By Nadia Hassani
May 28, 2019

What is Tapioca? What is Tapioca Made of?

Tapioca is a gluten-free thickener, gelling agent, and baking ingredient made from yuca, the root of a cassava or manioc tree.

Tapioca comes in different forms. The most common dry tapioca products are tapioca flour and pearl tapioca, ranging in pearl size between 1 to 8 millimeters in its uncooked stage.

What is Tapioca Pudding?

Tapioca pudding is a dessert made from small tapioca pearls, also called pudding balls or tapioca balls. The opaque balls turn chewy and rubbery when cooked.

"Classic tapioca pudding is made with very little hassle in a slow cooker," says Ellen Janet Nestler. "There is no need to pre-soak small tapioca pearls prior to cooking. Serve warm or put in individual containers and keep in fridge."

Photo by lutzflcat

Which Tapioca Balls are Used for Bubble Tea?

There are countless variations of bubble tea, and it depends on the recipe whether you use small or large tapioca balls, the original white tapioca balls, or one of the many colored or flavored varieties.

Tapioca balls used for bubble tea are often marketed and sold as boba balls, which is the Chinese word for tapioca pearls.

"Boba tea, or bubble tea, is a popular drink that originated from Taiwan," says Risa. "I made this coconut variation because I had coconut cream on hand and wanted something different from the regular black milk tea variation. This coconut version tastes just like the one you'll find in a bubble tea cafe."

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

What is the Difference between Tapioca Starch and Tapioca Flour?

Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same, and there is yet a third name for the finely ground tapioca: cassava flour. It is used in gluten-free baking and as a thickener for soups, sauces, gravy, and pie fillings.

Modified tapioca starch is tapioca starch that has been treated to improve its cooking properties, shelf life, and thickening abilities. This does not necessarily mean that the underlying plant has being genetically modified although that can be the case.

Some manufacturers label tapioca starch as "Tapioca starch dextrin" or "Tapioca dextrin."

"Makes fluffy pancakes with a consistency and taste comparable to those made with wheat flour," says AC6AA. "Serve with your choice of condiments."

Photo by Dianne

What is Quick-cooking Tapioca?

Quick-cooking or instant tapioca consists of small precooked tapioca pearls. It acts as a fast thickening agent just like cornstarch or all-purpose flour.

What is Tapioca Syrup?

Tapioca syrup is a sweetener made from naturally fermented tapioca starch.

What is Tapioca Maltodextrin?

Tapioca maltodextrin is a food additive used by the food industry to increase the volume of dry mixes and frozen foods, and in molecular gastronomy to stabilize fat ingredients in order to transform them into powders.

What is a Good Substitute for Tapioca Starch?

If you want to replace tapioca starch (tapioca flour) as a thickener, use the same amount of all-purpose flour, or half the amount of cornstarch, arrowroot or potato starch.

Some Top-Rated Recipes with Tapioca

"This is a recipe I found in my grandmother's secret book it is so good I have to share it with the world," says POTHEAD5. "It might make it a better place! Serve with whipped cream."

Photo by CoOkInGnUt

"Bubble tea is very popular, especially to Asians, but now, more and more people from different backgrounds like the taste of it," says skybaby. "It's simple to make, but some of the ingredients may be a little tough to find. Just be patient and look for them in Chinese grocery stores. It is worth the trouble!"

"This is a delightfully light gelatin dessert with small pearls of tapioca mixed in," says SHOPTILUDROP65. "You may use any flavor of gelatin mix that you like, and even stir in your favorite fruit when you fold in the whipped cream."

Photo by Gremolata

"I have always loved tapioca pudding and coconut, so this dish is perfect for me," says Jennifer. "One time, for a 'Southeast Asian Cuisine Night,' I served this as dessert alongside pho, spring rolls, and steamed dumplings. For a Southeast Asian touch, top the pudding with chopped mango or chopped peanuts."

Photo by liliana_casalins

"Basic and easy, and very versatile," says Amy. "Layer with white or chocolate frosting, strawberries and whipped cream, etc. Make sure your baking powder is gluten-free."

Photo by Dianne

"These yummy gluten/wheat free breads are good for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance," says GLOJAO. "These are good either served plain, or with marinara sauce. For more variety, try adding a variety of herb seasonings, such as Italian seasoning or try substituting other cheeses for the Parmesan."

Photo by Jinky
| Credit: Chef John

Check out our collection of Tapioca Flour Recipes.