The Use of Cassava Starch in Tapioca Pearls

Tapioca pearls are small, chewy balls made from tapioca starch, which is derived from the roots of the cassava plant. They are a common ingredient in Asian desserts, such as bubble tea, and are also used in various sweet and savory dishes. Tapioca pearls are usually white or translucent, but they can also come in different colors and sizes, depending on the recipe and intended use. They have a gummy texture and a neutral flavor, which makes them a versatile ingredient for a variety of dishes.

Bubble tea

Tapioca pearls are a popular ingredient in bubble tea, also known as boba tea, which is a Taiwanese tea-based drink that originated in the 1980s. Bubble tea typically consists of a tea base, milk or non-dairy creamer, sweetener, and tapioca pearls. The pearls are cooked in boiling water until they are soft and chewy, and then added to the tea mixture along with ice. The drink is typically consumed with a large straw that can accommodate the pearls. Bubble tea comes in a variety of flavors and can be customized with different types of tea, milk, sweeteners, and toppings.


Tapioca pearls are primarily composed of starch and water, and are typically low in nutrients. One serving (about 1/4 cup or 30 grams) of dry tapioca pearls contains approximately:

  • Calories: 100
  • Carbohydrates: 26 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

It is worth noting that the nutritional value can vary depending on the specific brand and preparation method, as some tapioca pearls may contain added sugars or other ingredients. Tapioca pearls are often consumed as part of bubble tea or other sweet beverages, which can significantly increase their calorie and sugar content. Therefore, it is important to consume tapioca pearls in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.


Tapioca pearls are made mainly of cassava starch, which is derived from the roots of the cassava plant. The starch is extracted from the cassava roots and then processed into tapioca pearls through a series of steps that involve mixing, shaping, and drying.

Starch plays a critical role in the production of tapioca pearls, as it provides the necessary binding properties to hold the pearls together and give them their distinctive chewy texture. During the production process, the cassava starch is mixed with water to form a dough-like consistency, which is then kneaded and rolled into small balls or pearls. The pearls are then cooked in boiling water until they become translucent and soft, and finally soaked in a sugar syrup to add sweetness and flavor.

Apart from its use in the production of tapioca pearls, cassava starch has a wide range of other applications in the food industry. It is commonly used as a thickener, stabilizer, and gelling agent in various food products, including soups, sauces, and desserts. Cassava starch is also used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour in baked goods and as a coating agent for fried foods. Additionally, cassava starch can be processed into various types of modified starches with unique functional properties, such as improved solubility, viscosity, and freeze-thaw stability, which are used in a variety of food applications.


Tapioca pearls themselves do not have a strong flavor. They are typically tasteless or have a very mild, slightly sweet flavor. The flavor of the pearls is usually added through the drink or dessert that they are used in, such as bubble tea, where the pearls are commonly flavored with fruit syrups or milk. Tapioca pearls can also be used in savory dishes, such as stews and curries, where they may take on the flavor of the broth or sauce they are cooked in.

Good substitute

If you’re looking for a substitute for tapioca pearls in bubble tea or other drinks, you may consider using other types of boba or pudding. Some common substitutes for tapioca pearls include:

  1. Fruit jelly: Fruit jelly is a popular alternative to tapioca pearls. It comes in a variety of flavors, including mango, strawberry, and green apple, and can add a chewy texture to drinks.
  2. Grass jelly: Grass jelly is a traditional Asian dessert that is often used in drinks. It has a slightly bitter flavor and a jelly-like texture that is similar to tapioca pearls.
  3. Popping boba: Popping boba, also known as juice balls, are small balls filled with flavored juice that burst in your mouth when you bite into them. They come in a variety of flavors, including lychee, passion fruit, and strawberry.
  4. Chia seeds: Chia seeds are small, edible seeds that can add a fun texture to drinks. They absorb liquid and become gel-like, similar to tapioca pearls.
  5. Sago pearls: Sago pearls are similar to tapioca pearls but are made from the pith of tropical palm stems instead of cassava root. They have a similar texture to tapioca pearls but are smaller and have a slightly different flavor.

Ultimately, the best substitute for tapioca pearls depends on your personal preferences and the specific recipe you’re making.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *