AskDefine | Define manioc

Dictionary Definition



1 a starch made by leaching and drying the root of the cassava plant; the source of tapioca; a staple food in the tropics [syn: cassava, cassava starch, manioca]
2 cassava root eaten as a staple food after drying and leaching; source of tapioca [syn: cassava]
3 cassava with long tuberous edible roots and soft brittle stems; used especially to make cassiri (an intoxicating drink) and tapioca [syn: bitter cassava, mandioc, mandioca, tapioca plant, gari, Manihot esculenta, Manihot utilissima]

User Contributed Dictionary



French manioc and Portuguese mandioca, from Tupi mandioca, manioca.


Extensive Definition

The cassava, manioc, casava, or yuca (Manihot esculenta) is a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge family) native to South America that is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. Indeed, cassava is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world, with Africa its largest center of production.


The cassava root is long and tapered, with a firm homogeneous flesh encased in a detachable rind, about 1 mm thick, rough and brown on the outside, just like a potato. Commercial varieties can be 5 to 10 cm in diameter at the top, and 50 to 80 cm long. A woody cordon runs along the root's axis. The flesh can be chalk-white or yellowish. The cassava plant gives the highest yield of food energy per cultivated area per day among crop plants, except possibly for sugarcane. Cassava roots are very rich in starch, and contain significant amounts of calcium (50 mg/100g), phosphorus (40 mg/100g) and vitamin C (25 mg/100g). However, they are poor in protein and other nutrients. In contrast, cassava leaves are a good source of protein if supplemented with the amino acid methionine [although they contain Cyanide].

History and economic impact

Wild populations of M. esculenta subspecies flabellifolia, shown to be the progenitor of domesticated cassava, are centered in west-central Brazil where it was likely first domesticated no more than 10,000 years BP. By 6,600 BP, manioc pollen appears in the Gulf of Mexico lowlands, at the San Andres archaeological site. The oldest direct evidence of cassava cultivation comes from a 1,400 year old Maya site, Joya de Ceren, in El Salvador. although the species Manihot esculenta likely originated further south in Brazil and Paraguay. With its high food potential, it had become a staple food of the native populations of northern South America, southern Mesoamerica, and the West Indies by the time of the Spanish conquest, and its cultivation was continued by the colonial Portuguese and Spanish. Forms of the modern domesticated species can be found growing in the wild in the south of Brazil. While there are several wild Manihot species, all varieties of M. esculenta are cultigens.
World production of cassava root was estimated to be 184 million tonnes in 2002, the majority of production is in Africa where 99.1 million tonnes were grown, 51.5 million tonnes were grown in Asia and 33.2 million tonnes in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In many places in the Americas, yuca was the staple food. This translated into many images of yuca being used in pre-Colombian art. The Moche people often depicted yuca in their ceramics.


Cassava is harvested by hand by raising the lower part of stem and pulling the roots out of the ground, then removing them from the base of the plant . The upper parts of the stems with the leaves are plucked off before harvest. Cassava is propagated by cutting the stem into sections of approximately 30 cm (1 foot), these being planted prior to the wet season.

