutrition value is 44 g. carbohydrate, 1.7 g. fiber, and traces of protein, calcium ash, potassium, and folate. Arrowroot is the only known starch powder that contains calcium ash. As for arrowroot powder calories, a cup (about 128 g.) has approximately 457 calories.
The nutritional value of arrowroot may vary slightly based on the production process and more importantly, whether it is adulterated or not. Many of the products available in super markets are found to contain potato starch in specific amounts, which has nearly the same appearance as powdery form of arrowroot. The point is you should have a good selection skill and search for reliable brands in the market to get pure, non-adulterated arrowroot starch.
Uses and Substitute
As with any type of starch thickener, its uses are attributed to thickening a dish without overpowering the original flavor. The best part about this powder is its suitability for use in mildly flavored sauces, frozen recipes, acidic dishes, and recipes that require prolonged cooking.
You can identify pure, organic arrowroot powder from adulterated products by combining with water. Low quality arrowroot gives somewhat rough paste, which is not so with pure starch. In cooking, this powder is used as a thickening agent in nearly all food recipes, which call for the same, like cookie, pie filling, gravy, sauce, ice cream, and many more. However, it is not usually preferred for dairy based recipes, because upon mixing with milk, the powder swells and becomes slimy.
A simple trick to avoid lump formation, while using arrowroot dust, is to mix it with cold liquid first. Stir well to form a paste without lumps, and finally whisk the base to the dish that you want to thicken. In short, do not mix starch thickener with hot or boiling liquid directly. While adding in dishes, you can use a tablespoon of arrowroot for thickening one cup of liquid. This standard usage amount may differ according to specific recipe requirements.
Coming to powdered arrowroot substitute, tapioca starch and cornstarch are best alternatives. In dairy based dishes, use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in place of 3 tablespoons arrowroot. But do not add it for frozen desserts and acidic sauces. As last options, you can use also used rich starch, rice flour or potato starch as substitutes for this thickening agent. Before adding in dishes, decide the usage amount of these starch powder to get the desired thickness consistency.