Tapioca Flour: The Best Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Unfortunately, not all people who are allergic to gluten can eat these grains because they produce something called gliadin which causes issues with digestion. However, the good news is that another flour seems to be able to perform well enough for many people!

Tapioca flour is a type of starch that is made from the cassava root. It is often used as a thickening agent in sauces and can also be used to make bread. In addition, tapioca flour is good for people with diabetes because it does not contain gluten.

Tapioca flour has become a mainstay for many individuals as the popularity of gluten-free baking has grown in recent years. Tapioca starch may be extracted and processed into gluten-free flour or “pearls” because tapioca’s cassava roots are naturally abundant in carbs from which tapioca is produced. From pizza dough to pie filling, they are utilized as a thickening ingredient in various meals and recipes.

Tapioca is one of the purest kinds of starch available, with a mild, mildly sweet flavor. Other macronutrients and micronutrients (such as protein, lipids, and most vitamins and minerals) are in short supply. However, since it’s gluten-free, low in calories, and sugar-free, it’s still beneficial in gluten-free cooking and baking, similar to cassava flour.

What Is Tapioca Flour and How Does It Work?

Tapioca is a form of starch extract obtained from the cassava root, a starchy vegetable (Manihot esculenta). Cassava, also known as yuca root, is now mostly cultivated in Africa, Asia, and South America. The cassava plant is regarded as an essential staple crop that provides millions of people with a large share of their daily calories.

While tapioca flour, pearls, and other tapioca products don’t include many vital nutrients, they let you prepare dishes like mice, puddings, yogurts, jello, sauces, crockpot meals, and more without needing conventional all-purpose flour or other highly processed components. Tapioca flour is also used to produce flatbread, crusts, cakes, cookies, chips, tortillas, and a milky-white liquid comparable to coconut or dairy milk in various regions of the globe.

If you’re allergic to nuts, coconut, or other gluten-free grains, and you’re on a low FODMAP or gluten-free diet, you’ll find that tapioca comes in useful.

Nutritional Information

So, what does tapioca flour’s nutritional profile look like? A quarter cup of tapioca flour contains approximately:

  • A hundred calories
  • Carbs 26 grams
  • Sugar, fat, and protein levels are all near to nil

Tapioca is nearly entirely made up of carbs, and it is very low in fats, sugar, fiber, protein, salt, and vital vitamins and minerals.

Health Advantages

The following are some of the advantages of utilizing tapioca flour or other forms in cooking or baking:

1. It’s free of gluten, grains, and nuts

There’s a reason why those who follow the Paleo, FODMAP, or autoimmune protocol diets like tapioca: it’s high in fiber. It’s grain-free, nut-free, dairy-free, vegan, seed-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free almost entirely.

People with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, nut or seed allergies, diverticulitis, IBS, or IBD should eat cassava-based products since they are simple to digest.

Traditional wheat flours, all-purpose flour, and even nut-based flours like almond meal may all be replaced with tapioca flour. It may be used in some healthy baking recipes without introducing gluten or other undesirable components. People with fragile digestive systems or those who have difficulty eating other flours may generally eat tapioca.

It’s even safe for individuals on a modest version of the autoimmune protocol diet, which restricts carbs from a variety of sources (like some fruits and most grains and dairy).

2. Calorie, sugar, and fat content are all low

Many gluten-free flours, such as buckwheat, teff, rice, maize, garbanzo, almond, and coconut flour, include more carbs and water than tapioca flour. However, it’s low in calories and may be used in a variety of healthy meals if you’re monitoring your weight since it contains very little protein, sugar, or fat.

Using tapioca in recipes may help you cut down on butter, oil, cream, and dairy. It’s good for those on a low-calorie diet, people with diabetes, people with high blood pressure symptoms, high cholesterol, allergies, and digestive problems.

3. It has no taste or odor

Tapioca is utilized in both sweet and savory foods since it is almost invisible in recipes. It improves the texture and “mouth-feel” of recipes — for example, by making baked products more spongy and springy, encouraging browning, and assisting in the crisping of crusts — but it has little influence on the flavor of other components.

If you don’t like the flavor of other gluten-free or sprouted grain flours, tapioca will probably be a welcome change.

4. Recipes for Binding and Thickening

Tapioca flour absorbs and holds more water than many other flours, making it perfect for binding, thickening, and moistening dishes. While gluten-free baking may be difficult without gluten protein’s sticky and bouncy properties (found in wheat, rye, and barley flours), tapioca flour can help avoid recipes from disintegrating and becoming too dry.

It doesn’t rise like yeast, so using it to create bread or cakes isn’t always a success, but it does help keep dishes together better than almond, garbanzo, or coconut flour.

Cassava Flour vs. Tapioca Flour

Cassava flour and tapioca flour are both manufactured from the same plant, but cassava flour is more of a “whole food,” and tapioca flour is more of a “processed food.” The outside of cassava roots is brown and hard, while the inner is softer and yellow-white. Tapioca is the cassava root’s bleached and extracted starch, while cassava flour is derived from the complete root.

Cassava flour offers more vitamin C than tapioca flour but is still low in fiber, calories, fat, and protein. Both items are safe for gluten-free diets and are unlikely to cause allergic reactions. They’re both widely used to thicken recipes and have comparable properties.

On the other hand, Cassava flour is preferred by some individuals over tapioca flour (or starch) since it is less processed. Cassava flour is often made without extraction or processing since the root is grown organically, peeled, dried (traditionally in the sun), and milled.

Although the specific technique tapioca is created from cassava varies throughout the globe, it may occasionally go through further processing, such as high heat pressing and chemical extraction. Therefore, tapioca flour should be as natural as possible. The starch should be extracted from the cassava root using a repeated washing and pulping procedure that separates the liquid from the root without the use of chemicals or additional stages.

Because it is less rich in pure starch, cassava flour may be simpler to digest for persons with sensitive digestive systems. But, overall, there isn’t much of a difference between the two for most people, and the purposes are comparable, so it may come down to personal taste.

Arrowroot vs. Tapioca Flour

Arrowroot is a starchy food product that is similar to tapioca and cassava flour in many aspects and is used in gluten-free baking. Arrowroot may be manufactured from various root plants, such as cassava or yucca root, and other tropical plant kinds found in Asia and Africa. It contains a lot of starch, is low in calories, protein, and fat, and is devoid of all major allergies (gluten, nuts, seeds, dairy, and it’s vegan). Like tapioca, it’s often used to bind, thicken, and moisten dishes.

Arrowroot absorbs a lot of water and turns into a smooth, gel-like substance that looks like cornstarch or tapioca pearls. It’s widely used in sweets like puddings, cakes, and custards, as well as savory dishes such as hot sauces, milk, and broth.

It’s excellent for individuals following the paleo diet or a gluten-free diet, and it’s simple to digest, even for those with dietary limitations, digestive issues, or recurrent diarrhea.


Tapioca is available in a variety of formats in grocery stores:

Tapioca flour has the consistency of a fine meal and is a typical gluten-free baking ingredient.

  • Tapioca starch (sometimes known as tapioca flour) is a soluble powder that is often used to thicken sauces and absorb liquid. If a recipe asks for tapioca starch, you may simply substitute tapioca flour since the two are almost identical.
  • Tapioca pearls are little white or translucent pearls that disintegrate in water when heated. In certain cultures, the pearls are known as boba and are made by forcing wet tapioca starch through a sieve under high pressure.
  • Tapioca flakes – available in coarse or fine types, tapioca flakes are used in the same manner as starch/flour is.

Although all varieties of tapioca may be used interchangeably, tapioca flour or starch is the finest option for baking. By peeling, shredding, and drying the starchy root, eliminating all the water and fiber, and making a powdery, fine, granulated flour combination, cassava root becomes tapioca flour (or tapioca starch).

Tapioca pearls are the most extensively accessible and widely marketed variety of tapioca available today. You’ve probably had tapioca pearls if you’ve ever prepared or eaten “tapioca pudding.” Tapioca absorbs a lot of water when cooked, and it turns into a gel-like substance. This may be used to replicate the effects of lipids, dairy products, cornstarch, and other popular food additions.

How to Make Use of

When cooking or baking using tapioca flour, combine it with other gluten-free flours for the best results. Tapioca flour, flakes, sticks, and pearls absorb water to produce a smooth, gel-like material; therefore, they must be mixed with enough liquid to rehydrate.

Tapioca absorbs liquid quickly, particularly if the liquid is heated and mixed into the flour slowly. As a result, tapioca flour may be transformed into a smooth, dough-like paste with only a few drops of liquid, which can then be used to create bread or cake.

