Tapioca (; ) is a
starch Starch or amylum is a polymeric carbohydrate consisting of numerous glucose Glucose is a simple sugar with the Chemical formula#Molecular formula, molecular formula . Glucose is the most abundant monosaccharide, a subcategory of carbohydrates ...
extracted from the storage roots of the
cassava ''Manihot esculenta'', commonly called cassava (), manioc, or yuca (among numerous regional names) is a woody shrub A shrub (or bush, but this is more of a gardening term) is a small- to medium-sized perennial woody plant. Unlike herbac ...

plant (''Manihot esculenta,'' also known as manioc), a species native to the
north North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west. ''North'' is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating Direction (geometry), direction or geography. Etymology Th ...
and central-west regions of
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 milli ...
, but whose use is now spread throughout
South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. It can also be described as a southern Continent#Subcontinents, subcontinent ...
. The plant was brought by the Portuguese to much of
West Indies The West Indies are a subregion of North America, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea that includes 13 independent island country, island countries and 18 dependent territory, dependencies and other ter ...

West Indies
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of it ...

Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the conti ...
. It is a perennial
shrub A shrub (or bush, but this is more of a gardening term) is a small- to medium-sized perennial woody plant. Unlike herbaceous plants, shrubs have persistent woody stems above the ground. Shrubs can be deciduous or evergreen. They are distingu ...
adapted to the hot conditions of tropical lowlands. Cassava copes better with poor soils than many other food plants. Although tapioca is a staple food for millions of people in tropical countries, it provides only
carbohydrate is a disaccharide found in animal milk. It consists of a molecule of D-galactose and a molecule of D-glucose bonded by beta-1-4 glycosidic linkage. A carbohydrate () is a biomolecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) ato ...
food value, and is low in
protein Proteins are large biomolecules or macromolecules that are comprised of one or more long chains of amino acid residue (biochemistry), residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within organisms, including Enzyme catalysis, catalysing m ...
vitamin A vitamin is an organic molecule (or a set of molecules closely related chemically, i.e. vitamers) that is an Nutrient#Essential nutrients, essential micronutrient which an organism needs in small quantities for the proper functioning of its m ...
s and minerals. In other countries, it is used as a thickening agent in various manufactured foods.

Etymology and origin

''Tapioca'' is derived from the word ''tipi'óka'', its name in the Tupí language spoken by natives when the Portuguese first arrived in the Northeast Region of Brazil around 1500. This Tupí word is translated as 'sediment' or 'coagulant' and refers to the curd-like starch sediment that is obtained in the extraction process.


The cassava plant has either red or green branches with blue spindles on them. The root of the green-branched variant requires treatment to remove linamarin, a cyanogenic glycoside occurring naturally in the plant, which otherwise may be converted into cyanide.Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "Roots, tubers, plantains and bananas in human nutrition", Rome, 1990, Ch. 7 "Toxic substances and antinutritional factors". Document available online at http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0207e/T0207E00.htm#Contents. Ch. 7 appears at http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0207e/T0207E08.htm#Cassava%20toxicity. (Accessed 25 June 2011.) Konzo (also called mantakassa) is a paralytic disease associated with several weeks of almost exclusive consumption of insufficiently processed bitter cassava. In the north and northeast of Brazil, traditional community-based production of tapioca is a by-product of Cassava#Farinha de mandioca, manioc flour production from cassava roots. In this process, the manioc (after treatment to remove toxicity) is ground to a pulp with a small hand- or diesel-powered mill. This masa is then squeezed to dry it out. The wet masa is placed in a long woven tube called a ''tipiti''. The top of the tube is secured while a large branch or lever is inserted into a loop at the bottom and used to stretch the entire implement vertically, squeezing a starch-rich liquid out through the weave and ends. This liquid is collected and the (microscopic) starch grains in it are allowed to settle to the bottom of the container. The supernatant liquid is then poured off, leaving behind a wet starch sediment that needs to be dried and results in the fine-grained tapioca starch powder similar in appearance to corn starch. Commercially, the starch is processed into several forms: hot soluble powder, meal, pre-cooked fine/coarse flakes, rectangular sticks, and spherical "pearls". Pearls are the most widely available shape; sizes range from about 1 mm to 8 mm in diameter, with 2–3 mm being the most common. Flakes, sticks, and pearls must be soaked well before cooking, in order to rehydrate, absorbing water up to twice their volume. After rehydration, tapioca products become leathery and swollen. Processed tapioca is usually white, but sticks and pearls may be colored. Traditionally, the most common color applied to tapioca has been brown, but recently pastel colors have been available. Tapioca pearls are generally opaque when raw, but become translucent when cooked in boiling water. Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria are the world's largest producers of cassava. Currently, Thailand accounts for about 60 percent of worldwide exports.


