Cassava flour shows up in many gluten-free and grain-free paleo products (like cassava flour tortillas and pizza crust), but you may not be familiar with it as an ingredient in its own right. Here’s what you should know about it.
What Is Cassava Flour?
Cassava flour is a nut-, gluten- and grain-free flour made from the root of the cassava plant (also known as yuca, manioc, or manihot esculenta). The whole root is peeled, dried, and ground to make flour. Tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour) is also made from cassava root, but just the extracted cassava starch is used, not the whole root vegetable.
Otto's Naturals Cassava Flour, $14.99 from Amazon
Make your favorite recipes grain-, gluten- and nut-free easily with this flour, which has the most neutral taste of the brands we’ve tried.
Is Cassava Good for You?
Yes, and no. “Cassava flour is both gluten-free and grain-free. While these two attributes don’t automatically equal a healthy food item, they do make this flour a great option for those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy,” says registered dietician Summer Yule.
People who have poor digestion or autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s also may benefit from reducing or eliminating grains, and cassava can be a convenient substitute. But even if it’s better for you, you still have to be mindful of how much you eat.
“Grain-based desserts like cakes, cookies, pies, and doughnuts are the largest source of calories in the American diet. Using an alternative flour in recipes for these desserts can create a ‘health halo’ around these items, and a person may feel it is OK to indulge in larger portions,” Yule warns. “The truth is that these desserts are still generally very high in calories, so the portion size should still be kept small. Desserts made with cassava flour are still desserts.”
Related Reading: Why Prebiotic Fiber Is the Most Important Kind You Can Eat
How to Use Cassava Flour
Cassava makes a good substitute for wheat flour in baking and other recipes. Though the common wisdom is that you can swap cassava for all-purpose flour 1:1, in practice you may need to play around a bit with your favorite recipes to adapt them. Though cassava is lightweight and powdery like all-purpose flour, it absorbs more liquid, so you may need a bit less cassava than you’re used to using with all-purpose.
Though it’s fairly neutral, cassava does have a slight sour taste (different brands vary on how pronounced it is), so that’s something else to consider when swapping it.
Tip: Cassava flour is generally very light in texture, but different brands vary in weight. When making a recipe, it’s best to weigh the cassava flour instead of measuring it by cup to ensure that you get the amount you need.
Digital Kitchen Scale, $12.95 on Amazon
Key equipment for getting the right amount of cassava flour for your recipes.
How to Store Cassava Flour
Store cassava flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry pantry. You can refrigerate or freeze it, but it isn’t necessary.
Related Reading: The Best Plastic-Free Food Storage Options
Other Cassava Products
With cassava hitting trend status, no wonder companies have jumped in and created products featuring it. Here are a few of our favorites:
Grain-free, gluten free, vegan, soy free—get everything you want and nothing you don’t with these tortillas. They toast and fold like regular tortillas and taste somewhere between flour and corn.Buy Now
If potato chips are your jam, you’ll love this paleo, non-GMO alternative. With just three ingredients—cassava, sustainable palm oil, and sea salt—they scratch the chip itch but with more nutrients and fiber than potato.Buy Now
Choose from Original, Everything, Garlic & Herb, and Jalapeno—all are nutrient dense, grain- and gluten-free, non-GMO, and paleo-friendly.Buy Now
Bottom line, if you have food allergies or need to stick to a grain- and gluten-free diet, you might want to try incorporating cassava flour and other cassava products into your rotation, but everything in moderation.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock