Is Cassava the Same as Tapioca? Which One To Use and Why.

Find out the differences between cassava and tapioca, what they are used for individually and the best substitutes for each of them in cooking and baking.

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Is Cassava and Tapioca The Same?

No, they are not the same. Cassava and tapioca are the 2 names given to represent different forms of the same plant.

Cassava refers to the plant and its root is called the cassava root that is a form of tuber, much like a potato, yam, taro and plantains.

Tapioca is the starchy liquid extracted from ground cassava root during the production process.

Is Cassava Flour and Tapioca Flour The Same?

No, they are not the same. This is understandable as both flour types are light weight, white in color and when rubbed in between your fingers, feels chalky and smooth.

The confusion between the terms cassava flour and tapioca flour arises when you are at the shops as the names seem to be used interchangeably.

Freshly unearthed cassava roots

Cassava flour is made from the entire root of the plant that is finely ground or grated, dried out and processed into a flour. It is high in carbohydrates, potassium and dietary fiber content. 

It is naturally gluten-free, grain-free and nut-free. This makes it an ideal ingredient for vegetarian, vegan and paleo baking and cooking.

And naturally, because it’s made from the whole tuber, cassava flour also has more nutritional value compared to its tapioca counterpart.

Tapioca flour is made from the starchy water part of the cassava plant and does not contain fiber. It is also known as tapioca starch that has been squeezed out of the cassava root, then left to evaporate leaving a powdery substance. It is commonly used as a thickener due to its excellent coagulant properties.

It is high in carbohydrates too but has very low nutritional value compared to cassava flour. There is hardly any fat, cholesterol or protein in it and it is low in sodium.

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Both flours have a mild and neutral flavor.

It can be used as an alternative to wheat flour in breads and cakes but it does have a higher glycemic index than other flours.

What Are Cassava and Tapioca Used For Individually?

Cassava flour is used as a thickener for sauces, gravies and soups. It adds body and texture to these dishes.

Tapioca is used in desserts, puddings, custards and ice cream. It helps thicken and bind ingredients together.

Due to their neutral flavor,  it is possible to add either one of them to improve your recipe for texture and structure, without affecting the taste of the recipe.

Is cassava, manioc and yuca the same?

Yes, they are just different names given to the same plant.

The cassava plant is a drought-tolerant native to South America, Africa and Asia. In these regions, it is widely cultivated and consumed as staple food.

Yuca is the Spanish word for cassava whereas manioc is from French.

Is it yuca or yucca?

Yuca vs Yucca

It depends on what you are referring to. Both names do exist but are referring to two different types of plants.

If you are meaning to refer to the edible tuber vegetable of the cassava plant or as Manihot esculenta then it is yuca.

As for the other name, yucca is referring to a plant found natively in North America, Mexico and the Carribean. It is related to the Asparagaceae a flowering asparagus family.

The yucca is a tall perennial herb with large leaves and yellow flowers.

Many of the Native American tribes that grew up being surrounded by this plant have developed extensive uses from it.

The yellow flowers are actually edible, and have been described as tasting like a cross between green beans and artichoke with a slight bitter taste. It does not produce a root vegetable at all.

There have been many instances that restaurants may misspell “yuca” as “yucca” in their menu by naming their dishes as “yucca chips” or “yucca soup”.

But now, you know better…

When To Use Cassava and Tapioca Together?

You can use them together if you want to add thickness and body to your recipes. You can also mix them with other flours to create unique flavor combinations.

For example, you can combine 1 cup of cassava flour with ½ cup of tapioca flour to get a thicker consistency.

What Are Cassava and Tapioca Used For In Cooking?

Cassava Uses In Cooking

Even though the cassava root and tapioca starch originate from the same plant, they are both used for different purposes in baking and cooking due to their different properties.

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Cassava is a root vegetable that is high in carbohydrates and potassium. It is very similar to the shape and consistency of potatoes.

It is found in many Caribbean and Brazilian culinary dishes.

For savoury dishes, cassava can be mashed, added into soup or turned into cassava chips. It can even be baked, roasted, boiled, grilled, fried, steamed and treated very much like a potato in culinary dishes.

Even cassava leaves can be used for a soup that is widely eaten in parts of Central Africa, in countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Tapioca Uses In Cooking

Tapioca starch extract can be fermented and turned into kasiri, a type of cassava beer. It is also boiled and thickened into a dark sauce called cassareep that can be used for flavoring and making a distinct and hearty dish for Guyanese pepperpot.

Tapioca flour can be used as batter for frying too.

What Are Cassava and Tapioca Used For In Baking?

Cassava Uses In Baking

In the case of baking, the starch content in cassava flour makes it very absorbent so it will soak up liquids quickly. This means that it is not going to rise well but this can be overcome by adding more liquid to the mixture while giving your baked products a moist texture. It is also lighter than all-purpose flour in the same measurements so expect some experimentation before achieving your desired result.

Cassava flour is used often in gluten-free baking goods such as breads, cakes, muffins, cookies and pastries. In Asia, there are recipes for Filipino and Vietnamese cassava cake.

It can be combined with other flours such as rice flour and corn flour to give it more structure and consistency.

It can be used in place of wheat flour when making pasta because it has an almost identical gluten structure. However, it tends to make the finished product have less elasticity compared to wheat flour.

It is not uncommon to combine it with almond flour in order to increase its nutrient density.

Tapioca Uses In Baking

Like cassava flour, tapioca flour absorbs water quickly and gives off a lot of steam during cooking which causes the dessert to puff up. When cooked, it becomes firm and chewy, hence it is used quite often for deserts such as bubble tea, puddings and jelly.

Cassava Flour Savoury Recipes

Cooking savory dishes with cassava flour you can make empanadas, naan, pasta dough, tortillas, dumplings, crackers, pies, soups and even bread

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Cassava Flour Sweet Recipes

Sweet cassava flour recipes can include pancakes, muffins and cookies

It is very similar to recipes that involve all-purpose or regular flour.

Best Substitute for Cassava

The best substitutes for cassava would be other tuber crops such as potatoes, sweet potato or yam.

Keep in mind that cassava has a mild and neutral flavor so root vegetables like sweet potato and yam might give an added sweetness to your dish.

However, if you’re looking for that earthy, neutral with a subtle nutty flavor, then potato varieties such as Red, Fingerling, Yukon Gold or Russet would be your best bet.

Best Substitutes for Cassava Flour

Best substitute for cassava flour can be either all-purpose or regular flour, rice flour, corn flour or arrowroot flour. 

Cassava flour does have its challenges when it comes to baking because it is quite absorbent, much like coconut flour. Having said that, cassava flour has a milder flavor that will less likely affect the taste of your baked goods. The replacement ratio will not be a straightforward swap and it will require some testing.

Cassava flour is very high in carbohydrates so it will not be suitable for keto baking or low carb baking or cooking.

You can try using chia seed flour, almond flour, coconut flour or psyllium husk powder if you are planning to embark on a keto-friendly diet.

Best Substitutes for Tapioca Flour

Tapioca is used as a thickener for soups and cooking gravies as well as a flour for thickening desserts such as pudding, custards or jelly.

It is commonly used in desserts where a light texture is desired.

Therefore, corn starch, chickpea flour, potato flour or potato starch, and vegetable gelatin are good alternatives to tapioca flour.

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