Homemade Boba ‘Tapioca Pearls’ Bubble Milk Tea

4.98 from 167 votes
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A simple DIY for 3-ingredient homemade tapioca pearls (aka boba) – including how to cook tapioca pearls and a delicious brown sugar bubble milk tea recipe.

Bubble Milk Tea (or ‘boba milk tea’) stands/stores have been popping up all over the UK within the last decade. These serve a delicious range of Taiwanese tea-based (and even non-tea-based) drinks filled with a variety of ‘toppings’ – one of which are tapioca pearls (boba pearls), sometimes called tapioca balls.

Sugar Tapioca pearls

What are tapioca pearls?

These boba ‘tapioca pearls’ are small, chewy dark brown/black balls that get spooned into the bottom of the bubble teas and made using tapioca starch (flour) – from the cassava root, brown sugar and hot water. Along with these boba pearls, drinks can also include popping boba (which are filled with flavoured syrups), different jellies, puddings and more.

Boba Bubble Milk Tea

Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to do DIY’s for other boba milk tea toppings too!

Within this post, I’m going to take you through a simple DIY for how to make tapioca pearls, including how to cook tapioca pearls (with dark brown sugar) and then even a simple bubble milk tea recipe.

Boba Bubble Milk Tea

How to Make Tapioca Pearls AKA ‘Boba pearls’

Making and using these boba pearls requires two techniques. First, you have to make the tapioca pearl ‘dough’ and form the dried tapioca pearls. Once these are ready, you then have to cook them before they can be used in your drink of choice.

The Ingredients:

Flour water brown sugar

  • Tapioca flour
  • Brown sugar
  • Hot water

Note* For a more authentic taste, you can try to find Taiwanese brown sugar (‘black sugar’). However, if you’re unable to find this, then any dark brown sugar will work.

Needed to make the Brown Sugar Boba Drink

  • Extra brown sugar
  • Your favourite tea/iced tea, flavoured milk or even juice/smoothie (I used Bantha Milk – all-natural blue milk)

DIY Tapioca Pearls (Boba) How-to:

Start by heating up the water and sugar in a medium-sized pot, and heat to medium. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Then turn off the heat.

Add about one tablespoon of the tapioca flour and stir until well combined. Make sure there are no lumps. Then turn the heat on again and stir the mixture until it starts thickening.

how to make tapioca dough for tapioca pearls 'boba pearls'

Once it becomes thicker, remove from the heat. Add the rest of the tapioca flour and mix well until you obtain a sticky dough.

On a lightly floured surface (floured with tapioca flour), knead the dough until it becomes uniform, soft and elastic. Tapioca dough can be very sticky, so add some extra flour, if needed.

This can also be done with a stand mixer, but since it’s a small amount and only takes a few minutes, it’s not necessary.

While rolling the dough, if it’s more convenient to work with half of it at a time, make sure to cover the other half, so it doesn’t dry out.

Roll the dough into thin long rod-like pieces. Each roll needs to be quite thin, as the tapioca pearls will expand when cooked later on.

step by step how to make tapioca pearls

Cut the rolls into small pieces. Then roll each piece into a tiny ball. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Now, you have your dried tapioca pearls ready.

Note* If you want to speed up this process, you can skip rolling them into balls altogether. The ‘cube’ like shapes you’ll have may not be as pretty, but they’ll taste the same (just make sure they’re as even in size as possible, when cutting). 

How to Store un-cooked tapioca pearls:

If you’re not planning on making your bubble tea immediately, or you’ve made a massive batch of the boba, then these can be stored for later use. There’s no need to refrigerate them – simply keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry area and these are ready to be used for up to 6 months.

If you do store them in the fridge, this can affect the texture of the boba and make them a little harder – although they’ll still be fine to use.

You can also freeze the dough and even the cooked pearls, and this is said to maintain the texture. If freezing the dough, you can then boil them straight away without waiting for them to thaw.

dried Tapioca pearls

How To Cook Tapioca Pearls

In a large saucepan, boil enough water to cover your boba. Then add the tapioca pearls to the boiling water (carefully, so you don’t splash yourself). Stir well, so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot or to each other.

how to cook tapioca pearls 'boba pearls'

Cover the pot. Boil for 20 minutes, then let them rest for another 20 minutes.

