- What Is Tapioca?
- Some Top-Rated Recipes with Tapioca
- What is Tapioca? Origins, Nutritional Value and Uses
- Tapioca’s Origin and Characteristics
- Nutritional Value
- Common Uses Inside and Outside the Kitchen
- Tapioca: Nutrition facts and benefits
- What is Tapioca, Anyway?
- How to Use It
- Or Make..
- The History and Use of Tapioca
What Is Tapioca?
Tapioca is a gluten-free thickener, gelling agent, and baking ingredient made from yuca, the root of a cassava or manioc tree.
Tapioca comes in different forms. The most common dry tapioca products are tapioca flour and pearl tapioca, ranging in pearl size between 1 to 8 millimeters in its uncooked stage.
What is Tapioca Pudding?
Tapioca pudding is a dessert made from small tapioca pearls, also called pudding balls or tapioca balls. The opaque balls turn chewy and rubbery when cooked.
Slow Cooker Vanilla Tapioca Pudding
“Classic tapioca pudding is made with very little hassle in a slow cooker,” says Ellen Janet Nestler. “There is no need to pre-soak small tapioca pearls prior to cooking. Serve warm or put in individual containers and keep in fridge.”
Which Tapioca Balls are Used for Bubble Tea?
There are countless variations of bubble tea, and it depends on the recipe whether you use small or large tapioca balls, the original white tapioca balls, or one of the many colored or flavored varieties.
Tapioca balls used for bubble tea are often marketed and sold as boba balls, which is the Chinese word for tapioca pearls.
Boba (Coconut Milk Black Tea with Tapioca Pearls)
“Boba tea, or bubble tea, is a popular drink that originated from Taiwan,” says Risa. “I made this coconut variation because I had coconut cream on hand and wanted something different from the regular black milk tea variation. This coconut version tastes just the one you'll find in a bubble tea cafe.”
What is the Difference between Tapioca Starch and Tapioca Flour?
Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same, and there is yet a third name for the finely ground tapioca: cassava flour. It is used in gluten-free baking and as a thickener for soups, sauces, gravy, and pie fillings.
Modified tapioca starch is tapioca starch that has been treated to improve its cooking properties, shelf life, and thickening abilities. This does not necessarily mean that the underlying plant has being genetically modified although that can be the case.
Some manufacturers label tapioca starch as “Tapioca starch dextrin” or “Tapioca dextrin.”
Delicious Gluten-Free Pancakes
“Makes fluffy pancakes with a consistency and taste comparable to those made with wheat flour,” says AC6AA. “Serve with your choice of condiments.”
What is Quick-cooking Tapioca?
Quick-cooking or instant tapioca consists of small precooked tapioca pearls. It acts as a fast thickening agent just cornstarch or all-purpose flour.
What is Tapioca Syrup?
Tapioca syrup is a sweetener made from naturally fermented tapioca starch.
What is Tapioca Maltodextrin?
Tapioca maltodextrin is a food additive used by the food industry to increase the volume of dry mixes and frozen foods, and in molecular gastronomy to stabilize fat ingredients in order to transform them into powders.
What is a Good Substitute for Tapioca Starch?
If you want to replace tapioca starch (tapioca flour) as a thickener, use the same amount of all-purpose flour, or half the amount of cornstarch, arrowroot or potato starch.
Some Top-Rated Recipes with Tapioca
Tapioca Rice Pudding
“This is a recipe I found in my grandmother's secret book it is so good I have to share it with the world,” says POTHEAD5. “It might make it a better place! Serve with whipped cream.”
Very Popular Bubble Tea
“Bubble tea is very popular, especially to Asians, but now, more and more people from different backgrounds the taste of it,” says skybaby. “It's simple to make, but some of the ingredients may be a little tough to find. Just be patient and look for them in Chinese grocery stores. It is worth the trouble!”
Fish Egg Salad
“This is a delightfully light gelatin dessert with small pearls of tapioca mixed in,” says SHOPTILUDROP65. “You may use any flavor of gelatin mix that you , and even stir in your favorite fruit when you fold in the whipped cream.”
Coconut Tapioca Pudding
“I have always loved tapioca pudding and coconut, so this dish is perfect for me,” says Jennifer. “One time, for a 'Southeast Asian Cuisine Night,' I served this as dessert alongside pho, spring rolls, and steamed dumplings. For a Southeast Asian touch, top the pudding with chopped mango or chopped peanuts.”
Gluten-Free Yellow Cake
“Basic and easy, and very versatile,” says Amy. “Layer with white or chocolate frosting, strawberries and whipped cream, etc. Make sure your baking powder is gluten-free.”
Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo)
“These yummy gluten/wheat free breads are good for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance,” says GLOJAO. “These are good either served plain, or with marinara sauce. For more variety, try adding a variety of herb seasonings, such as Italian seasoning or try substituting other cheeses for the Parmesan.”
Check out our collection of Tapioca Flour Recipes.
What is Tapioca? Origins, Nutritional Value and Uses
Photo courtesy of iStock/jantroyka
You’ve probably tasted tapioca pudding – a sweet, creamy dish that’s considered by many a classic comfort food and a favorite dessert. Or maybe you’ve tried bubble tea, which includes chewy “pearls” made of tapioca. But have you ever wondered – just what is tapioca exactly?
If so, you’re in luck. Read on to learn more about tapioca and discover its many uses in the kitchen and beyond; chances are you’ll be surprised at just how versatile tapioca can be.
See more: What is Sorghum?
Photo courtesy of iStock/IltonRogerio
Tapioca’s Origin and Characteristics
Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root, more commonly known as yuca to English speakers. Native to northern Brazil, cassava now grows worldwide, particularly in South America, Asia and Africa.
The cassava root, or underground part of the cassava shrub, grows well in hot, humid climates with low-nutrient soils. In fact, it’s considered one of the world’s most drought-tolerant crops, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – and can usually be harvested within a year of planting.
After harvest, cassava roots are treated to remove toxins, then peeled, ground and boiled. A starchy liquid is then withdrawn, and once the water has evaporated, the starch goes into processing to produce various forms of tapioca: powder, flakes, sticks or translucent spheres typically called “pearls.”
Bubble tea; photo courtesy of iStock/karinsasaki
Nearly 100% carbohydrate and containing only trace amounts of protein and fat, tapioca is naturally grain- and gluten-free, making it a common ingredient in foods for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerances.
Tapioca is also cholesterol-free, easy to digest, low in sodium, and a source of folate, manganese, iron, calcium, and dietary fiber. Due to its caloric density, tapioca can also support weight gain; a single cup of “pearls” has 544 calories and 135 grams of carbs.
See more: 6 Healthy Pizza Crust Alternatives You Have to Try
Common Uses Inside and Outside the Kitchen
Tapioca flour often appears as an ingredient in gluten-free breads, including flatbreads, while chewy tapioca “pearls” typically appear in puddings, desserts, sweet snacks and the increasingly popular bubble tea (a cold milk tea).
Due to its thickening power and relatively neutral flavor, tapioca flour also makes an excellent thickener for soups, sauces and gravies. Plus, it works well as a binding agent in foods burgers and nuggets, improving both texture and moisture content while preventing sogginess.
Finally, thanks to tapioca’s starchy nature, the uses for this versatile ingredient extend far beyond the kitchen. After tapioca goes through the gelatinization process, it has several commercial and industrial applications.
For example, the gelatinized starch can be used to create adhesives and glues. It’s also an important ingredient in tablet production for the pharmaceutical industry.
In textile applications, tapioca can be used in the sizing of yarns and the completion of cotton and polyester fabrics, and it is regularly part of the paper production process.
See more: Guide to Alternative Flours
Tapioca: Nutrition facts and benefits
Tapioca is a starchy product that derives from cassava tubers. These tubers are native to Brazil and much of South America. Tapioca is available in a variety of forms, including flour, meal, flakes, and pearls.
People commonly use tapioca to make tapioca pudding and bubble teas. Tapioca is also useful as a thickener in pies.
Tapioca consists entirely of starchy carbohydrates. People on a carb controlled diet and those who are concerned about the effect of starches on their blood sugar levels may see tapioca as unhealthful.
However, for people who do not need to monitor their intake of carbs or starches as carefully, tapioca can boost health in several ways.
In this article, we look at the benefits of tapioca.
Share on PinterestTapioca is naturally gluten free.
Tapioca is free of gluten, nuts, and grains, so it will not cause a reaction in people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and nut allergies.
The manufacturers of many gluten free products use tapioca flour in the production process. It is also a good option for allergen free baking at home.
Tapioca flour serves as an alternative to white flour for thickening soups, sauces, and pie fillings.
Tapioca has a reputation as being gentle on the stomach. Many people find it easier to digest than flours that producers make from grains or nuts.
Doctors may recommend tapioca as a suitable source of calories for people with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diverticulitis that can cause flares of digestive symptoms.
People who need to gain weight quickly may benefit from including tapioca in the diet. One cup of tapioca pearls provides 544 calories and 135 grams (g) of carbohydrates.
Eating a couple of bowls of tapioca pudding a day improves a person’s lihood of gaining weight without also increasing the risk of adverse effects from consuming too much fat and cholesterol.
