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How to make Black Tapioca Pearls for Bubble Tea (Milk Tea)

Learn how to make black tapioca pearls (boba pearls) from scratch with this simple tutorial. It is so easy and fun to make and much better than using the dried one.

Tapioca Pearls by Foxy Folksy

In my last post, I shared my easy, simple version of how to make Bubble Tea using all natural and basic ingredients. I also mentioned that I made my own black tapioca pearls.

The reason for this is because after we came back from our Taipei trip, Armin seems to be craving for Bubble Tea. And since I was getting fed up waiting in long queues at milk tea stands whenever we see one, I decided that it is time to make my own Bubble tea at home.

The problem is, I cannot find black tapioca pearls and believe me we’ve searched everywhere! Maybe they are available in the big city (Manila) but not anywhere near where we live. I found the usual dried sago and even the colorful ones but no black tapioca pearls. We even went as far as asking the tea shops where they get theirs and was told it is delivered to them together with the other supplies and that is all we can get out of them.

I was left with but two choices; to use the regular dried sago or to learn how to make tapioca pearls and I, being me, chose the latter.

I have a pack of the small dried tapioca pearls in my pantry so I looked up what the ingredients are. I was surprised to see that it only needs one. Tapioca flour! Now, that sounds promising, at least. I was not able to find tapioca flour though but saw some tapioca starch, which is mostly the same thing.

This post from Instructables on how to make tapioca pearls help me get started. Very good tutorial there and it works perfectly for making regular white/transparent tapioca pearls. But how do I make them black?

Leslie did mention cooking the pearls in colored water and letting them sit in it after cooking. I tried it and it did somehow turn my pearls to a  blackish hue but only on the surface and the core remained white. My goal is to have them as black as the ones you get in the milk tea shops. This means a little more experiments are needed.

I tried adding the color to the water to make the tapioca dough. It was tricky because the water should be really hot, like just-boiled hot, when you add it to the tapioca flour or starch so you have to work fast or else you will get a weird texture that is wet but powdery at the same time (doesn’t make sense, I know, but believe me, it is possible) and will never form into a dough.

So for those who have patiently waited for this tutorial, here are the steps involved in making homemade black tapioca pearls.

How to make Tapioca Pearls by Foxy Folksy

1. Place tapioca flour or starch in a bowl.

2. Place black food color in a separate bowl and add a tablespoon of hot water to the food color.

3. Add the rest of the water directly to the tapioca flour and pour the colored water to the bowl as well.

How to make Tapioca Pearls by Foxy Folksy

4. Mix tapioca flour and water with a fork until they start to stick together.

5. Transfer to a flat surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth.

How to make Tapioca Pearls by Foxy Folksy

6. Divide the dough into 2 and roll each forming thin sticks. Cut them into small pieces. Try to make them as even in size as possible and should be small enough to pass through your straw.

7. Roll each piece in between your palms to make them round.

8. Bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a small pot or saucepan.

9. Add the tapioca pearls to the boiling water and let it cook for 15 minutes or longer until the desired consistency (soft or chewy) is achieved. They will also become darker as they cook.

10. Remove from heat and let it rest for a few minutes. They will shrink back to the original size and will turn black at this point.

11. Transfer tapioca pearls into a sugar syrup or a bowl with a little water to prevent them from sticking together.

It was really a lot of fun doing these homemade tapioca pearls, like playing with clay or play-doh so I think this will be a good and fun kiddie project.

I also find that they are much better than the dried ones. They cook faster, for one and I like the chewy texture that is exactly like the one they use in bubble teas we had in Taipei.

How to make Tapioca Pearls by Foxy Folksy

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Homemade Boba Pearls by Foxy Folky
4.85 from 32 votes

How to make Black Tapioca Pearls (Boba) from scratch.

Learn how to make black tapioca pearls (boba pearls) from scratch with this simple tutorial. It is so easy and fun to make and much better than using the dried one.
Print Rate
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: tapioca pearls
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 79kcal
Author: Bebs
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoon tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons freshly boiled water
  • black food color

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place tapioca flour or starch in a bowl. Place black food color in a separate bowl and add a tablespoon of hot water to the food color. Add the rest of the water directly to the tapioca flour and pour the colored water to the bowl as well.
  • Mix tapioca flour and water with a fork until they start to stick together. Transfer to a flat surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth.
  • Divide the dough into 2 and roll each forming thin sticks. Cut them into small pieces. Try to make them as even in size as possible and should be small enough to pass through your straw. Roll each piece in between your palms to turn them into small balls. 
  • Bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a small pot or saucepan. Add the tapioca pearls to the boiling water and let it cook for 15 minutes or longer until the desired consistency (soft or chewy) is achieved. They will also become darker as they cook.
  • Remove from heat and let it rest for a few minutes. They will shrink back to the original size and will turn black at this point. 
  • Transfer tapioca pearls into a sugar syrup or a bowl with a little water to prevent them from sticking together.

