Can You Eat Tapioca If You're Gluten-Free?

How to Know if Tapioca Is Safe for a Gluten-Free Diet


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

If you are on a gluten-free diet, it's crucial to know which foods are gluten-free, including additives such as tapioca. Grains are the culprit when it comes to gluten in your diet, although not all grains contain gluten.

However, tapioca is not a grain at all. Instead, tapioca flour and tapioca starch are produced from the peeled roots of the tropical cassava plant, native to South America. Learn more about tapioca and gluten free diets below.

Cassava is an important source of starch and calories for people in both South America and Africa, and is a staple food in many countries on those continents. Cuisines in southeast Asia also use pearl tapioca

Is Tapioca Gluten-Free?

Tapioca is gluten-free. Because it is not a grain (gluten only occurs in the grains wheat, barley, and rye), tapioca is naturally gluten-free in its pure form. However, not all brands and products with tapioca as an ingredient are safe for a gluten-free diet. Be sure to read labels to ensure the tapioca you are eating is gluten free.

How is Tapioca Made?

To make tapioca, food processors grind the cassava root, boil it, and then process it to extract the starch from the ground-up root. The little pearls of tapioca you find in tapioca pudding and in bubble tea are the result of this process.

Tapioca starch and tapioca flour generally are the same product, they just have different names.

You cannot assume that every brand of tapioca you can buy in the store is automatically gluten-free. Companies that grind and mill tapioca also frequently grind and mill wheat, barley, and rye on the same equipment, which poses a significant risk of gluten cross-contamination for your tapioca.

Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour and tapioca starch are ingredients used in many gluten-free products. You can feel confident that as an ingredient in those products, it's safe for someone who has celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Manufacturers of products labeled as gluten-free usually take extra steps to make sure that gluten-free ingredients like tapioca are protected—meaning they're not processed in the same facility or on the same lines as wheat, barley, or rye grains and flours.

However, manufacturers do not take precautions to protect those with allergies. It can be difficult to determine which, if any, precautions have been taken simply by reading the packaging.

When buying tapioca flour or tapioca starch, stick with companies that specifically call out their products as "gluten-free."

You will find that these products are generally more expensive than the generic tapioca you can find at your local Asian market. However, your health is worth this extra measure of safety.

Gluten-Free Brands

Here's a list of companies that produce gluten-free tapioca flour or starch.

  • Big River Grains. When you need baking ingredients, turn first to Big River Grains. It is a family farm in Oregon that processes only gluten-free and oat-free products. They are extraordinarily careful to keep out any trace gluten. Big River Grains offers both tapioca starch and cassava flour.
  • Bob's Red Mill. This is one of the most readily available sources of gluten-free tapioca flour. Bob's tapioca flour is tested to ensure that it contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten. If you react to gluten-free oats, be aware that Bob's gluten-free baking products (including the tapioca flour) are processed on the same lines as the company's gluten-free oats.
  • Ener-G. Ener-G may be better known for its tapioca-based gluten-free bread products, but the company also sells pure tapioca starch. Ener-G tests its products to ensure that they fall below detectable gluten levels (currently 5 parts per million, but lower numbers are always better).
  • LivingNOW. NOW is best-known for its supplements, but all its baking ingredients (including tapioca flour) are certified gluten-free (tested to below 10 parts per million). The products are produced in an allergen-free, gluten-free facility.
  • Not only does sell nuts, but the company also sells a variety of other gluten-free products, including bulk tapioca starch in several sizes. is certified gluten-free, which means the tapioca starch and its other products must test below 10 parts per million of gluten.
  • Shiloh Farms. Shiloh Farms is another retailer that is certified gluten-free. The company sells one-pound bags of ground tapioca starch that's sourced in Thailand and processed in a gluten-free facility.

Gluten-Free Products

Tapioca is used as an ingredient in a wide variety of gluten-containing food items, including snack foods, ice cream, and baked goods. Many products made with tapioca are gluten-free, but not all of them are.

If you see tapioca starch or tapioca flour on a label, don't assume the item is gluten-free—many times, it is not.

A few tapioca products and brands that are gluten-free include:

  • Kozy Shack Tapioca Pudding, which is found in the refrigerated sections of most larger supermarkets and is labeled "gluten-free."
  • Ener-G Foods makes a gluten-free tapioca bread loaf.
  • Gluten-free Chebe's bread mixes are based on tapioca starch. Chebe's popular Original Cheese Bread was inspired by a unique Brazilian bread called pao de queijo.

A Word from Verywell

Tapioca makes gluten-free baked goods moist and tastier. Many all-purpose gluten-free mixes contain tapioca, as do many ready-to-eat gluten-free bread products.

Tapioca is a valuable ingredient in gluten-free baking, and it's easy to make your own delicious tapioca pudding.

You can make tapioca pearls by placing tapioca starch in a bowl and slowly adding boiling water. Form the resulting mush into balls and allow them to dry for several hours. Once you have tapioca pearls, you can make your own tapioca pudding and bubble tea.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lee HJ, Anderson Z, Ryu D. Gluten Contamination in Foods Labeled as "Gluten Free" in the United StatesJ Food Prot. 2014;77(10):1830-1833. doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-14-149

By Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.