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Tapioca flour is an incredibly useful starchy flour to have in your toolkit. It can be used as a thickener for sauces, pie fillings and gravies. It's also an essential flour in gluten-free baking and gives an excellent crust and golden brown hue to your bakes.
Table of contents
- What is tapioca flour?
- What is the difference between tapioca flour and tapioca starch?
- Tapioca flour properties
- Tapioca flour uses
- How to use tapioca flour in gluten-free baking
- Is tapioca flour better than cornflour (cornstarch)?
- Brazilian Cheese Bread Rolls
- Where can you buy tapioca flour
- How to store it
What is tapioca flour?
It is a light powdery flour ground from the dried starchy and tuberous root of the cassava plant which is native to South America. Tapioca flour is slightly different to cassava flour itself in that it is extracted from the starch of the cassava root whereas cassava flour is made from the entire root so is less processed.
Along with sweet rice flour and oat flour, tapioca flour is one of the most useful gluten-free flours as it is invaluable in both everyday cooking and baking. I use a little here and a little there in my bakes and when making sauces so although it is a flour you may use often, you rarely need vast quantities of it.
What is the difference between tapioca flour and tapioca starch?
There is no difference and the names can be used interchangeably (unlike potato flour and potato starch).
Tapioca flour properties
It's not the most healthy alternative flour you could choose as it's made up of nearly all carbohydrates with little protein. However, it is a good source of iron and calcium so it's not all bad.
We also can't knock it for its incredible versatility in the kitchen.
Can tapioca flour replace all purpose/plain flour?
It's not a great 1:1 substitute for baking cakes or cookies as too much of it can cause bakes to go gummy. However, it can be used to replace flour on a 1:1 ratio when making sauces or gravies.
Tapioca flour uses
As a thickener
Due to the fact that it absorbs and retains a high water content tapioca flour is excellent at thickening gravies, stews, soups, sauces and pie fillings.
Mix 2 teaspoons of tapioca flour with 2 tablespoons of room temperature water until a light paste is formed. Remove the gravy from the heat source and whisk in the tapioca flour paste until smooth. Return to the heat source, stirring well, on low for about 10 minutes for the tapioca flour to thicken.
As a crispy coating
Since tapioca flour gives an excellent crust and also browns very well it's great to use instead of all purpose flour as a coating for frying. In this recipe for Crispy Salmon Nuggets it gives a lovely golden hue to the coating of the salmon.
Tapioca flour is an excellent choice for gluten-free batters as it adds a bouncy stretch, allowing the batter to rise. It also gives the batter a beautiful golden hue and a lovely crunch to the surface.
READ MORE >>> Gluten-Free Toad in the Hole
How to use tapioca flour in gluten-free baking
To mimic gluten
When we remove gluten from our baking then one of the crucial elements that we lack is the binding properties of the gluten. Tapioca flour is one of the ways we can mimic this binding and create bounce in our bakes. It saves our cakes from being a dry crumbly disaster. Tapioca can be found in many commercial blends of gluten-free flour to aid in the structure and texture of bakes.
Blend with other flours
You can get the most out of tapioca flour in your baking by mixing it with other flours or starches. Too much tapioca flour can result in your bakes becoming thick and gummy. A little goes a long way so it can be used judiciously but its role is by no means insignificant.
For advice in how to blend flours read more >>> The Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free & Alternative Flours
Top Tip: Rest your cake batter
When using tapioca flour it is recommended to rest your cake batter or cookie dough for at least 10 minutes before going into the oven to allow the tapioca flour to absorb the liquids fully and thicken properly.
Is tapioca flour better than cornflour (cornstarch)?
Tapioca and cornflour (cornstarch) are both starches and so perform similar functions. Tapioca flour definitely provides a smoother more velvety texture. However its slightly sweet flavour is a little more pronounced and gives more of a sticky bind than cornflour. Tapioca flour also gives a shinier appearance than cornflour so if it's looks you are after then it's definitely the one to use.
Brazilian Cheese Bread Rolls
Although as mentioned above tapioca flour isn't a great gluten-free 1:1 flour, there is one particular bake in which tapioca flour shines. This recipe is certainly reason enough for stocking up on tapioca flour forever more. These Easy Gluten-Free Cheese Bread Rolls (also known as Brazilian Cheese Bread or Pão de Queijo) are incredible with tapioca flour as the main ingredient.
It highlights all the best qualities of tapioca flour. The bread rolls are crisp and golden on the outside and deliciously chewy on the inside.
Looking for more uses for your tapioca flour?
Hey, why not try making your own tapioca pearls for bubble tea. It's easier than you think.
Where can you buy tapioca flour
It’s not difficult to get hold of tapioca flour in the UK. You can often find 100g pots of Doves Farm Tapioca Flour in the supermarket but it’s quite costly and doesn’t give you very much. You can find more varied brands in health food shops in bags of about 500g. The cost depends entirely on the brand you purchase.
BUY HERE >>> Gluten-Free Tapioca Flour
How to store it
Like other starches tapioca flour will store well in a cool dark place for up to year. Keep in an airtight container so no moisture can get in.