- Tapioca is an odorless and tasteless starch obtained from cassava
- Tapioca can be used in a wide range of dishes and recipes
- Tapioca starch or flour is naturally gluten-free
- Ensure you buy certified gluten-free tapioca if you are on a gluten-free diet
Tapioca is an odorless and tasteless cassava derivative, used as an ingredient in a wide range of recipes and dishes. But is tapioca gluten-free?
Tapioca is considered gluten-free. Tapioca is obtained from the cassava root. And, cassava is naturally gluten-free. So, tapioca should be safe to consume for people on a gluten-free diet. However, ensure you only purchase certified gluten-free tapioca if you are on a gluten-free diet.
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What is Tapioca?
Tapioca is a type of starch obtained from the cassava root. It’s similar in appearance to other starchy foods like potato flour and corn flour. It’s bright white with extremely fine particles.
It’s extracted from the tapioca root via two distinct processes – washing and pulping. First, wet pulp will be extracted from the tapioca root and then set aside. This pulp will then be pressed and squeezed to extract the starchy tapioca liquid.
Since tapioca is both tasteless and odorless, you can add it to almost any recipe, without changing the taste, color or flavor.
There is a difference between tapioca flour and cassava flour. Cassava flour has a higher fiber content when compared to tapioca flour. The texture of cassava flour is grittier than that of tapioca flour.
Uses of Tapioca
Tapioca can be used in a wide range of dishes and recipes. For instance, you can use it as a thickening agent for soups, gravies, and sauces. It delivers a better thickening consistency than the majority of the other flours out there. And, it’s also cheaper.
Also, you can add tapioca to meat products such as chicken nuggets and burger patties. When added to such products, it can help to trap moisture, thus helping to lock in the flavors.
You can also use tapioca during baking. Adding this starch to your baked goods will give them an airy, chewy, crispy and light texture. It’s a perfect addition to baked delicacies like pie crusts, cookies and bread.
Some people also use tapioca to make flatbread. This bread can then be served with different topics as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.
Also, you can use this starch to make bubble tea. Here, you will use tapioca balls or tapioca pearls instead of the flour. Tapioca balls and pearls come in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Health Benefits of Tapioca
Tapioca is rich in carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds.
Tapioca is a reliable source of dietary fiber, thereby enhancing the process of digestion. With the right digestion, one is going to prevent a plethora of stomach disorders.
Whereas many people get worried about being obese, being underweight is not healthy either. With tapioca, one can gain weight in a healthy way. The high carbohydrate portion means that one can add bulk to the diet without adding unhealthy cholesterol.
This is why after an illness or surgery, people choose tapioca in order to gain weight in a controllable way.
But perhaps the population group which gains most from tapioca is the vegetarian group. The vegan people do not have a reliable stream of protein, and they have to be very creative in this. The use of tapioca gives them protein without compromising their vegan lifestyle.
The Journal Medical Hypothesis states that the use of tapioca plays a critical role in enhancing mental health, and in particular, preventing Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin K which is found in tapioca is very important in enhancing neuro-health.
Gluten occurs naturally in wheat, barley, rye and a couple of other grains in this family. It acts as the glue in these cereals, meaning it holds the grain together, thus helping it to maintain its distinct shape. It is also very important in giving some foods texture.
And, close to 99% of the world’s population can tolerate gluten. However, the remaining one percent of the adult population has gluten issues.
Individuals in this one percent have various gluten-related complications like celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergy, among others.
If someone with gluten-related issues accidentally consumed anything with gluten, they will experience various adverse symptoms. The extent will depend on the exact condition and the level of sensitivity.
So, if you fall in the former group, then you have to live on a gluten-free diet.
This will require that you peruse the market and check out foods which are certified gluten free. The good news is that the gluten free market is becoming a major market, thereby giving you a plethora of choices to choose from.
Organizations such as the FDA have made a deliberate attempt to give consumers information regarding gluten. Similarly, some individual companies feel that it is their responsibility to give consumers the information that they seek.
If what the market offers does not fit you, then the best thing to do is cooking your own food at home.
Does Tapioca Have Gluten?
So, is tapioca gluten free? If you have gluten problems it’s important to be cautious of the foods you eat. As we’ve pointed out above, consuming any gluten-containing food or drink will leave you with undesirable complications.
And, this brings us to the point; does tapioca have gluten? Is tapioca gluten-free? Can people on a gluten-free diet consume foods or drinks with tapioca?
The good news is that tapioca is naturally gluten-free and with consuming tapioca, you are consuming tapioca gluten free and tapioca flour gluten free. This extends to tapioca starch gluten free. Tapioca is extracted from the cassava root and not gluten-containing grains.
Tapioca flour is a white and fine powder which does very well with gluten free baking. Therefore, tapioca is considered gluten-free. Consequently, tapioca should be safe for individuals on a gluten free diet.
Tapioca pearls are a tapioca starch that have different uses such as making bubble tea, and the good thing is that they are gluten free.
Is Tapioca Safe for People with Celiac Disease?
Tapioca is extracted from a naturally gluten-free source – cassava root. Therefore, we can confidently say that tapioca is safe for people with celiac disease or anyone on a gluten-free diet.
How to Buy Gluten-Free Tapioca
While tapioca is considered naturally gluten-free, it doesn’t mean that this will be the case for every type that you come across out there. The problem of contamination of gluten free tapioca flour is real.
For instance, you may come across some tapioca pearls with flavorings and colorings. And, some of the flavorings, colorings and other additives on such tapioca pearls may contain gluten. As a result, such tapioca won’t be gluten-free.
Also, some tapioca manufacturers produce gluten-containing flours like wheat flour. And as you may expect, the same equipment will be used to process the different types of flours, meaning there’s a possibility of tapioca gluten cross-contamination.
Simply put, the possibility of buying gluten-containing tapioca is always there. So, how can you prevent this issue if you are on a gluten-free diet?
Well, there’s only one solution to this – buying certified gluten-free tapioca. Such tapioca has been tested and certified gluten-free tapioca, meaning it’s safe to consume for anyone on a gluten-free diet.
Though it is not easy, you may try to prepare tapioca flour at home. You can then proceed to a specific recipe such as tapioca pudding gluten free.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker