Is Tapioca Flour Keto Friendly? (No, Here’s Why)

Is Tapioca Flour Keto Friendly?

Tapioca flour is a type of starch that comes from the cassava root. It has gained attention in recent years as a popular gluten-free and grain-free alternative that can be used in baked goods and other gluten-friendly food products. Tapioca may be popular in the United States, but it is also widely known in other parts of the world like Africa, South America, and Asia as a dietary staple used as a thickener or to make breads and biscuits. Given its popularity across the globe and versatility, you may be wondering: is tapioca flour keto-friendly? 

Tapioca flour is not keto-friendly as it is both high in carbohydrate and low in fat. Foods with a relatively high carbohydrate content like tapioca flour can make it difficult to stay below the low daily carbohydrate threshold. The best keto alternatives to tapioca flour include NOW Psyllium Husk Powder, Viva Coconut Flour, and Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal.

In this article we will review the nutritional value of tapioca flour, provide a brief overview of ways tapioca flour can be used, and highlight several keto substitutes. Let’s dig in!

How Is Tapioca Flour Made?

Tapioca flour is the result of extracting the starchy liquid from cassava root after it has been ground. Once the starchy liquid has been removed, the water contents of the liquid are allowed to evaporate, leaving behind a fine powder. That fine powder is what we know as tapioca flour. The flour can then be processed and packaged as powder, pearls or flakes. It is most often formed into pearls that are later used as thickening agents or in tapioca pudding or bubble tea. 

Interesting Uses for Tapioca Flour

1. Gluten-Free and Grain-Free Baking

As we have discussed previously, tapioca is an extremely versatile ingredient and has a variety of different applications in the culinary world. Some of these uses include being used as the base for gluten-free and grain-free baked goods. 

2. Thickening Agent

Additionally, tapioca flour can be used as a thickening agent for soups, sauces, desserts, gravies, etc. It can also be utilized as a binding agent to produce a cohesive product, improve texture, and retain moisture. 

3. Desserts and Teas

Specifically, the tapioca pearls are most often used in desserts like tapioca pudding and bubble tea. They add a characteristic texture and element of fun to bubble tea while acting as a thickening agent in tapioca pudding. 

4. Frying

Lastly, tapioca makes for a great coating flour when frying foods like meats and fish. It helps to create a crispy crust and has been said to create a more intense crisp than other starches more commonly used for frying. 

Why Is Tapioca Flour Not Keto?

When following a ketogenic diet as a means of weight loss, the main goal is to steer the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is essentially when the body switches from burning carbohydrate as fuel to burning fat and ketones instead. To get into ketosis, one must consume very few carbohydrates. Often, many will need to consume between 20-30 grams of net carbohydrate per day to achieve this. 

Just 1 tablespoon of tapioca flour provides around 8 grams of net carbohydrate. If 1 to 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour is consumed, it would swallow almost half of one’s daily carbohydrate allowance. Because of this, tapioca flour should be limited or possibly avoided while following a ketogenic diet.

Health Benefits of Tapioca

While tapioca flour or starch may not provide a very impressive nutritional profile, it still offers some benefits to consumers. Let’s review some of those benefits together.

Allergen Free

As mentioned previously, tapioca is naturally gluten-free and grain-free, meaning that it can act as an alternative flour option for those needing to avoid gluten or grains. In gluten-free baking, tapioca flour is typically used to create and retain moisture. This helps to develop a more pleasing texture compared to gluten-free items without tapioca flour that are normally very dense and dry.

Available Nutrients

Tapioca flour may not be a nutrient-dense powerhouse but because it is derived from a plant, it does provide some nutrients worth mentioning. These nutrients include iron and calcium. According to the USDA database, in a one cup serving of tapioca pearls one will consume approximately 30.4 milligrams of calcium and 2.4 milligrams of iron.

For the average adult male and female, it is recommended that 1,000 milligrams of calcium be consumed per day. While the amount found in tapioca pearls is substantial, it would take several servings to reach the recommended daily amount. Because of this, it would be of great benefit to the consumer to utilize tapioca pearls as part of their total calcium intake, while consuming other calcium-rich foods to reach their daily goal.

In regards to iron, intake of anywhere from 7 to 18 milligrams per day is recommended. As mentioned previously, tapioca pearls may provide iron in a small amount, but would have to be consumed in large amounts to reach the recommended daily intake levels.

