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I've heard that arrowroot can be used just like cornstarch as a thickening agent. If I have both ingredients on hand, under what circumstances would I choose one over the other?

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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Compared to corn starch, arrowroot:

  • Results in a clearer, shinier texture;
  • Survives the freezing process much better; and
  • Works better in acidic liquids (certain sauces, soups, etc.)

Where it doesn't work so well is in many fruit pies and some other baked goods (because it tends to break down under high heat), and in dairy dishes (you'll end up with a "gooey" texture).

Use arrowroot in place of corn starch whenever your needs match the above.

P.S. Many people are also allergic to corn, and this is probably one of the most common reasons to use arrowroot. If this applies to you, and you're making a dish that is not suited to arrowroot, tapioca flour/starch is another great thickener and actually thickens better than corn starch.

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I try to use almost exclusively tapioca in pies. Cornstarch dulls the flavors of fruit, as does flour. –  justkt Sep 3 '10 at 17:29
    
@justkt: Indeed, this has come up before. ;) I rely heavily on tapioca not just in pies and other baked goods but also many sauces because you need so little of it to thicken. –  Aaronut Sep 3 '10 at 17:36
    
and apparently I repeated myself! Oy. –  justkt Sep 3 '10 at 17:38
    
Agreed on the clear nature of the result, that's what I was taught. Did not know about freezing / acidity though. You are right about the high heat thing - cornflour gets thick and just stays thick, arrowroot needs more careful attention as it can get thick then with more heat (not necessarily higher, in my experience, just longer) it can "go over" and start to thin out again. Only remedy at this point is to add more (which is not ideal, of course). –  AdamV Sep 4 '10 at 10:14
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Arrowroot is also safe for anyone who has issues with corn.

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Some people avoid all grains (including corn) due to either intolerance or due to concerns relating to the (negative) nutritional impact of consuming grains OR a philosophical aversion to "neolithic" foods.

For those folks, like those with corn allergies, arrowroot (and other non-grain-based thickeners) may be a viable alternative.

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I'm all about grain-free foods for my cat, but I've always been under the impression that grains in general (although not necessarily corn specifically) are good for humans and other omnivores, nutritionally speaking. Not wanting to get into a full-fledged debate over this (IANAN) but perhaps you could provide a link or reference explaining that point? –  Aaronut Sep 3 '10 at 17:45
    
@Aaronut The following link explains "neolithic foods" in the context of the "paleolithic diet." I can not vouch for the impartiality of the argument made in the article though. earth360.com/diet_paleodiet_balzer.html –  David Krisch Sep 3 '10 at 18:04
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