Cassava flour is a great substitute to use for baking and cooking due to its increased absorption capabilities, rich fiber, and carbohydrate content. It has similar physical traits to all-purpose or wheat flours.
Table of Contents
- What you need to know
- How is cassava flour made?
- Is cassava flour grain-free?
- What is the difference between cassava flour and tapioca flour?
- Can cassava flour be substituted for all-purpose wheat flour?
- Can cassava flour be substituted for almond flour?
- Baking with cassava flour
- When substituting cassava for wheat
- Cooking with cassava flour
- What are the health benefits of cassava flour?
- Are there any risks?
- Is cassava flour low in histamine?
Maybe you’ve seen it on blogs that say “top 5 gluten or grain-free flour options,” or you’ve caught the name on specific ingredient labels at your local health food store. The cassava plant, also known as yucca or manioc, has been well established across the globe for years as a great alternative flour source for nutritional and economic reasons.
There’s more to this plant than what’s on the surface – but deeper within its roots. The entire plant is edible, providing a great source of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, and can be used in various cooking and baking recipes to offer delicious and nutritious food for you and your family.
What you need to know
Also referred to as High-Quality Cassava Flour, this ingredient is made from the root of the cassava plant. It’s rich in carbohydrates (about 27 grams) and contains about 20 mg of calcium per ¼ cup.1 Fine, dusty and white in appearance, cassava flour has been associated with baking and cooking as a gluten-free ingredient.
How is cassava flour made?
Cassava roots are first washed and/or peeled, then soaked in water to ferment for several days. As they soak and ferment, they soften and detoxify. The roots are adequately pressed and dewatered and then grated or chopped into slices or chips. They are immediately sent to dry on concrete floors by the sun, on trays, or in artificial dryers before being milled/ground and sieved.
The color should be white or cream, odorless, bland or sweet, and should not be labeled “not for food.”2 Cassava flour can also be produced for manufacturing purposes to support the transportation of materials. The flour used for non-human consumption purposes is not processed as intensively and has an increased risk for containing naturally occurring toxins that can cause health concerns. Therefore, only consume high-quality cassava flour.
Is cassava flour grain-free?
Yes. Because cassava root is a vegetable, this ingredient is grain-free. This means there is no risk of gluten allergies or sensitivities. Plus, it’s an excellent option for those following grain-free diets, like paleo. However, because this root is a rich source of carbohydrates, diets low in sugar or carbohydrate intake might want to find alternative sources.
What is the difference between cassava flour and tapioca flour?
Tapioca is the extracted starch from the cassava root; cassava flour is produced from the entire cassava root. Cassava flour is higher in dietary fiber than tapioca flour because it is made from the whole root.
Tapioca is extracted by washing and pulping the cassava root. Once the pulp is wet, the pulp is squeezed, removing the starchy liquid and sent to evaporate the water, leaving behind the dried by-product that we know as tapioca flour.
Can cassava flour be substituted for all-purpose wheat flour?
Yes, it’s is a great substitute, especially compared to different types of flour like almond and coconut. This is because cassava flour is mild and neutral in flavor, is a fine powder decreasing any grainy or gritty textures, and can substitute wheat flour on a 1:1 ratio when baking or cooking.
Can cassava flour be substituted for almond flour?
Yes, due to the cassava flours’ neutral smell, lack of grittiness, and ease of use in recipes. However, it tends to be lower in nutrients (healthy fat and protein) than almond flour. Almond flour is not necessarily “flour” but ground up almonds, creating challenges when using this ingredient as a substitute. Nut flours absorb more liquid, have no gluten, and need a specific ratio of wet to dry ingredients when baking or cooking.
Substituting cassava flour for almond flour is easy – 1:1 ratio. Although, to increase the healthy fat, fiber, and protein content, try including almond flour in the recipe. Together, the two of them are great to pair up. Increasing the nutrients in your recipes may help decrease the possible insulin spike seen when eating cassava flour.
The processing steps of the cassava root into the high-quality flour extend the shelf life. Therefore, cassava flour has a shelf life of up to one year when in the proper storage conditions: stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry pantry.
Baking with cassava flour
Cassava flour substitutes nicely in baking because of its similar characteristics to all-purpose or wheat flours, especially whole wheat. It has neutral or subtle nutty flavors, is a rich source of fiber and carbohydrates, and physically, is a very fine, white powder texture. This helps provide functioning structure to the baked good and decreases any gritty or grainy textures experienced when utilizing other gluten- or grain-free sources.
There is increased absorption of liquids when baking with cassava flour because it’s denser. This is because it’s rich in carbohydrates. Be aware that you will need to play around with what recipes call out for when using this ingredient.
When substituting cassava for wheat
- Start with ⅔ cup cassava flour for every 1 cup of wheat flour and adjust as needed before going directly 1:1 ratio, to account for increased absorption of water.
- Lower the baking temperature to support even cooking.
- The cassava flour has a subtle nutty flavor so be aware your final flavors may taste slightly different.
Cooking with cassava flour
Cassava flour can be used as a thickening agent, replacing other thickeners or breading ingredients (like corn starch and wheat flours) by 1:1. However, this ingredient might slightly change the flavor due to its subtle nutty tones.
What are the health benefits of cassava flour?
Compared to other gluten-free flour alternatives, cassava flour is low in calories, fat, and protein but contains fiber and is high in carbohydrates. According to the USDA’s Food Data Central, a ¼ cup of cassava flour provides about 27 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and about 20 mg of calcium.1 This may vary depending on the brand of cassava flour you decide to utilize.
Per ½ cup (100 grams) of flour, cassava has double the calories and carbohydrates found in a sweet potato. Therefore, this ingredient may increase the risk of high insulin spikes and might not be suitable for anyone trying to keep from a low carbohydrate diet.
Are there any risks?
Cassava root contains naturally occurring cyanide compounds (cyanogenic glucosides: linamarin and lotaustralin). Still, commercially available cassava and tapioca flours should not have any harmful levels of cyanide due to the various processing methods.
The toxic compounds are removed from the cassava meal during the dewatering, drying, heating, and other processing steps, creating a high-quality cassava flour product. Do not eat raw flour to decrease the risk of coming into contact with harmful chemicals.
Is cassava flour low in histamine?
Cassava flour does not stimulate or contain histamine. However, each person is a unique system and can have different overall experiences with foods. If you are someone who experiences hypersensitivity to foods, track your experience and see if it causes you any discomfort. If so, discontinue using immediately and speak with your health care professional about possible next steps.
Overall, this ingredient is an excellent option for those who live a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, grain-free lifestyle. Maintaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins, paired with cassava flour, is an opportunity for fantastic cooking and a balanced, nutrient-filled lifestyle.