Tapioca Flour: Throw Out Your Preconceptions

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Tapioca flour is a common cooking and baking ingredient, used in sweet treats, and as a thickening agent.

Tapioca Flour

It is naturally gluten-free, and suitable for a Whole30 diet. Read on to learn more about how it is made, what recipes you can use it in, and its nutritional value (amongst other things). 

What is Tapioca Flour?

Tapioca flour (sometimes also referred to as tapioca starch) is a common cooking ingredient that is used in many recipes for gluten-free baked goods.

It adds chewiness to foods without adding any other ingredients – very similar to glutinous rice flour/mochiko flour.

The flour itself is made from the starch of the cassava root, and is popular when making chewy desserts, treats and baked goods, such as the tapioca boba pearls in our favorite bubble tea!

In addition to its use as an ingredient in baked goods, this flour can also be used as an allergy friendly, gluten free thickener for sauces, stews, and soups.

What is Sour Tapioca Flour?

This “sour flour” is a type of tapioca flour which has been treated with citric acid or another souring agent.

This process creates a more neutral flavor profile than regular tapioca flour, but it does not affect the texture or nutritional value of your food.

For example, you could add this to your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and bake them up just like normal.

The most commonly used souring agents are citric acid and tartaric acid. Both acids have their own unique flavors and characteristics. Citric acid gives off a lemon flavor while tartaric acid gives off a grapefruit flavor.

You may be wondering how sour tapioca flour affects your cooking compared to regular tapioca starch.

Regular tapioca flour works well in some places where sour flour would work better, especially with savory dishes. You may want to try both types of flour together to see what kind of results you get.

Is there Organic Tapioca Flour?

Yes! There is a large range of organic flours that are out there on the market – but, as with most organic alternatives, they can be far more expensive, and you may not be able to purchase them at your local grocery store.

If you are wanting to purchase organic tapioca, we recommend that you look for a reputable online organic retailer. 

What Does Tapioca Flour Taste Like?

If you’ve never had tapioca before, then you might think that it tastes sweet. However, tapioca actually has a slightly bitter flavor.

As mentioned above, this bitterness comes from the cassava root. On top of that, tapioca contains carbohydrates and fiber, so it will leave your stomach feeling full for longer than regular white flour.

Overall, like most kinds of flour, it has a really neutral flavor, instead adding bulk to your food, and acting as a vessel for other flavorings in your food.

Really, (alongside its gluten free nature), the main talking point for this flour is the strong gelling agent power that it has. 

Is Tapioca Starch Flour the Same as Tapioca Flour?

If you have a recipe that calls for “tapioca flour” and are not sure if this is tapioca starch or tapioca starch flour, then you’re not alone in your confusion.

Our simple explanation of the differences there are between these two products is that they are usually the same thing, but not always. Helpful, right? Read on…

The terms tapioca starch and tapioca flour are used interchangeably, but there is another option – which is sometimes labeled as ‘tapioca starch flour’. This is commonly found in stores that cater to South American and Caribbean communities.

It is another kind of flour, and is typically sold as ‘cassava flour’, but occasionally is labeled ‘tapioca starch/flour’, as the products come from the same plant. Despite coming from the same cassava plant, they won’t work in the same way.

So, if you need tapioca flour for your recipes or gluten free cooking, ensure you purchase one that is clearly labeled as such. 

Are Cassava and Tapioca the Same?

Cassava is a starchy root vegetable that is also known as manioc, tapioca or yucca. It’s native to South America, where it grows in tropical climates.

The cassava plant has been cultivated for thousands of years and was introduced to Africa by Portuguese traders during the 16th century.

Today, cassava is grown across much of the tropics and subtropics, including parts of Asia, Europe, Australia and North America.

The cassava plant produces edible tubers that grow underground and contain high levels of starch. These roots are used to make flour, which is often referred to as ‘manioc flour’ or ‘tapioca starch’.

When cooked, the starch converts into a thick paste, which is an appealing feature of tapioca. In fact, cassava is considered to be a close relative of the potato.

While both cassava flour and tapioca flour are made from the same plant, they do differ quite significantly.

For example, cassava flour is made using a process called dry milling, while tapioca flour is produced through wet milling. Dry milling involves removing the outer layers of the cassava root, leaving behind the fleshy center.

Wet milling involves soaking the cassava roots in water until they swell up, after which the skins are removed.

When making either type of flour, the resulting product can vary depending on the method used. For example, cassava flour tends to be darker in color, with more pronounced flavors than tapioca flour.

Both types of flour are generally low in fat and calories, and very rich in dietary fiber. They are also highly nutritious, containing significant amounts of vitamin C, folate, iron, calcium, and potassium.