Nutritional value

Dried tapioca pearls are 11% water and 89%
carbohydrate is a disaccharide found in animal milk. It consists of a molecule of D-galactose and a molecule of D-glucose bonded by beta-1-4 glycosidic linkage. A carbohydrate () is a biomolecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) ato ...
s, with no
protein Proteins are large biomolecules or macromolecules that are comprised of one or more long chains of amino acid residue (biochemistry), residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within organisms, including Enzyme catalysis, catalysing m ...
or fat. In a 100 gram reference amount, dried tapioca supplies 358 calories and no or only trace amounts of dietary minerals and
vitamin A vitamin is an organic molecule (or a set of molecules closely related chemically, i.e. vitamers) that is an Nutrient#Essential nutrients, essential micronutrient which an organism needs in small quantities for the proper functioning of its m ...


A ''casabe'' is a thin flatbread made from bitter cassava root without leavening. It was originally produced by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, indigenous Arawaks, Arawak and Kalina people, Carib peoples because these roots were a common plant of the rain forests where they lived. In eastern Venezuela, many indigenous groups still make ''casabe''. It is their chief bread-like staple. Indigenous communities, such as the Ye-Kuana, Kari-Ña, Yanomami, Guarao or Warao people, Warao descended from the Caribe or Arawac nations, still make ''casabe''. To make ''casabe'', the starchy root of bitter cassava is ground to a pulp, then squeezed to expel a milky, bitter liquid called ''yare''. This carries the poisonous substances with it out of the pulp. Traditionally, this squeezing is done in a ''sebucan'', an 8 to long, tube-shaped, pressure strainer, woven in a characteristic helical pattern from Arecaceae, palm Leaf, leaves. The ''sebucan'' usually is hung from a tree branch or ceiling pole, and it has a closed bottom with a loop that is attached to a fixed stick or lever, which is used to stretch the sebucan. When the lever is pushed down, stretching the sebucan, the helical weaving pattern causes the strainer to squeeze the pulp inside. This is similar to the action of a Chinese finger trap. The pulp is spread in thin, round cakes about in diameter on a ''budare'' to roast or toast. Thin and crisp cakes of ''casabe'' are often broken apart and eaten like crackers. Like bread, ''casabe'' can be eaten alone or with other dishes. Thicker ''casabe'' usually are eaten slightly moistened. A sprinkle of a few drops of liquid is enough to transform a dry ''casabe'' into soft smooth bread.

Tapioca balls

Tapioca balls, also known as ''boba'' in some cultures and ''sābudānā'' in the Indian subcontinent, are produced by passing the moist starch through a sieve under pressure. Pearl tapioca is a common ingredient in South Asia, South, East Asia, East and Southeast Asian desserts such as falooda, kolak, sago soup, and in sweet drinks such as bubble tea, fruit slush and taho, where they provide a chewy contrast to the sweetness and smooth texture of the drink. Small pearls are preferred for use in puddings. In Brazil, the pearls are cooked with wine or other liquid to add flavor and are called ''sagu''. Large pearls are preferred for use in drinks. These pearls most often are brown, not white, due to the sugar added and are traditionally used in black tea, black or green tea, green tea drinks. They are used as various colors in shave ice and hot drinks. In addition to their use in puddings and beverages, tapioca pearls may be used in cakes.

Processing and properties

Processing of the cassava flour into tapioca pearls requires the intermediate step of a product called tapioca grit. Tapioca grit is dried cassava flour that is partially Starch gelatinization, gelatinized so that it looks like flakes or irregularly-shaped granules. In contrast, making starch pearls uses a different process of roasting. To form the pearls, the tapioca grit can be cut or extruded into the shape of pearls, either small (3mm) or large (6-8mm). The pearls are subjected to a form of heat-moisture treatment, which can extend shelf life up to 2 years. Tapioca pearls have many unique properties that contribute to texture and mouth feel. Many of these physical properties are a result of its starch composition and are significantly affected by processing. Tapioca pearls are characteristically soft and chewy, with a prominent elastic texture and translucent appearance.

World War II

During World War II, due to the shortage of food in Southeast Asia, many refugees survived on tapioca. The cassava plant is easily propagated by stem-cutting, grows well in low-nutrient soils, and can be harvested every two months, although it takes ten months to grow to full maturity. The plant provided much needed carbohydrates and other nutrients.

