Sabudana or tapioca pearls are tiny starchy balls made from starch obtained from the cassava plant’s root. You might know them from a popular tea drink named “Boba Tea”. Their neutral taste and ability to gel makes them an ingredient in several dishes and beverages.
Being a carbohydrate-dense food, babies can get abundant energy from sabudana. Many parents contemplate adding it to their babies’ diet, especially when the little ones are ready to consume solids.
This post takes you through the benefits of sabudana for babies, precautions to take, and some delicious sabudana recipes to try.
When Can Babies Consume Sabudana?
You can begin by feeding with two to three teaspoons of sabudana water (not whole sabudana) in a day. Once the baby adjusts to the sabudana’s taste and digestibility, gradually shift to a wide variety of sabudana recipes, such as porridge, soup, stew, and pudding made with tapioca pearls or flour.
Nutritional Value Of Sabudana
Sabudana is rich in carbohydrates, including the healthy resistant starch. It also contains small amounts of essential nutrients. 100 grams of dry sabudana (tapioca pearls) contains 88.7g of carbohydrate, 20mg of calcium, 11mg of potassium, 7mg of phosphorus, and 1.58mg of iron (3).
Sabudana contains only trace amounts of protein and barely any vitamins. Therefore, feeding sabudana to your baby as part of a well-balanced diet is advisable. Sabudana is only meant to supplement a normal diet.
Possible Benefits Of Sabudana For Babies
Although sabudana has limited nutrients, it can still be a valuable addition to your baby’s diet for the following reasons (4).
- Easy-to-digest: Sabudana flour is easy-to-digest, making it an ideal introductory food or first food for a baby. You can make soupy cereal with the sabudana flour or add it to fruit and vegetable purees.
- Energy-dense: 100 grams of sabudana contains 358kcal of energy, primarily due to the high carbohydrate content. It can help meet babies’ increased energy needs during the first year of life and facilitate weight gain.
- Gut-friendly: Sabudana is an excellent source of resistant starch that could keep the tummy full for longer, enhance gastric motility, and ward off constipation (5). The resistant starch acts as a prebiotic, therefore it benefits/feeds the gut microbiota, and provides several long-term health benefits (6).
- Growth-supporting: Tapioca pearls contain some amount of calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, which are essential for bone development in babies and toddlers. Besides, it contains iron necessary for healthy blood cells (7).
Sabudana is also considered to have anti-inflammatory and cooling effects on the body (4). Thus, its consumption during summer is often recommended in alternative medicine, such as Ayurveda.
Precautions To Take While Feeding Sabudana To Babies
Below are some precautions to observe while feeding sabudana to your baby.
- Buy sabudana from a trusted seller and manufacturer to ensure its quality.
- Wash sabudana before soaking to remove dust, dirt, and grit.
- Cook sabudana properly since undercooked sabudana can be difficult to digest for babies. Cassava may contain naturally occurring cyanogenic glycosides, which are toxic (8). However, it is rare for commercially produced sabudana to have this compound. Nevertheless, thorough cooking can neutralize any cyanogenic glycosides.
- Make sure this is the only new food being introduced that way to monitor any signs of intolerance or allergy. This should be the only new food being introduced for three to five days for this reason. Introduce sabudana water before feeding the whole sabudana to your baby. It will help the baby adjust to sabudana’s taste and digestibility. Do not feed thick sabudana porridge or soup to young babies as it may pose a choking hazard.
- Avoid overfeeding sabudana to babies and toddlers as it can suppress their appetite and may lead to nutritional deficiencies due to sabudana’s low nutrient content.
- Feed no more than a teaspoon or two to a six-month-old baby. Gradually increase the amount and begin feeding whole sabudana recipes in well-cooked, age-appropriate forms.
- If a baby looks uncomfortable after ingesting sabudana, discontinue feeding and try after some days. Stay vigilant to signs of allergy or sensitivity.
- Sabudana allergy is rare but possible. Individuals allergic to latex may also display allergy to certain plants and food items, including cassava (9). This is known as a latex-fruit syndrome. If you have a family history of latex allergy, consult a doctor before introducing sabudana to your baby.
Sabudana Recipes For Babies And Toddlers
Here are some tasty sabudana recipes that you can feed your baby and toddler in moderation.
1. Sabudana water (6+ months)
You will need:
- ½ cup sabudana
- 2 cups water
- Wash the sabudana under running water and soak it in warm water overnight. The next day, drain the water and set the sabudana aside.
- Boil two cups of water in a pan over low heat.
- As the water begins to boil, add sabudana and cook until the opaque tapioca pearls turn translucent. Switch off the flame and set the pan aside to cool.
