How to Make Tapioca Pearls From Scratch

Homemade Boba Pearls: Easy Tapioca Pearl Recipe for Bubble Tea

So you want to learn how to make tapioca pearls – also known as boba – from scratch? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Making your own boba is not only rewarding, but it also allows you to customize the shape, size, and flavor of these delightful chewy balls.

With just a few simple ingredients and some patience, you’ll be able to create the perfect tapioca pearls that will take your bubble tea game to a whole new level. Get ready to impress your friends and satisfy your boba cravings like never before!

What are Tapioca Pearls (Boba)?

Tapioca pearls in a brown bag on a wooden table.

If you’ve tried bubble tea and wondered what the amazing balls of goodness floating around (sometimes getting stuck up your straw) were, these are known as tapioca pearls or boba.

Tapioca pearls are small, chewy balls made from tapioca starch, which is extracted from the roots of the cassava plant. These pearls are commonly used in a variety of desserts and drinks, particularly in Asian cuisine.

They have a translucent appearance and a slightly gelatinous texture, making them a popular addition to bubble tea, a trendy beverage that originated in Taiwan.

Tapioca pearls are typically cooked by boiling them until they become soft and chewy, and then they are usually sweetened and incorporated into various dishes. Their unique texture and ability to absorb flavors make tapioca pearls a delightful and versatile ingredient in many culinary creations.

Fresh vs Store-bought tapioca pearls

When deciding between fresh or store-bought tapioca pearls, you’ll find that homemade boba pearls offer a more customizable and flavorful option. Store-bought tapioca pearls may seem convenient, but they often lack the freshness and quality that homemade pearls provide.

By making boba pearls from scratch, you have the freedom to control the ingredients and create a truly unique experience. You can experiment with different flavors, colors, and sizes to suit your preferences. Homemade tapioca pearls have a softer texture and are infused with the love and passion you put into making them.

How to Make Tapioca Pearls (Boba) at Home

A woman is pouring flour on a cutting board.

Let’s look at the essentials for creating the perfect chewy pearls for your homemade bubble tea.

What is Tapioca Starch?

To make tapioca pearls (boba) from scratch, you’ll need tapioca starch. Tapioca starch is a gluten-free flour made from the cassava root plant. It’s the key ingredient used to create those deliciously chewy boba pearls that we all love.

Tapioca starch is a versatile flour that gives the pearls their unique texture and consistency. Making tapioca pearls at home allows you to customize the flavor, size, and shape according to your preferences.

Is tapioca the same as sago?

Tapioca and sago are not the same, even though they both create chewy balls used in Asian desserts. Tapioca pearls, also known as boba, are made from tapioca starch, while sago is made from various tropical palm stems. Tapioca pearls are typically black in color and are widely used in bubble tea.

Making tapioca pearls from scratch involves the gelatinization of tapioca starch with hot water, forming a smooth and slightly sticky dough. The dough is then shaped into small balls and cooked until soft and translucent.

On the other hand, sago is smaller in size and more commonly used in different Asian cuisines. So, while both tapioca pearls and sago create chewy balls, they are made from different ingredients and have their own distinct uses in Asian desserts.

Step-by-Step Process of Making Tapioca Pearls

A person pouring tapioca starch into a bowl.

Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to make tapioca pearls from scratch.

Step 1: Gather the ingredients and equipment. You will need tapioca starch, boiling water, and any desired food coloring or flavorings such as brown sugar. Additionally, a pot, a mixing bowl, a fork or whisk, and a clean surface to work on are necessary.

Step 2: In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of tapioca starch with 1/2 cup of boiling water. Mix them together until they form a gooey, gelatinous texture. If you want to add any flavorings or colorings, this is the time to do so. For example, you can add a few drops of food coloring or a teaspoon of fruit essence to enhance the taste and appearance of the pearls. Add more starch to make a rough dough.

Step 3: Knead the mixture. Transfer the mixture onto a clean surface and knead it with your hands. Keep kneading until the mixture forms a smooth dough. If the dough feels too dry, add a few drops of water, but be careful not to make it too sticky.

