Cassava Flour: An In-Depth Look at This Popular Gluten Free Flour
Followers of the gluten free diet know that you can’t just substitute any old gluten free flour for wheat flour in your favorite recipes. For example, almond flour and coconut flour, two gluten free staples, are completely different in taste and texture, not to mention the way they interact with other ingredients. If you’re tired of the headache of testing your favorite recipes with one gluten free flour after another, you’ll be glad to hear that there might be a solution.
Cassava flour is not something most people have heard of, but it is rapidly gaining popularity among the gluten free community. Why? Not only does this gluten free flour look like traditional wheat flour, but it acts in much the same way for both cooking and baking applications.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at cassava flour to learn what it is and what nutritional and health benefits it provides. We’ll also talk about some simple tips for cooking and baking with this versatile gluten free flour and provide some recipes so you can try it for yourself.
What is Cassava Flour?
As you might guess from the name, cassava flour is derived from the cassava plant. Cassava is a root vegetable similar to other starches like parsnips and carrots. This root vegetable is native to South America and a staple in the diets of many developing countries. It has a slightly nutty flavor and is the raw material used to produce tapioca and arrowroot powders.
Cassava flour is produced using the whole root of the cassava plant. The root is peeled and dried then ground into a fine flour. If you want to make it yourself, you can take the fresh cassava root and grate it into a fine mash using a handheld grater. From there, you should press and dry the root and grind it into a fine powder once it is fully dried.
Also known as “yuca”, cassava can be ground into a flour that has a mild flavor and fine texture, making it the perfect gluten free substitute for wheat flour. In addition to being gluten free, cassava flour is vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, and grain-free. Its nutrition consists primarily of carbohydrate, though it also contains small amounts of other nutrients.
What Are the Health Benefits?
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of boiled cassava root contains 112 calories, 98% of which come from carbohydrate. Cassava flour contains about 130 calories per ¼-cup (35-gram) serving. A serving this size contains 31 grams of carbohydrate including 2 grams of fiber and negligible amounts of fat and protein. Cassava flour does contain some calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese but, otherwise, it isn’t particularly rich in any essential nutrients.
Though the nutrition profile of cassava flour is fairly unremarkable, what makes it worth using is the fact that it can be used as a 1-to-1 substitute for wheat flour in many recipes. Its color, taste, and texture are very similar to wheat flour. That being said, it doesn’t always react the same way as wheat flour, so you’ll need to make some adjustments to your recipe, depending how you’re using it.
Before you start using cassava flour, you should be aware of some potential negative effects. Cassava can be toxic when consumed raw because the skin contains a naturally occurring form of cyanide. Peeling, soaking, and cooking the cassava root renders these compounds harmless. Store bought cassava flour has been processed sufficiently to remove these toxins so you need not worry. The only negative qualities of cassava flour include the facts that it is relatively high in calories and loaded with carbohydrates.
Tips for Cooking and Baking with Cassava Flour?
If you’ve been looking for the ideal gluten free flour to use in all of your favorite gluten-containing recipes, cassava flour is probably the closest you’ll get to perfect. It has a neutral flavor and fine texture, though it is a bit lighter than all-purpose wheat flour. It also absorbs a little more liquid and doesn’t always bake the same way. The best way to use cassava flour is in something you’ve made successfully in the past so you can easily identify what needs to be tweaked to yield the desired result.
Here are some simple tips for cooking and baking with cassava flour:
- Because cassava soaks up more liquid than wheat flour, you may need to use slightly less than a 1-to-1 ratio when using it in large quantities (such a for baking).
- Recipes that use large amounts of cassava flour may look done on the outside when the are still quite doughy on the inside – check before removing things from the oven.
- Cassava flour has a very fine texture that makes it quite dusty – keep this in mind when using it to dust the top of a loaf of bread or when sprinkling it on a surface to roll out dough.
- Remember that cassava flour comes from a root, so it does have a slight nutty flavor – choose your recipes wisely to make sure it doesn’t throw off the taste of the final result.
- Keep in mind that cassava flour has a very high-carbohydrate profile – it is not the ideal gluten free substitute if you are following a low-carb diet.
Now that you have a better understanding of what cassava flour is and how it works in gluten free baking and cooking, you’re probably itching to try it for yourself! Read on to see some simple gluten free recipes featuring this versatile gluten free flour.
4 Gluten Free Recipes Using Cassava Flour
What makes cassava flour unique among gluten free flours is that it can often be used as a direct 1-to-1 substitute for wheat flour. You may need to make some small adjustments when using it in your favorite recipes, but the results will be better than with trying to use something like almond flour as a lone substitute. To help you get used to cooking with cassava flour, here are some tasty recipes:
1. Cassava Flour Tortillas
- 2 cups cassava flour
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
- Pinch fresh black pepper
- Whisk together the cassava flour, almond milk, water, oil, garlic powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add a pinch of fresh ground pepper and mix until it reaches a smooth consistency.
- Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll into balls by hand.
- Roll each dough ball out between two pieces of parchment paper into a thin tortilla – sprinkle lightly with cassava flour if it sticks.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and drizzle with oil.
- Add a tortilla and cook for 1 to 3 minutes on each side until browned.
- Transfer the tortilla to a plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
2. Simple Cassava Bread Loaf
Yield: 1 small loaf
- 3 large eggs plus 2 egg whites
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¾ cup cassava flour
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a small loaf pan.
- Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, coconut oil, almond milk, and maple syrup.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the cassava flour, coconut flour, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until smooth and well combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 35 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool the loaf in the pan then turn out when cool and slice to serve.
3. Crispy Fried Chicken Nuggets
- ½ cup avocado oil (or grape seed oil)
- 1 pound boneless chicken breast
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/3 cup cassava flour
- Heat the avocado oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until very hot.
- Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.
- Add the cassava flour to a shallow dish and set aside.
- Whisk together the egg, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder in a medium bowl until frothy.
- Add the chicken pieces and toss until evenly coated.
- Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the chicken pieces, transferring them to the cassava flour.
- Shake the excess cassava flour off the chicken pieces and place them in the hot oil.
- Working in batches, fry the chicken nuggets for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Remove the chicken nuggets to paper towels to drain while you repeat with the rest.
- Serve the chicken nuggets hot with your favorite dipping sauce.
4. Dark Chocolate Cassava Brownies
- 250 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons cassava flour
- 6 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and cut a piece of parchment to fit in a 9x13-inch baking pan.
- Grease one side of the parchment with cooking spray and place greased-side-up in the pan.
- Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.
- Set the chocolate aside to cool slightly.
- Whisk together the eggs and sugar until it forms a thick, pale mixture – about 2 minutes.
- Add the melted chocolate while whisking then whisk in the oil and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Sprinkle the cassava flour, cocoa, and salt over the wet ingredients and fold together using a rubber spatula until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly, then tap a few times on the counter to remove air bubbles.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the edges are slightly crisp and the center is just set.
- Cool completely then cut into squares to serve.
Whether you’re whipping up a batch of gluten free cookies or trying something a little more complicated, cassava flour is a versatile option worth exploring. Try one of the recipes provided above or use it as a substitute for wheat flour in one of your favorite recipes. You may be surprised to see how well it turns out!