Finally, drain the boba.

You can now either add them to your favourite tea or milk drink or first make a sugar syrup for an extra special treat. I definitely suggest going for the extra next step though, as this takes the pearls from being ‘nice’ to ‘more please’ – adding a caramel-like flavour and softening the texture.

DIY Brown Sugar Boba Drink

To make the brown sugar tapioca peals, first warm up the brown sugar over medium heat for a couple of minutes. The sugar only needs to be warmed up, not completely melted.

Add the boba and stir well to coat all the pearls with the sugar.

How To Make Bubble Milk Tea:

For a traditional boba, then a black tea base is the norm. However, you can also use a variety of herbal teas, flavoured milks and even juices/smoothies as your drink base.

If making a tea then simply steep the tea bags/tea leaves in warm milk (alternatively, make a tea as you would typically in the water, adding milk to dilute) and leave this to chill in the fridge until you want to use it.

For my recipe, I decided to use this Bantha milk AKA ‘Blue Milk’, as my base. This drink is a sweet butterfly pea flower and lavender coconut milk (inspired by the Star Wars blue milk) and the combination of flavours with the pearls is delicious.

The Steps:

Add the warm sugary boba to a cup or glass (use glass for a great visual effect) and roll the cup/glass to coat the walls with melted sugar.

Then add ice cubes (optional) and your liquid – the cold brew tea/iced tea, flavoured milk, juice or smoothie.

You can also top it with some whipped cream and then serve.

Boba Bubble Milk Tea

Homemade Boba 'Tapioca Pearls' Bubble Milk Tea

4.98 from 167 votes
By: Samira
A simple DIY for 3-ingredient homemade tapioca pearls (aka boba) - including how to cook tapioca pearls and a delicious brown sugar bubble milk tea recipe.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 
 

For the Tapioca Pearls (Boba):

  • 3/4 cup tapioca flour plus a bit more for dusting
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar use Taiwanese brown sugar AKA 'black sugar', if possible
  • 4 tBsp hot water

For the Brown Sugar Boba Drink:

  • 1 tBsp brown sugar soft
  • 4 cups almond milk or any other milk or tea

Instructions 

DIY Tapioca Pearls (Boba)

  • Heat up the water and sugar over medium heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Then turn off the heat.
  • Add about 1 tablespoon of the tapioca flour and stir until well combined. Make sure there are no lumps.
  • Turn the heat on again and stir the mixture until it starts thickening. Once it becomes thicker, remove from the heat.
  • Add the rest of the tapioca flour and mix well until you obtain a sticky dough.
  • On a lightly floured surface (floured with tapioca flour), knead the dough until it becomes uniform, soft and elastic. Tapioca dough can be very sticky, so add some extra flour, if needed.
  • Roll the dough* into thin long rod-like pieces. Each roll needs to be quite thin, as the tapioca pearls will expand when cooked later on.
  • Cut the rolls into small pieces. Then quickly roll each into a ball. **
    Repeat with the rest of the dough. Now you have your dried tapioca pearls ready. ***

How To Cook Tapioca Pearls

  • In a large saucepan, boil enough water to cover your boba. Then add the tapioca pearls to the boiling water (carefully, so you don't splash yourself). Stir well, so they don’t stick to the bottom of the or each other.
  • Cover the pot with a lid. Boil for 20 minutes, then let them rest for another 20 minutes. Finally, drain the boba.

    You can now either add them to your favourite tea or milk drink or first make a sugar syrup for an extra special treat. I definitely suggest going for the extra next step though, as this takes the pearls from being 'nice' to 'more please' - adding a caramel-like flavour and softening the texture. 

How To Make Bubble Milk Tea:

  • For a traditional boba, then a black tea base is the norm. However, you can also use a variety of herbal teas, flavoured milks and even juices/smoothies as your drink base. If making a tea then simply steep the tea bags/tea leaves in warm milk (alternatively, make a tea as you would typically in the water, adding milk to dilute) and leave this to chill in the fridge until you want to use it. For my recipe, I decided to use Bantha Milk AKA 'Blue Milk', as my base. This drink is a sweet butterfly pea flower and lavender coconut milk (inspired by the Star Wars blue milk) and the combination of flavours with the pearls is delicious. 

