Homemade tapioca pearls for bubble tea are a delicious treat for when you want a sweet indulgence. These are vegan, gluten-free, grain-free and sugar-free.
A healthier alternative to store-bought tapioca pearls
Did you know that many tapioca pearls are colored with black food coloring to give them a more striking appearance? Tapioca flour on it’s own is white, and when you cook the tapioca pearls on their own, they turn clear.
That’s not very fun when you’re drinking an opaque bubble tea like a milk tea, now is it?
I’m definitely not someone who would be adding food coloring to the things I make at home, so I had to find another way.
But what else could give that dark color naturally? How about…cocoa powder!
Now I know what you’re thinking…cocoa powder doesn’t sound like it would work well in every bubble tea situation, and you are correct. But it’s not really a significant amount, that you really get a huge burst of chocolate flavor. It’s just enough to enhance the color of the tapioca pearls, not enough to add a distinct chocolate flavor to the drink.
Homemade tapioca pearls are not hard to make!
To make these homemade tapioca pearls, you’ll need tapioca starch, cocoa powder and boiling water. The boiling water is key to ensuring that the texture of the bubbles is correct.
Add the tapioca starch and boiling water to a bowl, and slowly mix in the boiling water, making sure to stir as you pour. Once you’ve mixed it all in with a spoon, knead the dough with your hands until it becomes consistent in texture.
If the mixture is too crumbly, you can add another splash of hot water. If the mixture is too moist, sprinkle in a bit more tapioca starch.
Split the dough in half, and roll each into a thin strip, approximately 1/3 of an inch (8 mm) in diameter. Slice into rounds, approximately 1/3 inch by 1/3 inch. Roll each slice into a ball and set aside. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
Store at this point if you don’t intend to use them right away. When you are ready to consume, boil water and add the balls in. Allow to boil for 20 minutes, then strain from water and use bubbles in your favorite drink.
Do I need to add the cocoa powder?
No, you do not. You can simply omit the cocoa powder if you don’t want any chocolate flavor in the bubbles. It is an optional ingredient, but it does add the iconic black color to the bubbles. Without it, the bubbles will be a clear color after cooking.
Can I make these ahead of time and store them for later?
I would recommend making the bubbles ahead of time and storing them dry in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. I don’t recommend boiling them and then storing them, because they become harder if they’re not eaten right away after boiling.
If you give these homemade tapioca pearls for bubble tea a try, please let me know what you think in the comments below. Also be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest so you don’t miss a recipe!
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Homemade Tapioca Pearls for Bubble Tea
- 4 tablespoons tapioca flour
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- Mix tapioca flour with cocoa powder. Add in boiling water and mix until it is well incorporated. Using your hands to knead the dough helps a lot. The mixture may be a bit crumbly, but if it is too crumbly, add water a little at a time.
- Split the mixture in half and roll into a thin strip. Slice into small pieces, approximately 1/3 inch (8 mm) x 1/3 inch (8 mm). Roll into balls and set aside. Repeat until all dough is used up.
- If you are preparing ahead of time, I recommend storing the dry bubbles in an air-tight container for up to 3 days at room temperature. I do not recommend boiling and then storing them, as the bubbles will get hard again.
- When ready to prepare, add four cups of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add in the balls and stir. Allow to boil for 20 minutes, then drain water.
- Consume right away in your favorite bubble tea recipe.
I made these and they came out good. It was very hard to work with b/c it was crumbly and took a lot of patience. I added more water the first time, but then it just turned like a slime that wouldn’t hold together. I then decided not to add anymore water the second time I tried and although hard to work with I managed. I found dipping my fingers in water and then trying to form the balls helped keep them from falling apart. It turned out well after cooking. I made the balls too big though so obviously couldn’t suck them through a boba straw. Next time I’m going to make sure to make them very small as they expand when cooked. Thank you for this great recipe. I love that it doesn’t contain sugar.
Hi Khatera! I’m so happy you were able to figure it out. I know I had to work with it for awhile too, until I figured out what worked. Thanks for leaving such a nice review!