Looking to learn how to make tapioca pearls (or boba balls) from scratch? This recipe will show you how to make homemade boba pearls that are chewy and sweet, making them a fantastic addition to your bubble tea or milk tea. It also features 5 delicious boba flavors: brown sugar, matcha, mango, strawberry, and peach.
Plus, I’ve included step-by-step photos and a video, so your first time making DIY boba at home goes as smooth as possible!
Why You’ll Love This Homemade Boba Recipe
There’s nothing quite like a fresh glass of homemade bubble tea. Making homemade boba pearls is a fun activity and I love that you can make them any color or flavor you want. Here are a few more reasons we love this recipe:
- 3 Main, Simple Ingredients – you only need water, sugar, and tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour) to make homemade boba.
- Perfect for Homemade Bubble Tea – this recipe makes boba pearls that taste just like the ones from your local boba shop (but for a fraction of the price)!
- Customizable Flavors – this recipe includes five different flavors, but the methods used can be applied to any fruit. So there are endless flavor combinations!
- Vegan-friendly – these boba pearls are dairy free, eggless and vegan.
- Fun to prepare – while a bit time consuming, rolling out your boba balls from scratch can be a therapeutic process. Make it a fun activity with friends or family!
What are Tapioca Pearls?
Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root, a vegetable native to South America. It’s often used in baking and cooking for its thickening properties.
Tapioca pearls, or boba pearls, are small, round balls made from tapioca starch. They’re commonly used in bubble tea and have a chewy, gummy bear-like texture. This recipe teaches you how to make these tapioca pearls right at home!
Looking for instructions on how to make store bought dried black sugar boba pearls?
I already have another post that will teach you how to cook your own tapioca pearls from the store here!
Before we dive into the process, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the ingredients. The ingredients for this homemade boba recipe are relatively simple, most of them you probably already have in your pantry!
You’ll need sugar, tapioca starch, and a liquid. Each flavor also has an optional ingredient – flavorings (fruit juice, matcha etc.) and/or food coloring, which is great if you want your tapioca balls to have vibrant colors.
For the syrup, all you need is your choice of maple syrup, agave nectar, simple syrup, or brown sugar syrup.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Tapioca Starch (also called Tapioca Flour) – This is the key ingredient that gives the boba pearls their distinctive chewy texture. You’ll need it for every flavor. This can be ordered online, or you can usually find it at Asian markets.
- Sugar – For sweetening, you can use a variety of sugars, including dark brown sugar or Muscovado sugar for the brown sugar flavor, and cane sugar for the fruit and matcha flavors.
- Fruits or Matcha – Depending on the flavor you’re making, you’ll need fruits (for puree) or matcha. We have strawberry, mango, peach, and matcha recipes in the card below.
- Optional Food Coloring – If you want to enhance the color of your pearls, you can add a drop or two of food coloring.
- Syrup – To coat the pearls after cooking, you can use maple syrup, agave nectar, simple syrup, or brown sugar syrup.
Here are a few substitutions you can make:
- Tapioca Starch – If you can’t find tapioca starch, you can try subbing in glutinous rice flour, although the texture might differ and the quantities or cook times may vary. I haven’t tested this substitution myself but have heard of others having success with it. For the best results, I recommend using a recipe specific for glutinous rice flour.
- Sugar – If you prefer a different sweetener, feel free to use coconut sugar or any granular sugar substitutes that can be heated.
- Fruits or Matcha – Feel free to substitute the fruits or matcha with your favorite flavors. You can also try using fruit juice concentrates or powdered flavors.
- Food Coloring: For black sugar boba, use dark brown sugar and food coloring. You can use artificial dyes, a bit of cocoa powder, or even a little activated charcoal.
- Small pot: for dissolving sugar and mixing dough
- Knife or dough cutter: for cutting the dough into small pieces
- Fine mesh sieve: for straining fruit puree and shaking off excess starch from the pearls
- A large pot: for boiling the pearls
🧋Step By Step Instructions
Video Tutorial is in the Recipe Card Below!
Prepping The Fruit Juices & Sugar
STEP 1: Choose your preferred fruit for the boba flavor you want to make. Blend the fruit until smooth.
STEP 2: After blending, press the fruit puree through a fine metal sieve. Make sure to discard the pulp left behind.
STEP 3: Combine the strained fruit puree and sugar in a pot. You can also add food coloring if you wish to enhance the color.
