I’m a pretty strict Paleo eater, especially lately. I find that when I veer off the path, I feel like crap. Sugar makes me feel like a heroin addict (not that I would know…), replete with the “I’ll do anything to get more of that stuff” sensation. Grains have a similar effect, and dairy is my most merciless enemy. I was born to eat this way, whether I like it or not.
If there’s one thing I miss on my Paleo diet, though, it’s bread; I think most of us can probably say that. That rich source of easy-to-use carbohydrates. That soft, supple mouth feel. The way it browns on the outside, creating a perfectly crispy crust. It’s a temptation that I regularly give in to because yes, there are Paleo bread options and other bready goodness.
As much as I’d like to believe that I could thrive on meat and vegetables alone, after a ridiculous amount of experimentation on myself, it’s become overwhelmingly clear that I need a decent source of carbohydrates in my diet. And fruits & vegetables just don’t cut it. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m so active, and you may be the same: maybe you’re an athlete, or you just have a crazy high metabolism, or you’re too skinny and need more carbs to keep weight on.
Some of us just need more carbs than others. How do you know if you need more? If you’ve been on the Paleo diet for at least a month and your energy levels have plummeted, you may need more carbs. You also may need more fat or more protein or just more calories in general, so try that first. But if you’ve already tried eating a whole cow slathered in olive oil every day for a while and you’re still grumpy, groggy, tired, performing poorly, or losing too much weight, here’s a solution: tapioca. That is, if you don’t love sweet potatoes and squash, which should be your first choice for extra carbs, since they have way more nutrients in them than tapioca.
What is tapioca?
What you’ve probably conjured in your mind is the tapioca pudding that your grandmother used to make – super sweet, really sticky little balls. Well, it does come in ball form, but you can also buy it as flour (or starch – same thing). For you tea connoisseurs, it’s also the “boba” in your boba tea.
Tapioca, also known as cassava, cassada, cassaba, yuca (not to be confused with yucca), akpu, kabba, boba, and mushu, among many other things, is the starch of the root of a woody shrub in the spurge family. It’s the third largest source for carbohydrates in the WORLD. That’s why it has so many names – it’s found in most parts of the world, but is native to South America. It’s a fantastic source of food, but only if it’s processed appropriately. If you just sit down and eat a raw cassava root, there’s a good chance you’ll get cyanide poisoning and die, so don’t do it. Leave it up to the pros to soak, ferment or cook it and then put it in a tidy package for you.
Is it Paleo?
While tapioca is not technically on some Paleo experts’ lists of acceptable foods for Paleo eaters, it’s not a grain, and it’s not a legume. It’s certainly not dairy or refined sugar, and it’s not a potato, so I’m calling it good. I love – LOVE – bread, and this yummy substance makes sticky, stretchy, bread-like foods. I would be lying to you if I said it offered much in the way of nutrients to your diet besides carbohydrates. It’s gluten free, of course, but it is by far the stickiest, stretchiest food I’ve found. This, my friends, is your answer to tortillas.
You can make crêpes/tortillas, pancakes, muffins, cakes, bread, or whatever you want out of this stuff. I just happen to like very simple recipes, so I make crêpes. I eat them with my egg scrambles. If I need a dessert once in a while, I’ll cook one up and put a bit of honey and coconut oil on it. Or I’ll wrap some salmon salad up in one. All good options. If anyone has any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Here’s the recipe:
(makes 5-7 crepes)
1 C Tapioca Flour (or “Starch” – same thing)
1 C Organic Coconut Milk (Native Forest cans contain no BPA)
1 Pasture Raised Egg
1. Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl.
2. Heat up a non-stick pan on medium until a drop of water sizzles in it.
3. Pour in about 1/3 cup of the mixture and tilt the pan in all directions to spread out batter to desired thickness.
4. Cook both sides until very lightly brown (2-3 minutes on each side).
5. Add salt and any other herbs (sweet or savory).
Allergen Note: If you can not eat eggs, you can substitute the egg for 2 tablespoons of water and it turns out just as well.
I usually make a double batch, cook one crêpe for myself and put the rest of the batter in a mason jar or other tupperware (preferably not plastic) and store it in the fridge for up to a week. If you make 5 per batch, they’re each about 180 calories, 23 grams carbs, 9 grams fat and 2 grams protein. For comparison’s sake, a wheat tortilla of about the same size contains 130 calories, 31 grams carbs, 2 grams fat and 5 grams protein.
If you don’t reside in a health food mecca like I do, and your local grocery store doesn’t carry tapioca, here’s a place where you can buy it online. Oh, and if you don’t like my crêpe recipe, if you google “tapioca recipes,” you’ll come up with 818,000 results (which I won’t list here), so knock yourself out. If you do try the crêpes, let me know how you like them!