Tapioca may absorb up to double its volume of water before becoming “swollen,” extremely soft, and thick, making it ideal for adding moisture to baked goods or thickening sauces. In addition, tapioca has the advantage of being almost tasteless and odorless and not having a color that alters the look of recipes. (It’s normally white when raw and practically transparent/translucent when cooked.)

Tapioca pearls or sticks that have been intentionally colored are now available and are used to produce items like jello or “bubble tea.”

The following are some common uses for tapioca flour in recipes:

  • Making pizza or pie crusts crispier
  • Enhancing the chewiness of baked items such as cookies
  • Giving dense gluten-free bread moisture
  • Pancakes or flatbread (such as they traditionally do in Brazil)
  • Preparing a gluten-free berry tart filling
  • Sauces, soups, and stews, such as those prepared in a crockpot (instant tapioca and tapioca starch are the best choices for thickening)
  • Assisting in the formation of pie filling (in this case, quick tapioca or starch works better than pearls)
  • Creating custard or pudding
  • In place of cornstarch (use two tablespoons tapioca flour for each one tablespoon cornstarch)

How Much Tapioca Should You Use?

  • Tapioca flour may usually be substituted for wheat flour in a 1:1 ratio. To replace wheat/all-purpose flour in recipes with tapioca flour (or starch), start with 1 tablespoon–1.5 tablespoons tapioca for every tablespoon wheat flour in the original recipe.
  • Depending on the manufacturer, tapioca may be coarsely milled or finer and pure starch. This implies it won’t always respond the same way in recipes, so look for hints and suggestions on the packaging.
  •  You’ll need more tapioca for baking cookies than you need for thickening a sauce. However, when it comes to thickening liquids, a little tapioca flour goes a long way.
  • If you’re baking gluten-free, you’ll probably get the greatest results if you mix tapioca flour with other flours rather than using it completely. Tapioca flour may make food slippery if used too much in a dish, so use it sparingly. Although it won’t contribute much flavor, odor, or color to dishes, some people find the slippery texture off-putting (particularly in sauces or stews), so try it out and see how much you like it.

Side Effects and Risks

Because tapioca is low in accessible nutrients, it’s better not to eat too much of it and mix it with other nutrient-dense, complimentary meals. For example, you may use tapioca to thicken homemade sweets like pudding or yogurt made with raw milk, avocado, or coconut cream instead of creating a sugary bubble tee.

Combine tapioca flour with coconut or almond flour to boost the fiber content of tapioca flour-based dishes. Also, consider including superfoods like chia seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, berries, or raw honey in your dishes to enhance antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

The Center for Food Safety in Hong Kong also cautions that the cassava plant might become poisonous if prepared wrongly. Although poisoning has been documented on a few occasions with commercially packaged tapioca, it is very uncommon.

When tapioca interacts with gut microorganisms in particular ways, it creates cyanide, which is deadly to humans. Although most cyanide is removed during peeling, boiling, and processing, it does sometimes find its way into the food supply. Headaches, dizziness, a quick pulse, weakness, and fainting are among signs of cyanide poisoning, which over 2,000 different plants may cause.

Although poisoning is very improbable when purchasing tapioca flour, it’s important to be aware of the possibility when creating your own flour.

Last Thoughts

  • Tapioca is nearly entirely made up of carbs, and it is very low in fats, sugar, fiber, protein, salt, and vital vitamins and minerals.
  • While it lacks many key nutrients, tapioca allows you to produce dishes like mice, puddings, yogurts, jello, sauces, crockpot meals, and more without needing conventional all-purpose flour or other highly processed components.
  • Tapioca is gluten-free, grain-free, and nut-free; it’s low in calories, sugar, and fat; tasteless and odorless; and binds and thickens dishes.
  • It appears in various forms, including flour, starch, pearls, and flakes. Although all varieties of tapioca may be used interchangeably, tapioca flour or starch is the finest option for baking.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is tapioca flour best for?

A: Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava plant native to South America. It has been used as food and medicine for centuries in different parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America. West African cuisine is sometimes known as tapioca grits or pearl millet because it can be ground down into a fine flour that resembles rice grains called polenta.

Is tapioca flour good for binding?

A: Tapioca flour can be used for binding, but it is not recommended to use too much of the substance simply because the recipe will become overly chewy and hard to eat.

Is tapioca better than wheat?

A: That is a difficult question. The answer will depend on the person because some have different preferences for certain types of food.

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