Have you ever wondered what the difference was between tapioca flour and tapioca starch?
I am guessing that many of you have because it is one of the most asked questioned that I have received when it comes to gluten free baking. It is confusing and one I had a lot of questions on when I first went gluten free.
In the United States tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing. I have found that Asian type markets and products tend to label it as tapioca starch and companies like Bob’s Red Mill tend to label it as tapioca flour, but there is no difference in the actual products. They are the same.
When it comes to recipes it really varies by the author or cookbook on what it is called, but if a recipe calls for tapioca starch, you can easily use tapioca flour, since they are the same thing.
So what is tapioca flour?
Tapioca flour comes from the root of the cassava plant. It basically the same thing as tapioca pearls, like you would use for pudding, but tapioca flour has been ground into a a flour.
Tapioca flour/starch adds structure to gluten free baking. It also helps give things a chewy and/or crisp texture, especially in things like cookies and cakes.
When over used in a recipe though tapioca flour can make food slimy and can also add a strong taste to the final product. Most recipes need some tapioca starch, but not too much, and finding that balance can sometimes be hard.
Tapioca flour can also be used as a thickener in sauces and gravy, but it is not my favorite thickener to use because I have found that it tends to make the sauce a bit slimy.
I know a few gluten free people that do not like the flavor of tapioca flour in their gluten free cooking and they often substitute cornstarch. I know many have been happy with the results of doing this, for me though, I have found that it works sometimes better than others. And since my family does not mind the taste of tapioca starch in baked goods, I am fine with using it.