VIDEO

RECIPE NOTES

ABOUT THE VIDEO: The recipe on the video:  9 Tbsp Tapioca Starch = 3 Tbsp boiling water
  • The amount of black food color may vary depending on the brand you are using. I used liquid food color and used about 1/4 teaspoons.
  • I find that using a glass bowl or metal bowl is better especially when using food color.
  • If making a larger batch, just follow the 3:1 ratio of tapioca flour to hot water.
Nutrition Facts
How to make Black Tapioca Pearls (Boba) from scratch.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 79
% Daily Value*
Fat 0g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 0mg0%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Sugar 0g0%
Protein 0g0%
Iron 0.3mg2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe? Tell us how it went. Tag us at @foxyfolksy or leave a comment and rating below.
More Tapioca Pearls/Sago Pearls Recipes

Bebs

Bebs here! I love to cook and try new things and DIY projects! And although I think of myself as a homebody, I like seeing other places from time to time.
If you are looking for a recipe and it ain't here, make a request and I will try my best to make it for you!

This Post Has 177 Comments

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  1. 5 stars
    A tip for forming the balls! Once you’ve cut up about ten, you can gently roll all of them with the palm of your hand against the cutting board. Most of them will form into balls, occasionally some will stick together, but overall it was much faster than when I was doing them one at a time.

  2. 5 stars
    I love drinking bubble tea, it’s such a horrible addiction. I’ve always wanted to learn to make my own to save money but never got around to learning how to prepare the pearls. Definite thanks for the lesson!

    1. Yes, Armin loves it too! It was handy knowing how to make it while we were in lockdown and everything was closed. Hope you like it too!

  3. Hey so I did the recipe with bob miller’s tapioca flour and it’s like a really weird texture. Hard at impact but I can slowly sink my hand in and it’s like liquid. What should I do?

    1. Hi Lauren, that is called oobleck. One of the readers here shared that she had success with Bob’s Red Mill by adding more water. But it should be boiling water or else it will not work.

  4. Hi there. I was wondering is it the longer you boil the chequer or the shorter boil time? Does that make sense lol

    Thanks 😊

  5. 5 stars
    For those having trouble with Bob’s Red Mill flour- I had to use a lot more water to get a workable texture with this tapioca flour, I think about 8 tablespoons or so. They turned out perfectly this way!

  6. 5 stars
    Hi!
    Thank you so much for this recipe! I was craving boba tea and decided to make it myself and save some money.
    Mine turned out great! I actually used Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour and it worked fine. Next time I’ll have to do the sugar syrup for a little sweetness to the boba.
    In any case, thanks again!

    1. Hi Megan, thanks for you wonderful comment. Now I am wondering why others are having a problem with theirs using Bob’s Red Mill brand. I will write about brown sugar tapioca and milk tea soon…watch out for it…

  7. I tried the recipe but my pearls turned translucent with an opaque center. What did I do wrong?

  8. 5 stars
    Hi, Babs! I Love your recipe! Thank you so much! I was wondering how I should store the pearls. Should I dehydrate them and re-boil them when I need to ue them again?

    1. If they are already boiled, you can refrigerate and use them for another 2-3 days. Just reboil them to get them back to darker color. You can also let the uncooked pearl dry out and store in a jar. Or the newly made ones sealed in a vacuum plastic bag.

  9. Hello I was just wondering what tapioca flour you recommend. Also are these bobas like the ones you get a bubble tea stores?

    1. Hi Sarah…unfortunately I cannot say for sure which brands would work. I got some messages here saying that Bob’s Red Mill does not work for them. I got mine from our local supermarket packed in a clear plastic that says tapioca flour.

  10. Hi Bebs,

    Glad I stumbled upon your website. I am excited to try your version of tapioca pearls as I love making teas!
    I’m also pretty excited to try to make taho and sweetened bananas, I love plantains too. Thanks again. Faith.

  11. Most of the time, boba are made with very dark brown sugar, and stored in brown sugar syrup. Which is what gives them the dark color.

    But, I think the white ones are prettier and go with more drinks, so thank you for the recipe.

  12. 5 stars
    The first time i did this it was a success, but the second time it was extremely chewy, and i didn’t add food coloring is that why is was chewy?

