Arrowroot is a potato-like root native to Indonesia that is becoming more popular in it’s powdered form across the globe. Sometimes called powder and other times called flour, arrowroot is used as starch or thickening agent in many delicious and healthy recipes.
If you’ve come across a recipe that you just have to try, but don’t happen to have any arrowroot powder on hand, you probably have a reliable substitute sitting in your kitchen cupboard.
So what are the best arrowroot powder substitutes? The best arrowroot powder substitutes are cornstarch, cream of tartar, tapioca starch, potato flakes or starch, or rice flour. Cornstarch is the most common substitute and is what we recommend, but there are other options that might be better suited for some people.
This article will walk you through all the most common uses for arrowroot powder and the best substitutions to use in each situation.
What is Arrowroot Powder?
Like many potatoes and tubers, arrowroot is a very starchy root vegetable. It has a very mild, subtly sweet flavor that lends itself well to both savory and sweet recipes, so it’s used in a lot of different recipes.
Arrowroot is rich in nutrition and has quite a few health benefits which make it a popular choice for at-home cooks looking to increase the nutritional content of meals without sacrificing their favorite foods.
By the way, there is a pretty big difference between quality organic arrowroot powder and crumby ones, and getting quality stuff isn’t even more expensive. This arrowroot powder from Amazon is the best I’ve ever found.
Arrowroot Powder Benefits
Whole arrowroot can be eaten much like a potato, sweet potato, or cassava root. The most notable difference between them is the protein. Arrowroot has about twice as much protein, if not more, than other tubers.
It’s also lower in calories and carbs and higher in folate.
Because it’s so incredibly starchy and high in fiber, it slows digestion, making it a popular ingredient in diet foods as a way to curb hunger cues.
It also helps firm up your bowel movements so arrowroot powder can also be used to treat diarrhea. It’s even safe for children and babies.
The fiber also serves as a prebiotic, improving the health of your gut.
Unfortunately, in powdered form arrowroot loses a lot of its nutritional value, converting to 100% carbohydrates, of which only about 3% remains as fiber.
What is Arrowroot Powder Used For?
Arrowroot powder is used in two main, very different, applications: cooking and hygiene.
When it comes to the food you eat, it’s mainly used as a starch, though it’s also the featured ingredient in some cookies made as baby cookies or digestive biscuits.
It’s most often used as a thickening agent for sauces, gravies, or the syrupy sweet fillings in pies or jams. It doesn’t add flavor but it does get lovely and glossy, so it’s a great starch to work with if you have some.
It will also make any fried foods nice and crunchy and golden if you first coat them in arrowroot powder.
Less frequently, arrowroot powder is used to provide structure or binding power. The starchy thickening power will also create body in creams, custards, and pudding desserts and it will also stick to ingredients relatively well if used as a substitute for eggs in something like a veggie burger.
In the hygiene department, it’s used in skin and hair care products thanks to its incredible ability to soak up oil and moisture without drying out your skin, as well as oral health care and even deodorant.
The 7 Best Arrowroot Powder Substitutes
Any starchy food can be used as a substitute for arrowroot powder with enough preparation and effort, but there are a few easy, convenient options that you’re likely to already have in your home.
|Arrowroot Powder Substitute
|Best Used For...
|Thickening creamy sauces or gravy
|Sweet Rice Flour
|Cooled desserts (or desserts that will be frozen)
|Cream of Tartar
|Creamy desserts (pudding, custard, meringue pie)
|Stabilizing or binding agent (also a good egg substitute for baked goods)
|Thickening sauces (also a good substitute for tapioca flour)
1. Cornstarch – The Best Arrowroot Powder Substitute
Our favorite cornstarch: Bob’s Red Mill Premium Cornstarch
Cornstarch is the most common thickening starch used in most homes and makes a good substitute for arrowroot flour in your cooking, though with less nutritional value.
In fact, arrowroot powder is commonly used to substitute cornstarch specifically because it’s known to be a healthier option. The results will be very similar however, whichever way you substitute.
You will want to be careful you’re using cornstarch vs cornflour, as cornflour is used more like a traditional wheat flour rather than a starch.