Processing and toxicity

The leaves cannot be consumed raw since they contain free and bound cyanogenic glucosides. These are converted to cyanide in the presence of linamarase, a naturally occurring enzyme in cassava. The roots, however, are eaten raw everywhere in Africa. Cassava varieties are often categorized as either "sweet" or "bitter", signifying the absence or presence of toxic levels of cyanogenic glucosides. The so-called "sweet" (actually "not bitter") cultivars can produce as little as 20 milligrams of cyanide (CN) per kilogram of fresh roots, while "bitter" ones may produce more than 50 times as much (1 g/kg). Cassavas grown during drought are especially high in these toxins. One dose of pure cassava cyanogenic glucoside (40mg) is sufficient to kill a cow.
Societies which traditionally eat cassava generally understand that soaking and/or cooking is necessary to avoid getting sick. However, problems do occur - konzo (also called mantakassa) is a paralytic neurological disease associated with several weeks of almost exclusive consumption of insufficiently processed bitter cassava. Dr Jasson Ospina, an Australian plant chemist, has developed a simple method to reduce the cyanide content of cassava flour. The method involves mixing the flour with water into a thick paste and then letting it stand in the shade for five hours in a thin layer spread over a basket, allowing an enzyme in the flour to break down the cyanide compound. The cyanide compound produces hydrogen cyanide gas, which escapes into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of poison by up to five-sixths and making the flour safe for consumption the same evening. This method is currently being promoted in rural African communities that are dependent on cassava.
For some smaller-rooted "sweet" varieties, cooking is sufficient to eliminate all toxicity. The larger-rooted "bitter" varieties used for production of flour or starch must be processed to remove the cyanogenic glucosides. The large roots are peeled and then ground into flour, which is then soaked in water, squeezed dry several times, and toasted. The starch grains that float to the surface during the soaking process are also used in cooking. The flour is used throughout the Caribbean. The traditional method used in West Africa is to peel the roots and put them into water for 3 days to ferment. The roots then are dried or cooked. In Nigeria and several other west African countries, including Ghana, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, they are usually grated and lightly fried in palm oil to preserve them. The result is a foodstuff called 'Gari'. Fermentation is also used in other places such as Indonesia.
The reliance on cassava as a food source and the resulting exposure to the goitrogenic effects of thiocyanate has been responsible for the endemic goitres seen in the Akoko area of southwestern Nigeria.

Ethnomedical uses

  • The bitter variety of Manihot root is used to treat diarrhea and malaria.
  • The leaves are used to treat hypertension, headache, and pain.
  • Cubans commonly use cassava to treat irritable bowel syndrome, the paste is eaten in excess during treatment.


Cooked in various ways, cassava is used in a great variety of dishes. The soft-boiled root has a delicate flavor and can replace boiled potatoes in many uses: as an accompaniment for meat dishes, or made into purées, dumplings, soups, stews, gravies, etc.. Deep fried (after boiling or steaming), it can replace fried potatoes, with a distinctive flavor. Tapioca and foufou are made from the starchy cassava root flour. Tapioca is an essentially flavourless starchy ingredient, or fecula, produced from treated and dried cassava (manioc) root and used in cooking. It is similar to sago and is commonly used to make a milky pudding similar to rice pudding. Cassava flour, also called tapioca flour or tapioca starch, can also replace wheat flour, and is so-used by some people with wheat allergies such as coeliac disease. Boba tapioca pearls are made from cassava root. It is also used in cereals for which several tribes in South America have used it extensively.
The juice of the bitter cassava, boiled to the consistence of thick syrup and flavored with spices is called Cassareep. It is used as a basis for various sauces and as a culinary flavoring, principally in tropical countries. It is exported chiefly from Guyana.
The leaves are pounded to a fine chaff and cooked as a palaver sauce in Sierra Leone, usually with palm oil but vegetable oil can also be used. Palaver sauces contain meat and fish as well. It is necessary to wash the leaf chaff several times to remove the bitterness.
In many countries significant research has begun to evaluate the use of cassava as an ethanol biofuel.



Yuca, as cassava is called in Cuba, is a staple of Cuban cuisine. As in other Caribbean islands it is ground up and made into a round shaped flat bread called casabe. As a side dish it can be boiled, covered with raw onion rings and sizzling garlic infused olive oil. It is also boiled then cut into strips and fried to make "yuca frita" (similar to french fries). Yuca is also one of the main ingredients in a traditional Cuban vegetarian stew called "Ajiaco", along with potatoes, malanga, boniato (sweet potato), plantain, Ñame, corn and other vegetables. Cuban Buñuelos, a local variation of a traditional Spanish fritter (similar to the French beignet) is made with yuca and boniato (sweet potato) instead of flour. These are fried and topped off with anisette infused sugar syrup.