STEP 4: If you’re making the Brown Sugar or Matcha flavors, skip the puree. Instead, add water, sugar, matcha (if applicable), and food coloring (if using) to a pot.
STEP 5: Stir and dissolve the sugar over medium heat. Continue heating until the mixture comes to a very gentle simmer.
Making The Dough
STEP 1: Once the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is simmering, add half of the tapioca starch to the pot.
📌 TIP: Keep an eye on the pot during the cooking process. The starch can clump up and become overcooked easily. If this happens you’ll need to add more water.
STEP 2: When the mixture starts to become sticky and starts to clump, turn off the heat. Gradually add the remaining tapioca starch, then transfer the mixture to a work surface.
STEP 3: Begin kneading the mixture gently until it becomes smooth. When you’re not working with the dough, make sure to keep it covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.
STEP 4: Divide the tapioca dough into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a log shape, cut it in half, and lay the halves next to each other.
STEP 5: Cut the halves into smaller pieces (about 1g each). Then, roll the pieces into little balls and dust them lightly with extra starch.
📌 TIP: If they are cracking or aren’t rolling easily, dip your fingers in some water. The added moisture will help make rolling easier.
STEP 6: Place all the small tapioca pearls in a metal sieve and shake off the excess starch.
Cooking The Boba Pearls
STEP 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the boba pearls to the boiling water and let them cook for 15-20 minutes until they rise to the surface. Boil them for an additional 5 minutes if you prefer softer boba.
STEP 2: Turn off the heat and let the pearls continue to cook in the hot water, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
STEP 3: Drain the pearls. To prevent them from sticking together, immediately place the cooked tapioca pearls in simple syrup, maple syrup, or agave nectar.
Serve these homemade tapioca pearls in your favorite boba milk tea recipe. They add a wonderful, chewy contrast to the smooth, creamy tea.
Below are some of my favorite bubble teas and drinks to use these in:
You can also switch up the types of syrup you mix the boba with. The syrup will add a ton of flavor. You can use regular simple syrup, brown sugar syrup, strawberry syrup, lavender simple syrup, maple syrup, or agave nectar.
If you’re not in the mood for bubble milk tea, the uncooked pearls can also be used for tapioca pudding!
You can store these homemade boba pearls in a couple of ways:
- Cooked Boba: After cooking and coating in syrup, the boba pearls can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours. While I haven’t tested this myself, for longer storage, I’ve heard of people having success freezing the cooked pearls. When you’re ready to use them, thaw them in the refrigerator or at room temperature before adding them to your drink.
- Uncooked Boba: The dry, uncooked boba pearls can be kept in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature for about 1 day. If you want to store them for a longer period, you can freeze them. When ready to use, they can be cooked straight from frozen – just add a couple of extra minutes to the boiling time.
Here are some tips to help you perfect your homemade tapioca pearls:
- Adjusting Dough Consistency: Once you have made the starter dough, you may need to adjust the consistency. If you find the boba dough is too soft after mixing in all the starch, you can add more tapioca starch to the dough to stiffen it. Remember, the dough should be malleable when warm and become stiffer as it cools down.
- If the Dough is Powdery and Breaks Apart: You need more liquid or more heat. Crumble the dough back into the pot, add 1 tbsp of water at a time, and mix until it forms a paste. Heat it until it becomes sticky, then add starch gradually until you get a playdough-like consistency.
- Working with the Dough: Always work quickly when working with tapioca starch as it tends to dry out and harden. Keep unused portions covered with a damp cloth.
- Cooking the Boba: If the pearls are too soft after boiling, rinse them in cold water. They will firm up as they cool. If the pearls are too hard, let them sit longer in the hot water after turning off the heat.
- Pearl Color: The color of the pearls may vary depending on the type and quantity of fruit used. The color can also fade after cooking, so don’t be alarmed if your pearls don’t maintain their vibrant hue. For bright boba pearls, consider using food coloring drops.
Yes, you can use store-bought black tapioca pearls if you’re short on time. Just be sure to cook them according to the package instructions or follow this recipe to make store bought brown sugar boba.
I recommend using soy or oat milk for a vegan version, but you can use any type of milk you prefer or have on hand.
Yes, you can use regular cane sugar, light brown sugar, Turbinado sugar, or another granulated sugar. Keep in mind the type of sugar can change the color and taste of the boba.
Did you make These Homemade Boba Pearls?
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