Homemade Tapioca Balls - Boba Balls

My youngest daughter, is obsessed with boba drinks and is constantly asking me to buy some. At first, I didn’t mind taking her every once in a while to buy them, but the drink mixes are often made with tons of additives, artificial flavoring, and tons of sugar…not good. Then it dawned on me…we already make our own smoothies, why not make our own tapioca balls (boba balls) and add them to our smoothies?! I can monitor what goes into the drinks and my daughter gets her boba obsession satisfied – it’s a win-win situation.

What is Tapioca Pearls or Boba Balls?

It’s kind of hard to explain, but tapioca pearls or tapioca balls (boba balls) are made from tapioca starch and are little gooey chewy balls that are tossed into milk tea or fruit slushie mixes. I know that sounds weird to “chew” your drink, but I love the chewing sensation that tapioca balls add. The balls seem to satisfy the need to chew on something and turns your drink into a mini dessert.

These drinks were supposedly invented in Taiwan and have been a popular type of drink since the 1980s. Of course, everything popular overseas eventually makes it way here and you can now buy boba drinks in almost any Asian food establishment. Although, I would highly recommend that you make your own because it’s very easy and you can control the ingredients. All you’ll need is tapioca starch/flour, boiling water, brown sugar, and a little bit of time.

How to Make Tapioca Balls Dough

7/5/2018 I made a video of making Matcha boba balls, which is basically the same, but with Matcha added. It gives a better idea of what the dough will look like.

Fair warning, this takes about 35 minutes to shape these tapioca balls and another 15-20 minutes to cook.

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Step 1. Add 4-6 cups of water and 1/2 – 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar* (3/4 cup if you want it sweeter and darker in color) to a pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. *You don’t have to add sugar, but the ball will have no flavor or color.

Step 2. Remove 1/2 cup of the hot sugar/water mixture. Make sure the water was boiling or the dough will turn into oobleck. Turn off the heat for the sugar/water mixture. Leave the pot on Β the stove for later.

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Step 3. Add one cup of tapioca starch to a bowl with about 1/2Β cup of the hot boiled sugar/water mixture (just shy of 1/2 cup). Mix until it forms a ball. The ball should hold its shape without being too sticky (It will be slightly tacky). Knead the ‘dough’ ball for a few minutes. If the mix is still too dry, add more hot sugar water, a teaspoon at a time. If the mix is too wet, add more tapioca starch.

Shaping tapioca balls

Option 1
Tapioca Balls

Optional – add a thin layer of tapioca flour onto a Silpat. Pull off small portions of the dough. Roll the dough into a small ball using your fingertips and the palm of your hand. Make the tapioca balls approximately 1 – 1.5 cm – the size will almost double when cooked.

Option 2

tapioca balls

You can also roll into a small mini log and cut/roll into small balls.

Cooking the Tapioca Balls

Cooking tapioca balls

Step 1. Once all the balls are completed, bring the pot of sugar water back to a boil on high. Add the balls into the pot, cover, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until the balls look transparent.

tapioca balls in ice

Step 2. When the tapioca balls are cooked, the color should turn from a white to translucent with a slight brown tint from the sugar. If the inside of the balls look white, add cool water into the pot and stir. The balls should turn translucent, if not, keep cooking. Once the tapioca balls are cooked to your satisfaction, dip them into an ice bath to stop the cooking.

Storing and Reheating

You should have enough tapioca balls to make 4-5 drinks. Store any leftover tapioca balls in a sealed container with new sugar/water for a day or two. If the balls turn white inside or are a bit hard after storing, just reheat in boiling water or in the microwave for a 30 seconds with some sugar water.

Tip: Uncooked rolled tapioca balls can be stored in a Ziploc bag with a paper napkin for a few days. Just make sure you let them air dry to get a little dry coat on the outside to prevent sticking before storing. I stored mine is a single layer with the tapioca balls on the napkin.

How to make tapioca balls or boba balls from scratch

How to Make Tapioca Balls for Boba Drinks

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

How to make tapioca balls or boba from scratch. Use in drinks or desserts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup tapioca flour or tapioca starch
  • 4 - 6 cups water
  • 1/4 - 3/4 cup brown sugar (use 3/4 cup for a sweeter boba)
  • cold water

Instructions

    1. Add water and brown sugar to a pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Turn off the heat after you have added the 1/2 - 3/4 cup dark brown sugar in step 2 to the tapioca mix.
    2. In a glass bowl, add one cup of tapioca starch to a bowl. Remove almost a 1/2 cup of the hot sugar/water mixture and add it to the tapioca starch (turn heat off). The remaining water will be used to boil the tapioca balls. Stir the mix until a ball forms and begin kneading. If the dough is too sticky (dough will be slightly tacky), add more tapioca flour. If it's too dry, add more sugar/water or tapioca flour if it's too wet.
    3. Optional - add a very thin layer of tapioca flour onto Silpat or parchment paper. Option 1 - Pull off small portions of dough and roll it into approximately 1.5 cm balls and place on Silpat or parchment paper. Option 2 - Roll into mini logs and cut into 1/2" pieces and then roll into balls. Make the tapioca balls approximately 1.5 cm.
    4. Once all the balls are completed, bring the sugar water back to a boil on medium high. Add the tapioca balls to the boiling sugar water. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook times will vary between 15 - 20 minutes, depending on how chewy or soft you want the tapioca balls.
    5. When the cook time is done, the outside of the tapioca balls will turn translucent and the inside may still look white. Don't worry, add cool water into the pot with the tapioca and sugar water and the balls will turn translucent - it's like magic!
    6. To stop the tapioca balls from over cooking, remove them from the boiling water and place them into a bowl of iced or cold water. Drain immediately. Store any leftover tapioca balls in a sealed container with new sugar/water for one or two days. 