When you cook with arrowroot powder, you always want to make a slurry of the powder and some cold water before adding it to anything hot. This is the same process if you’re substituting with cornstarch.
The only slight variation is that cornstarch thickens quite a bit quicker and works well in higher temperatures. Arrowroot is typically added at the very end of the cooking process because high heat will break it down.
Cornstarch also creates a milkier, more opaque look to your sauces whereas arrowroot is more glossy, though neither adds much by way of flavor.
The arrowroot to cornstarch conversion is 3 teaspoons of cornstarch for every 1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder.
2. Tapioca Flour
Our favorite tapioca flour: Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour is gluten-free and a very popular substitute for arrowroot powder, coming from a very similar tuber, the cassava root.
Similar to cornstarch, it holds up to heat better than arrowroot so it may actually be easier to work within sauces or gravy that you simmer for a while.
Be careful not to add too much, however, because it will add a slightly sweet flavor and a chewy texture if overused.
Arrowroot is occasionally used as a binding agent as a replacement for eggs and, if this is the purpose in your recipe, tapioca flour will actually serve the purpose even better.
Tapioca also works better if you’re creating a cream or dairy-based sauce, though it has trouble standing up to acidic sauces or liquids.
The other main difference you need to watch out for is batch cooking with freezing in mind.
Arrowroot performs very well when frozen and thawed, but tapioca tends to congeal or develop and odd texture after being frozen.
If you’re planning on having leftovers for a date in the future, tapioca starch may not be the best substitute, but other than this small caveat, it works great and is similarly rich in nutrition as well.
3. Potato Starch (or Flakes)
Our favorite potato starch: Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch
Potato starch or flakes act almost identical to arrowroot powder as a thickening agent, but not as nutritious.
It’s nearly flavorless, however, and thickens well, though it creates a slightly cloudy sauce similar to what you would expect from using cornstarch.
If you’re using arrowroot powder to add body to a baked good like bread or muffins, potato starch will work as a great substitute.
It’s light and absorbs moisture really well while still leaving your baked good moist as intended.
4. Sweet Rice Flour
Our favorite rice flour: Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour
Rice flour is even higher in starch than arrowroot powder, though they are both very low in carbs.
To use rice flour as a substitute for arrowroot, you’ll only need about half as much as the recipe calls for.
Rice products tend to be high in sugar and low in nutritional value, but sweet rice flour does stay very stable when frozen, so if you’re replacing arrowroot in batch cooking or cooled desserts, it might be the right substitution for you.
Sweet rice flour is very different from standard rice flour, which can also be used as a substitute for arrowroot powder but will act more like a traditional flour when used for thickening, as opposed to starch.
Rice flour always needs to be mixed well with equal parts water or liquid before adding to your sauce and needs to be carefully monitored so it doesn’t clump up.
Unfortunately, it will also cloud the results of your cooking, rather than creating a lovely clear and glossy sauce like arrowroot would.
5. Cream of Tartar
Our favorite cream of tartar: Frontier Co-op Cream Of Tartar
As a starch, cream of tartar does not measure up. However, if you’re trying to use arrowroot to add body and volume to a dessert like a pudding, custard, or cream, this substitution could work well.
This is not the normal application for arrowroot powder, so results are certainly not guaranteed and any experiments should be conducted at your own risk.
NOTE: Don’t try to substitute in the other direction, as arrowroot does not have nearly the same stabilizing power as the cream of tartar for something like a meringue.
6. Xanthan Gum
Our favorite xantham gum: NOW Foods Xantham Gum
If you’re looking for a substitute for arrowroot powder in a recipe where it acts as a binding agent, xanthan gum might work well as an alternative.
Many vegan recipes call for arrowroot powder in place of an egg to hold the ingredients together, since it gels well with other food items. Xanthan gum works a little differently, but with similar results.
In a recipe that replaces 1 egg, you would use about 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder or you could use 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum.
Whenever you’re replacing ingredients in baking, results will vary.
As a starch, arrowroot is quite easily replaced, but as a stabilizer or binding agent, it can be more tricky to replace exactly. This is doubly true when the arrowroot powder is already substituting an ingredient, such as an egg.
