It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

Please note that the Ask Dr. Gourmet feature is restricted to questions regarding food and nutrition. Due to the many questions we receive, not all questions may be answered. For more specific questions about your individual health, please contact your doctor. About Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy



Ask Dr. Gourmet

What is tapioca?

My grandmother loves tapioca pudding. Just what is tapioca, anyway?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Tapioca pearls

Tapioca is a starch that is made from the cassava root. The root is native to South America but has been cultivated around the world for some time now. The root is processed into many different forms: powder, flakes and a coarse flour. The most common form found in Western culture is pearl tapioca which are 2 - 3 mm pearls.

In cooking they are often used as a thickening agent. Because they are essentially pure carbohydrate they have marvelous thickening properties, especially in desserts (somewhat like cornstarch, tapioca will impart a silky sheen to dishes). Tapioca pudding was somewhat popular after World War II.

Tapioca is gluten free and contains no Vitamin K.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet