Q: I am following a low-carb, high-fat, gluten- and grain-free eating plan. What do you suggest to replace flour in recipes as a thickener for sauces and gravies?
-- Cathy Johnson, Lowell, North Carolina

A: To stay away from grain- and gluten-based thickeners such as flour and cornstarch, I suggest you explore root/plant thickeners. Three worth trying are tapioca flour/starch, potato starch and arrowroot powder/flour.

Tapioca flour/starch comes from the cassava plant and is the ground version of the pearls you may be familiar with for pudding or as a pie thickener.

Arrowroot powder comes from dried ground roots of the tropical plant. Potato starch, obviously, comes from potatoes.

None should be difficult to find. Bobís Red Mill brand offers all three in its product line. If you canít find them at a traditional grocery store, look at a specialty grocer that carries a wide selection of gluten-free items.

All three contain between 6 and 10 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon, with potato starch being the highest.

However, the trio varies slightly in their thickening power. To thicken 1 cup of liquid, you will need 2 teaspoons of arrowroot, 2 to 3 teaspoons of tapioca flour, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of potato starch.

So while the potato starch is the highest in carbohydrates, you will use a bit less of it, making them fairly equal choices.

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