As we all know, Sabudana is an integral part of Indian food culture.
But how is Sabudana made in the first place?
Well, in this guide, you will find all the answers to this and many more such questions.
So, let’s begin.
What Is Sabudana?
Sabudana, also known as Sago, is an Indian name for Tapioca pearls.
It is nothing but a byproduct of Cassava plant’s roots, and it’s generally available in the form of round-shaped granules.
In India, you can taste some delicious dishes made out of Tapioca pearls, which include Kheer, Khichdi, and Vada.
You can also use its flour to make tasty Thalipeeth at home.
Now that we know what Sabudana is made of let’s find out more about its history.
History Of Sabudana In India
I know you must be curious to know whether Sabudana is indigenous or not.
No, it’s not indigenous at all.
It arrived way too late in India, i.e., in the 19th century!
It came through the same trade route that introduced spices, vegetables, fruits, etc. to our part of the world.
And later, it traveled to different Southeast Asian countries.
Although Sabudana does seem like an ancient ingredient, we only started using it a few decades or centuries back.
So, as you can see, it was never a part of Indian food culture.
Moreover, it’s quite fascinating to see how our chefs/home cooks use this foreign ingredient to create some of the best dishes in the country.
Cultivation In India
Did you know?
Visakham Thirunal, Maharaja of Travancore, helped increase the popularity of Tapioca in the Southern part of India.
He pushed the cultivation of Cassava plants in Travancore and nearby regions.
He also introduced the techniques to cook these white pearls.
And it worked!
His efforts paid off well.
Sabudana, as we know, is now a staple food in India.
And now, Tamil Nadu is the largest producer of Sabudana in the country.
Furthermore, many Indian states also grow these plants for Sabudana production.
Talking about the cultivation, Indian farmers mostly use Cassava plants to get the raw material for Kappa (Tapioca).
However, in general, there are three types of plants that produce the desired starch for Sago.
Here’s the list:
- Palm Sago
- Cycad Sago
- Cassava Sago
From the above list, our farmers mostly use Cassava plants to produce Sabudana in India.
On the other hand, some farmers also use Palm trees (a specific variety) for Sago’s production.
Cycad is also a different variety of Palm-like trees, though you’d most likely find them in ornamental landscapes.
And the reason is its toxicity.
Its starch contains toxic elements.
Therefore, it’s necessary to detoxify it before using it for production.
Alright now, let’s quickly take a look at how Sabudana is made in Indian factories.
How Is Sabudana Made
As mentioned earlier, Sabudana comes from Cassava plant.
The roots of this plant produce an edible starch, which is useful in producing Tapioca granules.
Now, here’s how Sabudana is made in the processing factories –
- Step 1: First and foremost, the harvested Cassava roots arrive directly in industrial factories from various farms.
- Step 2: Once the initial assessment is over, the conveyor belt machines clean and peel the roots for the next processes.
- Step 3: Then, the peeled roots move to the next section where the automated machines crush the roots to extract the milk-like substance (starch).
- Step 4: Further, the white liquid moves through several filters and water-cleaning processes before entering into the accumulation tank.
- Step 5: Here, the workers store the liquid mixture for about 6-8 hours. This period allows the impurities to float on the water.
- Step 6: Later, the workers drain out all the liquid, and all you get is a solid substance.
- Step 7: As this substance dries out completely, the workers relocate it to the sieving section to prepare the Sabudana granules.
- Step 8: Once the granules are ready, it goes through the cooking/steaming process.
- Step 9: And finally, the manufactures sun-dry the granules to remove the remaining moisture from them.
And that’s how Sabudana is made!
When all processes are over, the Sabudana granules are polished and dispatched to the packaging section.
Now, I’m sure you must be having a few questions in your mind.
Well, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Sabudana.
(Bubble Tea – Prepared using Tapioca Pearls)
As discussed above, Sabudana is made of a starchy substance obtained from the Cassava plant roots.
This variety of Sago goes by the name of Tapioca Sago.
And the one we get from Palm trees is available as Palm Sago.
This variety, however, is popular in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Thailand.
A Big NO!
There is no truth in the rumors.
Sabudana is a vegetarian ingredient, as it comes from a plant’s roots.
