birthdays | cinnamon | cooking | desserts | gluten-free | pudding | recipe | vanilla

Today’s lesson: tapioca.

July 1, 2009

tAfter what seemed like 5 years (but in actuality was almost 2 full months) of constant rain here in New York, the weather finally changed into the typical summer weather: hot and humid. Therefore, it became too hot to bake anything complicated. However my mom’s birthday is Saturday, and I told her to pick something (or a few somethings) that she wanted me to bake/make for her. She picked three things, taking the heat into consideration: the panna cotta with balsamic strawberries that I made last year,ย  a flourless chocolate cake (she hasn’t picked which one yet though) and… homemade tapioca pudding.

Okay so, I never made tapioca before. I don’t even like tapioca pudding, and also I wasn’t even quite sure what exactly ‘tapioca’ was. The other two desserts I have made, and they’re easy. And I figured tapioca pudding must be simple, because homemade pudding is one of the easiest things ever to make. But I read about how it takes an hour to cook on the stove, and needs constant stirring because of the danger of scorching the milk and I was dreading it a bit.

Then I made it.

And not only did it NOT take an hour, it was so easy I could’ve done it blindfolded.

Tapioca is:

… a flavorless, colorless, odorless starch extracted from the root of the plant species Manihot esculenta. This species, native to Brazil, is now cultivated worldwide and has many names, including cassava, bitter-cassava, manioc, “mandioca”, “aipim”, “macaxeira”, “manioca”, “boba”, “yuca” (not to be confused with yucca), “Sagudana” (literally, Sagu drops)–with local variation of “Sabudana”–and “kappa”. Tapioca is a staple food in some regions and is used worldwide as a thickening agent, principally in foods. Tapioca is gluten free, and nearly protein free. The commercial form of tapioca most familiar to many people is pearl tapioca.

The name tapioca is a word derived from tipi’รณka, the name for this starch in Tupi[1] This Tupi word refers to the process by which the starch is made edible. However, as the word moved out of South America it came to refer to similar preparations made with other esculents.’Tapioca’ in Britain often refers to a rice pudding thickened with arrowroot, while in Asia the sap of the sago palm is often part of its preparation.

Pearl tapioca is similar to pearl sago, which is used in essentially the same ways. Consequently, tapioca may be called sago, and vice versa.

Basically, they’re hard little white balls that soften in water. Pretty cool to see, especially when they turn translucent during cooking. Not really cool enough for me to taste it though. I think tapioca pudding will be something I’ll make for others, but not eat.

The pudding turned out amazing, I’m told. And it was amazingly easy (as most puddings are). So here’s part one of my mom’s birthday treats: tapioca pudding. The recipe tells you it takes 40-60 minutes to thicken, and I didn’t find that to be the case. For some substitutions, check out my asterisks (*).



  • 1/2 cup tapioca pearls (I used large, you can use whatever you like I suppose)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Soak tapioca in 2 cups of water overnight in refrigerator in a 2-quart saucepan or double boiler.
  2. Beat the eggs lightly in a bowl until mixed. Drain water from tapioca. Add milk, sugar, salt and beaten eggs. Mix well.
  3. Cook on medium heat until thickened (like I mentioned above, the recipe says this will take 40-60 min, but it didn’t take me nearly that long), stirring constantly to avoid scorching the milk. When its ready, mixture should be thick and pearls should be translucent.
  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Serve warm or chilled, garnish with whipped cream, fruit or whatever you like.

*For a fat-free and cholesterol-free preparation, substitute skim milk for whole and 3 egg whites for the 2 eggs. For those who are lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk can also be used.

You can top this with literally almost anything. I used ground cinnamon and let people put their own whipped cream on it, but strawberries or berries, coconut or other spices could be used as well. I used parfait glasses and custard cups, but you could make it in one large bowl and serve from that as well.

The moral of today’s lesson: don’t be afraid to try new things in the kitchen. They’re rarely as difficult or time consuming as they seem. And don’t buy a mix when something is this easy!

Oh and by the way… after a brief respite, the never-ending NY rain is returning this week, aaaaand I changed my haircolor (again)- dark brown in the back, light blonde in the front:

And if you want that sweet Cupcake Rehab shirt, you can get one here. Awesome haircolor and my face not included.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Facebook Twitter Email

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I think I’m with you on the tapioca pudding feeling. I’m sure it’s lovely but I’m not into it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Bubble tea is pretty tasty though!

    And bravo on the new color. I love mixing colors like that. It looks great on you.

  2. Could I use lactose free milk instead of regular milk?? Will it come out the same??

  3. Haha Amanda! Great minds think alike. But hey, it wasn’t for me, and momma dukes enjoyed it so thats all that matters!

    Carina, I don’t really see why not. The tapioca itself is a thickening agent, so I can’t imagine the lack of lactose (haha) would do any harm. If you try it, please let me know and I’ll edit the recipe accordingly.

  4. Good to see something from Brazil!!!
    We call this pearl by SAGU here and there is a way we make it (specially in the South reagion here thats a lot more colder) with red wine – thats awsome!!! I will try to get a good recipe and send you.

  5. Found you through iluvcuppycakes on twitter FF…love your header! And it looks like your tapioca was worth the risk! Will check back to see what other risks you take!

  6. Update: I was at an Asian mart with a friend over the weekend and I picked up some Tapioca Pearls. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Bubble tea post coming soon!

  7. Hi!

    I see you used large pearl tapioca. I’ve been trying to find someplace in NYC that sells large-pearl, but most only sell small-pearl or instant. Do you know where I could find large-pearl? Where did you get yours?

    (I see that I could buy it online, but I want to use it for a recipe this weekend and don’t think it’ll ship here in time…)

    Thanks! Any help would be most appreciated.

  8. Hi Lauren!

    I got mine in Stop & Shop, a regular ol’ supermarket. I don’t think there are any in Manhattan, but there is one in Long Island City. I hope that helps!

  9. I have been surfing on-line greater than three hours today, yet I never found any fascinating article like yours.
    It’s pretty value sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all
    webmasters and bloggers made just right content material as you did,
    the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  10. The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it’ll do even better in those areas, but for now it’s a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

  11. With havin so much written content do you ever run into
    any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve
    either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot
    of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you
    know any techniques to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  12. You have made some good points there. I checked on the internet to find out more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

  13. It’s amazing to pay a quick visit this web page
    and reading the views of all friends concerning this article,
    while I am also zealous of getting familiarity.

  14. Hi! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My weblog looks weird when viewing from my apple
    iphone. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to
    correct this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share.


  15. I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing issues with your site.

    It looks like some of the written text within your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else
    please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them
    as well? This may be a problem with my internet
    browser because I’ve had this happen before.
    Appreciate it

  16. Hi there terrific blog! Does running a blog like this require a lot
    of work? I’ve very little knowledge of computer programming
    but I had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway,
    should you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners please share.
    I know this is off topic nevertheless I just needed to ask.
    Many thanks!

  17. Admiring the dedication you put into your blog and in depth information you provide.
    It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed
    material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m
    including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Comments are closed.