  13. 5 stars
    this was a huge success! it made the chewiest most delightful boba pearls I’v ever had! Recipe was super simple and fun to do. I made mine into brown sugar milk tea by tossing them in brown sugar water over light heat til it got syrupy. Soo good!! Homemade is the way to go, especially if its this easy and so much cheaper.

    1. Hi Anna, you are right, it`s so fun to do them and like you said, homemade is the way to go 👍 Thanks for your feedback and stay safe 🤗

  14. I tried making them yesterday. It was not a 100% success. The dough was sticky, couldn’t roll out but I pinched the dough a little at time and made into small balls. Cooked it but it was chewy but a little hard. I would want to try again today. I did not put the mixture on a flat surface to knead, could that be a problem? Any advise?

  15. 5 stars
    Hello!!

    I’ve been making bubble tea at home during covid times but the one I ordered is pretty expensive (40 bucks for 10 servings and some tea). The ingredients in the boba itself is just tapioca flour, water and caramel. I was wondering if you’ve ever made a recipe with caramel instead of food colouring? Also would you suggest actual caramel sauce or the extract, or maybe another variety of it?

    Take care 🙂

    1. I will try it soon and give it as an alternative here. The food color is really just to get that very black color but we will see. Thanks for your tip.

  16. 5 stars
    Somehow missed the boiling step and accidentally made non Newtonian fluid. I tried it a second time and it worked perfectly. I was wondering if I keep these in the fridge for a couple days will they get too soft?

    1. Hi Ariella, glad to hear your success with making tapioca pearls. In my experience, when I place them in the fridge soak in water they tend to expand, turn opaque and become softer. But they somehow turn back to normal when I add hot water or boil them again. I guess puting them in a vacuum bag will work better just like the ones sold commercially.

  17. My attempt was an abysmal failure. When I used the ratio of 3:1 it was too crumbly. If I added a bit of water it would go from too crumbly to a liquid. I never got a workable texture. I used Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour which states also known as tapioca starch. Could that be the issue? Is there a difference between flour and starch?

    1. Hi Rob, the thing is I got a lot of people who did it successfully following the recipe. Just want to make sure that you are using boiling hot water. I also got the same complain and mentioned that she also used Bob’s redmill tapioca flour.

      1. Hi Bebs

        Thank you for replying.

        I will try another brand of tapioca starch and make sure the water is boiling. I transferred the boiling water to a bowl so it may have cooled too much.

        Rob

  18. Amazing! My son and I made it together and it turned out so good! We cooked it for about 8mins and it was soft and chewy🙂

  19. so far I’ve completely failed my first attempt at these (I see what you mean about the dough being powdery and watery!) but I was just wondering for my next attempt, how much black dye should I use? Thank you very much!

  20. Hi there ,

    I wanted to ask if there is a substitute for black food color as I can’t find it anywhere

    I was thinking , black tea water like soaking the tea bag for color OR dark brown sugar ?

    Suggestions ?

    1. Hi Shaista, I tried soaking them in brown sugar syrup. They turned light brown but not black. You can also try adding brown suagr to the boiling water you will add to the tapioca flour.

  21. Hi…. simple recipe but this is not boba pearls. For boba pearls you need to add the tapioca flour to boiled thick black sugar and knead it.

  22. 5 stars
    This ratio and technique worked out great! As some others online suggested, I rinsed the pearls after cooking, before soaking them in syrup. Thanks for the guidance!

  23. Hi! Thanks for the recipe !! Do you know how and how long we can keep these homemade boba ? Can I store them in a vacuum bag and freeze them?

    1. Hi Lim, I am not sure if freezing them uncooked would be a great idea, but I might be wrong, you can try. What I do is just let them dry out in the counter then place them in a jar. Just like store-bought dried tapioca pearls.

  24. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. I really appreciate it. It’s much more easier and fun to do it on our own without depending on someone or something. I will do it also for my daily teas. Salamat and Ingat ka!

  25. Hi! I followed the steps but my pearls tasted a little hard-chewy as opposed to the usual soft-chewy type. It’s definitely cooked but the texture is hard than usual. Is there something I’m doing wrong?

    Normally I drink bubble tea from the stores in Singapore or buy those ready-made pearls to cook so this is my first time making it from scratch :”)

    1. Hi Claudia, the longer they cook the softer they become. Try also soaking them in water or syrup for some hours and they will expand and become softer.

  26. I just tried this recipe and it’s amazing! It’s just like store bought boba and I love that it’s only one serving for me and I have no need to find a way to store it. Thank you!!

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