Cassava (kassav) is a popular starch and common staple in Haiti where it is often eaten as part of a meal or by itself occasionally. It is usually eaten in bread form, often with peanut butter spread on the top or with milk. Cassava flour, known as Musa or Moussa is boiled to create a meal of the same name. Cassava can also be eaten with various stews and soups, such as squash soup (referred to as soup joumou).

The Dominican Republic

Cassava bread (casabe) is an often used complement in meals, much in the same way as wheat bread is used in Spanish, French and Italian lunches. Also, as an alternative to side-dishes like french fries, arepitas de yuca are consumed, which are deep-fried buttered lumps of shredded cassava. Bollitos, similar to the Colombian ones are also made. The root, in its boiled and peeled form, is also present in the typical Dominican stew, the Sancocho, together with plantains, potatoes, yautía, among other vegetables (it can also be eaten singly as an alternative to boiled potatoes or plantains). Also, a type of empanada called catibía has its dough made out of cassava flour. Also it is used for Cassava bread (casabe), just peeled and boiled then eaten with olive oil and vinegar and served with other root vegetables like potatoes, ñame, yams, batata (sweet potatoes) and yautía (dasheen); or grounded and used as a paste (masa) to make a Dominican Christmas favorite dish called "Pasteles" (do to it's look it is somewhat similar to Mexican tamales, but is made with root vegetables, plantains or yuca, instead of corn. Pasteles are rectangular and have a meat filling in the center, chicken or pork. They are wrapped in a plantain leaf.


In Jamaica, cassava is traditionally made into "bammy," a small fried cassava cake inherited from the native Arawak Indians. The cassava root is grated, rinsed well, dried, salted, and pressed to form flat cakes about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. The cakes are lightly fried, then dipped in coconut milk and fried again. Bammies are usually served as a starchy side dish with breakfast, with fish dishes or alone as a snack.

The Bahamas

In the Bahamas Cassava

Eastern Caribbean

In the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, cassava is traditionally peeled and boiled and served with flour dumplings and other root vegetables like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes and dasheen.


Cassava pie is a traditional Christmas dish. The cassava is peeled and chopped finely, then mixed with egg, butter and sugar. It is layered in a baking dish in alternate layers with chicken or pork. It is then baked in the oven, and leftovers may be fried. It is eaten as a savoury dish, either on the side or as a main meal.

Central America

El Salvador

In El Salvador,yuca is used in soups, or fried. Yuca Frita con Chicharrón is when the yuca is deep fried and served with curtido (a pickled cabbage, onion and carrot topping) and pork rinds or pepesquitas (fried baby sardines). The Yuca is sometimes served boiled instead of fried. Pan con pavo, translated to turkey with bread, is a warm turkey submarine sandwich similar to a hoagie. The turkey is marinated and then roasted with Pipil spices and handpulled. This sandwich is traditionally served with turkey, tomato, and watercress.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, yuca is widely used, both boiled in soups or fried and served with fried pieces of pork and lime. This is sold as a snack in most places you travel. When travelling by bus, the bus is often boarded by a local, trying to sell "sandwich bagged" snacks of yuca, pork and lime. Two main sources of food for locals in rural areas, living off resources within their own land, are yuca and plantain.


In Panama, yuca is sometimes used to make carimanolas. The boiled cassava is mashed into a dough and then filled with spiced meat. The meat-filled dumplings are deep fried to a golden brown. It is also used in brothy soups together with chicken, potatoes, and other vegetables.


In Nicaragua, yuca is used in soups and in the Nicaraguan typical dish vigoron, which basically consists of boiled yuca, chicharron, and cabbage salad. Yuca is also used to make buñuelos and is one of the main ingredients in the national dish Vaho.

