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Basics first. What is tapioca? Well, simply put tapioca is the starch derived from the root of the green boughed bitter cassava, aipim or manioc plant. It is said that the bitter cassava plant has roots that have a very harmful cyanogenic glucosides, linamarin and lotaustralin content. So, it becomes necessary to process the roots through which substantial amounts of starch can be obtained, given that cassava is the 3rd best source of carbohydrates in the world. The English name tapioca is derived from the South American Tupi name tipi'óka, which itself is basically the name of the procedure by which cassava starch is rendered edible. Now, once processed, the starch can be made into powdered opaque tapioca flour, rectangular sticks, pearls with a diameter of 2 to 3 mm and of course tapioca flakes. So, therefore tapioca flour vs. tapioca starch is only an issue when you do not know what variety of the starch you want. The cassava plant once thrived naturally only in the Amazon belt but now is grown globally because of the plant products that are eaten in so many countries today.

INDEX

» Tapioca Flour Uses
» Tapioca Flour Nutrition
» Tapioca Flour Recipes
» Tapioca Flour Alternatives

Called bột năng in Vietnam, tapioca flour most notably has gained in popularity due to the fact that it is gluten-free. Now this is a very important consideration for myriad people in the world, given that nearly 1 in 100 people in the UK alone is affected by gluten-related coeliac issues that has rendered their gastrointestinal tract damaged for life. So, naturally gluten-intolerant people prefer to use pre-leached tapioca flour for a number of culinary uses. So, let us begin with some of the uses of tapioca flour and then go on to other considerations.

Tapioca Flour Uses

An unusual trait of tapioca flour happens to be that this smooth-textured, light and super white flour goes from opaque to translucent, on being cooked. And this happens to one of the very reasons that tapioca is so often used in cooking. Let us see some other uses of tapioca flour.
  • Tapioca flour is one of the preferred bets when it comes to baking, because it renders a very desirable chewiness to baked products such as patties, muffins and biscuits.
  • Whether baking French bread or white, tapioca flour is extremely suitable for the purpose, leaving you with very white loaves.
  • It is a rather economical thickener given that it inspissates at relatively low temperature, saving energy in the process. Since it thickens so readily, sauce correction at the last minute is easier with tapioca flour at hand. It also happens to remain stable and not coagulate or separate out on being chilled, unlike cornstarch. So, a natural choice for delicacies that require freezing.
  • Tapioca flour can be used to thicken pie fillings, sauces, gravies, stews and soups as it leaves them looking glossy, sheeny and very appetizing.
  • Tapioca flour is a very good thickener to use in Crock Pot or slow cooking recipes.
  • Tapioca flour also happens to be a fantastic dredging flour, when mixed with cornstarch. You can simply cover the chicken or any other item with the flour, immerse it in whipped egg and then again coat it with the flour and voila! Your food's well-dredged to be fried.
So, this is how cooks all over make use of tapioca flour. Since it has no aroma of its own, it doesn't tamper with the flavours of the dish. One has to mix the flour to a little cold water in order to avoid lump formation and yes, refrain from overcooking as tapioca doesn't adapt well to that and loses its thickening powers.

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Tapioca Flour Nutrition

Other than being a gluten-free flour, what other nutritive aspects does tapioca flour have? The following data will answer that question of yours. Now in 40 grams of tapioca flour, you can expect to find about 130 calories and all of it comes from carbohydrates alone. You will find approximately 26 grams of carbohydrates in 4 tablespoons of tapioca flour, which makes up for 9% of the Daily Value stipulation for carbs in a day. This flour has no fats in any form, no vitamins and no minerals in it and is almost protein-free as well.

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Tapioca Flour Recipes

Here I give you a few recipes that you can concoct with tapioca flour. You will notice the qualities of this flour as soon as you employ it for dishing out gastronomic delights.

*Click on the images for a better look.
Tapioca Flour Waffles in the Waffle IronTapioca Flour WafflesTapioca Flour Waffles
For 8 scrumptious waffles, you must have,
  • Tapioca flour, 4 cups
  • Egg yolks, 16 (8 whisked and 8 beaten until stiff peaks form)
  • Milk, 2 cups
  • Baking powder, 4 tsp.
Procedure
Place the tapioca flour, the whisked eggs, the nut milk and the baking powder in a bowl and then blend all of them thoroughly. After that, fold the stiffly beaten eggs into the mixture. Now lubricate a waffle iron and get the waffle mixture to get baked on it.

