What Exactly Is Cassava Flour? Benefits + How To Use It, According To Nutritionists
It’s 2021 and there's no shortage of flour substitutes. In fact, if you're looking for an all-purpose flour alternative, it's likely you've found yourself down a rabbit hole trying to decide which option is best for you. There are common go-to's like almond and buckwheat flours, but there's another option that's winning over our hearts and pantry space. Enter: cassava flour.
It's an ideal alternative for those with common food allergies, and it makes for a simple substitution in most recipes (more on that later). If you're new to cassava, keep reading to learn what cassava flour is, why it's a good choice, and how to use it.
What is cassava flour?
"Cassava flour is made from ground cassava root, which is a tuberous root vegetable," Mia Syn, M.S., RDN, says. To make cassava flour, the cassava or yucca root is peeled, then dried and ground into a flour. Cassava is a shrub native to South America and is most commonly known for making tapioca.
And even though it has a mild, slightly nutty, flavor, it can still be used as an alternative to all-purpose flour, without altering the flavor.
It's also important to cook the cassava root before eating since it has the potential to be poisonous. So, on that note, be sure to avoid consuming this flour raw.
What are the benefits of cassava flour?
There's so much to love about this starchy flour, but here are a few advantages to opting for it in day-to-day cooking.
Flour alternatives like cassava flour surely come in handy when it comes to accommodating food allergies and dietary preferences. According to registered dietitian Andrea Mathis, RDN, cassava flour is naturally vegan, plus free of nuts, grain, and gluten—making it a great option for those with food sensitivities.
It contains useful nutrients.
Thanks to the cassava root, this flour is a good source of vitamin C. "Vitamin C is important for immunity and skin health," Syn says. But she does note to check the nutrition label before purchasing, as the levels of vitamin C in the flour can fluctuate depending on the brand and how it's processed. It also features some manganese, which Syn says is an essential trace mineral, important for bone health.
It's a great baking alternative.
"Because of its mild and neutral flavor, cassava flour is actually preferred in baking, when comparing to other gluten-free flours," Mathis says. And since the swap is a simple 1:1 ratio, it makes for a super-easy substitution.
What's the difference between cassava and tapioca flour?
Nope, cassava and tapioca flours are not the same and really aren't interchangeable. The main difference between the two is their production. "Tapioca flour is made by extracting the cassava plant through a process of washing and pulping," Mathis says. "While cassava flour is made from the root of the cassava plant." As a result, cassava flour also tends to be thicker in texture.
Where can I buy cassava flour?
While cassava flour may be available in most specialty health food stores, if you live in an area where flour substitutes are hard to come by, you may want to purchase online. Cassava flour can be found at any health food store that ships nationally (such as Whole Foods Market and Thrive Market), and there are even options available on Amazon.
How do I use cassava flour?
How you choose to use cassava flour is totally up to you. It's great for making breads, baked goods, or desserts. It's even great as a thickening agent, to add a velvety, creamy texture to soups, stews, and sauces.
The bottom line.
Cassava flour is a great grain-free choice, known for its mild and neutral flavor. Not to mention, it's totally allergy-friendly—ideal for anyone with gluten, nut, and dairy sensitivities. Plus, it's practically foolproof to swap it in and out of recipes in place of standard AP flour. Of course, it does cost more than wheat flour and may be slightly more challenging to acquire. But all in all, it's a fantastic flour substitution for any pantry.
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