South America


Cassava is very popular in Bolivia with the name of yuca and consumed in a variety of dishes. It is common, after boiling it, to fry it with oil and eat it with a special hot sauce known as llajwa or along with cheese and choclo (dried corn). In warm and rural areas, yuca is used as a substitute of bread in everyday meals. The capacity of cassava to be stored for a long time makes it suitable as an ideal and cheap reserve of nutrients. Recently, more restaurants, hotels and common people are including cassava into their original recipes and everyday meals as a substitute for potato and bread.


Cassava is heavily featured in the cuisine of Brazil. The dish vaca atolada ("mud-stranded cow") is a meat and cassava stew, cooked until the root has turned into a paste; and pirão is a thick gravy-like gruel prepared by cooking fish bits (such as heads and bones) with cassava flour, or farinha de mandioca. In the guise of farofa (lightly roasted flour), cassava combines with rice and beans to make the basic meal of the average Brazilians. Farofa is also one of the most common side dishes to many Brazilian foods including feijoada, the famous salt-pork-and-black-beans stew. Boiled cassava is also made into a popular sweet pudding. After boiling, Cassava may also be deep-fried to form a snack or side dish. In the north and northeast of Brazil Cassava is known as "macaxeira". In the southeast, as "mandioca" and in the South as "aipim".


In Colombia, cassava is widely known as yuca among its people. In the Colombian interior, it is used mainly in the preparation of Sancocho (a kind of rich soup) and other soups. In the Valle department it is famous, the Pandebono bread made of the yuca dough.
In the coastal region, is known especially in the form of "Bollo de yuca" (a kind of bread) or "enyucados". "Bollo de yuca" is a dough made of ground yuca that is wrapped in aluminum foil and then boiled, and is served with butter and cheese. "Enyucado" is a dessert made of ground boiled yuca, anise, sugar, and sometimes guava jam. In the caribbean region of Colombia it is also eaten roasted, fried or boiled with soft homemade cheese or cream cheese and mainly as guarnition of fish dishes.


In Ecuador, cassava is referred to as "yuca" and included in a number of dishes. In the highlands, it is found boiled in soups and stews, as a side in place of potatoes, and reprocessed yuca is made into laminar fried chips called "yuquitos" which are a substitute for potato chips.
Ecuadorians also make bread from yuca flour and mashed yuca rood, including the extremely popular Bolitos de Yuca or Yuquitas which range from balls of yuca dough formed around a heart of fresh cheese and deep-fried (found primarily in the north), to the simpler variety typical to Colombia which are merely baked balls of yuca dough. Yuca flour is sold in most markets.
In the Amazon Basin, yuca is a main ingredient in chicha - a traditional fermented drink produced by the indigenous Quichua population.
Yuca leaves, steamed, are part of the staple diet of the indigenous population in all areas where it is grown.


Cassava, or mandioca in Spanish, or mandi´o in Guarani, is a staple dish of Paraguay. It grows extremely well in the soil conditions throughout the country, and it is eaten at practically every meal. It is generally boiled and served as a side dish. It is also ground into a flour and used to make chipa, a bagel-shaped cheesy bread popular during holidays.


Cassava is also popular in Peru by the name of yuca, where it is used both boiled and fried. Boiled yuca is usually served as a side dish or in soup, while fried yuca is usually served together with onions and peppers as an apperitif or accompanying chicha.


As in the Dominican Republic, Cassava bread (casabe) is also a popular complement in traditional meals, as common as the arepas. Venezuelan Casabe is made by roasting ground cassava spread out as meter wide pancake over a hot surface (plancha). The result has the consistency of a cracker, and is broken in small pieces for consumption. There is also a sweet variety, called Naiboa, made as a sandwich of two casabe pancakes with a spread of Papelón in between. Naiboa also has a softer consistency. In general terms, Mandioc is an essential ingredient in Venezuelan food, and can be found stewed, roasted or fried as sides or complements. In Venezuela cassava is also known as "yuca". Yuca is actually the root of the cassava plant. Yuca is boiled, fried or grilled to serve aside of main meals or to eat with cheese, butter, or margarine.

Countries in Africa

In the humid and sub-humid areas of tropical Africa, cassava is either a primary staple food or a secondary co-staple. Nigeria is the world's largest producer of cassava. In West Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, cassava is commonly prepared as Eba or Garri. The cassava is grated, pressed, fermented and fried then mixed with boiling water to form a thick paste. In West Africa the cassava root is pounded, mixed with boiling water to form a thick paste and cooked as Eba. Historically, people economically forced to depend on cassava risk chronic poisoning diseases, such as tropical ataxic neuropathy (TAN), or such malnutrition diseases as kwashiorkor and endemic goitre. However, the price of cassava has risen significantly in the last half decade and lower income people have turned to other carbohydrate-rich foods like rice and spaghetti.
In Central Africa, cassava is traditionally processed by boiling and mashing. The resulting mush can be mixed with spices then cooked further or stored. A popular snack is made by marinating cassava in salted water for a few days then grilling it in small portions. Many cassava dishes exist in various African countries.
In Tanzania, cassava is known as mihogo, plural form, in Swahili. Though customs vary from region to region, and the methods of cooking cassava vary accordingly, the main method is simply frying it. The skin of the root is removed and the remains are sectioned into small bit-size chunks which can then be soaked in water to aid in frying. Thereafter, the chunks are fried and then served, sometimes with a chili-salt mixture. This fried cassava is a very common street food as it is relatively cheap to buy, easy to prepare and good to eat. The staple of the rural people, ugali, is a porridge more akin to mashed potatoes in consistency. In Zambia this is known as nshima. In Kenya, the Kikuyu name for it is mwanga, pl mianga.
Residents in the Sub-Saharan nation of the Central African Republic, have developed multiple, unique ways of utilizing the abundant cassava plant. In addition to the methods described above, local residents fry thin slices of the cassava root resulting in a crunchy snack similar in look and taste to potato chips. The root can be pounded into flour and made into bread or cookies. This flour can also be mixed with precise amounts of salt and water to create a heavy liquid used as white paint in construction. The cassava plant leaf is also soaked and boiled for extended periods of time to remove toxins and then eaten. The taste is similar to spinach. In the local language Sango, this is called gozo. U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in the Central African Republic refer to the cassava plant as the multi-purpose staple.



In the state of Kerala, India, cassava is a secondary staple food. Boiled casava is normally eaten with fish curry (kappayum meenum in Malayalam which literally means casava with fish) or meat, and is a traditional favorite of many Keralites. Kappa biriyani — cassava mixed with meat is a popular dish in central Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, the National Highway 68 between Thalaivasal and Attur has many cassava processing factories (local name Sago Factory) alongside it - indicating an abundance of it in the neighborhood. Cassava is widely cultivated and eaten as a staple food in Andhra Pradesh. The household name for processed cassava is saggu biyyam.


Cassava is widely eaten in Indonesia, where it is known as singkong, and used as a staple food during hard times but has lower status than rice. It is boiled or fried (after steaming), baked under hot coals, or added to kolak dessert. It is also fermented to make peuyeum and tape, a sweet paste which can be mixed with sugar and made into a drink, the alcoholic (and green) es tape. It is available as an alternative to potato crisps. Gaplek, a dried form of cassava, is an important source of calories in the off-season in the limestone hills of southern Java. Their young leaves also eaten as gulai daun singkong (cassava leaves in coconut milk), urap (javanese salad) and as main ingredient in buntil (javanese vegetable rolls).


Tagalog speakers call cassava kamoteng kahoy (literal English means wooden yam). Visayans call cassava balinghoy. Cassava is mainly prepared as a dessert. It is also steamed and eaten plain. Sometimes it is steamed and eaten with grated coconut. The most popular dessert is the cassava cake/pie, which uses grated cassava, sugar, coconut milk, and coconut cream. A few years ago, the deaths of several school children in the Philippines were attributed to improperly prepared cassava snacks the children had purchased on a street corner; however the cause was later found to be pesticide containers used to prepare the food rather than the cassava.
The leaves are also cooked and eaten.

