Whether you serve it warm or cold, the vanilla flavour and unique texture of this Classic Homemade Tapioca Pudding is the ultimate creamy comforting dessert.
Vintage recipes are where it’s at…especially the ones straight from Grandma’s recipe box! They are comforting food memories of our family’s delicious past. Rhubarb Strawberry Pie with Jello and Creamed Fresh Peas with Basil are two other recipes from my paternal Grandma that hold a special place in my heart.
Classic Homemade Tapioca Pudding
Tapioca Pudding is a hands down favourite when it comes to classic comfort desserts. It’s sweet, but not too sweet and oh, so very creamy. I can’t stress enough how dreamy this treat is. It’s like eating puffy white clouds of vanilla.
The texture is one of the best things about this dessert. It consists of rich vanilla pudding dotted with chewy, yet firm balls. There’s no other way to describe them. Either you love them, or you don’t.
What is in Tapioca Pudding?
This simple classic dessert recipes requires few ingredients and you can find them all at your nearest grocery store.
The main ingredients are milk (whole milk, or skim with a bit of cream…whatever you have!), sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla (extract, paste, or straight vanilla ‘caviar’), and tapioca pearls. Oh, and don’t forget time! I consider it an important ingredient in this Tapioca Pudding recipe.
What Are Tapioca Pearls?
Tapioca pearls (or Boba) are little white balls made from cassava starch. Cassava (also called Yuca, Manioc, Mandioca, and Casabe) is a starchy tuber crop grown in tropical climates. It plays an important part in local diets as it is a high calorie food that is easy to grow and store. And yes, because it is a tuber, this dessert is entirely gluten free.
To make the pearls, cassava starch/flour is mixed with boiling water until a kneadable consistency is achieved. Then it’s shaped into dough-like cylinders, chopped into equal pieces, and finally shaped into spheres.
The uncooked spheres are naturally opaque and white in colour due to being made entirely of starch, and have little to no flavour. They are sold worldwide, though cooked pearls (often found in a multitude of artificial colours) can also be found in most Southeast Asian countries.
Tapioca pearls come in a wide range of sizes, from one millimetre up to 8 millimetres. The size used in this recipe is medium which ranges from 4 mm – 4.75 mm in diameter. You can use small pearl tapioca too, just bear in mind the cooking time will differ.
Are Sago Pearls the same thing as Tapioca Pearls?
Though they often look the same, are both made from starch, and often used in similar ways. Sago and Tapioca are not the same, nor are they always interchangeable.
Sago pearls are little gelatinous balls made from the starchy centre of palm trees (pith). They are used in sweet puddings and savoury dishes in Southeast Asian cuisine.
Don’t Mess with Vanilla Perfection
While it is tempting to add different flavours to this tapioca pudding, the original vanilla flavouring is hard to beat. Since it’s the only flavouring, try to use the best vanilla you can find.
If you can find them, use the ‘caviar’ from inside a fresh vanilla bean for an ultimate flavour treat. Split the whole bean lengthwise, then scrape the knife along the inside of both halves of the bean.
Alternatively, use commercial vanilla paste, dried ‘caviar’, or add REAL vanilla extract. Not the fake chemical stuff.
How to Make Tapioca Pudding From Scratch
Making Tapioca Pudding from scratch takes time and more than a little effort. However, the end result is worth more than the effort you put in. It is miles above any pudding available on the market, including minute tapioca.
Begin by soaking the dry tapioca. Add 1/2 cup tapioca pearls to a medium pot then cover with 1 cup of cold water. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes then check the water level. If the water has all been absorbed, add another cup.
The amount of time needed to soak the pearls will vary according to brand and how long it’s been on a shelf/in your pantry. Some brands require an overnight soaking, some very little soaking. It’s a great idea to read the package directions before beginning the soak.
To cook the tapioca pearls, you’ll need a double boiler (or stainless steel bowl and suitable saucepan). Add enough water to the bottom pot for a long boil, but not so much that it touches the bottom of the bowl.
Place the pearls, milk, and salt in the top pot/bowl and bring to a boil. Reduce it to a slight simmer for 45 minutes- 3 hours, stirring to scrape the bottom of the bowl often.
Once the tapioca is fully cooked, beat the sugar and eggs together in a large measuring cup. Add 2 tbsp hot tapioca mixture and stir, tempering the eggs. Repeat 2- 4 times, then add the warm egg mixture back into the double boiler.
Heat and stir constantly over a low simmer until the mixture thickens. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon (if using), then remove from heat.
Serve warm or chilled.
When is the Tapioca Finished Cooking?
Taste test a single pearl every ten minutes of cooking. The texture should be gummy or chewy with a tiny bite in the middle. In other words, the standard Italian ‘al dente’ texture.
When they are ready, the pearls will be translucent with a tiny white dot in the centre.
How Long Does Tapioca Pudding Last?
It doesn’t last very long in our house! However, once cooled the pudding will store in the refrigerator for up to one week. Store it in a covered container and if you like, place a bit of plastic wrap along the surface to keep a ‘skin’ from forming.
- 1/2 cup medium white tapioca pearls
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- pinch cinnamon
- Place tapioca in a small container and cover with water. Allow it to sit counter top and check after an 30 minutes. If water has been absorbed, add more to cover.
- Soak for 6 hours or until the pearls become 'spongy'.
- To cook, place tapioca, milk, and salt in the top of a double boiler (you can use a stainless steel bowl over a sauce pan.
- Fill the bottom pan with water, but not enough to touch the top bowl.
- Bring water to a boil then reduce to a slight simmer. Stir the tapioca often, scraping the bottom as you go.
- Once the tapioca pearls have become translucent, test one or two. If they are quite soft, with just a slight bite in the centre, they are done. This could take 45 minutes- 3 hours.
- Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large measuring cup.
- Temper the eggs by adding a bit of the hot tapioca at a time, stirring it into the sugary eggs.
- Once the eggs have become warm, gradually stir the mixture into the hot tapioca.
- Cook over boiling water, constantly stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds with a knife. Add vanilla to the pudding.
- Add cinnamon and stir.
- Serve warm or cover surface of the pudding with plastic wrap and chill.
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 280Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 111mgSodium: 260mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 0gSugar: 26gProtein: 9g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.