Nutritional Profile of Tapioca Flour

Tapioca starch or flour is extracted from the cassava root. It is not particularly nutritious offering minimal calories and is almost purely starch, so it is made up primarily of carbohydrates with little to no protein, fat, and fiber. Many would consider tapioca flour to be a source of “empty” calories. It does, however, offer a grain-free and gluten-free option for individuals needing to avoid those ingredients.

Thrive Market Organic Tapioca Flour


  • Organic Tapioca Starch

Nutritional Information (per 1 Tablespoon):

  • Calories: 30
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 8g
    • Total Sugars: 0g
    • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 0g 

Keto Alternatives to Tapioca

While tapioca provides a lot of versatility in culinary applications, there are a variety of other alternative flours that can be used in its place and produce similar results. Not all alternatives can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio, however, so it is important to do your research before making the swap. 

NOW Psyllium Husk Powder

NOW Foods Supplements, Psyllium Husk Powder, Non-GMO Project Verified, Soluble Fiber, 24-Ounce Ingredients:

  • Psyllium Husk (Husk/Seed)

Nutritional Information (per 2 Tablespoons):

  • Calories: 35
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 10mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 8g
    • Total Sugars: 0g
    • Fiber: 7g
  • Protein: 0g 

Viva Coconut Flour

Organic Coconut Flour (4 LBS) - Perfect for Gluten Free Baking, Paleo & Vegan Certified, Unbleached & Unrefined Baking Flour Substitute, 1.81 kg Ingredients:

  • Organic Coconut Flour

Nutritional Information (per 2 Tablespoons):

  • Calories: 70
  • Total Fat: 2g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 30mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 10g
    • Total Sugars: 2g
    • Fiber: 7g
  • Protein: 3g

Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal

Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Flaxseed Meal, 32-ounce (Pack of 4) Ingredients:

  • Whole Flaxseed

Nutritional Information (per 2 Tablespoons):

  • Calories: 70
  • Total Fat: 4.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 4g
    • Total Sugars: 0g
    • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 3g

Thrive Market Non-GMO Hazelnut Meal


  • Hazelnut Meal

Nutritional Information (per 2 Tablespoons):

  • Calories: 80
  • Total Fat: 8g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 2g
    • Total Sugars: 1g
    • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 2g

Main Takeaways

Tapioca flour is a type of starch that comes from ground cassava root. It often gets confused with cassava flour, which is also a derivative of the cassava root. Tapioca is made from the starchy part of the root only, while cassava flour is made using the entire root. 

This flour proves to be extremely versatile and has many applications in the culinary space. Some of its uses include being a base for gluten-free and grain-free breads and other baked goods, acting as a thickening agent, adorning desserts and teas, and has its uses as a coating for meats and fish before frying. 

Tapioca flour, although extracted from a nutritionally dense root, does not contain much nutritional value. It provides roughly 8 grams of carbohydrate per 1 tablespoon serving, with minimal fat, protein, and fiber. Many consider tapioca flour to be an “empty” calorie food. 

Furthermore, because of its high carbohydrate content, tapioca flour would not be considered to be keto-friendly. Just 1 tablespoon of tapioca flour provides around 8 grams of net carbohydrate. If 1 to 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour is consumed, it would swallow almost half of one’s daily carbohydrate allowance. 

If you are on the keto diet and a recipe calls for tapioca flour, psyllium husk powder, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, and hazelnut meal are all suitable alternatives. 

Related Questions

Is tapioca flour the same as cassava flour?

While both tapioca flour and cassava flour are made from the cassava plant, they are not the same product. Tapioca is made using only the starchy part of the plant while cassava flour is made using the whole root. 

What is the glycemic index of tapioca flour?

Tapioca flour is classified as a medium to high glycemic food based on its score of 67. Foods are measured on a scale from 0 to 100, with those scoring closer to 0 having a lesser impact on blood sugar. Foods with a glycemic index reading closer to 100 are considered to dramatically affect your blood sugar and should be consumed minimally. 

Is tapioca flour Paleo-friendly?

Most starches are not permitted on the Paleo diet. However, because it is gluten-free, dairy-free, and made from the cassava root, tapioca flour is considered paleo-friendly when consumed in limited quantities.

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Ashley Patrick

Ashley is a registered dietitian who enjoys helping others develop healthy habits that fit seamlessly into their everyday life. She believes in a balanced approach to health with nutrition, physical activity, and mental health being the main focus. Through nutrition education and counseling she has helped countless individuals take back their health, improve their quality of life, and develop a balanced approach to maintaining their health long term.

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