DIY boba: recipe for tapioca pearls

Feeling baller? Try making your own bubble tea toppings

Take your home cooking skills to the next level. Photo courtesy of The Spruce Eats

By: Nancy La, Staff Writer

Don’t want to leave the comfort of your own home for a cup of bubble tea? Do not fret, for pearls are actually quite easy to make at home. During the earlier phase of the pandemic, I would make boba pearls while taking a break from baking sourdough bread, and the results were surprisingly good. It may take longer than you would think, but you can make a big batch, freeze them, and then you’ll have pearls ready anytime you have a craving for some bubble tea! 

Bubble tea pearl recipe (adapted from Nino’s Home YouTube video)

135g or 1 cup tapioca starch (don’t replace with any other starch, it will not work)

70g or ½ cup dark brown sugar

80ml or ⅓ cup water

Additional tapioca starch for dusting and rolling

*Make sure all ingredients are weighed out before you start cooking


  1. In a small saucepan, add 80ml of water and stir in the 70g of dark brown sugar. Mix well.

2. From your 135g of tapioca starch, take out a tablespoon’s worth of starch and add it into the pot. Mix until homogeneous.

3. Put the pot on low-medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Mixture will thicken up quickly. Once it is thick enough for you to draw a line through the mixture and you can see the bottom of the pot, take it off the heat.

4. Dump the remaining tapioca starch into the pot. Mix the starch and the sugar mixture together. It will look very pasty and crumbly, and that is okay. Just keep mixing until the mixture cooled down enough for you to touch with your hands.

5. Turn the entire mixture out onto a work surface and knead. It will be quite dry, but that will go away once the starch is hydrated by the water. Dust the surface of your work surface with starch as needed. Knead until the dough is smooth. 

6. Using a bench scraper (or a knife), cut the dough into four sections. Take each section that you just cut out and roll into a long rope. Keep the ropes at about the same length and place them next to each other.

7. Cut the ropes into little pieces. Keep the pieces small, at around 0.5cm, otherwise you will have a hard time cooking the pearls.

8. Take a couple of pieces of dough into your palm and roll them into little pearls. Do this to all the pieces, while keeping them under a damp towel or plastic wrap to prevent drying out.

9. Once all the pieces are rolled out, coat them in tapioca starch. At this point, you can take the pearls and freeze them in a Ziploc bag for later use. Just follow the instructions below to cook them.

10. Put a pot of water to boil. You need over half a pot of water to cook the pearls.

11. Add the pearls into the pot and cook for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while to prevent clumping. After, take the pot off the heat and cover it with a lid for 30 minutes. This cooks the insides of the pearls thoroughly.

12. After 30 minutes, drain the pearls. Rinse them under cold water for a minute to cool down. Tadah! You just made pearls! Now you can put the pearls into a milk tea of your choice, or even a smoothie!