Tapioca – Nutrition, Benefits, Recipes, and More

Alpa Momaya

August 11, 2023

Introduction of Tapioca

Tapioca originates from the cassava plant, native to South America. Portuguese explorers introduced it to Europe in the 16th century, and it spread to other parts of the world through trade. Today, tapioca is enjoyed globally and plays a significant role in various cuisines.

Tapioca is a starchy food derived from the cassava root. To make tapioca, the cassava roots are peeled, grated, and then pressed to extract the liquid. The liquid is left to stand, allowing the starch to settle at the bottom. The starch is then dried and formed into small pearls or granules. These pearls can be cooked by boiling or steaming, resulting in a gelatinous and chewy texture, commonly used in puddings, bubble teas, and various other desserts and dishes.

Nutritional Values of Tapioca

One serving of tapioca (100 g) pearls has:

  • Calories: 358 
  • Carbohydrates: 88.7 g
  • Protein: 1.58 g
  • Fibre: 0.9 g
  • Calcium: ~20 mg
  • Iron: ~1.58 mg
  • Magnesium: ~1 mg
  • Phosphorus: ~7 mg
  • Potassium: ~11 mg
  • Vitamin K: ~11 mcg

Tapioca, derived from cassava roots, offers a versatile and gluten-free option in various cuisines. This starchy, calorie-dense food contains mainly carbohydrates, with limited protein and fat. It is rich in energy, providing quick fuel for the body. Though low in essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, tapioca does offer some calcium, iron, and B-complex vitamins. 

However, its high glycemic index makes it less suitable for those with diabetes. Moderation is key due to its potential impact on blood sugar levels. Tapioca can be a valuable addition to a balanced diet when combined with nutrient-rich ingredients to ensure overall nutritional adequacy.

Forms of Tapioca

Tapioca is produced in various forms for commercial use, including soluble starch powder, flakes, rectangular sticks, and pearls, with the latter being the most common. Tapioca flakes, pearls, and sticks require sufficient soaking before cooking to rehydrate and expand up to twice their original size, resulting in a swollen appearance with a leathery texture after cooking.

Tapioca pearls, which come in different sizes, are spherical starch balls primarily white but can be colored. When heated, they lose their opaqueness and become transparent. Boba, the large sweetened tapioca pearls, is often dyed black and commonly used in bubble tea.

Usages of Tapioca

Tapioca has a wide range of uses in the culinary world, and its versatility makes it a popular ingredient in various dishes and products. Here are some common usages of tapioca:

  • Bubble Tea: Tapioca pearls, also known as boba, are a key component in bubble tea. They add a chewy and fun texture to the popular drink.
  • Puddings and Desserts: Tapioca pearls or tapioca flour are used to make creamy tapioca puddings and other desserts, often flavored with vanilla, coconut, or fruit.
  • Thickener: Tapioca starch/flour is an excellent thickening agent in soups, sauces, gravies, and fruit fillings due to its ability to create a smooth texture.
  • Gluten-Free Baking: Tapioca flour is a common ingredient in gluten-free baking recipes, as it provides structure and elasticity to baked goods.
  • Coating and Frying: Tapioca flour is used as a coating for frying foods, giving a crisp and crunchy texture.
  • Tapioca Chips: Thinly sliced and deep-fried tapioca roots are enjoyed as a crispy snack.
  • Gluten-Free Thickeners: Tapioca starch can be used as a substitute for wheat-based thickeners in gluten-free cooking.
  • Binders and Egg Replacers: Tapioca starch can act as a binder and egg replacer in vegan and egg-free recipes.
  • Tapioca Sheets: Translucent tapioca sheets are used in making spring rolls and other similar dishes.

8 Health Benefits of Tapioca

When prepared and consumed properly, tapioca has numerous benefits. Some of them are discussed below.

1. Helps in a healthy weight gain

Tapioca can be beneficial for healthy weight gain when incorporated into a balanced diet. Its high carbohydrate content provides a calorie-dense energy source, which can aid in increasing calorie intake. Additionally, tapioca is easy to digest, making it suitable for individuals with difficulty gaining weight. However, it’s essential to consume tapioca in moderation and alongside other nutrient-rich foods to ensure overall nutritional balance and avoid excessive intake of simple carbohydrates. Consulting a healthcare professional or dietitian can provide personalized advice for healthy weight gain strategies.

2. Helps in boosting blood circulation

The iron and copper present in tapioca can contribute to blood circulation. Iron is a vital component of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood, aiding in oxygen transport throughout the body. Copper plays a role in the synthesis of red blood cells and collagen, supporting blood vessel health. Including tapioca as part of a balanced diet, along with other iron and copper-rich foods, can help maintain healthy blood circulation and overall cardiovascular function. 

