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Unveiling the Distinctions: Arrowroot vs. Cornstarch

Understanding the difference between arrowroot and cornstarch

Cooking and baking often require the use of thickeners to achieve the desired texture and consistency. Two commonly used thickening options are arrowroot and cornstarch. While both serve the same purpose, there are some important differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of arrowroot and cornstarch, their uses, flavor profiles, substitutability, and cost. Understanding these factors will help you make informed decisions when choosing the right thickening agent for your recipes.

What are arrowroot and cornstarch?

Arrowroot is a type of starch derived from the roots of tubers of the Maranta plant family. It is made from the dried and ground tubers of the arrowroot plant, scientifically known as Maranta arundinacea. The resulting powder is smooth, fine, and white. Arrowroot is known for its ability to add a lustrous shine and silky texture to dishes and fruit-based desserts. It is important to note that arrowroot is best added at the end of cooking to preserve its thickening properties.
Cornstarch, on the other hand, is derived from the endosperm of corn kernels. The kernels are ground into a fine, white powder. A major advantage of cornstarch is that it is naturally gluten-free. It is particularly suitable for high-temperature dishes because it can withstand heat better than arrowroot. However, cornstarch does not freeze well, so this should be taken into consideration when using it in frozen dishes or desserts.

Flavor Profile

Both arrowroot and cornstarch have a neutral flavor, making them ideal choices for thickening without changing the flavor of the dish. Although they come from different sources, arrowroot and cornstarch do not impart a distinct flavor. This allows you to use them without worrying about flavor interference. Flour, on the other hand, can give the dish a slightly cloudy and opaque appearance if not thoroughly mixed and cooked.


Arrowroot and cornstarch can often be used interchangeably in recipes that require thickening. Both are fine powders that should be mixed with room temperature water to form a slurry before adding to liquids or sauces. This helps prevent caking. However, there are some considerations when substituting one for the other.
If you prefer to use arrowroot instead of cornstarch, it is important to note that arrowroot works particularly well with acidic juices and is preferred for fruit fillings, jams, and jellies. On the other hand, cornstarch is a better choice when working with dairy products, as arrowroot can result in a slimy or gooey texture when combined with dairy products, except for ice cream. Understanding the specific requirements of your recipe will help you determine which thickening agent to use.

Cost Comparison

When it comes to cost, there are differences between flour, cornstarch and arrowroot. Flour is the most economical option because it is generally less expensive than the other two alternatives. Cornstarch falls in the middle, with a typical 16-ounce to 18-ounce box costing a few dollars. Arrowroot, on the other hand, is the most expensive option. An 18-ounce bag of cornstarch costs about $3.19, while a 16-ounce bag of arrowroot can be more than twice as expensive at $6.49. However, prices can vary by brand and location.

Bottom Line

In summary, arrowroot and cornstarch are both effective thickeners that are commonly used in cooking and baking. While they share similarities, such as their fine texture and ability to create a smooth consistency, they have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for specific recipes. Arrowroot is prized for its lustrous shine and is preferred for tart fruit-based desserts, while cornstarch is heat-resistant and works well in dairy-based dishes. Understanding the differences in taste, substitutability, and cost will help you choose the most appropriate thickening agent for your culinary creations. Whether you choose arrowroot, cornstarch, or flour, each option has its own merits and can enhance the texture and flavor of your dishes.


What are arrowroot and cornstarch?

Arrowroot is a starch derived from the roots of tubers of the Maranta plant family. Cornstarch, on the other hand, is a starch made from finely ground corn kernels.

Do arrowroot and cornstarch taste different?

No, both arrowroot and cornstarch have a neutral taste and will not significantly alter the flavor of the dish in which they are used.

Can arrowroot be substituted for cornstarch?

Yes, arrowroot and cornstarch can often be used interchangeably in recipes that require thickening. However, it’s important to consider specific recipe requirements and factors such as acidity or the presence of dairy products.

Which is better for high temperature dishes?

Cornstarch is better for high temperature dishes because it holds heat better than arrowroot.

Is arrowroot more expensive than cornstarch?

Arrowroot is generally more expensive than cornstarch. However, flour is the least expensive of the three. Prices may vary by brand and location.

Can flour be used to replace arrowroot and cornstarch?

Flour can be used as a thickening agent, but it has different characteristics than arrowroot and cornstarch. Flour can add a cloudy appearance to a dish and requires thorough mixing and cooking to avoid a hint of flour flavor.

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