Biodegradable products

Tapioca root can be used to manufacture biodegradable plastic, biodegradable bags developed from a tapioca resin of the plant as a viable plastic substitute. The product is renewable, Reuse, reusable and recyclable. Other tapioca resin products include gloves, capes and aprons.


Tapioca starch, used commonly for
starch Starch or amylum is a polymeric carbohydrate consisting of numerous glucose Glucose is a simple sugar with the Chemical formula#Molecular formula, molecular formula . Glucose is the most abundant monosaccharide, a subcategory of carbohydrates ...
ing shirts and garments before ironing, may be sold in bottles of natural gum starch to be dissolved in water or in spray cans.

Chemical properties

The low amylose and low residual content, combined with the high molecular weight of its amylose, make tapioca a useful starting material for modification into a variety of specialty products. Tapioca starch applications in specialty products has become increasingly popular. The effects of additives on thermal transitions and physical and chemical properties can affect the quality and storage stability of tapioca-based products.

Glass transition state

Salt is often added to starch-based products to enhance flavor and functionality, as it can increase the gelatinization temperature of tapioca starch as well as delay the retrogradation of the gels formed upon cooling. Cations, particularly Na+ and Ca2+, can interact electrostatically with the oxygen atoms in the glucose molecule of the starch polymer. This interaction induces an antiplasticizing effect and increases competition for available water, increasing the glass transition temperature of the gelatinized molecule.

Molecular biology


When roots are sold to processing factories, it must reach within 24 hours of harvest to ensure raw material freshness and prevent microflora growth. This would be observed as brown-black discolorations in a freshly broken root. All process water streams contain some amount of sulfur dioxide to control growth of microbes. Dried starch provides a shelf-stable product. For example, the uncooked, dried tapioca pearls has at least a 2-year shelf-life stability whereas the freshly cooked pearls may last 10 days in the refrigerator. This difference is accounted to the water activity difference of the wet and dried product, the former introducing a much more favorable condition for microbes to grow.

Regional applications

South America


In Cuisine of Brazil, Brazilian cuisine, tapioca is used for different types of meals. In beiju (or biju), the tapioca is moistened, strained through a sieve to become a coarse flour, then sprinkled onto a hot griddle or pan, where the heat makes the starchy grains fuse into a flatbread which resembles a grainy pancake. Then it may be buttered and eaten as a toast (its most common use as a breakfast dish), or it may be filled or topped with either ''salgados'' (salty pastry recipes) or ''doces'' (sweet pastry recipes), which define the kind of meal the tapioca is used for: breakfast/dinner, or dessert. Choices for fillings range from butter, cheese, ham, bacon, various kinds of meat, chocolate, fruits such as ground coconut, condensed milk, chocolate with sliced pieces of banana or strawberry, Nutella and cinnamon among others. This kind of tapioca dish is usually served warm. A regional dessert called ''sagu'' is also made in Southern Brazil from tapioca pearls cooked with cinnamon and cloves in red wine. The cassava root is known by different names throughout the country: ''mandioca'' in the North, Central-West and in São Paulo; tapioca or ''macaxeira'' in the Northeast; ''aipim'' in the Southeast (especially in Rio de Janeiro). The fine-grained tapioca starch is called ''polvilho,'' and it is classified as either "sweet" or "sour". Sour ''polvilho'' is commonly used in dishes such as ''pão de queijo'' or "cheese bread", in which the starch is mixed with a hard cheese, usually matured Minas cheese (could be substituted by Parmesan cheese), eggs and butter and baked in the oven. The final result is an aromatic, chewy and elastic kind of bread that is ubiquitous across the country. Toasted cassava flour is mixed into mashed beans to make the dish Brazilian cuisine, ''tutu de feijão''.

Other locations

In Colombia and Venezuela, arepas may be made with tapioca flour rather than cornmeal. Tapioca arepas probably predate cornmeal arepas; among traditional cultures of the Caribbean the name for them is casabe. Throughout both Spanish and Portuguese South America, the tapioca, or yuca, starch is used to make regional variations of the baked cheese bun, known locally as ''pandebono'', ''pan de yuca'', ''pão de queijo'', ''chipá'', or ''cuñapé'', among other names. The whole unprocessed cassava root also has a number of culinary uses throughout South America.

North America

While frequently associated with tapioca pudding, a dessert in the United States, tapioca is also used in other courses. People on gluten-free diets can eat bread made with tapioca flour (however some tapioca flour has wheat added to it). Tapioca syrup is sometimes added as a sweetener to a wide variety of foods and beverages as an alternative to sucrose or corn syrup.

