Is there a trick to tapioca pudding?

lpinkmountainFebruary 22, 2012

I want to make BF some tapioca pudding, one of his favorites. Last time I made it, I used the recipe on the back of the box. It never got thick. I even added an egg to it, and more tapioca, but it never set up. I want to try again but I'm paranoid I won't find a good recipe or technique.

Here's the one I used:

Classic Tapioca Pudding (off a box of organic tapioca)

2 cups water

3 TBLSP tapioca pearls

2 TBLSP sugar

pinch salt

2/3 cups dry milk (I think I just used milk instead of water, and for me milk means 2%)

1/3 cup shredded coconut

In saucepan bring the water to boil. Us a whisk or fork to add the tapioca pearls, thus preventing them from sticking together. Let the tapioca cook for about 17 min. until the pearls have lost about half their opaqueness. The mixture will have slightly thickened and the liquid will be cloudy. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, salt and milk powder together. Add to tapioca mixture. Stir and cook for about 10 more minutes. Stir in coconut if using. Refrigerate until cooled.

In my case I think I just cooked the tapioca in the milk. I didn't boil it so it did not separate.

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I'm confused, did you use 2 cups of water PLUS 2/3 c. of 2% milk (in place of the dry milk powder)? If so, you have too much liquid. Or did you use 2 cups of milk and no water? -Grainlady

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 1:57PM
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Instead of using water and powderd milk, I just used 2% milk in place of the water, did not add the milk powder, and cooked the milk with the tapioca, on low. It stayed soupy, never became a pudding. Even after I added a tempered egg to it.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:30PM
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Yes, you have to eat before anyone else gets there!

The best trick I have learned is, let the pearl soak for a few minutes, like 15, before cooking them. I usually soak them in the milk, but then, I've never used organic.

Hm. I think I'd do it rather backwards. I'd probably mix up the milk with half of that water, let the pearls soak in it, and then heat it up. Adding sugar and salt, and then thin it a bit with the remaining water if it needed it. While I do realize eggs aren't vegan, eggs are certainly an integral part of the tapioca I like. Wonder if adding "one egg" (is there a substitute) would help it?

Just my thoughts. I am expert tapioca eater if that counts!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:48PM
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Wonder why adding an egg didn't help it?

Sorry! Got that wrong.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:49PM
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Try another recipe that does not require powdered milk. I believe that the tapioca has to soak in plain water instead of milk. Alton Brown's recipe uses water, milk, and cream, but the milk and cream are not added until the tapioca has been soaked.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:49PM
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I haven't made tapioca pudding in lots of years.....can't even remember what recipe I used...but.
As I recall I cooked the tapioca in water until it was nearly cooked through, then mixed up milk sugar and egg....or more than one egg, added that to the cooked tapioca, and continued cooking until the custard coated the back of the spoon...added vanilla and served.

Several years back I had dinner at an amish home and there was a bowl of a tapioca "stuff' on the table. I asked for the recipe, scribbled it on something....likely a reciept in my purse.....wonder if I saved that? It included a package of something very artificial....either jello or Koolade...but was surprisingly good.
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 4:02PM
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I now use the quick-cooking tapioca for pudding but back when I used to use the pearl type, I'd soak it for a few hours in cold water; then drain and cook with milk and sugar in the top of a double boiler of simmering water for about 45 minutes, if I recall. Then I'd add a tempered egg and cook about another 5 min. and stir in some vanilla.

I don't remember the proportions of the ingredients, just the technique.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 5:01PM
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Good point ruthanna. My suggestion to soak was for the "instant" type. At least it sounded like it was instant. Although the box doesn't say to do that, it seems to help.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 9:33AM
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I would have cheated and added a slurry of cornstarch. :)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Tapioca comes in many shapes. Smaller than a grain of rice, or as big as 1/4" balls. Cooking time will be different.

