How to Boil Tapioca

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Tapioca is an essential ingredient in many delicious desserts, such as pudding and bubble tea (boba). Made from the starch of cassava plant tubers, tapioca pearls give tapioca pudding its characteristic texture. When you purchase tapioca, it generally comes in dried form and needs to be boiled to soften up. Quick-cook tapioca has smaller grains than regular tapioca and softens in a matter of minutes. Regular tapioca can take a couple hours to soften and finish cooking, but it has larger grains which some people prefer.

Things You'll Need

  • Saucepan or slow cooker
  • Spoon

Boiling Tapioca

  • Fill a pot with water when softening tapioca for boba drinks or another use besides pudding.

  • Bring the water to a boil.

  • Add the tapioca to the boiling water and stir continuously until it becomes the desired texture. The length of time needed will depend on the size and type of tapioca. It is generally done when it has a chewy texture and is mostly translucent.

Tapioca Pudding

  • Soak the tapioca overnight in enough water to cover the pearls, if using regular tapioca (not quick-cook or minute tapioca). Soaking reduces total cooking time and ensures the right texture. It does not need to be covered, but you may cover it if desired to keep out dust.

  • Put the the liquid ingredients for a pudding recipe into a saucepan. Bring to a slow boil.

  • Add the tapioca to the liquid and keep on medium heat on the stove.

  • Stir the tapioca continuously to prevent it from clumping together. Reduce the temperature to prevent curdling if the milk starts to boil rapidly. Quick cook tapioca will finish cooking in about 5 minutes.

  • After the tapioca has been cooking for five minutes with continuous stirring, it will need less frequent but still regular stirring until the tapioca pearls are almost completely translucent (See Reference 2). Regular tapioca may need to cook on low heat for up to two hours. The larger the tapioca grains, the longer they will need to cook.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some cooks recommend against boiling milk while making tapioca pudding. Boiling milk will need to be stirred constantly to prevent curdling, so you may want to reduce the heat so that the liquid is just barely simmering. Cooking at a lower temperature can take slightly longer.

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References

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