West Indies

Tapioca is a staple food from which dishes such as pepper pot as well as alcohol are made. It may be used to clean the teeth, as a foodstuff cooked with meats or fish, and in desserts such as cassava pone. Specifically in rural Cuba early in Spanish rule, tapioca's popularity grew because it was easy to cultivate the crop and to transport to nearby Spanish settlements, eventually influencing the way land and people were divided in that early imperial era.


In various Asian countries, tapioca pearls are widely used and are known as ''sagudana'', ''sabudana'' or ''shabudana'' (pearl sago) or ''sabba akki'' (in Kannada language, Kannada). The pearls are used to make snacks. Tapioca pearls are essential ingredients for Taiwanese bubble tea.

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, the cassava root is commonly cut into slices, wedges or strips, fried, and served as tapioca chips, similar to potato chips, potato wedges, wedges or french fries. Another method is to boil large blocks until soft, and serve them with grated coconut as a dessert, either slightly salted or sweetened, usually with palm sugar syrup. In Thailand, this dish is called mansampalang. Commercially prepared tapioca has many uses. Tapioca powder is commonly used as a thickener for soups and other liquid foods. It is also used as a binder in Tablet (pharmacy), pharmaceutical tablets and natural paints. The flour is used to make tender breads, cakes, biscuits, cookies, and other delicacies (see also Maida flour). Tapioca flakes are used to thicken the filling of pies made with fruits having a high water content. A typical recipe for tapioca jelly can be made by washing 2 tablespoonfuls of tapioca, pouring a pint of water over it, and soaking for three hours. The mixture is placed over low heat and simmered until quite clear. If too thick, a little boiling water can be added. It can be sweetened with white sugar, flavored with coconut milk or a little wine, and eaten alone or with cream.


= Krupuk, or Indonesian traditional crackers, is a major use of tapioca starch in Indonesia. The most common krupuk is ''kerupuk kampung'' or ''kerupuk aci'' made of tapioca starch. The tapioca starch might be flavoured with minced shrimp as ''krupuk udang'' (prawn cracker) or ''krupuk ikan'' (fish cracker). The thinly sliced or sometimes quite thick cassava were also sun dried and deep fried to be made as ''kripik singkong'' crackers (cassava chips or tapioca chips). A variant of hot and spicy ''kripik singkong'' coated with sugar and chili pepper is known as ''kripik balado (food), balado'' or ''keripik sanjay'', a specialty of Bukittinggi city in West Sumatra. Cilok is tapioca balls dumplings snack. Tapai is made by fermenting large blocks with a yeast-like bacteria culture to produce a sweet and slightly alcoholic dessert. Further fermentation releases more liquids and alcohol producing ''Tuak'', a sour alcoholic beverage.


= A variation of the chips popular amongst the Malays (ethnic group), Malays is ''kerepek pedas'', where the crisps are coated with a hot, sweet and tangy Chili pepper, chili and onion paste, or sambal, usually with fried anchovy, anchovies and peanuts added. The cultivation of the plant is also extensively present in the Malay Peninsula, where in the hands of the Chinese, cassava tubers weighing from are first scraped and then washed carefully. By being passed between rollers, they are reduced to a pulp which is again carefully washed, then shaken up with water. This causes the fecula to separate and pass through a very fine sieve as it results in flour. The flour is repeatedly washed and then placed on mats to be bleached via exposure to sun and air. From here, different applications may be applied to give rise to the popular and loved tapioca pearls in bubble tea beverages, also known as boba. The pearl tapioca is achieved by placing the flour in a cradle-shaped frame covered with canvas where it's slightly moistened and rotated to be granulated. Finally, it is dried in the sun, then over the fire in a greased iron pan, and ready for the market.

South Asia


= Sabudana is sometimes used in dessert dishes. Faluda, a popular food, is also prepared with curd, ice and other ingredients during summer.


Tapioca pearls are a common ingredient of traditional Indian dishes such as kheer.

= Western India

= Tapioca pearls are used to make ''Sabudana khichdi, pakoda'', which is commonly eaten during ''vrat'' (fasting).