Sri Lanka

Cassava, known as "Manyokka" (manioc) in Sri Lanka, is a staple among both the lower and upper socio-economic classes. This tradition migrates to the country from Tamil Nadu, and is popularly used in different forms of cooking throughout the country. It is also mixed, in small quantities, into feed for pastoral animals and horses.


Cassava's name in Vietnamese is "Sắn" (Northern) or "Khoai Mì" (Southern). It is planted almost everywhere in Vietnam and its root is amongst the cheapest source of food there. The fresh roots are sliced into thin pieces and then dried in the sun for easy storage. Tapioca is the most valuable product from processed cassava roots there.

Animal feed

Cassava is used as animal feed extensively in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe, especially in places such as Thailand, China, Nigeria, Brazil, etc.

Cassava hay

Cassava hay, is hay which is produced at a young growth stage, 3-4 months and being harvested about 30-45 cm above ground, sun-dried for 1-2 days until having final dry matter of at least 85%. The cassava hay contains high protein content, 20-27% CP and condensed tannins, 1.5-4%. It is used as a good roughage source for dairy, beef, buffalo, goats, and sheep by either direct feeding or as a protein source in the concentrate mixtures. More details can be searched from Metha Wanapat AJAS,Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences.

Cassava pests

In Africa the cassava mealybug (Phenacoccus manihoti) and cassava green mite (Mononychellus tanajoa) can cause up to 80% crop loss, which is extremely detrimental to the production of subsistence farmers. These pests were rampant in the 1970s and 1980s but were brought under control following the establishment of the Biological Control Centre for Africa of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture IITA. The Centre investigated biological control for cassava pests; two South American natural enemies Apoanagyrus lopezi (a parasitoid wasp) and Typhlodromalus aripo (a predatory mite) were found to effectively control the cassava mealybug and the cassava green mite respectively.
The cassava mosaic virus causes the leaves of the cassava plant to wither, limiting the growth of the root. The virus is spread by the whitefly and by the transplanting of diseased plants into new fields. Sometime in the late 1980s, a mutation occurred in Uganda that made the virus even more harmful, causing the complete loss of leaves. This mutated virus has been spreading at a rate of 50 miles per year, and as of 2005 may be found throughout Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.
manioc in Arabic: كاسافا
manioc in Guarani: Mandi'o
manioc in Min Nan: Chhiū-chî
manioc in Bulgarian: Маниока
manioc in Catalan: Tapioca
manioc in German: Maniok
manioc in Spanish: Manihot esculenta
manioc in Esperanto: Manioko
manioc in French: Manioc
manioc in Upper Sorbian: Brazilski maniok
manioc in Iloko: Balinghoy
manioc in Indonesian: Singkong
manioc in Italian: Manihot esculenta
manioc in Hebrew: מניהוט מצוי
manioc in Kinyarwanda: Inyumbati
manioc in Haitian: Manyòk dous
manioc in Latin: Mandioca
manioc in Lithuanian: Valgomasis manijokas
manioc in Lingala: Manyɔ́kɔ
manioc in Dutch: Cassave
manioc in Japanese: キャッサバ
manioc in Norwegian: Maniok
manioc in Polish: Maniok jadalny
manioc in Portuguese: Mandioca
manioc in Quechua: Rumu
manioc in Russian: Маниок
manioc in Simple English: Manioc
manioc in Finnish: Maniokki
manioc in Swedish: Maniok
manioc in Thai: มันสำปะหลัง
manioc in Vietnamese: Sắn
manioc in Tonga (Tonga Islands): Mānioke
manioc in Ukrainian: Кассава
manioc in Chinese: 木薯
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