How to Make Tapioca Pearls From Scratch.

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Introduction: How to Make Tapioca Pearls From Scratch.

About: Hi, I'm Leslie but I am better known as punkgirl. I am a fan of all things quirky and dark but most of my instructables will probably be related to cooking. In the kitchen I am a bit of a renegade. I know ...

I discovered Instructables a few months ago and have been happy simply browsing all of the wonderful projects people have to share. I then started looking for specific recipes and ideas to build on.
One night in particular I had a craving for bubble tea (pearl milk tea, boba tea, taro, tapioca tea, the list is almost endless!) and I couldn't find the right instructable. Sure, there were plenty on milk tea and how to cook the pearls but none told me how to create this fabulous drink from scratch.
I searched the internet for ages trying to find a recipe to match those chewy, black pearls of happiness but nothing I found gave me what I was looking for. Finally I have compiled numerous recipes, suggestions and do's & dont's to come up with an almost foolproof method of making tapioca pearls.

I found this process to be fairly adaptable and forgiving, I will outline some changes and additions for you at the end of this instructable.

This is my first instructable, I hope I have made the steps clear and concise for you and I would love for you all to share any questions, suggestions and experiences in the comments :)

Step 1: Tapioca Pearls, Boba, Taro, Sago. You Name It, Now You Can Make It

Perhaps one of the easiest recipes ever! All it calls for is tapioca flour and boiling water. Make this in whatever quantity you like, just keep the ratio 3:1.
The amount of water you cook the pearls in doesn't really matter, you just don't want it to dry up while cooking the balls. The sugar isn't crucial either, this is one of the easily adaptable factors that I will talk more about at the end.
For this instructable I used-

9 tsp tapioca flour
3 tsp BOILING water
3 cups water in a saucepan w/
1 cup brown sugar

Step 2: Making the Pearls

While this recipe is incredibly easy, it does call for one crucial step that you cannot get wrong!

1- Add your water to a saucepan and bring to the boil.
2- Place your tapioca flour in a bowl, I find stainless steel or glass easiest to work with.
3- This is the most important part. Have your measuring implement ready to go. Fill it with the water on the boil and immediately add it to the flour.
4- Quickly mix it together with a spoon until it starts to form a ball. At this stage continue mixing and kneading with your hands until it reaches a play-doh like consistency.
5- Add the brown sugar to the boiling water, stirring until it is dissolved. Set about a quarter of this aside in a separate bowl and allow to cool in the fridge. This will be used for our pearls once cooked.

The reason the water needs to be boiling is because it will not form the right consistency with just hot or cold water. Instead it will turn into a sloppy mess that won't hold it's shape.
Another important thing to remember is that tapioca flour is gluten free, so there is no way you will over work the dough - it is actually quite fun to play with and completely non toxic, so once it is cool feel free to get the kids involved.

Step 3: Roll Roll Roll Your Balls

This is the hardest part of tapioca pearls, but I have found a way to make it slightly easier.

1- Form your dough into sausages about 5mm thick and cut into batons roughly 8mm long.
2- Roll the batons until they form a pea sized ball.
3- Keep going until you use up all of your mix.
4- Add the balls to the boiling water and sugar. They will sink at first then rise and puff up.

Alternatively you can roll your dough flat and cut it into cubes for a different mouth feel - similar to the jellies you can buy at bubble tea stores.
If your dough starts to feel dry or "crusty" on the outside simply knead it until it feels smooth and slightly sticky to the touch. If the dough feels too sticky to work with sprinkle a little tapioca flour onto your work bench.

Step 4: And Now We Wait

This step will either go really fast or take forever. The time comes down to two things - the size of your balls and your preference on texture.

1- Check the pearls at regular intervals, every 5 minutes is good.
2- Continually stir the pearls, especially when cooking in sugar as it will thicken and you will lose water content.
3- Once they are cooked to your preference spoon them into your reserved sugar syrup, place them in the fridge and allow to cool.

My pearls were ready after 15 minutes, they had no resistance when I bit into it and felt sticky and slimy. It is important that they feel slightly over cooked to how you would like them. This is because the pearls will firm up the cooler they get. Generally your pearls will be done when you see air bubbles throughout the whole ball.
The reason we reserved some of the sugar syrup at the start is because the tapioca will make the mixture we cooked in go slimy and it just doesn't work as well. The reserved mixture can also be used to sweeten your tea.

Step 5: Brew Your Tea

How you do this is totally up to you! I simply added two black tea bags to a cup of boiling water, let it steep for 10 minutes then left it in the fridge to cool with my pearls.
Make absolutely any tea you like to whatever specifications you desire, just don't add any milk or creamer.

Step 6: This Is Where the Magic Happens!

It's finally here! You're almost ready to drink your own, well deserved bubble tea!

1- Pour your cold tea into a large glass.
2- Add desired amount of ice.
3- Spoon in those pearls and as much sugar syrup as you would like. This is also a good time to add in any flavorings - fruit nectars, cordials, syrups etc.
4- Shake your milk or creamer to create a little froth and pour it over your tea.
5- Stick in your oversized straw, stir and marvel at how easy it is to create your own bubble tea for a ridiculous fraction of the price!