= Kerala

= Cassava is referred to as Tapioca in Indian English usage. Cassava is called kappa or maracheeni in Malayalam. It was introduced in 1880-1885 C.E. by the then Maharaja of Travancore, Visakham Thirunal, Vishakham Thirunal Rama Varma after a great famine hit the kingdom, as a substitute for rice. Saraswathy Nagarajan
"How tapioca came to Travancore"
''The Hindu'', June 27, 2019
Tapioca is widely consumed across Kerala. It is taken as breakfast or as a staple food. It is boiled (after skinning and cutting it into large pieces of about long or into small cubes) in water till properly cooked, and the water is drained off. Once cooked, it can be mixed with grated coconut, chili, salt, turmeric etc., then steamed and mashed into a dry pudding. This can be garnished in oil with mustard, onion, curry leaves etc. if desired. Tapioca pieces (chendan kappa) are often eaten with simple chili sauce (a paste of green/red chili, shallots, garlic, salt, and oil). Mashed tapioca is paired with meat or fish curry, especially sardines, as a delicacy in Kerala. Mashed tapioca with dried salted sardines directly cooked on charcoal and green chili is another popular combination. Tapioca can be stored for longer periods by parboiling and drying it, after skinning and slicing it into 0.5 cm thick pieces. This is called unakka kappa (dried tapioca). Tapioca chips, thinly sliced tapioca wafers, similar to potato chips, are also extremely popular.

= Tamil Nadu

= In Tamil language, Tamil, the roots of tapioca are called ''maravalli kizhangu'', and are used to prepare chips. Tapioca pearls are referred to as "javvarisi" in Tamil. Most of the delicacies are cooked from this form of tapioca because it is relatively easier to handle than the raw root itself. Tapioca is cultivated more in several districts, providing steady income to farmers. Tapioca can be consumed raw (after removing the skins/outer cover) or boiled for various dishes or snacks.

= Northeast India

= In Nagaland and Mizoram in Northeast India, tapioca is eaten as a snack. It is usually boiled with a bit of salt in water after skinning it, or snacks are made by drying the tapioca after cutting it. It is then powdered into flour and turned into dough to either make a fired or baked biscuit. In their local dialect, they call it ''kuri aloo'', meaning "wood potato". These chips are eaten by all groups of society as a delicacy. The skin of the tapioca, which is not edible for humans, is kept aside to prepare a food for domesticated pigs. In Assam, sabudana is also used as substitute diet against boiled rice (bhaat) for the sick elderly or infirm for easy digestion and strength.

=Sri Lanka

= It is known as "mangnokka" in Sri Lanka, as well as by its Sinhalese and Tamil names. It is generally eaten boiled with a chili onion mixture called "lunu miris sambol" (type of a salsa) or coconut sambal. Another popular cassava dish is as a curry cooked in coconut milk with a splash of turmeric. At the same time, it is popular to have tapioca pearls prepared as a delicacy. At one time, tapioca pearls were used to starch clothes by boiling tapioca pearls with the clothes. Spiced cassava chips are also a popular snack usually sold by street vendors and street-side shops.


Tapioca is eaten in the regions of Nigeria and Ghana as a common meal usually at breakfast. Cassava is a staple food in West Africa where it is widely eaten. In Nigeria, cassava is grated and dry roasted into ''garri'', this is eaten by adding water, sugar and or peanuts accompanied by meat or smoked fish. Garri is also made into ''eba'' by adding hot water, this is eaten with stew or soup. The Ijebu people, Ijebu people of Nigeria make a cold water variant of eba by pounding the mixture with their fist until it becomes homogenous; this is called ''feshelu''. The Egbas of Abeokuta, Ogun State peel, dry and grind cassava into a powder called ''elubo'', which is then made into ''amala paki'' and eaten with a jute leaf stew called ''ewedu''. In Lagos, cassava is processed into tapioca which is cooked in coconut milk and sugar, this can be eaten as a breakfast meal or as a dessert at parties or dinner. This is called ''mengau''. The Igbos of Eastern Nigeria add palm oil and other seasonings to grated cassava during roasting, a dish called ''abacha''. Peoples of the Niger Delta extract starch from cassava cooked into a starch eaten with pepper soup. In Ghana, cassava is peeled, boiled until tender, then pounded in a large wooden mortar and pestle until it becomes homogenous. This is called ''fufu''. It is eaten with soup.


Tapioca is not as widely used in Europe, but several countries use tapioca. In Belgium, small white tapioca pearls are added to clear soups. Tapioca balls are used in French desserts, such as parfaits. A savory snack in the United Kingdom, Skips (snack), Skips, is made from flavored tapioca. Tapioca is also widely available in its dried forms, and is used to make tapioca pudding in some countries.

See also

*Cassava *Potato starch *Tapioca industry of Thailand



Further reading

*Sosa, C. (1979), ''Casabe'', Editorial Arte: Caracas. Edible thickening agents Flour Flatbreads Unleavened breads Latin American cuisine Basket weaving Crops originating from the Americas Cassava dishes sv:Tapioca