In addition to their nutritional benefits, tapioca and cassava are similar in many ways. Both are derived from the same plant, and so share common characteristics such as texture, color and taste.

However, they are different enough that you should know what you are buying when purchasing them. While cassava flour is made by drying out and grinding the roots of the cassava plant, the tapioca version is made by soaking the roots in water before processing.

This difference means that cassava flour will absorb moisture better than the tapioca, and so will become sticky and clump together.

If you want to use cassava flour in baking, it may require additional mixing steps to prevent the dough from becoming too sticky. On the other hand, tapioca flour does not absorb moisture as easily.

Instant Tapioca vs Tapioca Flour

Tapioca Flour

Instant tapioca is a mixture of ground tapioca pearls and cornstarch. Moreover, instant tapioca is available in powder form, which makes it easy to add to recipes.

You can also find it in a liquid form, which makes it possible to mix directly into recipes without having to grind the tapioca first. Instant tapioca comes in several forms: white (also known as pearl), yellow, orange, and brown. 

Tapioca flour is a fine powder made from finely milled tapioca starch. This flour is sometimes marketed under the name “tapioca starch”, as it is a granular starch extracted from the root of the cassava plant.

Tapioca flour is most commonly sold as a light-colored powder, although some manufacturers offer a dark version of this flour as well. It is typically used in baked goods like cakes and cookies, where its soft consistency helps to create tender results.

The flour has a slightly sweet flavor, but it lacks the strong starchy flavor found in regular tapioca pearls. Because it is so finely milled, it absorbs less moisture than instant tapioca, making it ideal for baking.

If you need to substitute tapioca starch for instant tapioca, use double the amount called for in the recipe. If you need to substitute instant tapioca for tapioca starch, half the amount called for in the recipe. 

How to Make Tapioca Flour

If you want to make this flour at home, follow our easy guide!

What You Need & Ingredients: 

  • Cassava roots
  • Blender 
  • Fine mesh sieve
  • Cheesecloth or muslin cloth
  • Baking tray


Step One: Wash your cassava root, ensuring that you have gotten rid of all the dirt. Peel the clean root, and then cut it into 1.5 cm cubes. 

Step Two: Put your cubes of cassava into the jug of your blender, and cover it in water. Ensure that you have enough water in your blender for the final, blended up product to be runny. 

Step Three: Pulse your blender until you get a mixture that has a smooth consistency. Put your sieve into a large bowl, and then over it in the cheesecloth. Pour your cassava mixture over it, and strain. 

Step Four: Let your bowl and sieve sit, so that all the liquid strains through the cheesecloth. You should be left with a white liquid. Leave this to sit for an hour, so that the starch can separate and sit at the bottom of the bowl. 

Step Five: Pour off the translucent liquid from the top of the bowl, and then discard this liquid. What you are left with is the tapioca starch. Scrap this out of the bowl onto the baking tray. 

Step Six: Leave the tray to dry out, until all the moisture has evaporated, or dehydrate it in a dehydrator. This will give you a block of dry tapioca starch. 

Step Seven: Put your dried block of starch into a dry food processor or spice grinder, and blend it up until you get a smooth powder. 

Tapioca Flour Replacements

Tapioca flour is often used in gluten-free baking, but there are ways to substitute. Here are some alternatives. 

1. Corn Flour/Corn starch  – You can replace tapioca with cornstarch. Cornstarch has a strong thickening power, but it needs less than half the amount of tapioca. So, if you want to make a cake without any gluten, you can use cornstarch instead of tapioca flour!

2. Cassava Flour – Cassava flour is a great alternative to tapioca flour because it contains more fiber. It also contains slightly more thickening power than tapioca, and with a nuttier, seedier flavor. Most recipes call for tapioca flour, but cassava flour works well as an alternative. You can get it at any grocery store, or through a specialist online retailer. 

3. Potato Starch – Potato starch is gluten-free but has a heavier consistency than tapioca flour. You can use it as a replacement if you want to avoid gluten, and don’t mind a bit of a heavier result. Swap your tapioca out in a 1:1 ratio when thickening sauces. When using it in bakes, reduce the quantity called for by 25% to 50%. 

4. Arrowroot – Arrowroot is a flavorless gluten-free flour. It is very similar to tapioca flour and can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio for most recipes. However, it does not create the same chewy texture as tapioca. Thus, if your recipe calls for tapioca flour as the only starch then arrowroot will not work well unless it is used along with other starches.

5. Rice Flour – Rice flour is a good substitute. Use half as much rice flour instead of tapioca. This is because it has a much stronger thickening ability – so adding the same amount can leave your food too cloggy!