You can get tapioca flour in an Asian store to thicken, or you can use a stick blender to make part of the tapioca into a paste.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 10:50AM
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My Mom used to make the best big pearl tapioca pudding (had to soak the pearls in water over night) but I can't find the same kind of tapioca now. What I do find gets mushy & doesn't retain the pearl shape as her's did in the final pudding. I also have trouble adding the egg mixture to the hot pudding .... sometimes (I add it very slow) it turns out great but others it curdles! I loved her pudding with the rather 'chewy' pearls!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 7:51PM
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Vieja, try looking for the large pearl tapioca in Asian food stores. I bought small pearl there and I'm just sure they had the lgr. variety also. (I'd never seen the lg pearl before.)

Anyway, all this discussion about tapioca pudding made me hungry for some. I had a bag of small pearl that I had bought the last time I got hungry for it but never got around to making it. (All that I'd used before was the Minute Tapioca.) Didn't realize there was a trick to it until this thread.

So, I tried a recipe for 'Slow cooker Tapioca Pudding' from Allrecipes. You cook it in the crock pot but do have to attend to it, just not constantly. Was very easy to make; I doubled the recipe and it cooked in two hours on high in my ancient Rival crock pot.

4 cups milk
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Stir together the milk, sugar, tapioca, and eggs in a slow cooker. Cover, and cook on Medium for 3 hours, or on Low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve warm.

**For a DOUBLE batch, I used one can of evaporated milk and addt'l skim milk to equal 8 cups of milk. Used about 3/4 c. sugar and a pinch of salt. I felt that the pudding needed to be a bit sweeter. Added 2 T. vanilla after the pudding was finished cooking.

Results were good but it lacked something. No doubt would have benefited from using whole milk and/ or some half 'n half. We only keep skim milk in the house & I didn't want to make a special trip. One of these days, I'll get around to ordering that Fiori' di stuff from King Arthur...something like that just mighta' been the ticket to amping up the flavor. Anyway, DH loves tapioca & he was a happy camper w/ the pudding as it turned out.

Linking to the recipe so you can access all the reviews for tweaking the recipe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Slow Cooker Tapioca Pudding

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 3:21PM
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I made the crock pot tapioca pudding again last night. Double batch. This time, I used 1 quart of half n' half and 1 quart of skim milk. Increased the sugar to 1 cup. (Forgot to add the pinch of salt.) 2 T. of vanilla added when the pudding was finished cooking.

Oh YUM! Darned near perfect pudding (really needs that pinch of salt.) The half n' half really punched up the mouth feel & flavor.

Next time, I'm going to try the recipe made with all whole milk.

This is a really easy way to make tapioca. Only needs occasional stirring...more towards the end of the 2 1/2 hours req'd with my crock pot. (Every 15 minutes or so during the last hour.)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 9:07AM
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Thanks for the report, Ci! I have a pint of half and half in my fridge waiting for me to have the right time to try the crockpot version.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 9:25AM
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Do let me know how it turns out, lpink.

Oh, and I think I overcooked it a bit this last time. I was thinking it needed 2.5 hrs and stopped at about 2 hr 20 min. After the pudding cooled, it seemed overcooked. Now I see, after reading my initial post, that I cooked it 2 hours the first time. That splains things. (This was in an old, old Rival crockpot on the 'High' setting, starting with refrigerator temp ingred.)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 9:34AM
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Ok, first of all, I'm a professional pastry chef so I will clue you in on a few items.
Don't use small pearl tapioca in place of large as the recipe has been configured based on the large....there's a starch factor that we don't change!! Pastry is not culinary DON'T alter the recipe as all of the ingredients have a relationship in weight to one another that doesn't matter in culinary arena!!
Secondly, you should always soak your tapioca pearls, preferably overnight.
When we add eggs to any hot mixture it will curdle if not done properly!! It's called TEMPERING THE must add a little of the hot mixture very slowly while whisking to temper the eggs (bringing them up to temperature) and insure they won't curdle...then add the tempered mixture to the rest of the pudding and continue cooking until completed.
STOP substituting fat free, 1%, 2% and all that other liquid referred to as some form of milk.....the FAT in whole milk, half and half, and heavy cream is required to achieve the results we're looking for!! If you have medical reasons you can't use milk with the fat, this isn't the recipe you should be making!!
There's a lot of technique involved to get that "perfect" tapioca pudding just like rice pudding and others.........doubtful you'll achieve those results without professional training and knowing the various techniques.
You can also get better results using professional recipes from websites like or some of the pastry chef sites.......stay away from "grandma's famous recipe" as it probably has been passed through so many hands the recipe isn't even the recipe anymore!!! Last buit not least, don't make changes to pastry type recipes......I don't care what mom or grandma says, it's a fact that doesn't work outside of the culinary arena as the recipes are based on weight to the main ingredient, usually the flour!!!
Hope this helps to clarify a few issues however, we don't give away our secrets and signature dishes.......just the way it is in the chef world!!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 5:04PM
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Shuckapea, I think you're in the wrong forum. Your confrontational style of "advice" is certainly not needed with this group of cooks, many of whom are/have been professionals. Btw, many of us previous professionals are more than happy to share our recipes and many of the best recipes/cooks come from the non pros on here. All the caps and exclamation marks are personally offensive to me, perhaps others will be more generous.

LPink, I see how old this thread is but apparently missed it earlier in the year. One of my favorite methods to making a great tapioca is to make it the fluffier type by separating the eggs and whipping the whites and adding them at the end. Sometimes I even add an extra white or so.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 6:23PM
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Thanks, Coconut! :)


    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 6:42PM
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I'm wondering why a recipe for organic tapioca pudding uses dry milk, and was it non-fat dry milk, which is generally the only kind you can find, or dry milk with fat? I know there is "regular" dry milk, but I've only seen it once, many years ago in the Spanish food section of a grocery store.

When I've made tapioca pudding, which no one else in my family ever eats, I use the Kraft Minute tapioca and their recipe

1 egg, separated
6Tbsp. sugar, divided
3Tbsp. MINUTE Tapioca
2cups 2% reduced fat milk
1tsp. vanilla

BEAT egg white in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Gradually add 3 Tbsp. sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

MIX tapioca, remaining sugar, milk and egg yolk in medium saucepan. Let stand 5 minutes.

COOK on medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to full boil. Remove from heat. Quickly stir egg white mixture into hot tapioca in saucepan until well blended. Stir in vanilla. Cool 20 minutes; stir. Serve warm or chilled. For creamier pudding, place plastic wrap on surface of pudding while cooling. Stir before serving. Store leftover pudding in refrigerator.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 7:25PM
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This thread made me realize that I have not made tapioca for a while.

We all have different preferences for tapioca consistence.

I like mine thinner, and the pearls more like pearls.

The way to make the pearls stay in shape is simple. Before I cook, I pour boiling water over the tapioca and soak overnight in the refrigerator.

When I serve guests, I make them thicker. Two ways I make the pudding thicker:

1. Take some pearls and blend with a hand blender and mix with the pearls.
2. Add some packaged pudding mix.

I made mango tapioca pudding last night.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 4:20PM
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I use Organic Valley non-fat dry milk almost exclusively. It works beautifully in puddings.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 4:34PM
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So I can't possibly make tapioca pudding unless I am a "professional chef"...hmmm...
Ya think?? Really!? Your information about tempering eggs...WOW!! REALLY! You don't think that anyone who has ever made any sort of custard or veloute don't know how to temper egg yolks before mixing with the hot liquid?
Perhaps you best pay attention to the burgers and onions cooking on the flattop, and stop insulting people by suggesting that what you do with the tapioca is rocket science!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 4:40PM
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After recently rediscovering the joys of tapioca pudding (after finally finding that Bob's Red Mill now sells it) I can offer a few tips:

First, I live on a mountain and "high altitude" directions don't always work so I have to invent my own. I've found that nearly any batch of runny tapioca can be saved by letting it cool for about 30 minutes, returning it to the stove and achieving an enthusiastic boil (stirring constantly) for 3-5 minutes. That gives the pearls a second chance to plump up and absorb their full moisture capacity (which is why it was runny in the first place). You end up with the signature big, fat, gelatinous balls of tapioca and thick creamy pudding.

