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How to Make Tapioca Pearls

Have you ever wondered what's in those big pearls at the bottom of your bubble tea? If you want to cut out preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and commercial colors, make your own tapioca pearls. It's easy to mix together a dough of water and tapioca starch that you can form into small balls. Boil these tapioca pearls until they're tender and enjoy them in your favorite tea or bubble drink.


EditTapioca Pearls

  • 1/2 cup (65 g) of tapioca starch
  • of water
  • A few drops of black food coloring, optional

Makes 75 to 100 tapioca pearls

EditSugar Tea Syrup

  • of hot water
  • 2 tablespoons (25 g) of brown sugar
  • 1 teabag of black tea

Makes of syrup

EditClassic Milk Bubble Tea

  • 1 black teabag
  • of boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) of cooked tapioca pearls
  • of sugar tea syrup
  • of cold milk
  • Ice

Makes 1 drink


EditMixing the Dough

  1. Bring of water to a boil. Pour the water into a pot or kettle and heat it until it's vigorously boiling. Keep in mind that some of this water will evaporate as the water comes to a boil, but you'll only need for the dough.[1]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 1.jpg
  2. Put the tapioca starch and boiling water into a bowl. Place 1/2 cup (65 g) of tapioca starch into a heat-proof bowl and carefully pour in of the boiling water.[2]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 2.jpg
    • You can find tapioca starch near cornstarch and flour in your grocery store's baking aisle or at local Asian markets.
  3. Stir the mixture to combine the ingredients. Use a spoon or chopsticks to stir the boiling water into the tapioca starch until the dry powder isn't visible. The mixture should look chunky and somewhat dry.[3]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 3.jpg
  4. Knead the mixture to make a thick dough. Once it's cool enough to handle, you can use your hands to knead the mixture into a thick dough. This should take about 1 minute for the dough to come together into a firm dough.[4]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 4.jpg
    • If the dough is too sticky to handle, sprinkle a little more tapioca starch over and work it into the dough.
    • Keep in mind that if you dyed the dough, it may stain your fingers or work surface. Consider putting the dough on a plastic mat or piece of parchment paper to prevent staining.

EditShaping the Pearls

  1. Line a sheet with parchment paper and cover the dough with a towel. Place a rimmed baking sheet next to your work surface and lay a piece of parchment paper on it. To prevent the dough from drying out as you roll the pearls, cover the bowl with a damp towel.[5]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 5.jpg
    • Use a rimmed baking sheet so the pearls don't roll off if you need to move the sheet.
  2. Roll 1/2 of the dough into a wide rope. Place the dough on your work surface and use the palms of your hand to roll the dough into a long, evenly sized rope. It should be about wide.[6]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 6.jpg
    • Repeat this with the rest of the dough, so you have 2 long strips of dough ready to cut.
  3. Cut the strips of dough into pearls. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut individual tapioca pearls from the strips of dough. You can make them any size you want, but keep in mind that the pearls will swell a little as they cook.
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 7.jpg
    • Most standard tapioca pearls are about in diameter before they're cooked.
  4. Set the tapioca pearls on the baking sheet for up to 2 hours. Transfer the pearls to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and leave them at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Ensure that the pearls aren't touching as they dry or they could stick together.[7]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 8.jpg
    • If you'd like to store the tapioca pearls for later, freeze them in an airtight container for up to 3 months. To make the pearls, boil them without thawing them, but add about 3 to 5 minutes to the cooking time.

EditBoiling and Using the Tapioca Pearls

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Set a large pot on the stove and fill it at least 1/2 to 3/4 full of water. Turn the burner to high so the water comes to a vigorous boil.[8]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 9.jpg
    • If you'd like to cook only a handful of tapioca pearls, you can use a small pot. To make a single bubble tea drink, you'll need 1/4 cup (80 g) of cooked tapioca pearls.
  2. Add the tapioca pearls and boil them for 15 to 20 minutes. Slowly add the pearls to the boiling water so the water doesn't splash and the pearls are completely submerged. Stir the pearls and then boil them uncovered until they're completely tender.[9]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 10.jpg
    • The pearls will float to the top of the pot once they're half-cooked.
    • You may need to adjust the heat if it looks like the pot may boil over after you add the pearls.
  3. Drain the cooked tapioca pearls. Turn off the burner and use a slotted spoon to scoop the tapioca pearls out of the boiling water. Transfer the pearls to a bowl and let them cool a little before you add them to tea. If you'd like to sweeten the pearls, soak them in a sugar tea syrup for at least 1 hour.[10] of hot water with 2 tablespoons (25 g) of brown sugar and 1 teabag of black tea. Steep the tea for 15 minutes before removing the teabag.}}
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 11.jpg
    • Use the pearls the same day you boil them, since they'll begin to stick together and become tough.
  4. Make a classic milk tea bubble tea. To make 1 drink, steep 1 black teabag in of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the bag and let the tea cool until it's at room temperature. Place about 1/4 cup (80 g) of the cooked tapioca pearls into a serving glass. Pour of sugar tea syrup (even if you used sweetened tapioca pearls) over and fill the glass with ice. Then pour in the cooled black tea and of cold milk.[11]
    Make Tapioca Pearls Step 12.jpg
    • Serve the bubble tea with a wide straw and enjoy it before the ice begins to melt.


  • If you'd like to make bubble tea, but don't have time to make the pearls from scratch, you can purchase dried tapioca pearls from most Asian markets. Follow the package instructions to boil and use the pearls.


  • Children under the age of 3 can choke on the tapioca pearls.

EditThings You'll Need

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Heat-proof bowl
  • Large pot with a lid
  • Slotted spoon
  • Spoon or chopsticks
  • Towel
  • Rimmed baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Knife or bench scraper
  • Serving glass
  • Wide straw

EditSources and Citations

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from How to of the Day