Making CrêpesTapioca Flour CrêpesTapioca Flour Crêpes
For these pancakes you'll need,
  • Tapioca flour, ½ cup
  • Eggs, 2 (beaten)
  • Water, 2 tbsp.
  • Vanilla, 1 tsp.
Procedure
Mix in the vanilla, water and the flour with the beaten eggs and allow the semi-liquid mixture to stand for 5 - 7 minutes. Now lubricate a skillet with bare minimum oil and heat on a medium-high flame. When the skillet's optimally hot but not smoking, pour about ⅓ cup of the batter into the pan and twirl the pan so that you have a circular pancake-like but thin disc on it. Now as the pancake becomes brown on the periphery, turn it over and cook for another 5 minutes. After that you can remove it from the skillet and serve with some sauce.

Since tapioca is so popular in Brazilian cuisine, I cannot help but leave you with this traditional Brazilian recipe enjoyed with milk shake, coffee or pineapple juice.

Rolling the dough to make Pão de Queijo do Luis LuizPão de Queijo do Luis LuizPão de Queijo do Luis Luiz
Gather,
  • Tapioca flour, 500 gms.
  • Parmesan cheese, 200 gms. (grated)
  • Milk, 1½ cup
  • Peanut oil, ½ cup
  • Eggs, 2
  • Salt, 1 dessert spoon
Procedure
Pour the milk, peanut oil and eggs into a mixer and blend for a whole minute at medium speed. After that add the cheese to it and blend till you have a smooth mixture. In a glass bowl, mix the flour and salt and fold in with the blended mixture with a wooden spatula. Keep mixing until you have a uniform concoction. Now dig into this dough and make multiple bite sized balls out of it. Get your oven heated to 200° C and then bake these balls on a cookie sheet for 25 minutes. Once they turn golden brown, take them out of the oven, cool for a bit and then devour!

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Tapioca Flour Alternatives

Now in case you cannot lay your hands on this fantastic starchy flour, you can use these substitutes for tapioca flour.
  • You can use an equal amount of tapioca pearls, blend them in a mixer and use it for thickening pie filling.
  • You can use double the amount of instant flour for sauces. But you must know that your sauce will no more be translucent or resistive to chilling.
  • Using potato starch, arrowroot or rice starch instead of tapioca flour is also possible, but all the three options separate out on being cooled. So, use them for dishes that require no chilling.
  • For 1 cup of tapioca flour you can commingle three-fourth cup of regular flour and one-fourth cup of cornstarch.
  • Since tapioca flour is a great cornstarch substitute, you can use cornstarch instead of tapioca, too. But again cornstarch isn't stable on cooling and also happens to take a lot of time to thicken.
  • In my opinion, your best bet would be to use sweet rice flour instead of tapioca flour, as it doesn't separate out on cooling, just like the flour it is replacing.
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Finally, I will leave you with two dry, gluten-free and super versatile mixtures that can be made using the flour of tapioca. These mixtures can replace flour successfully in any given dish.

Magic Gluten-free Flour Mixtures with Tapioca Flour

Motley #1
  • Tapioca flour, 1 cup
  • Coconut flour, 1 cup
  • Oat flour, 1 cup
  • White rice flour, 1 cup
  • Cornstarch, ¼ cup
  • Xantham gum, 3½ teaspoons
Commingle thoroughly until uniformly mixed and store in an air-tight jar. Substitute an equal part of this gluten-free mixture with flour in any recipe of your choice, especially when making cookies.

Motley #2
  • Tapioca starch, 1 cup
  • Brown rice flour, 2½ cups
  • White rice flour, 2 cups
  • Potato starch, ½ cup
  • Xanthan gum, 3 tablespoons
Mix the brown rice flour, white rice flour, potato starch with the tapioca starch and then add the xanthan gum. Blend really well for a perfect gluten-free flour mixture that can be used for almost all culinary purposes.

Try these out soon. Many people swear by the goodness of tapioca flour, so even you are bound to gain from it. After all, this flour works for your well-being and makes your food look good as well.