Tapioca flour is often a staple for gluten-free baking or a great thickening agent for soups and sauces, but is tapioca flour keto-friendly?
Tapioca flour has too many carbohydrates to be part of a keto diet, which may interfere with getting in or maintaining ketosis. A .25 cup serving of tapioca flour has 30 grams of net carbs, making it not ideal for a flour substitute while cooking or baking keto recipes.
In this article, I’ll go over more reasons why tapioca flour isn’t keto friendly, certain occasions where it may be okay to use, what exactly tapioca flour is, and some better alternatives.
Is Tapioca Flour Keto Friendly
If you’re looking for a substitute for flour for baking purposes, tapioca flour is probably not the best substitute on a ketogenic diet. A small quarter cup serving already has at least 25 g of net carbohydrates, and chances are you are looking to use more than a quarter cup.Tapioca flour has about as many carbohydrates as regular white, or wheat flour does.
Since our aim on the ketogenic diet is to limit carbohydrates, tapioca flour would not make a great substitute. The reason it's OK on the Paleo diet is that there is no carbohydrate restriction in following a Paleo-style diet.
However, if you're looking to thicken a recipe and use very minimal amounts, you may be able to get away with using a tablespoon here and there as long as your mindful and count it towards your net carbohydrates for the day.
That said, while tapioca flour is excellent for those with gluten intolerance or on a Paleo diet, there are much better alternative flours that are more keto friendly.
What Is Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour, also known as tapioca starch, is a popular gluten-free flour made from the cassava root.
The cassava root is peeled washed, chopped, and then finely shredded. The pulp is then washed and spun until it is primarily starch and water until it Is eventually dried, making it a flour consistency.
Tapioca starch is often used as a replacement for cornstarch as a thickener for pies and sauces, and also aids in creating a crispy crust when baking or frying.
Tapioca flour is used in a lot of Asian recipes and baked goods to create a chewy texture or to make things crispy when deep frying.
There are a variety of tapioca products on the market labeled as either tapioca flour or tapioca starch, but they are usually the same product.
Flour Substitutes More Keto Friendly Than Tapioca Flour
While using a tablespoon here and there of tapioca flour won’t make or break your diet and knock you out of ketosis, there are much better and more keto-friendly options for flour substitutes.
A little caveat is that not all recipes will allow flour substitutes to be interchangeable with regular flour on a 1:1 basis. Your best bet when finding an appropriate ratio is to find keto friendly recipes that have already been tested or experiment on your own to find one that works.
One of the most popular and widely used flour substitutes accessible to many is almond flour. Almond flour is found in practically every grocery store from your local Wal-mart to Trader Joes.
You may also find almond flour labeled as almond meal, but there’s virtually no difference as the terms are interchangeably used.
Almond flour or almond meal is simply almonds that are ground to a fine flour consistency, and almonds are indeed keto-friendly. However, if you are looking to substitute almond flour for regular flour in a recipe, there may be a chance you need additional binding agents, such as more egg, for example.
On average, almond flour contains 6 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, which only leaves 3 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup. Compare 3 grams of net carbs for 1/4 cup of almond flour to ~25 grams for tapioca flour, and you can see how almond flour is a much better keto-friendly alternative.
Also, almonds are a great source of:
- Vitamin E
Another great alternative to tapioca flour that’s more keto friendly is coconut flour, especially if you also happen to have a tree nut allergy.
Similar to almond flour, coconut flour is easily found at your local grocery store or online at retailers such as Amazon or Thrive Market.
Coconut flour is made from the pulp of coconut, almost as a byproduct of making coconut milk.
When coconut milk is made, the coconut meat is soaked, and the resulting liquid is turned into the coconut cream and coconut milk. The pulp that remains from the coconut milk process is then dried out and ground into what we call coconut flour.
You may be familiar with the benefits of coconut and MCT oil, and coconut flour also has its fair share of nutrients and beneficial fats.12
As a start, you may want to try 1/4 cup of coconut flour for every cup of all-purpose flour a recipe calls for. Coconut flour is denser than regular flour, which means you don’t need as much, but you will also need more liquid or binders to make it work.
Some bakers recommend that you mix coconut flour with other flours (such as almond and pecan flour) or add an egg for every 1/4 cup of coconut flour to help give a fluffier texture.
Additionally, coconut flour is excellent as a way to make a breading or to thicken soups.
One of the least heard of flour substitutes, at least initially for me, was pecan flour. I have to say that pecan flour is probably my personal favorite when it comes to keto friendly flour substitutes.
I find that pecan flour lends itself to baking better more than almond flour as it holds baked products much better.
The only downside of pecan flour is that it tends to be a fair bit pricier than almond or coconut flour and may not be as widely available in local grocery chains.
Pecan flour may be the most keto-friendly flour substitute as a 1/4 cup serving of pecan flour only has about ~1 gram of net carbs.
Flax meal, similar to almond and pecan flour, is made by grinding flax seeds up into a finer consistency.
Flaxseeds are loaded with nutrients:
- Omega-3 fats
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B6
In some recipes, you can use flaxseed meal to replace oil or shortening or as an egg replacer using a 3:1 ratio. Additionally, if using as a flour substitute, you may want to consider reducing the amount by ~25% due to the density of the flax meal.
A bonus of flax meal over whole flaxseeds is many nutrition experts recommend ground over whole due to digestibility. Whole flaxseed may pass through undigested, which means you won’t reap the nutrition benefits of them.
Other Thickening Agents Besides Tapioca Flour
Aside from using flours as a way to bake or bread items, people use flour, tapioca, or corn starch as a thickening agent.
One of the most common low-carb thickening agents is xantham gum, which technically isn’t a flour. It also doesn’t take much xantham gum to thicken up a soup or stew.
Additionally, xanthan gum helps to replace the elasticity and texture of gluten, helping dough stretch and rise. For every cup of flour substitute, it’s suggested to use 1 tsp of xantham gum for baked desserts and ~2 tsp of gum for baked goods such as pizza and bread.
Additionally, xanthan gum is found in studies to:
- Lower blood sugar
Additional thickening agents worth considering:
- Guar gum
- Chia seeds
- Glucomannan powder
Tapioca flour is a great alternative to regular flour for baking and breading if you’re looking to eliminate gluten, but not if you’re following a ketogenic diet.
There are many other flour alternatives better suited for a ketogenic diet such as almond or pecan flour.
Just remember that not all flours can be used as a 1:1 replacement for regular flour in every recipe and that it may require tinkering to find the right amount of keto-friendly flour substitute in your favorite recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is special about tapioca flour?
Tapioca flour is a gluten-free flour made using starch of cassava root. It's known for the thick, chewy texture which allows it to work as a great substitute in gluten-free baked goods.
Which is better tapioca or sago?
Tapioca and sago pearls are nearly one in the same. The only difference is that tapioca is more affordable and accessible.
Can I fry with tapioca flour?
It's completely fine to try and fry tapioca flour. It offers a rich and crispy outer layer during the frying process.