Tapioca flour and tapioca starch

Our topic this week for What Is It? Wednesday is Tapioca Flour. Whether mixed into baked goods or used as a thickening agent for soups and sauces, this ingredient can be used in a variety of different recipes. This ingredient is a tricky one to understand and there is a lot of confusing information about it online. We’re going to do our best to clear it up, but if we missed something or you still have burning questions, please leave them in the comments and we’ll get you an answer.

What Is Tapioca Flour?

Tapioca flour is made from the crushed pulp of the cassava root (pictured below), a woody shrub native to South America and the Caribbean. Even though they originate from the same plant, cassava flour and tapioca flour are in fact different. Cassava flour uses the whole root while tapioca flour only uses the starchy pulp. Like other starches, tapioca flour is a very fine, white powder that works well in gluten free baking. It can replace cornstarch as a thickener for pies, gravies, pudding, dough and sauces and aids in creating a crisp crust and chewy texture in baking. It is most often used in the Brazilian treat Pão de Queijo (pictured below), a light, puffy cheese roll. Tapioca flour is becoming increasingly common in paleo diet recipes, as well.

Is Tapioca Starch the Same as Tapioca Flour? Is There a Difference Between the Two?

tapioca flour and starch

There are quite a variety of different tapioca products on the market. It is common for tapioca flour to sometimes be called tapioca starch. Our tapioca flour is the same thing as tapioca starch, however you need to be aware that there is a third choice called tapioca flour/starch often found in stores that cater to a Caribbean and South American clientele. This type of flour/starch is typically sold as cassava flour, but it will not work the same as our tapioca flour. To best avoid confusion, if you need to use an ingredient for gluten free baking, we recommend sticking with something that is clearly marked as tapioca starch or tapioca flour and steering clear of cassava flour.

What About Modified Tapioca Starch?

This is an entirely different ballgame of starch. Modified starch works well in gluten free baking, but it is not the same thing as our tapioca flour and they cannot be used interchangeably. Expandex produces this type of modified starch.

How Is Tapioca Flour Made?

Essentially, cassava root is peeled, washed and chopped. Then it is rasped (finely shredded) and the resulting pulp is washed, spun, and washed until the mixture is primarily pure starch and water. The starch is then dried. We recognize the hazards of under-processed cassava root and our product has been processed in an appropriate manner to make the product harmless.

Why Use Tapioca Flour?

Tapioca flour is a wonderful thickener that is superior to arrowroot starch and potato starch. It provides a crispy crust and chewy texture in gluten free baked goods. It also serves as an effective thickening agent for other recipes such as homemade pudding, cookie dough, sauces and gravies. Some people choose tapioca because they cannot eat corn or potatoes for health reasons and tapioca flour is a wonderful alternative.

Tips for Using Tapioca Flour to Replace Other Ingredients: 

  • Tapioca Flour for Cornstarch in Baking: Replace 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons tapioca flour.
  • Tapioca Flour for All Purpose Flour in Thickening: Replace 1 for 1.
  • Tapioca Flour for Instant Tapioca Pearls: For every 1 tablespoon of quick-cooking tapioca pearls use 1 1/2 tablespoons of tapioca flour. Mix the tapioca flour with any dry sugar in an uncooked pie filling or make a slurry with a small amount of the liquid before heating in a pre-cooked pie filling, then slowly add the slurry back into the pie filling and continue to cook the filling at a simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the cloudiness from the tapioca flour has turned transparent.

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