What Is Cassava Flour? Benefits, Recipes, and More (2024)

Cassava is a type of root that provides food for over 500 million people globally. Its scientific name is Manihot esculenta. It’s inexpensive and resistant to drought, pests, and diseases (1, 2).

Since cassava is a rich source of carbs, its flour has multiple applications in the food industry. You can also still eat it if you follow several common dietary restrictions.

Yet, this promising ingredient comes with a major downside when it hasn’t been appropriately processed.

This article reviews cassava flour, its benefits, downsides, and a recipe idea for you to give it a try.

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Cassava flour is a gluten-free flour made from the tuber cassava, which is native to South America and grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions (2).

Despite cassava’s nutty flavor, its flour has a light or neutral taste and a fine or smooth texture. It is predominantly white in color, although you may find some with a light red or yellow hue, depending on the cassava variety (1).

The process of making cassava flour can be divided into five steps:

  1. peeling the tubers
  2. soaking them in water for 4–6 days
  3. sun-drying or roasting them
  4. scraping off the outer layer
  5. grinding the remainder into flour

Cassava flour is a highly versatile ingredient with numerous uses in the food industry, including in all sorts of baked goods, tortillas, porridge, pancakes, and gluten-free pasta and pizza. Manufacturers also sometimes use it as a thickener for ice cream, sauces, and dressings (1).

Furthermore, its low moisture content gives cassava flour a long shelf life as long as it’s stored away from moisture (1).

Summary

Cassava flour is a gluten-free flour made from the tuber cassava. It has a neutral taste, white color, and smooth texture, and can be used to prepare numerous dishes.

A 1/4 cup (35 grams) serving of cassava flour provides (3):

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 31 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Potassium: 2% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Calcium: 1.5% of the DV

As you can see, cassava flour is a carb-rich food with virtually no fat or protein. To add to this, the little protein it may provide is of low quality due to its very low essential amino acid content (4).

Therefore, people who follow a diet that relies on cassava flour should also eat protein sources, such as eggs, poultry, fish, meat, tofu, or legumes.

Similarly, its low fat content means that it does not provide any healthy fats or fat-soluble vitamins.

Starch is the main component of cassava and its flour. They contain two main kinds of starch: amylose and amylopectin (5).

Raw cassava contains approximately 75% resistant starch, which is not absorbed in the small intestine but is fermented in the large intestine (4, 6).

As for its mineral content, it is very similar to that of commercial wheat flour. Thus, substituting one for the other may result in similar mineral composition (1).

Summary

Cassava flour is a high-carb food rich in resistant starch with a low protein and fat. Its mineral content is very similar to that of commercial wheat flours.

The benefits of consuming cassava flour products come from their high resistant starch content.

However, note that few studies analyze the benefits of cassava flour itself. Thus, the studies discussed below report the health benefits of resistant starch in general. More research on the benefits and health effects of cassava flour is needed.

May help improve metabolic markers

Human and animal studies suggest that resistant starch may improve metabolic markers, such as blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which are linked to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (6, 7).

NCDs are chronic disorders that appear due to a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral factors.

Some of the most common NCDs are type 2 diabetes and heart disease due to high blood pressure and cholesterol levels (7).

Nevertheless, resistant starch may help improve your blood sugar control. It does this by (6, 7, 8):

  • slowing down the rate of digestion of foods, leading to a slower rise in blood glucose levels
  • improving insulin sensitivity, meaning that your cells respond better to the hormone insulin

Studies also show that it may help lower blood cholesterol levels (6, 7, 8).

May aid weight loss

Resistant starch in cassava flour may aid weight loss by regulating your appetite and reducing fat mass.

Human and animal studies show that when bacteria in your gut digest resistant starch, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These trigger the release of the hunger-reducing hormones peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) (7, 8, 9, 10).

As for the effect of resistant starch on body fat, a 4-week study in 19 adults found that taking 40 grams of resistant starch per day significantly reduced two types of belly fat — the fat just under the skin and the visceral fat that lies between the organs (10).

It’s important to note that this was a specific type of resistant starch that came from high-amylose maize, not cassava. In addition, participants took high doses.

Therefore, it’s unknown whether eating normal amounts of cassava flour would have similar effects.

May improve gut health

Cassava flour’s resistant starch content can benefit your gut health in more than one way (11).

Because resistant starch gets fermented in the large intestine, it serves as a prebiotic or food for your gut’s friendly bacteria (7).

As a prebiotic, resistant starch promotes microbial growth, helping counteract gut dysbiosis — an altered microbiota — which has been associated with diseases such as obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, and colorectal cancer (5, 7).

