How to Cook White Tapioca Pearls

When you want extra texture in your desserts or drinks, white tapioca pearls are a great way to get that extra chewy bite without introducing additional flavors. These plain white balls of tapioca starch are ever popular in Asian cuisine, like ginataan bilo bilo, taho, or chè chuối, and this recipe shows you an easier way to cook them.

lifting with a strainer to check for doneness

After testing and cooking out about seven different types and brands of white tapioca pearls, it has become clear there are specific methods that you must use for certain brands of pearls. I’ve boiled this down to a few core cooking methods that should cover all brands, and at the worst case, set you on the right path to figuring it out.

There are brands specifically catered for boba milk tea drinks or Thai tea even, which you should stick to since it’s much easier and will take you less time. However, these are not always brands that you can find in your local Asian grocery store so I included other brands, and how to cook those when you have no other choice.

The brands I tested

seven brands of white tapioca pearls / boba for testing

WuFuYuan 3 Minute New Sago: Follow the instructions on the package. Unlike the other pearls I’ve listed below, this white tapioca doesn’t have any additional flavors to it. This was the fastest boba to cook.

All you have to do is boil water, add pearls, let it float and cook covered for two minutes. It’s that fast–no resting or anything! Also, don’t get confused with the name, it’s not actually made with sago starch, but tapioca starch and other additives.

Tea Zone White Tapioca Pearls (Boba): Use the 30 & 30 Cooking Method. This type of boba is the variety that I would use the 30 & 30 method on because they cook fairly easily, you just need a little patience. It’s specifically made to be used in boba tea and contains a “maple flavor” in the ingredients. They do come in large, six pound bags so you should be set for a while.

Bossen White Tapioca Pearls: Use the 30 & 30 Cooking Method. Bossen sells a lot of different types of boba and this is similar to Tea Zone’s white boba too. You can cook it with the 30 & 30 method and it also includes a “brown sugar flavoring” in its ingredients.

The only downside about this bag is that it lists you need to consume the bag within 48 hours of opening–seems a bit intense, but so far they seem okay after a week of opening the bag. 

Double Parrot Brand Tapioca Pearl: This brand had no instructions on the packaging, so I started with boiling the pearls and adjusting from there. It took a very long time to finally cook the pearls thoroughly, so I pre-soaked them before cooking. This was the only brand of tapioca pearls that didn’t disintegrate when I soaked them overnight and I believe it helped so much to do this beforehand. I purchased this brand from 99 Ranch and it is made of only tapioca starch and water.

Cock Brand Tapioca Pearl: Use the instructions on the bag, slightly modified. The instructions on the bag call for boiling the pearls for 15 minutes, then resting it overnight, and then boiling for another 20 minutes. I found that the next day, you only need about five minutes (instead of the 20 as instructed on the bag) of boiling before they become soft and chewy.

I couldn’t soak these beforehand because they disintegrated. This brand is made of tapioca starch and water, however, it had an additional sticker saying it also included sulfites, which is a common preservative for tapioca pearls.

White Tapioca Pearls (Sirian Inter. Co. LTD): Use the 30 & 30 Cooking Method. This brand had the least amount of information listed and did not even include an ingredients list. I used the 30 & 30 method to cook these pearls and found that I needed to repeat this process at least two times (that’s two hours+) to get the pearls to cook evenly. Based on the similar size, texture, and structure of the pearls, I am assuming it’s made of pure tapioca starch and water. 

Tapioca pearls from Nuts.com: The Nuts.com pearls were quite smaller than the traditional large white tapioca pearl we’re accustomed to even though they were labeled “large.” Where the traditional larger pearls are about 9.5 mm, the Nuts.com pearls were about 5 mm.

Instead of the 30 minute time frame, I adjusted it to 20 minutes since they were smaller in size and it still worked to cook them. If you want mini, white boba, these work well, but they also fit for other desserts that include smaller sized tapioca pearls. 

Choosing boba / pearls for milk tea vs. other desserts

Boba / tapioca pearls for milk tea drinks

Pearls made for boba drink are much easier to cook to get that al dente texture suitable for boba drinks. These will have marketing printed on the label and mentions on the site you purchase that it is meant for boba or bubble tea drinks.

