Is Arrowroot flour gluten free?

What is it? - How is it used? - How to prepare it - Where can I buy arrowroot flour - Health benefits of arrowroot

Have you seen arrowroot flour for sale in the grocery or health food store and wondered if its safe to include it in your gluten free diet? The answer is a resounding "YES". So let's learn a bit about what it is and how to use it.

What is Arrowroot?

It is a perennial herb, found in rainforest type climates, which has several uses in the kitchen.

Did you know that it isn't really a root at all? The starch that is extracted from the rhizome, or horizontal stem, is what is referred to as "arrowroot" in cooking and dietary terminology.

This starch is easy to digest and being gluten free, can be used as a flour substitute for baking and thickening purposes.

The photograph, at the top of the page, shows it in its "raw" state, but you would normally buy it as a white powder (read about how it is converted into this, lower down this page).

The taste of arrowroot is somewhat neutral; although some say it has a mild, "different" flavor.

Where can I buy Arrowroot flour?

You can find small tubs of arrowroot in your local grocery store, but this is the more expensive way of buying it.

Ordering it online in larger quantities is more economical. One well known brand that supplies it in bags is Bob's Red Mill.

NOTE: when you purchase it, read the label thoroughly.

Much of the arrowroot that is sold in stores is either part potato starch or is actually cassava (tapioca) flour. Neither of these has the same nutritional properties or the same gelling abilities as the pure product, although they are still gluten free.

How is Arrowroot flour Used?

It has a wide variety of uses.

  • It can be used in place of wheat flour in cookies and cakes. It can also be used in gluten free flour mixes, to add a smoothness to baked goods.
  • I also like to use it in place of corn starch or other thickening agents in gravies, soups, jellies, hot sauces or broth.
  • A spoonful of arrowroot mixed into a paste with cold water, and then stirred into the dish near the end of the cooking time will thicken without making the liquid go cloudy. It is important not to continue to cook the sauce for more than 2 or 3 minutes after adding the arrowroot flour, or it will end up thin again.
  • Because it thickens sauces at a lower temperature than the traditional corn starch, it is also perfect for cream or egg based sauces.
  • Some Asian cultures, such as Korean, use it to make noodles.

How is Arrowroot Powder Prepared?

Preparing arrowroot is a lengthy process which means it isn't the cheapest ingredient to buy.

The plant is left to grow until it is about 20 years old before being dug up, washed, cleaned of its papery scale, washed a second time, drained and beaten with mortars until it is pulpy.

The milky liquid that is left with the pulp is then strained through a fine sieve or coarse cloth. The starch that remains in the sieve is insoluble. This is then dried into a powder and packed for shipment.

Health Benefits

For us, of course, it's main benefit is that it is gluten free, but people with other digestive disorders also find it helpful.

If you were ill in Victorian times, you may well have been given a hot drink consisting of milk mixed with arrowroot and sugar. Adults may have even had sherry or brandy added to theirs. Back then it was considered to have many nutritional properties and you would have been told that it would "build you up."

However, more current research has shown that is very low in calories and would not really have sustained invalids. In fact it is now quite popular with people following a low calorie diet.

- - Arrowroot flour


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