In addition, resistant starch in cassava flour may have a protective effect on your gut’s mucosal epithelium or lining by increasing production of an SCFA called butyric acid (5, 11).

Damage to your gut’s lining may increase intestinal permeability, increasing the risk of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (11).

Summary

Resistant starch in cassava flour may benefit blood sugar and cholesterol control, weight loss, and gut health.

Though it’s rare, consuming large amounts of improperly processed cassava flour may lead to acute cyanide poisoning, resulting in fatal consequences (12).

Cassava is composed of cyanogenic glycosides that act as chemical defenses against disease-causing microorganisms and plant-eating animals.

When the tuber tissue is destroyed — whether during flour making or animal chewing — the glycosides release hydrogen cyanide (HCN), leading to cyanide poisoning (13).

Signs and symptoms of cyanide poisoning include dizziness, vomiting, rapid breathing, temporary loss of consciousness due to low blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. They may start 4–6 hours after ingestion (12).

Research also suggests that chronic dietary cyanide exposure from consuming small amounts of improperly processed cassava products may lead to adverse health effects.

These include a paralytic disorder known as konzo and a condition called tropical ataxic neuropathy (TAN), characterized by an inability to coordinate muscle movements (12, 14).

The soaking and drying steps of cassava flour processing are the primary ways to reduce the cyanide content of cassava, with drying being the most popular practice (4).

These steps promote the enzymatic degradation of cyanogenic glycosides. Yet, if the soaking or drying time is too short, enzymatic degradation will be ineffective, and cyanogenic glycosides remain high (12).

Evidence shows that sun-drying seems to be more effective than oven-drying, as it may eliminate almost 90% of the initial cyanide content (4).

In addition, fermentation may also reduce the cyanide content of cassava products (4).

Therefore, adequate cassava processing during flour making is key to preventing these harmful effects.

However, it’s important to note that, in most cases, outbreaks of cyanide toxicity have been mainly related to cassava flour made from wild cultivars of cassava (12).

These taste more bitter and contain much higher concentrations of cyanide. Though experts don’t recommend them for human consumption, some farmers still grow them.

On the other hand, commercial food preparation in the United States uses sweet cassava, which carries a lower risk (12).

Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to buy your cassava flour from a reputable brand to ensure it has been processed adequately.

Summary

Consuming large amounts of poorly processed cassava flour may lead to cyanide poisoning. Long-term intake of small amounts may also lead to adverse health effects. Yet, both may be prevented by appropriate processing methods.

Cassava flour is an incredibly versatile ingredient that people use to prepare a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes.

It makes an excellent substitute for wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio.

This means that you could use cassava flour to turn just about any recipe that calls for wheat flour into a gluten-, grain-, and nut-free version.

That makes cassava flour highly convenient for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or nut allergy, or those following a Paleo diet.

However, since cassava flour is a carb-rich ingredient, it is unsuitable for a keto diet.

You can use cassava flour to prepare almost every kind of baked good, such as bread, brownies, cakes, muffins, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and donuts. You can also use it to make your own gluten-free pasta or pizza crust.

You could also try these Paleo-friendly tortillas by following this easy recipe.

Paleo cassava flour tortillas

This recipe yields 10 tortillas that you can enjoy with your favorite toppings.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (280 grams) cassava flour
  • 1 cup (240 mL) coconut milk (or your milk of choice if you’re not looking for a Paleo or nut-free version)
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) water
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl to form a dough with a smooth consistency.
  2. Divide the dough into 10 small balls. Place each ball on a piece of parchment paper and pat it into a thin tortilla. Feel free to use your hands or a rolling pin sprinkled with cassava flour.
  3. Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat and lightly drizzle with more oil for cooking.
  4. Cook each tortilla for about 1–3 minutes on both sides.
Summary

Cassava flour is a versatile ingredient that works as a wheat flour substitute. It can help you turn almost any recipe into a gluten-, grain-, and nut-free version. However, it is not a good choice for those on a keto diet.

Cassava flour is a healthy and versatile ingredient you can use to prepare a wide range of recipes and dishes.

Due to its high resistant starch content, it may aid weight loss, help improve gut health, and benefit metabolic markers, such as blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

It can also help you turn a wheat-flour-based recipe into a gluten-free one while also being a Paleo-friendly and nut-free alternative.

Keep in mind that poorly processed cassava flour, particularly from wild cassava, may lead to cyanide poisoning. Thus, be sure to purchase your flour from a reputable brand.

Just one thing

Try this today: Store your cassava flour in an airtight container in a cool and dry place to get the best out of it.