Brands that have created and marketed their pearls specifically for boba drinks have the pearls in the proper size (⅜ of an inch or 9.5 mm), but more importantly they have been formulated to cook quickly. Some brands like WuFuYuan cook in about 3-5 minutes, while others are still relatively quick at under 1 hour.

Note that the brands listed above are specifically made for boba milk tea and we bought most of them from boba distributors online. This is a pretty significant factor because the pearls themselves are not pure tapioca starch and water–they include other additives that I assume make it easier to cook and reach the right chewy consistency.

Pearls for Vietnamese and Asian desserts

The pearls that take over 1-2 hours to cook tend to get extremely soft and overcooked on the outside, by the time the inside is cooked. The main way to counteract that is to soak overnight and cook at lower temperatures, which means way more time and effort. These have a texture more suited to Vietnamese desserts or Asian desserts.

What cooking method should I use?

There are about 3-4 main cooking methods that should cover just about every type of boba.

If the brand comes with cooking instructions on the bag, use those. You may need to only slightly adjust the heat and timing if you want to adjust the doneness to get that perfect al dente pearl. I’ve still listed these methods at the bottom of the post in case you’re curious how they are before buying the pearls.

If there are no instructions on the bag, read below.

30 & 30 cooking method 

If you bought a bag of white tapioca pearls, and you find that there are no instructions anywhere, I’ve found that the 30 & 30 method is a great starting point of figuring out how to properly cook white tapioca pearls.

The way this method works for so many brands is that you cook the pearls, then let it coast with carryover cooking for 30 minutes to check for doneness. This lets you slowly reach the desired target without obliterating the outer part of the boba by constantly boiling.

The beauty is that you can just keep repeating the boiling and the waiting portions if needed until the pearls are cooked all the way to the center.

If 30 minutes of boiling is too much for a certain brand, scale back to 20 minutes boiling and 30 minutes of rest.

Step 1. First you need a large pot and boil about eight cups of water for every ½ cup of dried tapioca pearls. Note that half a cup of dried tapioca pearls makes about one cup of cooked tapioca pearls.

Step 2. Once you have a rolling boil, add your dried tapioca pearls into the pot and lower the heat to medium and keep a simmer. Continue to cook for 30 minutes uncovered.

covering pot with lid to simmer

Step 3. After 30 minutes, you can move the pot off the stove, cover it with a lid, and let it rest for another 30 minutes. After this is done, strain the pearls and run them under cold water to remove the excess starch around them.

lifting with a strainer to check for doneness

Step 4. Taste test your pearls and see if they have a chewy consistency throughout. It’s important to note that just because tapioca pearls still have an opaque center, this doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t fully cooked. It’s always important to taste test and check. However, if you do find the center is still hard, repeat the 30 & 30 method again until you find the right texture.

cup of tapioca pearls soaking in syrup

Step 5. (Optional) If the pearls are cooked, you can now choose to sweeten your pearls with sugar or honey for an additional 10 minutes. 

30 & 30 Method for Cooking Tapioca Pearls

This method works for tapioca pearls from Bossen & Tea Zone. It can also work as a starting point for tapioca pearls that don’t come with instructions.
5 from 2 votes
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Author: Huy Vu
Prep: 1 min
Cook: 30 mins
Resting: 30 mins
Total: 1 hr 1 min
Servings: 2
Calories / serving: 136kcal

Ingredients

  • ½ c white tapioca pearls
  • 10 c water

Instructions

  • In a large pot, add 10 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  • When it’s a rolling boil, add tapioca pearls and lower to the medium heat.
  • Continue to simmer for 30 minutes uncovered. Stir occasionally to prevent the pearls from sticking.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the pot from the stove, cover with lid, and let rest another 30 minutes.
  • Strain the tapioca pearls and wash under cold running water to stop the cooking and remove the starchy outer layer.
  • Taste-test the tapioca pearls and test if they're fully cooked through. They should be soft and chewy, but not crumble when you eat it. Note that just because the centers may be opaque, they can still be cooked fully, but you need to taste test to make sure they’re cooked.
  • If the pearls are still not cooked throughout or have hard centers, repeat steps 2-6 with a new batch of water.
  • Optional: when the pearls are done cooking you can choose to sweeten your pearls by adding sugar or honey on top and let sit for an additional 10 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.7g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 59.5mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 1.3g | Calcium: 43.1mg | Iron: 0.6mg
Course: Beverage
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Boba, white tapioca pearls
I'd love to see what you cook up!Mention @HungryHuy or tag #hungryhuy to notify me

