Tapioca in our trendy tea beverages, in the pudding, and in more and more of every day foods is made from the cassava tuber or yucca root. It is native to the tropical areas of South America; indigenous peoples of the Americas continue to cultivate it as they have for thousands of years. The radical (arising from a root) is drought hardy and productive even in difficult growing environments. It is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world.
Variations of tapioca are common in Asian, Indian and South American cuisine. Converting the raw cassava into syrup through the use of natural enzymes typically makes the syrup. The tuber provides the base to make several tapioca products, such as pellets (pearls), flour and flakes.
Tapioca syrup provides the sweetness needed in a natural way. Produced from tapioca starch using a natural fermentation process, tapioca syrup is a gluten-free and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) alternative to corn syrup, sugar, honey, maple syrup and molasses. Aside from being a healthful sweetener replacement, tapioca is also known to aid in loosening bowel movements.
High in starch, tapioca syrup is commonly used in the production of other foods or as a replacement for corn syrup in baked goods. Tapioca syrup is used to add sweetness, binding or texture to beverages, baked goods, table syrups, frozen desserts and candies. When used as a binding agent, tapioca helps to keep foods such as meats from drying out after they are processed. Tapioca pellets are commonly used as a thickening agent in pie and tart fillings or in soups, sauces and gravies.
A ¼-cup of tapioca syrup may consist of 42 grams of carbohydrates, yet no fat and only 168 calories.