What Is Tapioca Starch and Tapioca Flour? {Gluten Free Food Facts}

Have you ever wondered what the difference was between tapioca flour and tapioca starch?

I am guessing that many of you have because it is one of the most asked questioned that I have received when it comes to gluten free baking. It is confusing and one I had a lot of questions on when I first went gluten free.

Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing. I have found that Asian type markets and products tend to label it as tapioca starch and companies like Bob’s Red Mill tend to label it as tapioca flour, but there is no difference in the actual products. They are the same.

When it comes to recipes it really varies by the author or cookbook on what it is called, but if a recipe calls for tapioca starch, you can easily use tapioca flour, since they are the same thing.

So what is tapioca flour?

Tapioca flour comes from the root of the cassava plant. It basically the same thing as tapioca pearls, like you would use for pudding, but tapioca flour has been ground into a a flour.

Tapioca flour/starch adds structure to gluten free baking. It also helps give things a chewy and/or crisp texture, especially in things like cookies and cakes.

When over used in a recipe though tapioca flour can make food slimy and can also add a strong taste to the final product. Most recipes need some tapioca starch, but not too much, and finding that balance can sometimes be hard.

Tapioca flour can also be used as a thickener in sauces and gravy, but it is not my favorite thickener to use because I have found that it tends to make the sauce a bit slimy.

I know a few gluten free people that do not like the flavor of tapioca flour in their gluten free cooking and they often substitute cornstarch. I know many have been happy with the results of doing this, for me though, I have found that it works sometimes better than others. And since my family does not mind the taste of tapioca starch in baked goods, I am fine with using it.

In fact, one of my family’s favorite ways for me to use tapioca starch is in Brazilian Cheese Buns.

Interested in learning more gluten free food facts? So far we have covered:



White Rice and Brown Rice Flour

Sweet Rice Flour and

Where to buy gluten free ingredients 


Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. Thanks Lynn! I’ve always wanted to know. I’ve seen cassava root at the grocery store before as a root vegetable. Since I now know that tapioca starch is actually a ground up vegetable, I feel so much better using it over any starch due to health concerns when using too much starch.

  2. Hello, just to clear something up, tapioca starch and flour are not the same thing. This is a strange misconception in the US. Tapioca flour is ground dried cassava root. To get the starch, boil the flour and strain. The white flaky substance that filters through is the starch. They are used differently and affect taste in a different way. Go into any asian supermarket and you will find tapioca starch and flour sold separately. It is like corn flour and corn starch.

  3. lisa aeschliman says:

    What is the carbs in this flour? Or Brazlian cheese bread. I am diabetic. I love these

    • just learning howto use tapioca starch to
      thicken sauces. can you give me info on how to do this.?

      • This is the gluten free gravy I make. It uses potato starch, but you can use tapicoa starch about the same. I usually prefer potato starch, but you use the same basic technique. I hope that helps.

  4. If a recipe calls for tapioca starch, can I use Minute tapioca?

    • No tapioca starch is a flour like substance similar to cornstarch, so it is not the same as tapioca like you would use in a pudding.

  5. Is tapioca starch the same as modified tapioca starch or expandex tapioca starch? Very confused here. :(

  6. Can Minute Tapioca be used in place of tapioca starch? What about pearl tapioca…can it be put in a blender and used as tapioca starch?

  7. Thanks for the helpful info!

  8. Dear Lynn,
    Complementing what Dan said, here in Brazil we actually have two kinds of tapioca starch: sweet (called ‘polvilho doce’) and sour (called ‘polvilho azedo’). Shortly, the sour kind passes through a fermentation process before the drying one. Clearly, they produce very distinct tastes in recipes.

  9. Kitty Chang says:

    Thank you Lynn, I needed Tapioca Flour for a recipe; went to the store and picked up Tapioca Starch because it came in a smaller package. I almost died thinking its Tapioca flour I needed not Starch. And your explanation relieved me of my fears. Thank you :)

  10. Can Arrowroot be used for tapioca flour .I was sold that instead of tapioca for hot cross buns

  11. Why have you ignored all the comments stating that there is actually a difference between the two and that you information is NOT correct.

    Arrowroot can be used in place of tapioca FLOUR as is DOES do the same thing!

    • I am not sure what you mean. In the US they are the same, most brands that produce them call them the same thing. Here is an example from Bob’s Red Mill where they are listing them as the same. http://www.bobsredmill.com/tapioca-flour.html

      • Barfaulkner says:

        I think maybe another misconception about US foods and foods from other countries. I assume that this flour starch thing is similar to our bacon vs France’s bacon which are not the same. I also assume that recipes in a US cookbook would be as you say starch and flour being the same. If you were to come across a Brazilian recipe perhaps it would not work. Are we importing prepackaged tapioca flour and/or tapioca starch?

  12. Tapioca starch and Tapioca Flour are not the same thing. Tapioca starche is refined Tapioca flour. Tapioca starch (depending on the quality grade and its origen) has a way higher starch content than tapioca flour.
    In other words, tapioca flour is simply grinded and milled cassave roots. Tapioca starch had a extra proces step after that to get out alot more vibers, minirals (wich lowers the ash conent) and other things you dont need to give strength (viscosity) to your products. If you wanna eat a more ”pure” product you should chose Tapioca starch (as it is basicly only starch).
    To be honest I am not a foody or what ever you call it, and i think the gluten thing is more a trend than an actual alergy or intolerance. And this is actualy the first time I comment on what of these things.
    Sorry for my bad english btw, i hope u understand the message


  1. […] let’s do it the Paleo way and swap out that all-purpose flour with tapioca flour, a healthier alternative. And instead of the butter let’s stick to olive oil for the healthy […]

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