What is Cassava Flour? How to Use it and Why

What is Cassava Flour?

Cassava flour is a popular flour replacement, a key go-to for paleo, gluten-free and grain-free diets. And it’s easy to see why.

Cassava flour creates the same consistency and texture as regular flour – something that isn’t easy to do.

This makes it powerful for gluten-free cooking. But, what is cassava flour really and how can you take advantage of it?

Background to Cassava Flour

Cassava flour is created from the root of Manihot esculenta, commonly known as cassava or yuca. There are two main varieties of the root. One is sweet and the other is bitter.

Cassava is a staple food crop and is common as a source of carbs in the developing world, partly because it is drought tolerant (1).  In fact, it is third-largest carbohydrate source, with rice and maize being the only more prevalent ones.

However, cassava needs to be prepared and used carefully. Poor preparation can produce cyanide and may be deadly (2). Thankfully, commercial cassava flour will have been carefully prepared.

Cassava flour is produced by peeling, drying and grinding the root.

The end result is a mild flour that looks and feels almost like wheat flour. Cassava flour is incredibly versatile, with barely any flavor. It also binds better than most other non-grain flours. As such, it’s perfect in gluten-free baking and countless other uses.

Cassava flour comes from the cassava root and is a very versatile type of flour

Cassava Flour vs Tapioca Flour

Cassava flour and tapioca flour are often confused. That’s not surprising, they both come from the same plant. They’re also similar in many ways. But, there are significant differences too.

Cassava Flour

  • Created from the entire cassava root
  • The root is peeled, dried and then ground to create the flour
  • Common as a replacement for regular flour
  • May be easier to digest, as it contains less starch

Tapioca Flour

  • A type of starch extracted from the cassava root
  • Tends to have less fiber and also goes through more processing
  • This is sometimes called tapioca starch instead
  • Often used as a thickening agent due to the high starch content

Dr. Axe highlights some other differences between cassava flour and tapioca flour. Both are viable options. But, many people stick with cassava flour, simply because it is less processed.

Cassava flour and tapioca flour come from the same plant but they’re very different from one another

Advantages of Cassava Flour

Cassava harvest

People often turn to cassava flour for one reason, it’s easy. But, there are many different reasons you may want to use cassava flour regularly.   

The Taste of Cassava Flour

Cassava has a mild taste, along with a powdery and soft texture. This makes it similar to regular flour. In fact, cassava flour is a great way to get the same binding properties, flavor and consistency as wheat flour.

In contrast, options like coconut flour or almond flour are more distinctive. They need to be used carefully and may change the taste and texture of the dish.

It’s Easy to Use

In many cases, cassava flour can be used in a 1-to-1 ratio with regular flour. This means you can easily create gluten-free versions of your favorite recipes, without having to make complicated changes.

As a result, cassava flour is one of the easiest gluten-free alternatives to regular wheat flour. You don’t even need to follow a specific recipe.

If you’re trying to make something that rises, such as a cake, cassava flour isn’t enough on its own. Even so, it is a valuable inclusion and typically won’t affect the texture or flavor of the finished dish.

Simple to Find

There are many alternative flour types out there. Some are common, others aren’t. Cassava is one of the easiest to find. It’s relatively inexpensive too, which is a bonus.  

A Non-Allergenic Flour

Cassava flour is gluten-free, grain-free and nut-free, making it suitable for many different people. Some of the brands are even certified gluten-free, so you can be certain that there is no cross-contamination. 

It is also vegan, vegetarian and paleo.

The nut-free aspect is particularly important. Coconut flour and almond flour are the most common alternatives to cassava flour, especially for low carb recipes. But, people are often allergic or sensitive to at least one of them. Allergy to cassava flour is much less common, making it suitable for a wider audience.

Gut Health and Digestion

Another key benefit is digestion. Cassava flour is easy to digest. The lack of gluten can help in this area too, especially for anyone concerned about gluten intolerance.

The digestion benefits can help promote gut health too. In particular, cassava contains digestion-resistant starch. This type of starch is powerful for your gut, helping to improve your balance of gut bacteria and reduce inflammation. Mercola has further details about how this occurs and why it is so important.  

Cassava flour is even recommended for people struggling with digestion. This includes anyone with irritable bowel syndrome or Chron’s disease.

Limited Processing

Conventional flours, like wheat flour, go through a large amount of processing. This has negative implications for health and may contribute to inflammation, along with other health problems.

Cassava flour goes through minimal processing. Most of that processing is manual, so there are no chemicals added and no bleaching. This creates a much healthier flour.

Lower in Calories

As Dr. Axe points out, cassava flour is lower in calories than many other types of flour (like almond flour). This may make it suitable for weight loss and other situations.

It is also a whole food flour, which is reason enough for trying it. Processed foods are often linked to weight gain. Focusing on meals you make yourself is a key way to improve your health and lose weight. Cassava flour is one tool that you can use.

Cassava flour has many key advantages, including the way it suits many different diet types

Disadvantages of Cassava Flour

Most of the time, cassava flour is considered healthy. It’s a great addition to recipes and it is particularly powerful for baking. But, not everyone agrees.

Instead, there are some key problems with the flour:

  • Poor nutrition. Cassava flour doesn’t have much nutritional value. Most of the nutrients from the root are lost during processing (3). It only contains trace amounts of most vitamins and minerals. Many other flours (including whole grain options) have more nutrients.
  • High in carbs. It’s also low in protein and high in carbs, making it unsuitable for anyone on a low carb diet. In fact, cassava root has double the carbs (and calories) of sweet potatoes – a topic that Downshiftology discusses as well.
  • Sodium. The sodium content is also higher than most other flours (4). The actual significance of salt for health is heavily debated and the amount of sodium is relatively low overall. Even so, the sodium levels could be a problem for some diets.

None of these issues make cassava flour inherently unhealthy. After all, flour is used as an ingredient. It doesn’t need to offer a wide range of nutritional benefits. Instead, the health implications come from your overall diet, along with what you’re using the flour to create.

While cassava flour works for many people – it isn’t low carb in the slightest. As such, the flour may spike your insulin and blood sugar. This means you should use it carefully. If you’re on a low-carb or keto diet, you’ll need to find other alternatives.

Thankfully, there are many low carb flours to choose from. These don’t have the same versatility that cassava flour offers but they do provide some advantages.

As many authors state, the versatility of cassava flour far outweighs the lack of nutrition. Besides, you can get your nutrients from many other sources.

Cassava flour is very effective for cooking. But, it is high in carbs and doesn’t contain many nutrients

How to Use Cassava Flour

Cassava flour rolls

Cassava flour is incredibly easy to use. In most recipes, you simply substitute the flour 1-to-1 with regular flour.

Of course, that’s not always the case. Cassava flour won’t always behave like regular flour, especially if you’re baking. It can take some trial and error to figure out what went wrong.

If you want to learn the flour, try starting with a recipe you already know well. That way, you know exactly what to expect and can see all the impacts of the cassava flour.

The site 40 Aprons also has a detailed guide on using cassava flour. In it, Cheryl offers various tips about the flour, including what you can expect when you bake with it.

The video below also highlights key tips and ways to use the flour effectively.

Cassava Flour Recipes

You can experiment with cassava flour yourself, figuring out the best ways to use it. Alternatively, you might get started with recipes. There are many great ones.

For example, Lisa from Downshiftology has a list of 11 different recipes that rely on cassava flour. She recommends this brand of the flour, finding that it works exceptionally well.

Of course, you don’t have to rely on that list. Many food bloggers produce cassava flour recipes, including some of our favorite sites.

Sweet Cassava Flour Recipes

Savory Cassava Flour Recipes

Cassava flour is easy to use and many recipes rely on it

Can You Make Cassava Flour?

Cassava flour is easy to find. But, it is something you can make yourself as well. Dr. Axe has a detailed guide about all of the steps. As part of this, you’ll need to grow the cassava root yourself.

But, if you’re going to make the flour yourself, follow the instructions carefully. Cassava root does contain a small amount of cyanide. This tends to get removed during the preparation and processing stages, creating a safe product.  

You can make your own cassava flour, just be sure to follow the instructions carefully

Final Thoughts

Cassava flour is high in carbs and low in nutrients – so you will need to use it carefully. Still, the flour is perfect for paleo and gluten-free cooking. It allows you to make many dishes that you simply couldn’t otherwise.

You can also find other options in our Definitive Guide to Low Carb Flours. Another option is semolina flour. Many people end up making blends that contain multiple flours. These offer most of the functionality of cassava flour, with fewer carbs.  

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Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use. 

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