Almond flour, coconut flour, soy flour, oat flour…the list goes on. If you bake, chances are high that you’ve run into more than a few alternative flours — some with more success than others, since not all alternatives can replace all-purpose flour with a 1 to 1 ratio.
However, one alternative you may want in your pantry? Cassava flour. The healthy plant-derived option has been popping up as an ingredient in chips, food truck snacks, and paleo blogger recipes. Here’s what you need to know about this gluten-free, nut-free, grain-free alternative flour.
It’s been around forever
Before it hit supermarket shelves, Native Americans were using the plant it comes from — the Manihot esculenta plant — for centuries, and it’s in plenty of traditional Latin American recipes like vatapa and bolinhos de macaxeira recheado. The flour is prepared from the tuberous root of the plant inherent to Central and Southern America. Oh, and If you’re familiar with yucca chips, cassava and yucca are the same thing!
It’s not the same as tapioca flour
Though tapioca flour does make use of the same plant, it’s not interchangeable with cassava flour when it comes to recipes, cautions Diane Teall Evans, certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant and owner of DITEA Wellness. “Tapioca flour and cassava flour come from the same plant. However, tapioca flour is derived from the extracted starch of the root, while cassava flour comes from the whole tuberous root which has been peeled, dried, and ground,” explains Summer Yule, a registered dietitian in Connecticut. “In some cassava flours, the root has been fermented before grinding.” Since tapioca flour is a starch, you can use it as a thickener or along with other gluten-free flours to add texture. Cassava flour can fully substitute wheat flour.
It’s a great wheat alternative
Cassava flour has a coarse, mealy texture and a nutty flavor that makes it comparable to wheat flour. And you can break out the muffin pan! “Cassava flour will work in 1:1 substitution for wheat flour in many recipes,” Yule says. “A notable exception to this is yeast-based recipes.” Popsugar recommends using cassava flour in tortillas, bread, cookies, and pancakes, since it’s got the binding qualities to hold those together. You can even throw it into stews to thicken them up.
It’s not low-carb
Don’t rejoice just yet, keto dieters. Since it uses the whole root of the plant, cassava flour does have more fiber than tapioca flour — but it’s not low-carb. “While it is preferable to wheat flour, cassava is still a starchy vegetable high in carbohydrate,” Evans says. “If you have insulin resistance, diabetes, or are following a low carbohydrate diet you may want to monitor your intake.” She recommends mixing it up with whole food options like roasted sweet potatoes, plantains, beets, and squash. It’s also got about the same number of calories as wheat flour, so it’s not a low-calorie alternative either.
Don’t try to DIY this one
The plant itself is poisonous when eaten in its raw form, so stick to the store-bought packages of cassava flour for your baked goods. Whether you’re trying to bake on a Paleo diet or looking for a gluten-free, nut-free alternative flour to address allergies or food intolerances, cassava doesn’t loaf around in the kitchen.