- Mash the mixture using a spoon until the mixture becomes milky. Sieve the mixture into a bowl, using a fine-mesh sieve. The sabudana water is ready to feed.
2. Sabudana and carrot puree (8 months+)
You will need:
- ½ cup sabudana
- 4tbsp fresh carrot puree
- ½ tsp jaggery powder
- 1tsp organic ghee (clarified butter)
- Wash the sabudana under running water two to three times and then soak it in water for four to five hours. After five hours, drain the water and set the sabudana aside.
- Boil two cups of water in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add sabudana and cook until the opaque white balls turn translucent.
- At this point, if the mixture looks too thick, add some water to adjust its consistency. Switch off the flame and put the saucepan aside to cool.
- Transfer the cooked sabudana into a blender. Add jaggery powder, carrot puree, and ghee. Blend to make a smooth puree. Feed immediately.
3. Sabudana khichadi (10 months+)
You will need:
- ½ cup sabudana (washed, drained, and soaked)
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 1 small potato (peeled and chopped into small pieces)
- 1tsp cumin seeds
- ½tsp fresh lime juice
- 1tbsp parsley
- 1tbsp ghee
- Pinch of black pepper powder
- Heat ghee in a saucepan over low heat and add cumin seeds.
- As the seeds begin to crackle, add onion, and saute until they turn translucent.
- Add chopped potatoes and fry for two to three minutes.
- Add soaked sabudana and cook for five to seven minutes with occasional stirring. Add water to ensure the khichdi has semi-thick consistency.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the sabudana khichdi in a bowl.
- Add lime juice, black pepper powder, and garnish with parsley and feed immediately.
- You can add peanuts or groundnuts and seasonal vegetables, such as carrot, peas, and French beans, when serving it to toddlers.
4. Sabudana kheer (Sabudana porridge) (12 months+)
You will need:
- ¼ cup sabudana (washed, drained, and soaked)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1tsp dry fruit powder
- ½ tsp dates puree or date syrup
- ⅛ tsp cardamom powder
- Boil milk in a saucepan over low heat.
- Add dates puree, cardamom powder, dry fruit powder, and sabudana. Cook for five minutes while occasionally stirring to ensure the sabudana does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add some water to ensure there are no lumps, and the consistency of the kheer is soupy and not too thick.
- Switch off the flame, pour the kheer into a bowl, and serve.
- You can make this recipe with coconut milk for older toddlers.
5. Baked sabudana vada (12 months+)
You will need:
- ½ cup sabudana (washed, soaked overnight, and drained)
- ½ cup peanuts (roasted and grounded)
- 1 potato (boiled and peeled)
- 2tsp lemon juice
- 2tsp Kosher salt
- 1tsp freshly ground cumin
- 1tsp green chili (chopped)
- 1tbsp parsley (chopped)
- 2tsp vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 220°F (428°C) and line a baking tray with a parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, add sabudana, potato, cumin, salt, green chili, parsley, lemon juice, and one teaspoon of oil. Mix everything well using a fork.
- Take a small portion of this mixture in your hands and make round balls. Press the balls lightly to form vada or patties.
- Place these vadas on the baking tray and brush their top with oil.
- Bake the vadas for 20 minutes. Transfer them into a pan, add a teaspoon of oil, and shallow fry them until the top turns golden brown.
- Transfer the vadas into a serving plate and feed immediately.
You can also use sabudana flour as a binder in other baby food recipes. It will enhance the meal’s nutritional value without altering its flavor as sabudana has a neutral taste.
Sabudana is an energy-dense food that can be a considerable addition to a baby’s weaning diet. You can feed sabudana water, porridge, and soup to babies as a part of a well-balanced diet. Toddlers can have sabudana preparations, such as sabudana khichdi and flatbread, which are delicious and nutritious.
2. Morales and G.G. Graham, Digestibility of boiled and oven-dried cassava in infants and small children; NCBI
3. Tapioca, pearl, dry, FDC ID: 169717; Fooddata Central; USDA
4. Karad K. A. et al., Effect of Fortification with Shingada, Sabudana, and Rajgira Flour on Quality of Fasting Biscuits; International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR)
5. Bruna LetIcia, Buzati Pereira, and Magali Leonel, Resistant starch in cassava products; Food Science and Technology
6. David L Topping et al., Resistant starch as a prebiotic and synbiotic: state of the art; NCBI
7. Infant and nutrition feeding; USDA
8. Cyanide Poisoning and Cassava; Centre for Food Safety; Government of Singapore
9. Ibero et al., Allergy to cassava: a new allergenic food with cross-reactivity to latex; NCBI