Arrowroot vs Tapioca. I know when I first came to the Paleo Diet, I had no idea what the difference was between Arrowroot and Tapioca. I though they were the same and I soon learned they were not the same animal at all.
Although many people use the name arrowroot interchangeably with tapioca flour, they are not the same at all. They are both procured from tropical root vegetables, but entirely different plants. Arrowroot starch comes from the Maranta arundinacea plant, which is considered an herb, while tapioca is obtained from the cassava root. They are both gluten-free, so they are popular thickeners for those with gluten sensitivities. While both arrowroot and tapioca are used to thicken sauces, soups and such, they are just different enough to make it important for you to know the differences so that you can use them for top results.
Arrowroot (My Favorite Arrowroot brand)
Arrowroot is great for thickening such foods as sauces, fruit desserts, glazes and baked goods. It produces a glossy shine to foods as it thickens, which can be beneficial with certain types of foods, such as glazes. However, in some combinations, like in meat sauces, arrowroot’s glossy finish can produce an odd effect. Arrowroot powder has two specific perks over other thickeners: first, it can be used with acidic liquids. Many other thickeners are not reliable to use with acidic foods because they break down and lose their thickening properties. Second, arrowroot is recommended for thickening foods that you plan to freeze later because it stays stable at low temperatures. If you need to use a thickener for a milk-based food, arrowroot is not what you want to use since it turns slimy when added to dairy. It has very little taste of its own, and therefore will not interrupt with the flavor of the prepared mixture. Arrowroot should be added at the end of cooking because it thickens quickly and can start to break back down and become watery if left over heat for an extended period of time.
Arrowroot Flour Recipes
Tapioca starch (My favorite Tapioca Flour Brand)
Sometimes called tapioca flour, tapioca starch, like arrowroot, is most often used to thicken glazes, sauces, gravies and baked goods. It stays stable in cold temperatures, so it too is good to use for foods you will freeze. It also works well in milk-based recipes, so it should be used instead of arrowroot for gravies or other dairy-based recipes. Tapioca is not recommended for use with high acid foods because it loses its ability to thicken when mixed with acidity. Liquids thickened with tapioca will have a transparent sheen which adds to the presentation of many foods. Like arrowroot, tapioca has very little taste of its own, so it will not interfere with the taste of a recipe. Tapioca thickens quickly, so is a good staple to keep on hand for last-minute thickening before serving a dish. Tapioca can withstand being heated for a long period of time, which is an important difference from arrowroot. Some cooks like to use pearl tapioca in pies and puddings, but take note that these pearls often do not fully dissolve, so it is recommended to use the starch to ensure the tapioca completely dissolves, unless you want the added texture.
To avoid clumping, both arrowroot and tapioca starch should be mixed with cold water before adding them to your hot mixture to thicken. Neither requires high heat to dissolve, so they can be added towards the end of cooking without concern for taste.
Tapioca Flour Recipes