People can also add tapioca to other dishes to increase their carb and calorie content.
Find out about other foods that can support safe weight gain.
Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth. It also supports a range of other bodily functions, including:
- contraction and dilation in the blood vessels and muscles
- communication between nerves
- blood clotting
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, people lose calcium each day through the skin, sweat, urine, and feces. The body cannot replace lost calcium without dietary supplementation.
Therefore, people should take care to consume calcium through their diet. One cup of tapioca pearls provides 30.4 milligrams (mg) of calcium.
Read more about calcium here.
Tapioca is a good source of iron. One cup of tapioca pearls provides 2.4 mg of the daily recommended value, which ranges from 7–18 mg depending on age and sex. It increases to 27 mg for women during pregnancy.
To optimize the absorption of iron from tapioca, it is best to consume it alongside vitamin C sources. These increase the amount of iron that the body absorbs.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. If a person does not have enough iron in the blood, they may develop iron deficiency anemia.
This condition may cause serious side effects, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.
Here, learn about iron deficiency anemia.
Tapioca is high in carbs and calories, so it is not a traditionally healthful food.
However, it can help a person meet the recommended daily allowance of several important nutrients. It can also be a tasty, nutritious food choice for people who need to gain weight.
In moderation, tapioca can play a role in a healthful eating plan. People should keep in mind that many tapioca recipes, such as tapioca pudding and bubble tea, have additional calories and fat from added sugar, milk, or cream.
People can use almond milk or fat free milk to make a bubble tea that is lower in fat and calories. They can also replace sugar with liquid stevia or erythritol to add sweetness to tapioca dishes.
What is Tapioca, Anyway?
That is the question I asked myself in the dry goods section of my grocery store, surveying the shelf of tapioca products. We're ly best acquainted with tapioca in the form of tapioca pudding, or as the gummy pearls swimming at the bottom of our bubble tea, or as something we stir a spoonful of into pie filling.
But what is it, really, and what does it do?
From left: Large pearls, small pearls, instant tapioca, and tapioca flour. Photo by Bobbi Lin
Tapioca is made from starch of cassava root—a.k.a. yuca. And actually, you can eat yuca on its own, prepared in much the same way you'd prepare any other root vegetable.
As Lindsay-Jean writes in this piece, cooked yuca has a sticky texture you'll recognize: Tapioca, its progeny, shares it.
It's that stickiness that gives bubble tea and tapioca pudding their distinctive textures.
The humble yuca root. Photo by Mark Weinberg
Tapioca is made by extracting starch from the cassava root: The roots are processed to separate out the plant's naturally occurring cyanide, and what results is the purified starch.
You can purchase that starch as is (called tapioca, cassava, or manioc flour or starch—three names for the same thing), or as flakes, sticks, or pearls in a bevy of sizes.
The last of these—the tapioca pearls—is so familiar that you, I, might think of them as being tapioca's truest if not original form.
NB: Some tapioca, sold as “minute” or “instant,” generally comes in a granulated form; that's what gives it its “instant” nature. Make sure you're using the kind of tapioca the recipe you're following calls for! Otherwise, your tapioca might not gel up you're expecting it to.
You can buy flour/starch, instant tapioca, and small pearls at nearly any grocery store. If you want large pearls or boba (large, black, sweetened pearls used for making bubble tea), you may have to order them online or go to a specialty store or Asian grocery. Once you have some on your shelves, it'll stay good in a tightly sealed container for about a year.
And if you're tapioca flour/starch, you can grind tapioca pearls very finely and use them in its place. (Flour and pearls are different only in form.)
How to Use It
- Bubble tea! You'll want black tapioca pearls (often called “boba”) for bubble tea. They get their color from brown sugar—which also gives them their flavor. (If you use regular tapioca pearls, your pearls won't taste much of anything at all.) Buy the extra-wide straws, too—sucking pearls through a straw is half the fun.
- Use tapioca (either instant or flour/starch) as a thickener for pies, soups, gravies, or puddings. Simply whisk a bit into whatever you'd to thicken. And tapioca retains its texture even when frozen, which makes it a good option for thickening ice creams, soups, gravies, or anything else you might pop in the freezer—and it keeps whatever you're thickening glossy (and doesn't dull the colors or make them chalky at all, flour or cornstarch might).
- Tapioca pudding gets its name and its distinctive texture from tapioca pearls, large or small. It's as comforting and nostalgic as rice pudding.
- Tapioca has a place in sweet soups, too— this Chinese coconut red bean soup, this coconut and tapioca soup, or this Norwegian fruktsuppe.