In either of these situations, you might find it easier to find a recipe without arrowroot powder in the first place, as there will likely be many, many options to choose from that are easier and more exact than attempting to find a perfect substitution.
7. Arrowroot Flour
Our favorite arrowroot flour: Anthony’s Premium Arrowroot Flour
In addition to arrowroot powder, which is primarily used as a starch in cooking, you can also find arrowroot flour in recipes.
This is particularly popular in the Paleo community where wheat is unwelcome.
Despite being called flour, it is still used as starch and wouldn’t be a good solution to baking bread, for example.
When used as a thickener in a paleo stew or pie, for example, it can be substituted for tapioca starch, nut, or seed flours in exact measurements or about 1/3 of the amount called for in coconut flour.
How to Use Arrowroot Substitutes in Cooking
|Substitution for Cooking
|Per 1 teaspoon of Arrowroot Powder
|½ – 1 teaspoon
|Sweet Rice Flour
|Cream of Tartar (creams and custards)
|*depends on recipe
|Xanthan Gum (binding)
|*depends on recipe
Arrowroot Powder Alternatives for Health and Hygiene
Outside of your kitchen, arrowroot powder is also commonly used for a variety of health and hygiene matters, such as oral health, skin and hair care, and even deodorant.
If you’re unable or unwilling to use arrowroot powder, there are other natural substitutions you could try for each of these situations.
Arrowroot Oral Care Alternative
When it comes to the health of your mouth and teeth, arrowroot powder is used to maintain pH balance as well as help remineralized your teeth.
Not everyone realizes that your teeth can be healed and mended, much like a broken bone, but they need the proper minerals to do so.
A good alternative, in this case, is food grade diatomaceous earth. It’s not an exact match, but it will protect your teeth enamel and strengthen your gums, presenting valuable minerals to your oral environment.
Substitute Arrowroot Powder for Skin
Arrowroot powder is a great way to absorb oils that can sit on your skin and cause irritations and breakouts. It also helps to very gently exfoliate your skin, rebalance your pH and soothe minor irritations.
It is often used to replace talc in cosmetics, but baking soda can also work in some cases and other natural starchy powders such as carrot or cornsilk powder or even cream of tartar, though it doesn’t smell as nice.
Natural Alternative to Arrowroot Powder Deodorant
If you’re making your own deodorant, the best substitute to use for arrowroot powder is cornstarch, simply because it reacts in a very similar way with reliable results.
Other starches can be used as well, but you may have to adjust your formulation to get the right consistency.
Arrowroot Powder Dry Shampoo Substitute
Similar to the deodorant, the best substitution for dry shampoo is cornstarch. It will absorb oils well and act as a silky smoothing finishing powder.
You can try other starches, baking soda, or diatomaceous earth as well, but they will each act a little bit differently and you may have to find the right amount unique to you using trial and error.
Fun Fact: Diatomaceous earth can also be used to treat lice, killing both the live bugs and their eggs without harsh chemicals or any danger to your scalp.
Is arrowroot powder keto?
Arrowroot powder is gluten-free, grain-free, and all-natural, therefore paleo-friendly, but it does have carbohydrates.
There are approximately 16 grams of carbs per cup of arrowroot powder.
It would be highly unlikely to use that much arrowroot powder for anything close to a single serving size, so it would be Keto friendly, though not carb-free.
Is arrowroot powder safe for babies?
Arrowroot cookies are often handed to teething babies as an enjoyable way to soothe their sore gums, but is arrowroot powder safe for babies? Absolutely.
If you want to use it as an alternative to less nutritional thickening agents in your baby’s food it will not only give you the consistency you’re after, but it may also help soothe any digestive issues that come from introducing new foods to a developing digestive system.
It shouldn’t be used in huge quantities because it has no fiber and can cause constipation in large doses, but for babies, diarrhea is usually a bigger contender to deal with, so it can be highly useful.
Are arrowroot biscuits healthy?
Arrowroot biscuits have been eaten as a popular after-dinner cookie because of their ability to soothe the stomach and potentially aid the digestive process.
It’s high in B vitamins, potassium, and iron and they’re probably an overall healthier option to a sugar cookie, but they are still a cookie and should be eaten as a treat, not healthy food.
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