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What Is Cassava Flour? Benefits, Recipes, and More (2024)

FAQs

What Is Cassava Flour? Benefits, Recipes, and More? ›

It's a great substitute for wheat and other flours. You can use it in any recipe that calls for wheat flour, making baking and cooking gluten-free meals easy. Cassava flour is very rich in carbohydrates. A cup of cassava flour (285 grams) has about 110 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, and 4.5 grams of sugar.

What is cassava flour best used for? ›

Cassava flour is a highly versatile ingredient with numerous uses in the food industry, including in all sorts of baked goods, tortillas, porridge, pancakes, and gluten-free pasta and pizza. Manufacturers also sometimes use it as a thickener for ice cream, sauces, and dressings ( 1 ).

When should you not use cassava flour? ›

It's High in Carbs

Lastly, due to its starchy nature, cassava flour is a high-carb flour which means that it won't work well for individuals following low carb diets like the ketogenic diet.

What does cassava flour do to the body? ›

Cassava Flour Contains Dietary Fiber

Eating a diet rich in dietary fiber will help add bulk to your stools, making digestion a lot easier. Fiber also helps regulate the body's use of sugars. Because of this, a diet high in dietary fiber will often keep you fuller for longer.

Does cassava flour need to be cooked? ›

It also has a similar binding quality to that of wheat flour. Note: If you purchase a cassava root, don't consume it raw because it contains cyanide, which is toxic to ingest. But as long as you're cooking the root or using purchased cassava flour, any dangerous traces of toxins are removed.

How to eat cassava flour? ›

The best way to use cassava flour is to mix it with other nutrient-dense foods to boost fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Cassava flour is not harmful. But you shouldn't eat it in its raw form, as it contains cyanogenic glycosides, which can turn into cyanide in the body.

Can I eat cassava flour everyday? ›

Cassava is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when eaten regularly as a food in large amounts.

Who should not take cassava? ›

It contains cyanide which may lead to acute toxicity or chronically may be an aetiological factor in tropical nutritional amblyopia, tropical neuropathy, endemic goitre, cretinism and tropical diabetes. It may also have carcinogenic potential.

What are the top 10 health benefits of cassava? ›

The main health benefits of cassava are:
  1. Preventing cardiovascular diseases. ...
  2. Improving energy and mood. ...
  3. Helping to manage diabetes. ...
  4. Promoting skin, nail and hair health. ...
  5. Improving digestion. ...
  6. Strengthening the immune system. ...
  7. Aiding weight loss. ...
  8. Preventing some types of cancer.
Aug 31, 2023

What does cassava do to the brain? ›

Various animal studies on neurotoxicity due to cassava reported decreases in motor coordination and neurotransmitter changes, particularly dopaminergic changes in the brain (Mathangi et al., 1999; Mathangi and Namasivayam, 2000) .

How do you remove cyanide from cassava flour? ›

Sun drying eliminates more cyanide than oven drying because of the prolonged contact time between linamarase and the glucosides in sun drying. Soaking followed by boiling is better than soaking or boiling alone in removing cyanide.

What goes well with cassava? ›

In The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, cassava is made into a bread, or is eaten boiled, either alone or with sweet potatoes, cabbage, plantains, and meat. Alternatively, it is cooked in soups with okra or with dumplings. Or sometimes made as a cake.

Which is healthier, potato or cassava? ›

However edible varieties of cassava and potatoes grown for consumption are low on toxicity. Cassava is more healthier if you can eat the green leaves which are edible after blanching/boiling and straining and contain useful amounts of amino acids/proteins.

Is cassava flour anti-inflammatory? ›

Cassava contains anti-inflammatory properties due to its high vitamin C content. When eaten regularly, cassava's vitamin C content can help lower inflammation by reducing the risk of oxidative stress. It does this by providing antioxidants that can balance out free radicals.

Which is healthier tapioca or cassava flour? ›

More Fiber, Nutty Taste

Since cassava flour comes from the entire root, it contains more fibre, and therefore, it supports your digestive system, controls your levels of sugar blood and lowers your cholesterol levels. If you love to bake, then you will love this flour, because it enhances the texture of the food.

Is cassava flour better than whole wheat flour? ›

Use in recipes: Both work similarly, but cassava flour is more effective in baking as a wheat replacement and as a thickener because it is higher in fiber. Their taste: Cassava flour has a more distinguished nutty flavor.

Will cassava flour rise with yeast? ›

Being that cassava flour does not rise well when mixed with yeast (because of its lack of gluten), it is not the best substitute when it comes to yeasted baked goods. Cassava flour and tapioca flour are sometimes used interchangeably, however, they're not the same product.

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