In this article we cover cassava vs tapioca queries including, “Is cassava same as tapioca?”, difference between cassava and tapioca and their individual uses.
In order to discuss the topic of tapioca vs cassava properly, we need to know what they are in the first place and how to make sure you are buying the right ingredient for your recipe.
What Is Cassava?
Cassava refers to the whole plant and its root is called the cassava root. It is a form of tuber, much like a potato, yam, taro and plantains.
Cassava is a root vegetable that is very similar to the shape of sweet potatoes and shares similar properties and cooking qualities.
The cassava plant is also known in Latin as manihot esculenta. It originated from Latin America and grows in Africa and other parts of Asia.
Once considered a minor crop, the humble cassava root has grown to become a staple food in developing countries feeding half a billion people.Other names for cassava are manioc, yuca, tapioca, mandioca and casabe. It is capable of living in poorer soil conditions with very little water.
Is Cassava Same As Tapioca?
Yes, they are the same. Cassava and tapioca are the two names given to represent the same plant.
One of the cassava vs tapioca topics that needs to be cleared up is; is cassava and tapioca the same?
In some parts of the world such as Asia, cassava is more commonly known as tapioca. Cassava refers to the whole plant and its root is called the cassava root that is a form of tuber, much like a potato, yam, taro and plantains whereas tapioca is the starchy liquid extracted from ground cassava root during the production process.
Besides calling it cassava and tapioca, the question; Is cassava, manioc and yuca the same?, comes up quite often too and we have covered that in another article.
However, they can be used interchangeably which can cause confusion at the shopping aisle or when a recipe calls for either one.
Difference Between Cassava and Tapioca.
One main difference between cassava and tapioca that comes up often is the labeling on the flour packet.
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 can also be 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.
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.
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 due to its high carbohydrate content.
The confusion between the tapioca vs cassava terms arises when you are at the shops as the names seem to be used interchangeably.
Cassava flour is used as a gluten-free alternative to regular flour. It does have a more earthy flavor that can actually enhance the taste of your baked goods.
It can be used as a thickener for sauces, gravies and soups. It adds body and texture to these dishes.
Tapioca flour is more likely used in desserts, puddings, custards and ice cream. It helps thicken and bind ingredients together.
Cassava Flour Vs Tapioca Flour Nutrition Facts
To ensure you are getting the right ingredient regardless of the label, take a look at the packaging’s nutrition facts.
In the case of tapioca vs cassava, cassava flour naturally will have dietary fiber content whereas tapioca flour will have no fiber content listed on its nutrition facts at all.
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.
Cassava Flour Vs Tapioca Flour Difference In Texture
Cassava in the form of flour is more gritty due to its fiber content, pretty similar to the texture of coconut flour whereas tapioca flour which is made from cassava starch, is finer, smoother, and more powdery.
Tapioca flour can sometimes be labeled as tapioca starch and would turn into a sticky, glue-like substance when it is mixed with water.
Cassava vs Tapioca Summary
We hope we have cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the references made in this cassava vs tapioca article.
In many recipe books, the difference between cassava and tapioca may not be distinct so you will have to look into their glossary to make sure you have the right ingredient.
Buying cassava flour or tapioca flour online can be tricky since you can not have a closer look at the product to ascertain its physical properties. When in doubt, look for the nutrition facts that could be shown in one of the images or listed in the description.
If any fiber content greater than 0 has been specified, then that product is most probably cassava flour. Tapioca flour does not have any fiber, so fiber may not even be listed on its nutrition facts.
And if you are still unsure, it is best to contact the supplier or retailer. Let them know the properties of the flour you are after and what you want to use it for, so that they can get back to you with the right answer.
And to answer the question: Is cassava same as tapioca? It certainly is. The names cassava and tapioca can be referring to the same root vegetable. It just depends which part of the world has manufactured it and labelled it as such.
The only way to be sure is to have a good look at the nutrition facts, regardless of what is labeled on the packaging.
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.
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 a 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.
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.