Arrowroot vs Xanthan Gum: All You NEED TO KNOW!

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If you are a keen gluten-free baker, then you may have noticed xanthan gum or arrowroot powder in the ingredients list of your gluten-free flours and other dishes. But what exactly are xanthan gum vs arrowroot, and what is the difference between them?

Short Answer: 

Arrowroot is a starch made from the root of certain tropical plants, which is used as a thickener. Xanthan gum is a food additive that acts as a thickener and emulsifier.

These two natural thickeners can help imitate the effects of gluten, so you can barely tell the difference between gluten-free products and the real thing. But they are also common ingredients in pre-made sauces.

In this article, we will be looking at xanthan gum and arrowroot in detail, figuring out what they are used for and what the difference is between them.

Let’s dive into the world of thickeners.

What is Xanthan Gum?

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Xanthan gum is a common industrial additive used in baking as well as in the production of processed foods. [*]

Created in a lab, this polysaccharide acts as a thickening agent, emulsifier, and stabilizer for various food. Using just 1% xanthan gum will effectively change the liquid’s viscosity.

If you have any condiments on your shelves like hot sauce, xanthan gum will likely be on the ingredients list.

However, you can also buy xanthan gum as a powder to use in gluten-free baking. Its use has skyrocketed with the popularity of gluten-free and Banting diets.

The gummy texture imitates gluten very effectively to create gluten-free bread and cakes.

It is a good ingredient but must be used in very small, measured doses. 

This is because it is very strong and can cause a dish to set in a firm, unpleasant texture.

What is Arrowroot?

image of Arrowroot

Arrowroot is a powdered starch extracted from the rhizome of certain tropical plants.[*]

The main plant used is maranta arundinacae, which is native to Indonesia. There is evidence of arrowroot being cultivated as long as 7 000 years ago.

Its use has become very popular across the Americas, where it is widely cultivated.

Like xanthan gum, arrowroot powder is used as a thickener.

It is used in baking biscuits, puddings, jellies, cakes, and even hot sauce.

Arrowroot is a gluten-free thickener that is also keto friendly in small amounts.

Like xanthan gum, arrowroot is effective in imitating the bouncy texture of gluten to make convincing gluten-free products.

Always add arrowroot according to the recipe, or your final product may turn out over set and rubbery.

Xanthan Gum vs Arrowroot: Which Should You Use?

As you can see, arrowroot is essentially a natural version of xanthan gum, and they do very similar jobs.

Both of these ingredients have been storming the shelves of your local grocery stores and health food shops because of their usefulness in gluten-free cooking.

Let’s look at the similarities between xanthan gum and arrowroot:

  • Arrowroot is natural, while xanthan gum is an additive.
  • Arrowroot is made from a tuberous root, while xanthan gum is made in a lab.
  • Xanthan gum is three times as powerful as arrowroot.

But then what sets them apart?

  • They can be substituted for one another in certain ratios.
  • Both are gluten-free.
  • Both act as powerful thickeners and emulsifiers.
  • They are both white and powdered.

Is arrowroot better than xanthan gum? Ultimately, when you are trying to decide between the two, it’s about whether you want to go natural or artificial.

Arrowroot is a great natural solution to gluten-free dishes and easy thickening. However, xanthan gum is very potent, so you will use less, making it a good value for money.

At the end of the day, we always recommend going the natural route where you can, so arrowroot is our thickener of choice.


1. Can arrowroot and xanthan gum be substituted for one another?

As you can see, xanthan gum and arrowroot powder are two very similar ingredients, but can they be substituted for each other?

The short answer is yes, they can be used in place of one another, but only if you get the ratios right.

So, how much arrowroot do you use in place of xanthan gum? We recommend using one teaspoon of xanthan gum for every tablespoon of arrowroot.

This should result in the same setting effects without negatively affecting the flavor or texture of the dish.

2. What is the best substitute for xanthan gum?

There are many ingredients that could replace xanthan gum as a thickener in a recipe.

It is a specialized ingredient that we are not going to have hanging around on our shelves unless we are prolific gluten-free cooks.

Basically, most thickeners can be used in their place, but you need to get the ratios right.

Try these ingredients in place of xanthan gum:

3. What happens if you leave xanthan gum out of a recipe?

Since xanthan gum is a more unusual ingredient, you probably won’t have it on hand without popping into the shops.

It may be tempting just to leave it out, but we do not recommend this.

Xanthan gum is a crucial setting agent. If it is left out, your dish will not be set, and the texture will be ruined.

When baking, measurements are very important, so we suggest following recipes strictly, especially if you are tackling a gluten-free recipe.


And there you have it, xanthan gum vs arrowroot explained. What have we learned from all this?

  • Arrowroot and xanthan gum are both gluten-free thickeners.
  • Arrowroot is a natural thickener made from the roots of certain plants.
  • Xanthan gum is an industrial additive that also acts as a thickener.

Now you know all this, you can go into your next gluten-free bake with the ideal thickener for you and two new ingredients to add to your cupboards.

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