What is Tapioca? Cassava pearls & it’s uses

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  December 20, 2020
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Tapioca is the starch derived from Cassava plant. It’s a native plant of Brazil but can also be in other parts of the world like the Philippines.

It is widely used as a staple food in South America. Cassava plant from which Tapioca is from can survive poor soil conditions.

It’s a staple food by many people in tropical countries though it’s only rich in carbohydrates. It doesn’t have much protein, vitamins or minerals.

The starch is a thickening agent in many kinds of prepared foods. It can be used in many cooking preparations.

In the Philippines, it is used in Sago Gulaman and Ginataang Halo-Halo. The starch is used for sauces, gravies, and other thickening purposes.

What is Tapioca?

My favorite brand is this one from Rani:


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Tapioca Meaning

Tapioca comes from the word tipi’óka. It’s a kind of Tupi language from Portuguese origins when people from Portugal went to the region of Brazil.

The word means ‘the process of making the cassava plant starch’. The cassava plant from which the starch comes from has red or green branches.

It has blue spindles. Its roots from the branches need to be removed otherwise it can turn into cyanide.

Cooking and Preparing Tapioca Pearls

Other uses of Tapioca

It can turn into flakes, sticks, and pearls. It must be soaked first before cooking to tenderize it. It doubles in size when you boil it in water.

The starch also comes in many forms like hot soluble powder, meal, pre-cooked coarse or fine flakes, pearls, and sticks.

Pearls are the most common. It comes in 1 mm to 8 mm diameter sizes. The most common size is 2-3 mm.


The texture can be rubbery but many people like it in their milk tea or pearl smoothies. Its most common color is white. Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria produce the most volume of cassava plants in the world.

Thailand also exports about 60% of the world’s Tapioca.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.