Botanical Name: Manihot esculenta
Tapioca is a one of the purest forms of food starch and is a by-product of manioc flour production from cassava roots (aka yuka or maniot), the tubers of a woody shrub native to South America. The plant was carried by early explorers to most of the West Indies, Africa, and Asia and is now cultivated worldwide. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on low-nutrient soils, and is a major staple food throughout the developing world. After cassava plants are harvested, their roots are treated to remove naturally occurring toxins found in the plant. The starch is then processed into one of several popular forms: powder, flakes, sticks or ball-shaped “pearls” which are the most popular form and used to make tapioca pudding and bubble tea.
Qualities: Tapioca is mostly carbohydrate (1 cup of tapioca = 45% of daily carbohydrate requirement) and a rich source of dietary fiber yet naturally low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It is almost completely free of gluten and thus a common ingredient in many gluten-free manufactured foods, helping to improve texture and moisture. Furthermore, tapioca contains members of the vitamin B-complex, including pantothenic acid, folate, and B6, as well as iron, manganese, calcium, copper, and selenium.
Common use: Tapioca has a neutral flavor and strong gelling power, making it highly useable as a thickening agent in both sweet and savory foods. It is opaque prior to cooking but turns translucent upon hydration. Unlike Cornstarch, it can withstand a freeze thaw cycle without losing its gel structure or breaking down. Tapioca must be soaked and then boiled with a liquid to form a gel and is therefore usually added to food prior to cooking. For instance, to use it in a pie filling, mix it with the other ingredients, then let it sit for at least five minutes so that the tapioca can absorb some of the liquid.
The roots of the cassava plant, besides making tapioca, can also be found in the manufacturing of biodegradable plastic substitutes.
Substitute: Arrowroot powder has similar qualities and can be used as a substitute.
Storage: store in a cool, dark, dry place
Disclaimer: this information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA or CFIA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This product has been packaged in the same facility as peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and other potential allergens.