- Lighten homemade gluten-free flour mixes with tapioca flour: Tapioca flour is flavorless, very fine, and not very dense—which makes it a good candidate for mixing into and cutting some of the heaviness of homemade gluten-free flour mixes. And its naturally stickiness will help bind and make chewy gluten-free baked goods (or gluten-containing baked goods, as with these beignets), which have a bad rap for being crumbly. Here's a good guide for making your own gluten-free flour.
- Substitute tapioca starch for cornstarch. Bob's Red Mill advises using 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. You can also substitute instant tapioca for cornstarch in most recipes (especially pie fillings) in a 1:1 ratio.
How do you use tapioca? Tell us about it in the comments.
The History and Use of Tapioca
You might know tapioca as the base of a sweet pudding, but this gluten-free starch extracted from the cassava root can be used as a thickening agent in both sweet and savory dishes.
Cultivation of the cassava plant, a native of Brazil also known as yucca, has spread throughout South America and Africa, while the culinary use of tapioca has become popular throughout the world. Although It's a staple in many countries, it contains no nutritional value.
- Uses: As a thickener in soups, stews, gravies; to add moisture and texture to baked goods
- Characteristics: Gluten-free
- Types: Pearls, flakes, and flour
- Cost: Inexpensive and widely available
Tapioca has a neutral flavor and strong gelling power, making it effective as a thickening agent in both sweet and savory foods. Un cornstarch, tapioca can withstand a freeze-thaw cycle without losing its gel structure or breaking down, making it an ideal thickener in ice cream recipes.
Tapioca starch can be purchased as flour or instant flakes; it's opaque prior to cooking but turns translucent upon hydration.
Tapioca pearls and powders are most often white or off-white, but the pearls, frequently used in desserts, can be dyed to just about any color. Tapioca pearls come in large and small sizes.
Boba are large sweetened pearls often dyed black and used for bubble tea.
Traditional uses for tapioca include tapioca pudding, bubble or boba tea, and other candies and desserts. Both tapioca pudding and boba tea are made with pearled tapioca, or small balls of tapioca starch that turn into a chewy, gummy ball when cooked.
In addition, tapioca adds body to soups, sauces, and gravies; it has more thickening power and generally costs less than flour and other thickeners.
Tapioca can be added to ground meat products, such as burger patties and chicken nuggets, as a binder and ingredient stabilizer. It traps moisture in a gel, so it's often added to baked goods to prevent the pastry from becoming soggy during storage.
Tapioca is a common ingredient in gluten-free products because it helps lighten the texture and maintain moisture in the absence of gluten.
Tapioca pearls must be soaked for up to 12 hours and then cooked in boiling liquid to form a gel. Quick-cooking or instant tapioca, with a more granular texture, can be whisked into soups, gravies, jams and jellies, pie fillings, and other creamy concoctions to act as a thickener. Tapioca flour can be used in place of other flours and as a 1:1 replacement for cornstarch.
Tapioca does not have much flavor on its own, but when sweetened and added to desserts such as pudding, it adds texture and heft. The lack of flavor is an advantage when it's used to thicken savory dishes such as soups and gravies.
Arrowroot and potato starch make appropriate substitutes for tapioca starch, as they share many characteristics, including their gluten-free status.
In a pinch, you can use wheat flour to thicken a sauce instead of tapioca, but it does add gluten to the recipe.
Cornstarch may work in some applications as well, particularly dairy-based sauces, but keep in mind that it adds cloudiness to a liquid whereas tapioca adds a glossy sheen, a desirable quality in a pie filling.
In addition to its thickening ability, tapioca can star in recipes both sweet and savory.
Tapioca is most often sold in pearl form, which can range in size from 1 millimeter to 8 millimeters in diameter. Smaller tapioca pearls are usually used for puddings, while the larger pearls are generally used in boba tea. It is also sold in flakes and powders, which are usually used to thicken sauces, soups, or gravies.
Tapioca pearls can be found at most major grocery stores in the baking aisle. Flakes and powders are usually sold at health food or natural food grocers. You may need to look online for boba, the larger tapioca pearls.
Tapioca starch is a dry product and can be stored indefinitely as long as it is kept sealed tightly to prevent exposure to heat, moisture, and bugs. Do not store any type of tapioca in the refrigerator or freezer.
Because tapioca is the extracted starch from the cassava root, it is nearly 100 percent carbohydrate. Trace elements of other nutrients may remain in the tapioca, but tapioca is considered fat- and protein-free. One cup of dried tapioca pearls (152 grams) contains roughly 544 calories, 135 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fat, and 0 grams of protein.