Step 7: Tea Is What You Make It

There are so many variations to be had with this recipe!
Add in some food colouring to make your bubbles more fun, or perhaps some flavour extracts.
Cook the pearls in coloured or flavoured water.
Let the pearls sit in coloured or flavoured water! It's so simple but can make a world of difference to your end result.
You can make any tea you like, or just eat the pearls on their own!
Add in any additive. Syrups, cordials, extracts, nectars, purees, powders, anything or nothing it's up to you.
Make as little or as many as you want, as long as that ratio is 3:1 and you have boiling water it is almost impossible to go wrong! Make them any shape you want too, just have a straw big or small enough to slurp them up.

I would also like to add that my container of tapioca flour is called "Arrowroot". These are actually two different things, just make sure to check the ingredients - you want to see the words tapioca or cassava root, anything else and you have the wrong ingredient.

I also learnt on my endeavor through the internets that the black pearls they serve you at stores are a gimmick. I could not find anything that distinguished between the pearls I have just taught you to make and the ones used at bubble tea chains. Sources said they are black because they are cooked in brown sugar, but that only turns them slightly brown. I truly believe it is just food colouring that turns them black and I am sure they only do this for the contrast against the white milk in the tea. Try the recipe and see for yourself that they taste the same!

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Would it effect the pearls too much if I used arrowroot flour instead of tapioca flour??

50 Comments

FYI: Tapioca pearls are traditional soaked in a -black- sugar syrup, which gives them the darker color. Black sugar tastes totally different than brown sugar and usually sold in blocks in Asian grocery stores. :)

1 reply

Ooh, I will have to source this! I didn’t even know it was a thing. Thanks :)

This looks really promising! Thanks for the lesson, I had trouble finding any good instructions elsewhere as well. I was starting to think there is no recipe and they just somehow fall out of the sky!

And I am married with two children, but thank you for the interest DavidP588. I imagine your spam account will be deleted shortly.

And I am married with two children, but thank you for the interest DavidP588. I imagine your spam account will be deleted shortly.

Sorry punkgirl, I already have a girlfriend.

I'm very excited to try this since I've recently fallen in love with bubble teas. Thank you!

Hi Releney

I'm so glad the pearls worked for you!
I'm still regularly making them and over the years I have learnt there is a lot of variables that affect the dough. Recently I made a batch that only used 1/4c water to 1c flour because it was such a humid day and other times I've had to use a 1:2 ration. The good thing is that you can't overwork the dough so you can find the mix that's right for you.
As for the log, I've given that up too! Haha. I just pinch little bits off the big ball, give them a quick roll and pop them in the water. I have invested in a bigger straw to make up for less than perfect pearls ;)

Hi HaidyS,
I have personally had no problems keeping pearls in the fridge. I keep them in liquid, once they're cold they harden and I just cook them up again.
Not sure if you're having the mushy problem because you're using pre-packaged pearls. That's why I made this instructables, so people can know what's in their food and be in control of additives.

Made these pearls and they turned out great! Thanks for the instructions and the pictures.

I used 1 cup of tapioca flour, and I just boiled some water and poured some into the flour... it seemed like more than 1/3 cup of water was needed? The tapioca dough took more effort than expected to roll into a long log, and I gave up trying to make them round because rolling them into balls was unexpectedly difficult. Our pearls ended up bigger than the normal size. Cooking them for 15 minutes was perfect though, and they tasted great with the brown sugar.

I had some leftover tapioca dough, so I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. I successfully made pearls the next day using that dough, but it had dried out in the refrigerator. After rolling it flat and kneading it a bit though, I was able to work with it, although the dough had acquired small hard bits.

How long can you preserve cooked tapioca pearls? Or can you keep them dry and just cook them whenever you want them?

1 reply

You should only cook what you are going to consume within the next 4 hours. After about 4 hours of cooking, the tapioca pearls become mushy and dont have great texture. :)

For home use, I would look at black minute pearls, which cook in 5-10 min.

https://www.bobateadirect.com/black-minute-pearls-2.2lb-bag.html

I reckon that would go great with vanilla tea! Hope it works for you :)

After I have tried this a few times, I'm going to try adding rosewater to the balls.

Hi AnnieT6, I honestly have no idea if you can keep them dry. I enjoy the process of making them so much that I haven't attempted storage yet.
I would imagine that you could keep them in an air tight container easily for a month being only flour and water but I have no authority on this.
I do however have an instructable about re-cooking the pearls. I have had lots of success keeping them stored in syrup in the fridge for up to three days.
Hope this is of some help :)

Thks for sharing. To more information about brazilian tapioca, visit: http://tapiocasbrazil.com

That sounds like a great combination to cook them in. I hope you like them!

Thanks so much for sharing! One of my friends tried this but replaced the water and brown sugar with black tea, honey and molasses which resulted in the black boba color that some find more desirable. Going to try this with my roommate soon!

I'm so glad you and your daughter enjoyed them, Kimberfred! If you go ahead with the food colouring don't make it too dark, the colour will deepen as the balls cook.
This may have been your problem, GrimmD. Hope that helps :)

I tried your recipe. Easy to make. I did make a change. I added 6 drops of red food coloring and 6 drops of blue. The pearls were purple until I cooked them. After they are cooked they came out black.