3. Could help in minimizing birth defects

Tapioca has B-complex vitamins. According to a study conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich having moderate quantities of tapioca during pregnancies is linked to a lower risk of neural tube defects in babies.

4. Aids digestion

Tapioca can aid digestion for some individuals due to its easy-to-digest nature. It is a gluten-free and low-fiber food, making it gentle on the digestive system. The starch in tapioca is readily broken down into simpler carbohydrates, providing a quick source of energy. However, tapioca lacks significant fiber content, which may not be suitable for those seeking fiber-rich foods to promote regular bowel movements. As part of a balanced diet, tapioca can be beneficial for individuals with sensitive or easily upset digestive systems.

5. Strengthens bone mineral density

This tuber is high in protein, calcium and Vitamin K. They are beneficial to muscle and bone health. They can make your limbs and joints healthy, supple, and flexible. Bone density and flexibility decrease with age leading to conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. This makes tapioca a healthy food to take care of your bone health while keeping other health parameters in check as well.

6. Potential to Prevent Alzheimer’s

According to a study, vitamin K is also beneficial to mental health. Vitamin K reduces the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease by increasing brain neuronal activity. It also fights free radicals that cause damage to brain cells. 

7. Gluten-free 

Gluten is a protein which is found commonly in grains like rye, barley and wheat. Its consumption can be harmful to people with diseases such as celiac disease. Gluten-free diet benefits people with irritable bowel syndrome as well. If you suffer from gluten intolerance or are planning to go on gluten-free diets, tapioca is your go-to item.

It is a gluten-free alternative to use in cooking and baking. According to the Gluten Intolerance Group, a gluten-free diet also reduces the chances of heart diseases, cancer and diabetes. 

8. Prevents heart issues

Tapioca may offer some benefits for protecting heart health when consumed as part of a balanced diet. It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it heart-friendly. Additionally, tapioca contains potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. Its low sodium content further supports cardiovascular health. However, it’s essential to consider the overall diet and lifestyle for heart protection. Including tapioca along with other heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while maintaining regular physical activity, can contribute to heart health. Consulting a healthcare professional is advisable for personalized advice.

Skin and Hair Benefits of Tapioca

  • Brightens Your Face
  • Can be used as a face mask
  • Hydrates your skin
  • Aids Hair Growth
  • Controls Hair Fall
  • Nourishes Hair

Recipes Using Tapioca

1. Tapioca Pudding

This pudding is a mouth-watering dessert and comfort food for many.

Ingredients needed:

  • Tapioca pearl (small size)- ½ cup
  • Cow milk or any plant milk – 3 cups
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Eggs – 2
  • Maple syrup  – 1 tablespoon
  • honey Vanilla extract- 1 teaspoon


  1. Soak the tapioca pearls in 2 cups of water for 2-3 hours.
  2. Combine the milk, salt and tapioca pearls in a pan. Cook them on low heat.
  3. The pearls are fully cooked when they have doubled in size and have a translucent texture.
  4. Stir occasionally to avoid the pearls from sticking to the bottom.
  5. Take a separate bowl and beat the eggs in them.
  6. Slowly add some of the hot tapioca mixtures to the egg bowl. This is to ensure that the mixture does not curdle due to the varying temperatures.
  7. Now add the egg mixture to the remaining tapioca in the pan.
  8. Stir for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Do not let the tapioca pearls boil.
  9. Once you achieve the pudding consistency, rest the mixture for 20 minutes.
  10. Add in the honey and vanilla extract.
  11. Serve hot or chilled as per preference.

HealthifyMe Suggestion

Tapioca pearls are mostly composed of starch, a simple carbohydrate that is quickly digestible and a direct source of energy. It is minimal in sodium, virtually cholesterol-free, and contains considerable amounts of calcium for bone strength. Tapioca also contains iron, which is necessary for blood formation and transport, manganese, which is necessary for healthy metabolism, and folate, which is necessary for proper DNA synthesis and cell division in all human tissues. Tapioca can be used to produce gluten-free baked goods, handmade boba tea, and a variety of other dishes.


Tapioca is a by-product of cassava roots. The pearl form of tapioca is most common among the flour, flakes and sticks. It is a rich source of carbohydrates as well as calories. Though it does not have an attractive nutrient profile, it has a significant amount of health benefits.

Since it is a root-based flour, it is an excellent option for gluten-free diets. Moreover, tapioca is a good addition to sweet dishes and bread. It is useful as a substitute for potatoes and corn starch.

It is a nutritious option for those who are trying to gain weight. However, diabetic patients should consult a doctor before consuming them. Add tapioca to your diet in moderation to reap its benefits.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritionists Here

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is tapioca good for health?

