Arrowroot and kudzu are high quality starches that will add amazing texture and taste to your gluten-free cooking. I’m happy I discovered them in my macrobiotic (grain-based diet) days. I used to bake with cornstarch like most people — which is not a healthy ingredient.

Don’t Use Cornstarch If You Can Help It

Most commercial products and recipes use cornstarch because it is inexpensive and readily available. The problem with cornstarch is:

  • It is often difficult to digest and can irritate the digestive system.
  • Corn is one of the most genetically modified foods.
  • Cornstarch is very highly processed carbohydrate with no protein, vitamins or minerals. It is made from the tiny white endosperm at the center of a corn kernel. The corn kernels are processed utilizing chemicals and high heat to remove outside shells to get it into a fine white powder.

Think about the other white foods like white rice, white flour, and white sugar; they are often highly processed, with little nutrition or health benefits. They are wonderful food staples around the world, providing easy and tasty calories. But, if you’re seeking a diet lower in calories and higher in nutrition, these ingredients are not your best bet.

Read my article on The 9 Dangers of Common Gluten-Free Recipes And Products

Arrowroot and kudzu are produced in a simple, natural process unlike the way cornstarch and potato starch are highly processed.

Raw Arrowroot

Arrowroot — Even Better Than Kudzu
Arrowroot is a fine powder — an odorless, granular starch used in the food industry as thickener and as a stabilizing agent.

I use arrowroot in everything from my puddings and gravies to cakes and cookies because:

  • Arrowroot is closer to a whole food because less processing is involved.
  • Arrowroot is easily digested and even helps settle an upset stomach.
  • Once cooked it is clear, shiny and translucent instead of cloudy.

Arrowroot Nutrition

  • Very low in calories; less than that of potato or yam
  • Contains good levels of B-complex (niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin).
  • Contains moderate levels of some minerals (copper, iron, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc).
  • Excellent source of potassium (454 mg per 100g or 10% of RDA).

Arrowroot as Medicine

  • Arrowroot got its name because it was originally used by Caribbean Indians to treat the wounds from poison arrows.
  • They grew it for food and for its healing properties as far back as 1600. Later the Europeans learned of this and continued this practice.
  • Historically it was fed to children and people with fragile digestive systems.

Arrowroot is made from the roots of a tropical plant called arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea). The arrowroot plant is a close cousin of the kudzu plant. Both grow naturally in the Southern United States and Asia and are used in similar ways for cooking.

Unprocessed root of kudzu vine.

Kudzu Also Better

Kudzu, also known as kuzu, is made from the root of the kudzu plant that grows wild in the mountains of Japan and in the southern U.S. Kudzu strengthens the digestive tract.

It is native to Japan and China where it has been used for over 2,000 years medicinally and as a starchy food.

Kudzu Nutrition

  • Only 33 calories in 1 tablespoon (0.4 oz) of Kudzu Root Starch, dry.
  • Rich in organic iron, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Has a significantly high flavonoid content.

Kudzu as Medicine
According to research in Beijing, China:

  • Reduces high blood pressure and risk of blood clots.
  • Relieves chronic migraine headaches
  • Eases tension in the shoulders, neck and head
  • Used for more than 1,000 years by Asian herbalists for alcoholism and to curb alcohol cravings.

Macrobiotic founder, Michio Kushi recommends using kuzu in the following ways:

  • To treat digestive and intestinal issues such as indigestion and colitis, bacterial infection and abdominal pain.
  • For colds.
  • To relieve tiredness and restore vitality.

Field overtaken with kadzu vines.

Caution in Growing Kudzu
It grows very well; the vines grow as much as a foot per day during the summer. They climb trees, power poles, and anything they can grow up on. Kudzu vines can grow sixty feet in one year. The vines can also destroy valuable forests by preventing trees from getting sunlight. In 1972 USDA declared kudzu to be a weed!

Arrowroot and Kudzu are more expensive than cornstarch and other starches but the benefits are worth it.ThinkstockPhotos-468552142

Cooking Tips With Arrowroot and Kudzu
Both have a neutral flavor and will not give a starchy taste into your recipes like corn starch does. Also, they will create shine and translucence, which is great in fruit pie fillings and fruit sauces. I always have both in my kitchen, but tend to use more arrowroot because it is more affordable.

  • Can be used for thickening sauces, gravies, puddings, etc.
  • Dissolve in cool water, usually 1 tablespoon per arrowroot/kudzu to 2 tablespoons liquid, and mix well, then stir slowly into whatever sauce or dish you are cooking. You will see the liquid start to thicken (thickens at lower temperatures than cornstarch). Continue to stir and let cook for at least five minutes.
  • Substitute 2 teaspoons of arrowroot or kudzu for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
  • Substitute 1 teaspoon of arrowroot for 1 tablespoon of flour in recipes.
  • If you don’t mix the arrowroot well, it can have a chalky aftertaste. Stir it in slowly and thoroughly while cooking.
  • Good to use in baking in small quantities in place of any other starches.

Caution: DO NOT use 40 – 50 percent in baking recipes as some of the gluten-free websites are suggesting! It is a starch, so I recommend using very little.

Banana Pudding

Arrowroot Recipes:
Banana Pudding:  This is a very easy pudding to make for a quick dessert.
Pear Upside Down Cake – Vegan and gluten-free
Apple Cake with Cinnamon – Gluten-free:  This is a deeply satisfying cake filled with healthy ingredients.

If you REALLY want to learn to bake healthy gluten-free foods, I suggest my Healthy Baking Course. In one weekend you will get the knowledge and experience to produce sinfully delicious AND healthy deserts – from the comfort of your home.