The key to a well-cooked tapioca pearl is proper cooking and soaking of the pearls in syrup after. Too long or too short of a boil/soak will negatively impact the tapioca pearls’ texture and flavor. While most manufacturers include cooking directions along with the pearls, there are some key visual signs of a perfectly cooked boba pearl.
What are boba pearls? Originating from Taiwan, boba pearls, boba, tapioca pearls, bubble pearls, are all interchangeable terms for the chewy starch balls found at the bottom of bubble tea drinks.
A well-cooked batch of tapioca pearls will have a soft exterior with a chewy, tougher interior. Overcooking or leaving the pearls marinating in syrup too long will result in an overall mushy ball that has no bite to it.
What You’ll Need
- A sweetener such as:
- Dark brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- A boiling pot of water
- A colander or something to strain the water
- Straws big enough for the pearls
- A timer
- And most important of all, the boba pearls themselves
10 Steps to Cooking Tapioca Balls
There are many brands and manufacturers of tapioca pearls. They will differ in cooking times, packaging, and consistency. It is all about experimenting and cooking to the consistency you like! For the sake of this tutorial, we will be using these tapioca pearls.
After opening these vacuum-sealed bags of boba pearls, it is important to keep them dehydrated by storing them in an airtight container.
- Boil in a pot – 10 cups of water for every 1 cup of boba.
- Once the water is boiling, slowly add the bubble pearls and lightly stir (don’t break the pearls!)
- Wait for the pearls to begin floating to the surface.
- Cover the pot and switch to medium heat for 5-8 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and continue the simmer for 5-8 minutes.
- (Steps 4 and 5 may differ in time, it’s ok to not be perfect the 1st time!)
- Strain the bubble pearls through a colander over a sink.
- Rinse the starch off the pearls with cold water
- Scoop or pour the remaining pearls into a brown sugar syrup or honey.
- Marinate for at least 30 minutes; this allows the pearls to cool down and absorb the sweetness!
How to Prepare Brown Sugar Syrup For Boba
Take two parts of brown sugar to one part hot water. The water does not need to be boiling, just hot enough to dissolve the brown sugar. Then stir and keep covered until you have the strained boba pearls ready to add.
Stir the marinating tapioca balls every so often to evenly distribute the brown sugar syrup and prevent clumping of the individual pearls.
Go easy with any added sweeteners in your tea or beverage of choice; these pearls already pack some sweetness!
With honey or honey-based syrups, use less honey as it is very sweet!
Shelf Life of Boba Pearls
Dry tapioca pearls that are sealed can be stored for years! If the bag is open and exposed to humidity and moisture, expect a much shorter shelf-life. However, if you are a boba addict, you’ll go through the tapioca pearls before they have a chance to expire or degrade.
With ready-to-serve boba, it is highly suggested to toss out the boba after 1 day. The tapioca pearls will continue to absorb the sugar syrup, expanding it into a mushy, unpleasing texture.
Boba is best served when consumed within hours of cooking the pearls.
Why are my boba pearls disintegrating?
Make sure you add the pearls AFTER the water starts boiling. This is key to having a soft outer bite with a chewy center. Keeping the pearls in water too long without cooking will cause them to fall apart.
Does boba get hard overnight?
Yes! Do not soak tapioca pearls overnight. Not only does the center harden overnight, but the outside becomes mushy as well. This is why you should only cook enough boba to use within the next several hours.
What is the difference between boba and tapioca pearls?
There is no difference; these are essentially two names for the same balls of chewy starch from cassava roots.
What are popping boba pearls made of?
Popping bobas are not tapioca starch-based. They are made of a gel-like structure through spherification that holds fruit-flavored juices inside. When bitten, these balls burst with the inside juices, completely covering the taste buds!