A. Tapioca has a wide range of health benefits. It can be used as a substitute for flour in gluten-free baking. It contains calcium, which is great for keeping brittle bones at bay, a huge problem for postmenopausal women. Tapioca also has iron, a vital mineral for people of all ages. It has a negligible saturated fat content and is great for overall cardiovascular health. It also serves as a great alternative for people suffering from celiac and irritable bowel disease.

Q. Is tapioca fattening?

A. Yes, tapioca is a simple and nutritious way to gain weight. Due to its large carbohydrate content, it is an easy way to increase your daily calories. Tapioca does not contain any saturated fats or cholesterol and thus is a healthy way to gain weight. 

Q. Can you substitute regular flour with tapioca flour?

A. Tapioca is arguably one of the best gluten-free substitutes for flour. Tapioca can roughly substitute wheat flour in a 1:1 ratio. Cakes and cookies need finer granules and if you’re looking to thicken something like soup, a little of the coarser stuff will suffice.

Q. Is tapioca starch toxic?

A. Tapioca is made from cassava root. Consuming poorly prepared cassava root can sometimes lead to cyanide poisoning and thus one should be sure of the starch quality when consuming it.

Q. Can tapioca lead to indigestion?

A. Moderate consumption of tapioca is safe. However, its excess consumption can lead to the starch lumps congealing together in the digestive tract. This can result in abdominal pain, constipation and, in worst cases, require medical attention too.

Q. Why is tapioca not good for you?

A. Tapioca has a high glycemic index that can cause a rapid spike in insulin and blood sugar. Thus, people with diabetes should have tapioca with caution. Tapioca may also be harmful to you if you’re on a weight loss journey. Due to its large carbohydrate content, it increases your daily calories which leads to weight gain.

Q. What is tapioca used for?

A. Tapioca finds its use in many genres of cooking. Casabe is a type of flatbread that uses tapioca as its ingredient. Tapioca flour is useful in making gluten-free and grain-free bread. It’s also used as a thickening agent in soups and gravies. Tapioca pearls are a great addition to desserts.

Q. Who should not eat tapioca?

A. People with diabetes should avoid eating tapioca as it has a high glycemic index that may cause the blood sugar level to spike. Furthermore, tapioca has high carbohydrate content that increases calorie consumption. Hence, it is advisable to not have tapioca if you want to lose weight. People with low blood pressure should also be careful while having tapioca.

Q. Is sabudana made from tapioca?

A. Yes, sabudana is a processed form of tapioca extract. Sabudana is basically pearls made out of tapioca starch.

Q. Are tapioca pearls cancerous?

A. No Tapioca pearls are not cancerous and are safe to be consumed in moderate quantities. However, it is noteworthy that calcium and sodium hypochlorite along with phosphoric acid are used to bleach the tapioca to produce the sago pearls. These agents, if consumed on a regular basis in large quantities, can have cancer-causing abilities.

Q. Does tapioca get stuck in your stomach?

A. Tapioca is a fruit extract rich in carbohydrates and fibre and is easily digestible. However, extremely high quantities of tapioca can become a problem for the stomach and cause digestive issues.

Q. Is tapioca keto-friendly?

A. Tapioca is a high-carb food, such that 100 grams of tapioca powder contains 22 grams of carbohydrates and thus it cannot be part of a Keto program/ diet.

Q. Is tapioca rice?

A. No, tapioca is a starch extracted from the roots of the cassava plant. It can be further processed into various shapes like spheres, cubes etc. Rice, on the other hand, is a grain. 

Q. Is tapioca a laxative?

A. Yes, tapioca has a high fibre content that adds bulk to the stools and is an easy remedy for digestive issues like constipation, bloating and subsequent abdominal pain.

Q. Can I use sago instead of tapioca?

A. Yes, sago and tapioca have very similar tastes and behave the same and thus can be substituted for each other. 

Q. Are tapioca pearls sweet?

A. Tapioca pearls have a very muted taste of their own. However, sugar or jaggery is mostly added to the dough giving these pearls a sweet taste. 

Research Sources

  1. Cassava: The Nature and Uses
  2. Vitamin K and bone health
  3. The possible role of vitamin K deficiency in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and in augmenting brain damage associated with cardiovascular disease
  4. Low FODMAPs and gluten-free foods for irritable bowel syndrome treatment: Lights and shadows
  5. Heart Healthy Gluten-Free Diet

About the Author

As the holder of a Post Graduate Diploma in Dietetics from the University of Mumbai, Alpa Momaya has always understood the value of good nutrition in an individual's life. She is a Registered Nutritional Practitioner (Canada) with over 15 years of experience in the field. Specializing in Clinical Nutrition, Pre & Post Natal Diets, and Weight Management, Alpa found her calling as a Sr. Nutritionist with HealthifyMe. Alpa's love for cooking and good nutrition has seen her contribute several recipes to the HealthifyMe database over the years. Additionally, she takes a keen interest in reading and painting.

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