WuFuYuan brand cooking method

pack of quick cooking WuFuYuan brand white tapioca pearls

This brand formulated their pearls to cook in in about 3 to 5 minutes which as far as we’ve seen only works for this brand.

Double Parrot brand tapioca pearls

WuFuYuan Method for cooking Tapioca Pearls

This method is specifically for WuFuYuan 3 minute boba.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin
Author: Huy Vu
Prep: 1 min
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 6 mins
Servings: 2
Calories / serving: 136kcal

Ingredients

  • ½ c white tapioca pearl
  • 10 c water

Instructions

  • In a large pot, add 10 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  • When it’s a rolling boil, add tapioca pearls and lower to the medium heat.
  • Cover with a lid and cook for an additional two minutes.
  • Strain the pearls and run them under cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Taste-test the tapioca pearls and test if they're fully cooked through. They should be soft and chewy, but not crumble when you eat it.
  • Optional: when they’re done cooking you can choose to sweeten your pearls by adding sugar or honey on top and let sit for an additional 10 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.7g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 59.5mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 1.3g | Calcium: 43.1mg | Iron: 0.6mg
Course: Beverage
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Boba, white tapioca pearls
I'd love to see what you cook up!Mention @HungryHuy or tag #hungryhuy to notify me

Cock Brand cooking method

Cock Brand white tapioca pearls

While the 30 & 30 method worked for this too, I found I needed to repeat the process to fully cook all the tapioca pearls. The end result of the cooked pearls were translucent and soft. Due to their size, I would recommend using these in Asian desserts like sweet soup instead of using it for boba milk tea, unless you prefer mini boba.

Double Parrot brand tapioca pearls

Cock Brand - Tapioca Pearl Cooking Method

This method works for tapioca pearls from Cock Brand White Tapioca Pearls.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin
Author: Huy Vu
Prep: 1 min
Cook: 20 mins
Resting: 8 hrs
Total: 8 hrs 21 mins
Servings: 2
Calories / serving: 136kcal

Ingredients

  • ½ c white tapioca pearls
  • 10 c water

Instructions

  • In a large pot, add 10 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  • When it’s a rolling boil, add tapioca pearls and lower to the medium heat.
  • Continue to simmer for 20 minutes uncovered. Stir occasionally to prevent the pearls from sticking.
  • After 20 minutes, remove the pot from the stove, and let rest on the counter overnight.
  • After resting, place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Cook the pearls for about five minutes and test a pearl to see if they’re cooked all the way.
  • Strain the pearls and run them under cold water.
  • Optional: when they’re done cooking you can sweeten your pearls with sugar or honey on top of the pearls. Have the pearls marinate for 10 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.7g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 59.5mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 1.3g | Calcium: 43.1mg | Iron: 0.6mg
Course: Beverage
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Boba, white tapioca pearls
I'd love to see what you cook up!Mention @HungryHuy or tag #hungryhuy to notify me

Double Parrot brand cooking method

Double Parrot brand tapioca pearls

This cooking method only worked for me when testing the Double Parrot brand. Other brands will disintegrate when you try to soak them, and must follow the 30 & 30 method instead.

Step 1. Soak the pearls to drastically reduce cooking time. Soak half a cup of pearls in four cups of water in a sealed container at room temperature for at least eight hours or overnight. Drain when ready to use.

Step 2. Boil water, then add pearls. In a pot over high heat, bring eight cups of water to a boil. When it begins to boil, carefully add the soaked pearls.