Step 4: Roll the dough. Once the dough is smooth, divide it into smaller portions and roll each portion into long, thin ropes. Make sure the ropes are not too thick, as they will expand when cooked. Aim for a diameter of approximately 1/4 inch.

Step 5: Cut the pearls. Use a sharp knife to cut the ropes into small pieces. Each pearl should be around 1/4 inch in length. To prevent the pearls from sticking together, you can lightly dust them with tapioca starch or cornstarch.

Step 6: Cook the pearls. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and carefully drop the tapioca pearls into the boiling water. Stir gently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom. Cook the pearls for about 15-20 minutes or until they become translucent and soft. Be cautious not to overcook them, as they can turn mushy.

Step 7: Rinse and cool the pearls. Once the pearls are cooked, drain them and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process. This step also helps remove any excess starch. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water and let them cool for a few minutes.

Step 8: Use or store the pearls. Your homemade tapioca pearls are now ready to be used in various recipes. If you don’t plan to use them immediately, store them in a container filled with a sugar syrup or a simple sugar solution to prevent them from sticking together.

Customizing Your Homemade Tapioca Pearls

Two glasses of homemade bubble tea on a wooden tray featuring homemade tapioca pearls.

Now you’ve made them, you’ll want to start experimenting with your homemade boba pearls.

There are several ways to customize your tapioca pearls at home, such as switching up the type of flour you use, changing the color of the pearls, adding flavored syrups, mixing in fruits or herbs, or even experimenting with different types of sweeteners.

Ingredients for different colored Boba

To make different colored Boba, you’ll need tapioca starch, potato starch, and molasses for dark brown Boba, or dark brown sugar for light brown Boba. These ingredients play a crucial role in achieving the desired color and flavor of the pearls.

Molasses or dark brown sugar adds richness and depth to the dark brown Boba, while the light brown Boba gets its color and subtle sweetness from brown sugar.

Matcha powder tea, added in at the mixing phase, will give your boba pearls a beautiful green color.

With these ingredients, you can create visually appealing and delicious Boba pearls that will elevate your bubble tea experience.

Flavors you can use

If you want to add a burst of flavor to your boba pearls, you can try using different extracts or infusions such as vanilla, almond, or rosewater. Adding these flavors to your tapioca pearls will elevate your boba experience to a whole new level.

For a rich and indulgent taste, you can make black boba pearls infused with cocoa powder or coffee extract. If you prefer a sweeter option, brown sugar boba pearls are a perfect choice. Simply cook the pearls in a brown sugar syrup to achieve a caramel-like flavor. Try adding vanilla extract to your tapioca pearl dough for a subtle and delicious flavor.

No matter which flavor you choose, the key is to ensure that the pearls are cooked until soft and translucent, giving them that signature chewy texture.

Can I use other starch to make boba pearls?

If you want to try something different, you can use alternative starches to create your own chewy balls for bubble tea. While tapioca starch is the traditional choice for making boba pearls, there are other starches you can experiment with to achieve unique textures and flavors.

One option is to use potato starch, which can give the pearls a softer and more delicate texture. Another alternative is cornstarch, which can create a slightly firmer and more elastic pearl.

You can even try using sweet potato starch for a subtly sweet and earthy flavor.
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The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating your homemade boba pearls. So, don’t be afraid to get creative and explore different starches to make your bubble tea experience even more exciting and personalized.

Making tapioca pearls with cornstarch

You can try using cornstarch as an alternative starch to create your own chewy balls for bubble tea. Cornstarch is a versatile ingredient that can be used in place of tapioca starch to make homemade boba pearls. Cornstarch in your boba recipe can mean:

  1. Accessibility: Cornstarch is a common pantry staple and can be easily found in most grocery stores. It is a cost-effective option for making boba pearls at home. Not everyone has tapioca starch in their pantry.
  2. Texture: Cornstarch can provide a similar chewy texture to tapioca starch when cooked properly. It gives the pearls a satisfying bite that is characteristic of bubble tea.
  3. Customization: Using cornstarch allows you to experiment with different flavors and colors for your boba pearls. You can add natural food coloring or flavorings to create unique and delicious combinations.