Second, if you can't master the egg tempering (or tend to end up with too much of an "eggy" taste for your liking) try this nearly foolproof eggless vegan recipe.

I don't like soy milk so I use coconut milk (the kind in the dairy case, not the thick sweetened stuff in a can). The only thing that can go wrong is to overcook it and end up with a firmer, more Jello-like consistency when it cools. But then you can just call it tapioca haupia and move on :)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 11:19PM
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There are HUGE mistakes even on the label of tapioca pearl boxes.

DO NOT use a double boiler as it does not make it hot enough to evaporate/reduce the moisture from the milk.

Soak pearls overnight in water.

Add the required milk and cook hot enough to not scorch the milk. Cook pearls to the 'doneness' you want just like you'd do with pasta.

Now use a measuring cup and REMOVE 1-2 cups of the LIQUID in the pot leaving the pearls behind. Set aside the liquid in a pot for reduction.

Mix the egg yoke and sugar and add to the pearls' pot with tempering. Cook to the thickness you desire and with the lessor volume of milk your cooking time will be drastically reduced. Let cool.

At the same time REDUCE the liquid you removed until it is thick as pudding. Let cool.

Add everything back together and it is SET!

(You can add whipped egg whites if you want, but I've found it adds nothing to taste or texture and is just a time waster.)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 12:58PM
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I just use the Reese tapioca pearls and the recipe on the package. To me, whipping the whites and folding them back into the mix lightens the texture and dilutes the intensity of the flavor, neither of which effect do I find desirable. However, DH prefers it that way because it's just like his great aunt's tapioca was in his childhood. So I tend to alternate. (Like I really need the calories of tapioca, LOL.) The Reese's purports to be large pearl, but it looks like other small pearls I've used in the past. If anyone knows of a good source for authentic large pearl, do let me know. I have used a pot on a gas stove, a pot on an induction burner, and a double boiler on an induction burner. All have required stirring, and all have yielded good results. The exception was my experiment with an induction hob and not stirring, which yielded a result with the pearls at the bottom. No one objected to eating the result, however.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 4:14PM
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"----=If anyone knows of a good source for authentic large pearl, do let me know. ----"

Asian stores sell tapioca pearls of all sizes.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 4:17PM
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Will have to alter my beaten path when I go to Austin. There are no Asian markets in my usual stomping grounds, and I hate traffic, but there are so many things I want to pick up, I am going to have to set aside an afternoon soon. Thanks for the idea.

The newest Whole Foods is 17,000 square feet smaller than the flagship, but more convenient to one of my paths, so I will check with them as well. It is already too crowded and short on parking.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 5:27PM
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To get tapioca pudding to set, it is ESSENTIAL to stir it. Gelling is caused by the release of microscopic starch particles from the tapioca pearls or granules.

I've demonstrated this principle for myself many times while cooking oatmeal porridge. If the porridge is put in a double boiler and simmered, I can come back over half an hour later and find it still semi-liquid. If I stir it in the double boiler or in a pot directly on the heat source, it thickens in 5-8 minutes. I've also experimented using a high-speed Krups coffee grinder to mill rolled oats into a fine flour, adding just one teaspoon of such flour to a pot of porridge and having it thicken in just a couple of minutes. Similarly, it should be possible to grind a bit of tapioca into a flour, adding it to the failed pot of pudding, reheating to boiling temperature while stirring continuously and allowing it to cool again. I do know from experience that adding a teaspoon of "instant" tapioca and reheating while stirring does work to rescue the pudding. If you have neither a coffee grinder, nor tapioca flour, consider cheating with a bit of corn starch.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2015 at 6:57PM
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