Notes

Boiling water must be used to form the 'dough'. Hot water from the tap or water dispenser will not do.

To store leftover boba balls, mix brown sugar with water and pour over boba balls until covered. Don't worry about exact measurements. The water just needs to be sweet and prevents the balls from drying out and sticking to each other.

Uncooked rolled tapioca balls can be stored in a Ziplock bag with a paper napkin for a few days. Just make sure you let them air dry to get a little dry coat on the outside to prevent sticking before storing. I stored mine is a single layer with the tapioca balls on the napkin.

When stored in the refrigerator, the centers of the tapioca balls may turn white and harden.Β  Just reheat the balls for 30 seconds in the microwave in sugar water before adding to your drink.

Did you make this recipe?

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56 Comments

  1. Thanks for the recipe. Just made some with passion fruit juice. Do u have a suggestion so the bubbles have some of the fruit flavor? Should i add juice to the water/sugar

  2. Can you make it with cornflour insted? Never had bubbme tea because we dont have it here but Ive been wanting to try it for years! I also cant get tapioca flour…

  3. I have my boba cooking on the stove! I tried a diffrent recipe and they dis not turn out at all. I can already tell the difference just by the “dough”. I cant wait to try them.

  4. So I made these but they were just super chewy. Should I cook them less, or maybe add more tapioca and knead longer? I want them to be as firm as the store bought ones. Thank you!!

      1. Yes I just made them again and tasted the ones I’ve had in the fridge since this morning and they were very firm. Thank you!! This recipe will save me a ton of money

  5. Did you use a cup of packed tapioca flour? I followed the recipe to a t but I made sure not to pack the flour and ended up having to add about 5 tablespoons of extra tapioca flour because there was way too much water in the dough.

    1. I don’t hard pack the tapioca flour. I have made this many times with my daughter and we just scoop the tapioca flour into the cup and level off. I make sure to use boiling hot water or it won’t form a good ‘dough’. Sometimes if the water isn’t hot enough the dough won’t from and you will get a form of oobleck.

      1. Once we added more flour the boba turned out just fine, like any kind I’ve gotten from a boba shop so it didn’t turn out to be big deal! Thanks for responding

    1. Hi, I wanted to update my response. I have stored the uncooked tapioca balls in a resealable bag and paper napkin for a few days and then cooked when needed. They were fine and I can recommend them being stored uncooked for up to a week.

  6. This looks like so much fun! I have two questions though; 1- Can you use white sugar to make them clear, if so how much would you use?
    2- Is there a way to flavor them to make them more fun?
    Thanks! Definitely pinning this!

  7. Hii! I tried cooking the tapioca balls using another recipe and it turns out to be uncooked inside. The outer layer is similar to yours which is a little translucent but there is a white part in the middle of the boba. I tried cooking for longer but it doesn’t seem to turn translucent. Can you tell me what happened exactly? I was cooking the tapioca balls halfway and I came upon this website. I’ll try this recipe next time! Thanks!

  8. Thank you. It’s so interesting to make your own boba at home. But are the homemade ones exactly like boba from factories? I mean is the inner side of pearls as juicy as they are and bubbly?

  9. The boba place I go to has delicious little DARK brown boba balls…. How is this achieved? Do I just add more brown sugar?

  10. Hi,
    In Australia you can buy tapioca or sago in its preground state, which is little balls. The only real difference between them is the size of the ball. You can also make a pudding out of them by cooking them in sweetened milk and vanilla, which is usually served with stewed fruit. It turns out similar to rice pudding only the same lovely chewy that you get in bubble tea.

    1. I have tried using the plain tapioca pearls at my Asian market, but I can never get the middle to fully cook to translucent no matter what I did. I’m going to try this recipe with the Arrowhead Mills brand tapioca flour/starch to see if it’s any better! The store-bought was just as time consuming and it didn’t produce any edible result unfortunately!

    1. Hi Monica,
      It’s really best to make small amounts and eat the boba right away. You can store these covered in the sugar water for up to 24 hours, but the balls will begin to harden the longer you keep them in the refrigerator.

  11. I tried bubble tea at a Vietnamese festival (Marian Days) in Carthage, MO many, many years ago. I have not had it or seen it since. But I’ve thought about it! Thanks for the tutorial on how to make these. Very cool!

  12. Hm, I’ve never had tapioca. Is this what you put in the bubble drinks/teas? Interesting! Learn something new everyday!

    Thanks for linking up with Lovely Thursdays!

  13. I’ve only had boba tea once, but I LOVED it! This is so awesome. I had no idea you could make your own. Pinning!

    Thanks for linking up at Wordy Wednesday! πŸ™‚

  14. This is great! Thanks so much for sharing πŸ™‚ My girl guide group wanted to make their own bubble tea for camp in a few weeks and it would be so much fun to make the boba instead of buying it! Thank you again!!

  15. Hi Erlene – My son has talked about going with his Filipino friend to drink “bubble tea,” but he couldn’t exactly explain what it was. Is that the same as boba drinks? This is fascinating – thanks so much for sharing it with the Let’s Get Real party.

    1. Yes bubble tea and boba tea are the same. Although, there are boba drinks that are flavored (strawberry, honeydew, coconut, etc…). I don’t mind the teas, but most flavored bobas are made with powdered mixes and aren’t so good for you. However, there are some places that make it with fresh ingredients and I’m okay with that.

  16. I love boba drinks! When I lived in San Francisco, there was a place on my block that made the drinks with fresh fruit. It was so good!

  17. I have ALWAYS wondered how to make these! So glad I saw this on the Link’n Blogs! I am pinning to make asap. Thanks!

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