Tapioca pearls and brown sugar

Three glasses of bubble tea with homemade tapioca pearls on a dark background.

For a unique and delicious twist on traditional boba pearls, try infusing your tapioca pearls with the rich and caramel-like flavor of brown sugar. This simple addition takes your homemade boba pearls to a whole new level of sweetness and indulgence.

Here’s three reasons why you should give it a try:

  1. Enhanced Flavor: By incorporating brown sugar into your tapioca pearls, you’ll add a depth of flavor that complements the chewy texture perfectly. The hint of caramel notes creates a delightful taste that will elevate your boba tea experience.
  2. Homemade Delight: Making your own boba pearls allows you to customize every aspect of your drink. From the size and shape of the pearls to the level of sweetness, you have full control over creating the perfect homemade boba pearls.
  3. Irresistible Texture: The combination of the chewy tapioca pearls and the rich brown sugar creates a delightful mouthfeel that is both satisfying and addictive. Each bite bursts with a sweet and chewy goodness that will keep you coming back for more.

Tips for Making Perfect Tapioca Pearls

One of the key factors in achieving the perfect boba experience is the texture of tapioca pearls. When making tapioca pearls at home, it’s important to cook the pearls just right to achieve that desired chewiness.

To start, make sure you have the right ratio of water to tapioca starch. A 1:8 ratio works best, as it ensures even cooking and a supple texture.

Cook the pearls on medium-high heat to achieve a soft outer layer, and then lower the heat to cook the center. The cooking time can be adjusted to achieve different levels of firmness.

Once the pearls are cooked, it’s crucial to immediately dunk them in cold water to prevent them from sticking together. Rolling the cooked pearls in tapioca starch will also help prevent any sticking.

Remember, the size of the pearls should be around 1.5 cm, which is suitable for hot milk tea drinks.

If you want that perfect boba experience, make sure to follow these tips to achieve the ideal texture and prevent the pearls from sticking.
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Are Tapioca Pearls Good for You?

The nutritional benefits of tapioca pearls include being gluten-free and a good source of carbohydrates. Tapioca pearls, also known as boba pearls, are popularly used in bubble tea and other refreshing drinks. But are tapioca pearls good for you? Let’s explore their health benefits.

  • Rich in Carbohydrates: Tapioca pearls are primarily made from tapioca starch, which is high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy to fuel your body, making tapioca pearls a great source of quick and easily digestible energy.
  • Gluten-Free Alternative: For individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, tapioca pearls offer a gluten-free alternative. They are made from cassava root, a naturally gluten-free plant, making them safe for those with gluten restrictions.
  • Versatile and Homemade Option: Making your own tapioca pearls at home allows you to control the ingredients and customize the flavors. You can choose natural sweeteners, control the cooking process, and experiment with different flavors to suit your taste preferences.

How Long Will Tapioca Pearls Last?

A homemade red canister sits on a kitchen table filled with homemade tapioca pearls.

Storing your tapioca pearls is crucial to maintaining their freshness and texture.

After cooking, store your boba pearls in an airtight container with the sugar syrup to keep them moist and flavorful. If you have uncooked pearls, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and store them in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.

Storing your tapioca pearls

To keep your tapioca pearls fresh and prevent them from drying out, make sure to store them wrapped in plastic wrap. This simple step will ensure that your homemade pearls maintain their chewy texture and delicious flavor. Proper storage is crucial for your tapioca pearls because it ensures they:

  • Retain Moisture: Tapioca pearls have a high starch content, which means they can easily dry out if not stored correctly. Wrapping them in plastic wrap creates a barrier that prevents moisture loss, keeping the pearls soft and supple.
  • Preserves Flavor: Tapioca pearls can absorb odors from their surroundings, affecting their taste. By storing them in plastic wrap, you can protect their delicate flavor and ensure that they remain fresh and free from any external odors.
  • Avoid Clumping: Tapioca pearls have a tendency to stick together when exposed to air. By individually wrapping them in plastic wrap, you can prevent clumping and make it easier to portion out the desired amount for your recipes.