More importantly, we also consume it during fasts and festivals.
So, there is no real possibility of it being a non-veg ingredient.
And you can safely use it for daily cooking as well.
Although many believe Sabudana comes from Maida or Wheat flour, it’s not true.
It has nothing to do with Wheat or any of its byproducts.
Maida does appear white-ish, but you can not make Sabudana pearls out of it.
And the same thing applies to Sabudana.
You can’t produce Maida out of it.
Whenever you want to prepare a Sabudana delicacy, you should soak them in water for a couple of hours.
This step allows the Tapioca pearls to become soft and mushy to some extent.
And that’s what you want for a perfect Khichdi or similar dishes.
If you don’t soak them in water for long, you will end up making something else altogether.
And it won’t be a pleasant experience for sure.
So, do follow the soaking step when you want to make something out of these starchy pearls.
Also, be mindful while selecting these pearls from a grocery store.
If you want to make Khichdi or Vadas, get the large-sized Tapioca pearls.
These pearls give excellent results for such dishes.
For Payasam or Kheer, you should get the smaller Tapioca pearls from the store.
The small size makes it easy to relish Kheer-like dishes.
You can store it in an air-tight container.
It doesn’t require any specific equipment or tool for storage.
You only need to avoid moisture.
Don’t allow moisture to reach the Tapioca pearls, as it might attract fungus.
Otherwise, it doesn’t require much care from your side.
It remains in good condition for a long time if stored well.
Over To You
I hope you learned a few interesting facts on how Sabudana is made in India.
Well, it’s surely an interesting ingredient in Indian cooking.
And its making process is even more fascinating!
Now, if you have any queries or doubts related to this topic, drop a comment below.
And if you liked this informative guide, do share it with your friends and family.
Hi Harshad – thanks. Very well articulated. There is very less literature, and I cam across your article while looking for a source to buy palm sago (I drew a blank!!!). You mentioned that Palm Sago is popular in Malaysia and Thialand, but are you aware if it is grown / sold in retail in India too?
Thanks for your time.
Thanks for the kind words, Vinay!
Yes, we grow sago palms in India, but I’m not sure whether they’re grown for commercial purposes. This palm variety is generally available for gardening and landscaping.
Sujit Das says
Excellent article on Sabudana..
Thank you, Sujit!
During making of these pearls, is the cyanide toxicity taken care of?
Yes, of course! Cassava contains Cyanogenic Glycosides, and it is generally removed at the time of raw material processing.
Swati Bhargava says
Great info!! Thanks for sharing how sabudana is actually made in factories!
Glad you liked it, Swati! Thank you for the feedback.
Thanks for the explanation, one of the most to the point article I have read in recent times. Good job.
Thank you for the valuable feedback, Tujesh!
Thank you Harshad for all the info about the production of sabudana. Can we find cassava easily available at local groceries/ market. Is cassava cultivated in India in bulk?
I don’t think Cassavas are available at local grocery shops.
It’s a commercial crop, and it needs to be processed before we can use it for consumption.
So, you will probably not find it in retail shops.
As for cultivation, most farmers grow Cassavas for commercial processing.
And therefore, it is cultivated in large fields.
Ananta deep Chitturi says
very well articulated. A big thumbs up.
Thank you, Ananta!
I’m glad you liked this detailed guide.
My question is for India region only. As mentioned that in India, Sabudana is made by Cassava plant roots. However Cassava plants and Sweet Potatoes both have similar characteristics. So is it true that mostly in India we are eating sabudana made from Sweet Potato roots ? Or no one making sabudana from sweet potato?
Even though Cassava roots and Sweet Potatoes are tubers and appear somewhat similar to each other, they are quite different in their taste profiles.
As far as the production is concerned, Indian manufacturers mostly use Cassava roots to produce Tapioca pearls or Sabudana in their factories.
Harshvadan chhaya says
As we read in WhatsApp that the pulp of the roots is kept in open to the sky for about three to four days to get it soft and during that period the process is by some insects and it is non-vegetable items. what is the fact? (From the above description it seems to be the factory-made product)
Please do not believe in WhatsApp rumors. There is no role of insects in the making of Sabudana.
Also, it doesn’t take 3-4 days to prepare Sabudana from Cassava roots.