Cassava: Properties, nutritional values ​​and why it is so good for you!



Cassava is an edible root native to Brazil and parts of Central America. The name cassava comes from the word mani'oka in the indigenous Tupi language. Cassava's best-known byproduct is tapioca , otherwise known as arrowroot . Tapioca is the starch left over after cassava is processed for consumption . Today, cassava is one of the most consumed foods globally and is a staple food for approximately 800 million people . Let's find out together what its history is and some of the most famous cassava-based recipes.


Cassava is native to Brazil and was first cultivated about 7,000 years ago and spread throughout the pre-colonial Americas . It was consumed by the indigenous people of Brazil , primarily as tapioca (arrowroot), the white starch extracted during the processing of cassava root. In fact, the word tapioca derives from an indigenous word in the Tupi language, tipi'óka, which means 'sediment'.

Early European settlers in Brazil initially avoided indigenous foods. However, many agricultural plants that thrived on the Iberian Peninsula, such as wheat, were not very successful in that climate. By necessity, the settler's diet adapted. Mandioca was found to be a cheap and reliable food source that could feed the rapidly growing slave population. Cassava has become an important component of the Afro-Brazilian diet, which has had a major influence on the cuisine itself.

Using slave labor and machines, indigenous tapioca starch extraction techniques were adopted and adapted to produce the starch on an industrial scale. Tapioca was used to thicken stews and soups and was used to make bread that became very popular throughout colonial South America. Portuguese traders understood the value of cassava as a trade commodity and brought it to Africa.

Today, cassava is a staple food in South America, Asia and Africa. It is drought resistant and highly productive in poor soils, which is why over 800 million people depend on it as their main food source every day.

Recipes with cassava

  • Here are some of the most famous mandioca-based recipes:
  • Beiju de Tapioca - Crepes made from rehydrated tapioca starch and eaten with a savory (salgado) or sweet (doce) filling. The indigenous Tupi people have been preparing the recipe for thousands of years.
  • Bobó de camarão – A stew made from mandioca puree and shrimp, flavored with coconut milk and azeite de dendê (red palm oil). This is a West African recipe brought to Brazil through the slave trade and is iconic in the state of Bahia.
  • Bolo de Tapioca - A sweet cake made with tapioca and coconut.
  • Farofa - Raw mandioca flour toasted with butter and mixed with pieces of bacon. Other ingredients are included, such as eggs, onions, linguica, depending on the region in which it is produced.
  • Cassava Frita - Cassava Chips.
  • Tacacá – A soup from northern Brazil, especially popular in the state of Pará. It is made from Tucupi (fermented mandioca sauce), dried shrimp jambu (a native Amazon herb), and yellow chili peppers. The soup is served in a cuia (a traditional bowl made from a pumpkin) and eaten with a small wooden skewer to pick up the solid ingredients.
  • Pão de quellejo – Brazilian cheese bread balls made from acidic mandioca starch (polvilho azedo).
  • Vaca Atolada - A beef and mandioca stew that is very popular in São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

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