How to make Black Tapioca Pearls for Bubble Tea (Milk Tea) – Foxy Folksy

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Learn how to make black tapioca pearls or boba pearls from scratch with this simple tutorial. You’ll only need 3 main ingredients. It is so easy and fun to make and much better than using the store-bought dried ones.

Freshly made tapioca pearls from scratch.
Jump to:
  • What are tapioca pearls?
  • What are they made of?
  • How to make tapioca pearls or boba?
  • How to cook tapioca pearls?
  • How to store?
  • FAQs
  • Recipe Video
  • Printable Recipe
  • Other Drinks to try

Making your own boba pearls is really easy and it could be a fun and rewarding project for the family. Plus you can have bubble teas anytime the cravings hits and save some bucks too. I also find that fresh tapioca pearls are much better than the dried ones. They cook faster, for one and you know exactly what’s in it. They are just like the ones we had in bubble teas when we were in Taipei.

Actually, I get mixed reviews with this tapioca pearls recipe. There are a lot who were able to make it successfully without any problem, there those who were able to work it out and there are those who are not so lucky. I collected some tips and advices from our readers who tried making it and I did some more trials to find out what works and what doesn’t so please read the whole post.

  • What are tapioca pearls?
  • What are they made of?
  • How to make tapioca pearls or boba?
  • How to cook tapioca pearls?
  • How to store?
  • FAQs
  • Recipe Video
  • Printable Recipe
  • How to make Black Tapioca Pearls (Boba) from scratch.
  • Other Drinks to try

What are tapioca pearls?

Tapioca pearls or balls are small, edible orbs, slightly smaller than marbles that are typically used for desserts and drinks in Southeast Asian cuisine. They are made from the starch or cassava roots that gives them their chewy, transluscent characteristics. They also have neutral flavors and are sometimes soaked in sugar syrup to sweeten them.

Black tapioca pearls or boba are colored tapioca balls used for milk or ‘bubble’ teas that are very popular nowadays.

What are they made of?

There are just two main ingredients for making tapioca pearls, tapioca starch and water. The tapioca starch is the starch extracted from the cassava roots. Sometimes also called cassava starch, but do not confuse it with cassava flour as the latter is typically powdered cassava roots. The other ingredient is water that binds the starch together to form a dough. For it to work it must be boiling hot.

Dark brown sugar can be added to give them a darker shade and make them sweet. But for the real black color, you have to use food coloring.

How to cook tapioca pearls?

Cooking freshly made tapioca pearls is much simpler than using dried ones.

  1. Bring enough water to a rolling boil (4 cups of water for every 1 cup tapioca pearls).
  2. Add the fresh tapioca pearls to the boiling water and let it cook for 15 minutes or longer until the desired consistency (soft or chewy) is achieved. They will turn opaque to translucent and become darker as they cook.
  3. Remove from heat and let it rest for a few minutes. They will shrink back to the original size and will turn black at this point.
  4. Transfer tapioca pearls into a sugar syrup or a bowl with a little water to prevent them from sticking together.

If using dried boba pearls, add the balls in a pot of boiling water. Cover and cook for several minutes depending on the size of the balls, 15 minutes for the tiny ones and 30 minutes or up to an hour for the bigger ones. Just cook them until there is no longer a white or solid core visible. You may need to add more water if it starts to get too thick and slimy.

How to store?

This recipe will make about a cup of tapioca balls or about 2-3 servings. You can make a bigger batch, but I will not really recommend it. First, because fresh ones cooks faster and has better texture and they are not that difficult to make anyway. Second, working in smaller scale is easier and more manageable. Bigger scale means bigger dough and if you have nobody helping you to roll them into those tiny balls, the dough will start to dry up and will no longer be as pliable and you might have difficulty forming the balls.

But in case you like to make them ahead or was not able to use them all up at once, here are my tips for storage:

To store fresh uncooked tapioca pearls, place the balls on a plate and just leave them on the kitchen counter for a day or two to dry up completely. Then transfer them to a container or jar for future use.

To store cooked tapioca pearls, place them on a container with lid and add sugar syrup or water to cover. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. For longer storage, place them in a Ziplock bag and remove as much air as you can, then freeze.

Just add them to boiling water and reheat for 5 minutes when ready to use.

Fresh Tapioca Pearls
  • 9 tablespoon tapioca flour
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid black food color
  • Place tapioca flour or starch in a bowl. Place black food color in a small bowl and add a tablespoon of boiling water to the food color. Add the rest of the boiling water directly to the tapioca flour and immediately pour the colored water to the bowl of starch as well.

  • Give it a few seconds for the slimy paste to form. Fold in tapioca starch with a fork until they start to stick together. Transfer to a flat surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth.

  • Divide the dough into 2 and roll each forming thin sticks. Cut them into small pieces. Try to make them as even in size as possible and should be small enough to pass through your straw. Roll each piece in between your palms to turn them into small balls. 

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a small pot or saucepan. Add the tapioca pearls to the boiling water and let it cook for 15 minutes or longer until the desired consistency (soft or chewy) is achieved. They will also become darker as they cook.

  • Remove from heat and let it rest for a few minutes. They will shrink back to the original size and will turn black at this point. 

  • Transfer tapioca pearls into a sugar syrup or a bowl with a little water to prevent them from sticking together.

  • The amount of black food color may vary depending on the brand you are using. 
  • Using a glass bowl or metal bowl is better especially when using food color.
  • If making a larger batch, just follow the 3:1 ratio of tapioca starch to boiling water.
  • Different brands of tapioca starch has varying texture and fineness so they may have varying results. I have some people commented that they are having difficulty using the Bob’s Red Mill and I had a success using the same but adding a teaspoon of xanthan gum. This recipe was tested using Polar Bear brand.
  • Using room temperature water will not work! It has to be boiling hot, directly from the pot/kettle of boiling water would be best. Once the hot water is added to the tapioca starch, it will cook the part it touches that will turn into transparent slime in seconds. This will act as a paste while you fold in the rest of the starch to make the dough.
  • If you get a oobleck, it means the water was not boiling hot.
  • The ratio of starch to water is 3:1. This generally works and I have tried it in 3 different brands and had success but I had to adjust the ratio in one of them.
  • If the dough is too crumbly and won’t form, then water was not enough. Like I said it could be that the starch you got absorbs more liquid than others. Do this instead: Initially use only 2:1 ratio to make the dough, it might be too soft and sticky then just add a bit more of tapioca starch until you get a play-dough consistency.

Calories: 79kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 0gFat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgSugar: 0gIron: 0.3mg

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