Step 3. Cook the pearls. Once they all float after about two to three minutes, lower the heat to medium and cover your pot. Watch over this and continue to cook for an additional two to three minutes.

Step 4. Check doneness. After two minutes, taste test a tapioca pearl for doneness. It should be chewy and translucent on the edges, but still be slightly al dente and have an opaque center.

Note: the opaque center shows the difference between white tapioca pearls that have been soaked and cooked versus white tapioca pearls that were not soaked. The pre-soaked tapioca pearls did not turn completely translucent, but were perfectly cooked and had the right amount of chewiness.

Step 5. Sweeten the pearls (optional). For sweet pearls, take about ¾ cup of water from the pot and mix in ¾ cup of white sugar in a bowl. Add your cooked pearls to this bowl and let it marinate for ten minutes. The pearls should soak up the sweet syrup during this time. You can now use your pearls in drinks or other desserts.

White Tapioca Pearls Pinterest Image

Double Parrot brand tapioca pearls

Double Parrot Brand - Method To Cook Tapioca Pearls

This cooking method was only suitable for the Double Parrot brand we tested.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin
Author: Huy Vu
Prep: 2 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Soaking: 8 hrs
Total: 8 hrs 22 mins
Servings: 2
Calories / serving: 426kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 c water
  • ½ c white tapioca pearls medium sized
  • ¾ c white sugar

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, add four cups of water and the white tapioca pearls. Soak for at least eight hours on the counter.
  • After soaking, boil eight cups of water in a medium pot on high heat.
  • Add the tapioca pearls, and wait for them to float to the top. This should happen in about three minutes.
  • When all your tapioca pearls float, lower the heat to medium heat, cover your pot, and cook for about three minutes.
  • Then taste a pearl for doneness. It should be chewy, but still al dente, translucent on the edges, and opaque in the center. Note: the opaque center shows the difference between white tapioca pearls that have been pre-soaked and cooked versus white tapioca pearls that were not soaked.
  • Keep cooking if needed until the texture just about reaches desired doneness. If you choose to sweeten your pearls, they will keep cooking a tiny bit more in the next steps.
  • If you don’t need or want to sweeten the tapioca pearls, transfer the pearls to your dessert or drink by using a strainer.

Sweeten tapioca pearls

  • To sweeten your pearls: In a separate medium sized bowl, mix white sugar and ½ c boiling water (taken from the pot of tapioca pearls) together to make a sugar syrup.
  • Drain the rest of the water and transfer boba pearls directly to the sugar syrup container. Cover for 10 minutes. The end result should be chewy and sweet boba. Keep the boba in the simple syrup until assembly. You will also be using the simple syrup from this to sweeten your tea.

Notes

We have tried two ways to cook these white tapioca pearls, and the best way is to pre-soak them in water for at least eight hours or overnight to reduce active cooking time. When you pre-soak the pearls, we noticed that cooked pearls will have translucent edges, but opaque centers, whereas pearls that were not pre-soaked would take upwards of one hour simmering and become completely transparent.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 426kcal | Carbohydrates: 109g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 72mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 76g | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Boba, Tapioca pearls, white tapioca pearls
I'd love to see what you cook up!Mention @HungryHuy or tag #hungryhuy to notify me

Note: if you want to use these pearls for other desserts, you could possibly skip boiling them after soaking and just add them straight to the desserts you’re cooking, like chè chuối. Always make sure to read your recipe before proceeding. 

My tapioca pearls turn to mush when boiling, what should I do?

I would start with the 30 & 30 method and adjust the timing by lowering the cooking time if it’s still too mushy on later batches. For example if they are cooking too much, try 15 or 20 minutes of cooking, 30 minutes of rest, as a start and repeat only if its still not done cooking.

Why do my tapioca pearls disintegrate when soaking?

To check if your pearls will disintegrate in water, just plop two or three pearls in room temperature water and check them in about two minutes. If your pearls disintegrate while soaking, you need to boil them straight from the bag. The only brand I’ve tested that you can pre-soak overnight without disintegrating is Double Parrot.

How do I know if a brand at the store or online is good for boba tea drinks?