DIY Brown Sugar Boba Drink

  • To make the tapioca peals with brown sugar syrup, warm up the brown sugar over medium heat for a couple of minutes. The sugar only needs to be warmed up, not completely melted.
  • Add the boba and stir well to coat all the pearls with the sugar.
  • Add the warm sugary boba to a cup or glass (use a glass for a great visual effect) and roll the cup/glass to coat the walls with melted sugar.
  • Then add ice cubes (optional) and your liquid - the cold brew tea/ iced tea, flavoured milk, juice or smoothie. You can also top it with some whipped cream and then serve.

Video

Notes

*While rolling the dough, if it's more convenient to work with half of it at a time, make sure to cover the other half so it doesn’t dry out.
** If you want to speed up this process, you can skip rolling them into balls altogether. The 'cube' like shapes you'll have may not be as pretty, but they'll taste the same (just make sure they're as even in size as possible, when cutting). 
*** How to Store un-cooked tapioca pearls:
Always store in an airtight container or reusable bag. 
If you're not planning on making your bubble tea immediately, or you've made a massive batch of the boba, then these can be stored for later use. There's no need to refrigerate them - simple keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry area and these are ready to be used for up to 6 months. 
If you do store them in the fridge, this can affect the texture of the boba and make them a little harder - although they'll still be fine to use.
You can also freeze the dough and even the cooked pearls, and this is said to maintain the texture. If freezing the dough, you can then boil them straight away without waiting for them to thaw. 
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Asian, Taiwanese
Freezer friendly: 2 Months (uncooked)
Shelf life: 1 Day

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 144kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 3g, Sodium: 328mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 9g, Calcium: 305mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. You can also tag me in your recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie

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Recipe Rating




90 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much. This was the best boba recipe we have ever tried. Everything worked out perfectly and it didn’t turn into oobleck!

  2. This recipe works perfectly! Everything went smoothly and the tapioca was great.

    Quick question – would this recipe work with light brown sugar too?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sam.
      Yes, it will work with light brown sugar too just the taste will be slightly different (less caramely) as there’s less molasses in that sugar. I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Lizzie,
      I’ve never tried with cassava flour so I can’t advise on how exactly to proceed but some people have successfully made boba with it.

  3. 5 stars
    so good. i have tried loads of recipes and they have all failed, but this one worked so well. thanks so much for sharing this!!

  4. 5 stars
    Hey i was wondering if after you drain it do you need to rinse the pearls too? Rinse with cold or hot water? Because im wondering if the flavour will change if the gooey starch is rinsed off.

  5. 5 stars
    I made boba this morning– best boba I’ve ever had.
    I read that, in Taiwan, they use a mix of tapioca and sweet potato starch. Since I had both on hand, I did that, and it came out dreamy. Where I live, there is nowhere to buy boba, so I’m happy to be able to make it at home.

  6. 5 stars
    This recipe was great and super easy! I weighed my ingredients and found that I didn’t need all of the flour; I accidentally dumped it all in at the end and the dough was so stiff I had to add some water to make it pliable. Despite my concern for a failed recipe, the boba turned out soft and chewy. The sugar level was fine but I may decrease the sugar to 1 TBLS as a personal preference. The boba were a delicious addition to my iced coffee today, thanks for posting!

  7. How long can the final drink sit (with the boba pearls in it) before it starts to degrade and fall apart? I’m wondering if I make a large portion of the final drink if it will it stay in the fridge for a few days or will the boba pearls disintegrate or get hard/unpleasant during this time?

    1. Hi Kristin,
      If you have the final drink with the boba pearls in it, it’s best to consume it right away. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 24 h but please note that the texture of the boba will degrade. If you want to keep it longer, it’s best to keep the peals separated from the drink. You can keep the cooked boba in a sugar syrup and that would allow them to stay fresh for a few days in the fridge. I hope that helps.

      1. Thank you for your comment, Aili. Glad you’ve enjoyed this recipe!

    2. 5 stars
      If they sit for more that a day they will get hard which for me it very unpleasant I recommend making it the day of and drink it same day

      1. Indeed, it’s best to consume the pearls the day they were cooked. If you have any leftover cooked pearls, you can keep them in sugar syrup in the fridge for a couple of days.