Dessert

Cassava Flour: A Great Grain-Free Baking Option, With Some Caveats

March 25, 2016

A few months ago, when my friend mentioned cassava flour as a grain- and nut-free flour option, I put the idea in the back of my mind. I had entered the world of grain-free cooking because another friend with an auto-immune disease had been advised by a doctor to go grain-free, and the thought that she couldn’t have old favorites made me want to experiment.

A few weeks back, I saw bag of it at my local health food store. Talk about sticker shock—$17 for a 2-pound bag!

I wondered how many people like myself were curious about it but scared off by the price tag and took it upon myself to be the official taste-tester and risk-taker.

Photo by Jennifer Perillo

Before we go any further, let’s take a minute to backtrack and talk about what cassava is exactly. Also known as yuca, cassava is a tuber in the same family as taro, yams, and potatoes. People will often mistake cassava flour for tapioca flour, but the similarity ends with them both being from the yuca root.

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To make tapioca flour, the root is washed, pulped, and then squeezed to extract a starchy liquid. Once all the liquid evaporates, what remains is the tapioca flour. Cassava flour, on the other hand, is produced from the entire root, peeled, dried, and ground.

Unlike other grain-free and gluten-free substitutions, you can pretty much swap in this cassava flour for all-purpose flour to achieve a very good, sometimes even great, result. In other words, you don't have to go through the trouble of making (or buying) a gluten-free flour mix.

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Top Comment:
“I have come across a recipe that uses 1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, two cups cassava flour and two egg yokes (other dry ingredients) to make bread sticks. How much cassava flour would you suggest?”
— Lisa B.
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That being said, cassava flour isn’t a perfect fit for every recipe, and it certainly isn’t an even swap, regardless of what the packaging says. Cassava flour is lighter than all-purpose flour (130 grams per cup versus 145 to 150 grams when using the scoop and sweep method), yet it absorbs more liquid (meaning you should scale back the amount when making a substitution). You have to play around a bit to strike the right balance.

Cassava flour chocolate chip cookies Photo by Jennifer Perillo

I’ve been mostly excited by the results of my weeks playing with this new-to-me flour. I’ve made brownies, chocolate chip cookies, pizza dough, and pancakes, using tried-and-true recipes as the framework for my testing.

Working with a recipe you already know is a success helps you hone in on any mishaps you may have in cooking. If you decide to start from scratch, developing a totally new recipe before you understand how a new ingredient works in general... well, let’s just say be forewarned.

Dark chocolate cassava flour brownies Photo by Jennifer Perillo

Here’s a quick summary from my month of tinkering with cassava flour.

  1. It’s a very dusty flour, so be gentle: Don't plop it into the bowl, or you’ll be consumed by a dust cloud. 
  2. It loves liquid, and drinks it up considerably, at a higher proportion than all-purpose flour. So while packages say it’s a cup for cup substitute, I've found that you need to scale back the amount of cassava flour when making a substitution.
  3. Cassava flour imparts an earthy, subtly nutty flavor—not surprising since it’s made from a ground-up root vegetable, but something to keep in mind when tasting your finished recipe.
  4. Recipes that rely on copious amounts of cassava flour and are thicker/deeper (like loaf cakes), have posed a challenge. They tend to come out over-baked on the outside, while remaining underdone and gummy in the center.

And yes, I’ve had a few misses with cassava flour, too, as part of my learning curve (see #4 above). Let’s not talk about the gummy, inedible cake and the rolls I made recently. I’m not giving up on either recipe. My hunch tells me they need a partner flour.

Lemon poppy cassave pancakes Photo by Jennifer Perillo

In the meantime, here are a few cassava flour recipes my family is loving lately:

Tell me, have you been curious about cassava flour? Do you already use it regularly and have a favorite recipe to share?

10 Comments

Lisa B. November 16, 2018
Hello, I am very new to the cassava flour band wagon and am excited to join this group. I am gluten and potato intolerant and since most gluten free flour blend have potato starch in them I have given up hope for bread. I have been using cassava and almond flour to make a “hockey puck” that is good but not bread. I have come across a recipe that uses 1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, two cups cassava flour and two egg yokes (other dry ingredients) to make bread sticks. How much cassava flour would you suggest?
 
Rissako October 19, 2017
I've been using cassava flour to make pancakes, waffles, and muffins. It's great!
 
Chandor S. October 19, 2017
what partner flour would you suggest to use with Cassava? Tried making a vanilla cake with it and it came out gummy and inedible. Thanks so much
 
Rissako October 19, 2017
Was it in a loaf pan or bundt pan? If so, that could be the problem. I made the mistake of trying to make pumpkin bread with it. Had to toss it. Remade it in muffin tins, and it was great. But if you're looking for another grain-free option, you could try 75% cassava, 25% tigernut. Tigernut gives it more of a crumb. (Also, in case you're unfamiliar, tigernut isn't an actual nut, it's a tuber.)<br />
 
Helena March 30, 2016
Hmm. I've been hemming over the difference between this cassava flour and the more commonly known tapioca starch, which I grew up eating and has long been used in some cultures. Tapioca starch is nothing more than finely ground cassava root. Perhaps this product is a slightly coarser grind, otherwise I suspect it is just an over-priced, hipster re-branding of tapioca starch, which can be found dirt-cheap at Asian and Brazilian markets. I think it runs about 80 cents/lb. where I live. Just FYI...
 
marmar November 18, 2016
Actually, Cassava flour itselv is finely ground cassava root, but Tapicoa starch is an intensely bleached starch extract. More info here: https://draxe.com/cassava-flour/
 
witloof March 28, 2016
I just looked at the recipe for grain free tortillas and am doing a happy dance. I have to avoid gluten and dried corn to maintain my health, and I miss tortillas! I'll check and see if my local health food store has that brand of cassava flour. Thank you!
 
Marie March 27, 2016
Given its price, I would be VERY interested in reading how frozen, grated cassava (available at most Asian grocery stores VERY inexpensively - about $2 for a 1 lb bag) in combination with a less expensive gluten free flour would work in recipes. I've only once made cassava cake with frozen cassava and it was rich, moist, delicious and inexpensive - a very popular Filipino recipe and gluten free (zero flour) for forever!
 
Helena March 30, 2016
Marie, are you near any Brazilian markets? If so, you can ask for the flour used to make farofa. It should be labeled "farinha de mandioca" (translation: "tapioca flour") with the suffix "crua" if any, as that will be the untoasted kind. Make sure it is not the toasted kind labeled "torrada" meaning toasted. The brand Yoki is popular among Brazilians.
 
Roz March 25, 2016
You might consider trying out tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, and/or almond flour with cassava.