Many of the tapioca pearls that are made for boba is that it specifically states it’s for boba. You can also search online and find boba distributors that sell directly to consumers, such as Bossen or Lollicup.

What are tapioca pearls?

bag and bowl of white tapioca pearls

Tapioca pearls are balls that are made of tapioca starch, which comes from cassava root starch,  mixed with hot water, and then rolled into balls. Originating from southeast Asia, you can find tapioca pearls in many different sizes and colors and buy them from various Asian grocery stores, like 99 Ranch Market, or various online retailers. They are most popularly used in many desserts and drinks like milk tea and Thai tea.

What are white tapioca pearls?

White tapioca pearls typically have a plain flavor because it’s made of just two ingredients: tapioca starch and water. They are made from mixing both of these ingredients into a dough and rolling them to make balls.

At the grocery store, they come in the form of dried, opaque balls that range from tiny pieces to medium and large balls. The pearls look white and after they’re cooked turn slightly translucent with a chewy opaque center. 

White vs brown tapioca pearls

Straight out of the bag, brown pearls have more added ingredients like brown sugar to give it a darker opaque color, unlike white tapioca pearls that are tasteless and added to desserts for added texture. Brown boba is most often used in drinks like milk tea or other drinks. To learn how to cook brown tapioca pearls, or boba, read my post about brown tapioca pearls

White tapioca pearls vs. sago pearls

Although they may look similar, white tapioca pearls should not be confused with sago pearls, which are made from a starch that is extracted from the pith of many different palm plants. When cooked, sago pearls also look translucent and taste similar to white tapioca pearls. You can also find sago pearls in various Asian desserts and sweet soups–in some recipes these are interchangeable. 

Storage

If you have any dry, unused tapioca pearls, I like to keep them in an airtight container and keep them in my refrigerator to keep them extra fresh. In my fridge, they last a couple months. For cooked pearls, I would eat those up ASAP because the longer you wait to eat them, the gummier they become due to the tapioca starch.

Can you use white tapioca pearls for bubble tea?

Yes you can definitely use white tapioca pearls for bubble tea. Make sure to marinate and sweeten them in a sugar syrup after boiling to give them more flavor. 

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8 thoughts on “How to Cook White Tapioca Pearls

  1. Jen Paulus says:

    I tried the soaking over night technique with Cock Brand – Marque Deposee (red rooster) Tapioca Pearls, the white kind. The second they went into the water they started disintegrating. Their expiration date isn’t for another month, so they weren’t too old to use. The next morning they were 100% broken down. I would just suggest maybe not soaking this particular brand overnight!

    1. Huy Vu says:

      Thanks also Jen for bringing this to my attention. I didn’t experience this with my Double Parrot brand, will definitely test more and adjust the copy so this doesn’t happen to others.

  2. Mila Johnson says:

    Hi Hungry Huy. Please check your procedure on how to cook tapioca pearls. It did not work for me. I soaked them. As soon as I have them in water, the tapioca pearls start disintegrating. When I added them in boiling water after two hours half of them dissolved in water. The rest turned into a gel. I was making a dessert made of sweet potato, banana, cassava and jack fruit with was still able to use the gel-like substance. You just could not see any tapioca balls,

    1. Huy Vu says:

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention Mila, I haven’t experienced this but have added notes to the post so people don’t experience this too. I’ll update after testing more brands!

  3. Cookie says:

    I bought this brand, but was wondering if I could turn this into honey boba since I couldn’t find any of the brown tapioca pearls in the store. Would I soak it in brown sugar instead of white sugar after they’re cooked?

    1. Huy Vu says:

      Hi Cookie! I haven’t tried doing honey boba with these, but you can try soaking it in honey water. If you’re asking about if brown sugar will color it to look like brown pearls, I don’t think it can.

  4. Jo says:

    Hi. I followed your test to see what kind of tapioca I have and they immediately dissolved so I followed your quick cooking method. I have been cooking my tapioca for more than an hour now and they’re still not done. Not sure what to do now. Could your test be brand-specific?

    1. Hungry Huy says:

      I’ve updated the methods here which seems to work for all the brands I’ve tried that don’t come with instructions.

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