Are you frustrated with your tapioca pearls not getting soft? Wondering what happens if you don’t soak tapioca or why your pearls melted?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with expert troubleshooting tips and solutions.

Why are my tapioca pearls not getting soft?

If your tapioca pearls are not getting soft, it could be because they are not cooked for long enough. Cooking tapioca pearls is a crucial step in making boba pearls from scratch. Here are three possible reasons why your tapioca pearls are not getting soft:

  • Insufficient cooking time: Tapioca pearls require a sufficient amount of time to fully cook and become soft. If they are not cooked for long enough, they may remain hard and chewy.
  • Inadequate water ratio: The water-to-pearl ratio is essential for achieving the desired texture. If there is not enough water, the pearls may not cook properly and remain firm.
  • Incorrect cooking temperature: The cooking temperature plays a significant role in the softness of the pearls. Cooking them at too high a temperature can result in a hard exterior and undercooked center.
To ensure your tapioca pearls become soft and chewy, make sure to cook them for a sufficient amount of time, use the correct water ratio, and adjust the cooking temperature accordingly.
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What happens if you don’t soak tapioca?

One important step in making tapioca pearls is soaking them before cooking. Soaking tapioca pearls serves several purposes.

First, it helps to hydrate the pearls and soften their texture. This is crucial because tapioca pearls are hard and dry when you first get them. Soaking also allows the pearls to absorb water, which helps them cook more evenly and become plump and chewy.

Additionally, soaking can remove any excess starch from the pearls, resulting in a cleaner and clearer appearance.

Why did my tapioca pearls melt?

Your tapioca pearls may have melted because you didn’t cook them for the right amount of time. Cooking tapioca pearls requires precision and attention to detail.

Here are three reasons why your tapioca pearls may have melted:

  1. Insufficient cooking time: Tapioca pearls need to be cooked for the appropriate duration to achieve the desired texture. If they are undercooked, they will not be fully translucent and will have a rubbery consistency. On the other hand, overcooking them can cause them to become mushy and disintegrate.
  2. Inadequate water ratio: The water-to-pearls ratio is crucial for proper cooking. Using too little water can cause the pearls to stick together and become clumpy. Conversely, too much water can lead to overcooked and melted pearls.
  3. Incorrect temperature control: Maintaining the right temperature while cooking tapioca pearls is important. Cooking them on high heat can cause them to cook too quickly and melt, while cooking on low heat for too long can result in a mushy texture.

To avoid the disappointment of melted tapioca pearls, it is essential to follow the cooking instructions carefully and ensure the correct cooking time, water ratio, and temperature control.

Frequently Asked Questions

The deep color of the black boba pearls found in your favorite bubble tea is derived from the molasses present in the brown sugar, which is a key ingredient in the tapioca pearls. The black boba pearls undergo a transformation during the cooking or boiling process, turning into a richer and darker shade. The outcome is a delightful texture of smooth and chewy black pearls.

Popping boba are made out of a gelatinous outer layer filled with flavored fruit juice or syrup. They are small, chewy balls filled with flavored juice that burst in your mouth, adding a delightful pop of flavor to beverages and desserts.

To prevent boba pearls from sticking together, make sure to roll them in tapioca starch after shaping. This will create a protective coating that prevents them from sticking.

Yes, you can freeze the boba pearls for later use. Freezing them will help preserve their texture. Just make sure to store them in an airtight container or bag to prevent freezer burn.

No, you cannot use all-purpose flour instead of tapioca flour for boba.

Photo of author
A self-proclaimed tea explorer, Jess began her journey with tea as a hobby and it quickly blossomed into an enchanting love affair. From the rich, historical tapestries of traditional Chinese blends, to the modern twists of herbal infusions, there’s no leaf unturned.

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