Can You Substitute Tapioca Flour for All Purpose Flour?

Tapioca Flour

All-purpose flour can be replaced by tapioca in 1:1 ratios in most recipes – but do bear in mind that the texture might be different.

Tapioca flour makes gravy, soup, and sauce thicker and glossier than all-purpose flour does. Cooking times may also need to be adjusted.

Tapioca doesn’t add any flavor, while all-purpose flour adds a bread-like flavor, especially to bakes where it is in large quantities.

All-purpose flour is made out of wheat and contains gluten. This means that it doesn’t work well as a substitute for tapioca if you are looking to keep your cooking or baking gluten-free. 

Tapioca Flour Nutrition

Tapioca flours have been around for centuries, but they weren’t always considered healthy. They were originally seen as a cheap filler that was added to foods to increase their volume. In fact, they were sometimes even thought to cause obesity.

The problem with this view is that it ignores the fact that this flour is made from starch, which is actually a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, whereas proteins and fats contain 9 and 18 respectively.

Because of this, we should consider them to be low calorie foods. Tapioca flours are rich in dietary fiber, however, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and the digestive system. They also contain iron and calcium, both of which help build bones.

This flour is high in carbohydrates, specifically glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar found naturally in plants. It is broken down during digestion, and absorbed into the bloodstream. 

Tapioca is a great source of energy. It provides about 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is essential for converting amino acids into protein. It is also important for maintaining normal cell growth and metabolism.


Calories per cup of tapioca flour vary from 15 calories to 45 calories, depending on brand and how it is processed.

The higher calorie content is due to the fact that tapioca flour is usually made from refined white sugar.

The lower calorie content is achieved by making the flour from unrefined natural sugars such as molasses.

Is Tapioca Flour Gluten-Free?

Yes, it is gluten-free, meaning that it is suitable for those who suffer from celiac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance. If you’re unsure whether your recipe will work with tapioca, check it first. 

Is Tapioca Flour Keto?

No, it isn’t keto friendly. It contains carbs and therefore won’t work well in ketogenic diets. However, there are some ways to make it more keto friendly.

For example, you could replace half of the tapioca with almond meal. Or you could use coconut flour instead – but you won’t get the trademark tapioca texture. 

Is Tapioca Flour Paleo?

No, tapioca is not paleo friendly, as it is high in what is known as ‘anti-nutrients’ to someone who believes in the keto diet. You can use arrowroot flour instead of tapioca flour if you want to make a recipe that includes tapioca, while sticking to the paleo diet. 

Is It Whole30 Friendly?

Yes, tapioca flour is considered to be compliant with the Whole30 rules. 

Tapioca Flour Uses

This flour is great for cooking. It’s especially good when used as a thickener in sauces, gravies, chilies, casseroles, breads, muffins, cakes and cookies.

As an ingredient, it adds bulk and body to dishes without adding too much extra fat. 

It’s also perfect for thickening up creamy desserts like ice cream, cheesecakes and puddings.

Tapioca flour has a light taste and doesn’t add any additional sweetness to recipes. You can easily substitute it for cornstarch, wheat flour, potato flour or arrowroot flour. 

Below are some of our favorite uses for this versatile flour…

How to Make Boba with Tapioca Flour

Boba is a popular dessert in Asian cuisine. It consists of shaved sweetened tapioca pearls mixed with condensed milk. Traditionally, bobas are served at Chinese New Year celebrations. Some people prefer to eat them year round because they are so delicious! 

This classic dessert is easy to make using just one bowl and a food processor. Here’s how….


  • 1/2 cup of tapioca starch
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk


In a medium sized saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of tapioca starch and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Using a hand blender, blend together the remaining ingredients (except the condensed milk) until smooth. Pour into a large mixing bowl and fold in the tapioca mixture. Fold gently until combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

The next day, spoon the chilled batter into a piping bag fitted with a circular tip. Pipe small dollops onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with shredded coconut. Serve cold. 

You can store leftover Boba in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

If you want to try to make tapioca boba pearls without tapioca four, you can substitute cornstarch 1 to 1. However, the texture will be different, so be prepared for that!

Where Can I Buy Tapioca It?

If you are after tapioca flour, the first place you should check is your local grocery store, health food store, or baking shop. You can buy this flour online from Amazon.com, or other online retailers.

Whole Foods Market sells tapioca flour under the brand name “Tapioca Starch,” which is a whole grain product. They also sell Arrowroot flour. 

Final Thoughts 

In conclusion, this flour is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many ways. It makes a wonderful addition to baked goods, gravies, sauces, soups, and more.