Homemade Tapioca Pudding is easy to make and a wonderfully textured, classic dessert! It’s naturally gluten-free and looks elegant presented in individual dessert cups with a little fruit on top!
Old-Fashioned Tapioca Pudding
Tapioca is always such a fun treat! It’s got a vintage vibe with timeless, classic flavors that never go out of style. The recipe I’m sharing today is 1,000x better than the boring pudding cup versions you pick up at the store. My tapioca pudding recipe is made with small pearl tapioca and has a wonderful balance of sweetness from the milk, cream, and sugar with a hint of vanilla and the soft tapioca beads that are so fun to squish around in your mouth!
Our favorite way of enjoying tapioca is in small dessert cups with a strawberry fanned out on top. It’s so simple and unassuming, but it’s also excellent to make ahead for parties and unique enough to surprise and delight guests.
What is Tapioca?
Tapioca comes from the root of the cassava plant, which grows in Brazil. They are starchy little balls that are also often used for thickening pies and other desserts.
Ingredients in Homemade Tapioca Pudding
Don’t be fooled by the simple list of unassuming ingredients. They come together to make a truly uniquely textured and flavored dessert that tapioca-lovers will be wild for!
- Small Pearl Tapioca: This ingredient gives tapioca pudding both its name and its signature texture. Look for small pearl tapioca instead of the “instant” or “minute” kind.
- Milk: Whole milk gives the best results, although we have even made this with skim milk and it turns out tasty.
- Cream: A little heavy cream adds to the richness and complexity of flavors.
- Sugar: The amount of sugar gives just the right degree of sweetness to this tapioca pudding without making it overly sweet. Remember that slowly cooked milk develops a sweetness all it’s own, so that’s factoring in here as well.
- Eggs: These are added at the end to help thicken and enrich the tapioca pudding.
- Vanilla Extract: The vanilla, sugar, and cream notes in this tapioca pudding are heavenly! We recommend high quality vanilla extract instead of imitation vanilla.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Making classic tapioca pudding is a bit of a labor of love that takes about an hour, but it’s worth it! As the pearls soften and thicken the cooking liquid, the natural sugars in the milk take on a sweet, toasty flavor.
- Soften the tapioca: Combine the milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the liquid comes to a simmer, stir in the tapioca pearls and reduce the heat all the way to low. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 45 to 60 minutes until the tapioca pearls turn translucent and the liquid starts to thicken.
- Temper the eggs: Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl, then add ½ cup of the hot tapioca mixture. Stir together, then add another ½ cup of the hot liquid and stir again. This helps to gently bring up the temperature of the eggs without scrambling them.
- Cook until thickened: Add the tempered eggs to tapioca mixture and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until you reach your desired thickness. For us, that’s only about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Divide between serving cups: Fill each cup as much as you like, then serve warm or cover with plastic wrap directly touching the top of the tapioca and chill to serve cold. It’s delicious both ways!
Tips for Making Tapioca Pearls
- Don’t forget to stir! I have gotten distracted a time or two before and had the pearls congeal at the bottom of my pot. It can usually be salvaged with some vigorous elbow grease and a strong wooden spoon stirring and breaking the tapioca apart, but it’s much easier to just give the mixture a quick stir every five minutes or so.
- Serve warm or cold: This dish is really fantastic both ways, so it’s really up to you how you want to serve it and personal preference.
- Check the brand of tapioca you buys for specific instructions: Some brands might require you to soak the tapioca in water first, then drain it. We like Bob’s Red Mill’s small pearl tapioca, which doesn’t require any soaking time.
- Using “quick” or “minute” tapioca: This is the same thing as small tapioca pearls, just cut down smaller for quicker cooking. You can follow this same recipe and just decrease the cooking time to around 20 minutes. It’s faster, but the smaller pieces aren’t as nice as the bigger pearls, in our opinion.
- Chocolate version: Add 3 ounces of chopped semisweet or dark chocolate at the end along with the eggs, stirring until the chocolate has melted for a decadent chocolate version.
- Add fruit: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and even mango are all delicious served with this pudding.
- Swap out the extract: You can substitute ½ teaspoon of almond or coconut extract in place of the vanilla extract.
More Simple Dessert Recipes You’ll Enjoy
Each of these creamy, cool dessert recipes are guaranteed to bring smiles to your family’s faces!
- Cheesecake Dessert Cups
- Easy English Trifle
- Pineapple Cheesecake Dessert Bars
- No-Bake Cookie Dough Chocolate Cups
- Easy Creme Brûlée
TapiocaHomemade Tapioca Pudding is easy to make and a wonderfully textured, classic dessert! It’s naturally gluten-free and looks elegant presented in individual dessert cups with a little fruit on top!Servings 8 servingsCalories 205kcal
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk milk, cream, sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid barely comes to a simmer.
Stir in the tapioca pearls and immediately reduce the heat all the way to the lowest setting. Continue to cook and stir for 45 to 60 minutes until the tapioca pearls are translucent and soft and the mixture has begun to thicken. Please note that different types and brands of tapioca may require shorter cooking times.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Add ½ cup of the hot tapioca mixture, stirring well. Add another ½ cup of the hot liquid, stirring again, before combining the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the tapioca and milk mixture.
Continue to cook 1 to 10 minutes, until thickened to your liking. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Cool for at least 20 minutes before pouring into individual serving cups. Serve warm or cover with plastic wrap directly in contact with the top of the tapioca to prevent it from forming a skin and chill to serve cold.
NutritionCalories: 205kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 104mg | Potassium: 169mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 451IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 138mg | Iron: 1mg
The Recipe Critic