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Homemade Tapioca Pudding is an easy, creamy, delicious vintage dessert!

Tapioca Pudding

I have fond, childhood memories of my mother making homemade Tapioca Pudding for dessert on special occasions.  I loved the creamy, vanilla custard with little tapioca pearls throughout!

These days, Tapioca Pudding has gained new popularity as a gluten-free dessert.  (Just be sure to check those labels!)

While you can buy pre-made tapioca pudding – sold in little cups in the refrigerated section of your supermarket, or even canned – homemade tapioca is so much better!  It’s easy to make, as well as creamy and delicious!


Tapioca Pudding

How do I make Tapioca Pudding?

We started with small tapioca pearls that require a 30-minute soak in boiling water to soften before you start to cook. (See the Notes in the recipe card below for other options.)

Once the tapioca has softened, add milk and salt to the saucepan and heat until steamy. Then whisk in sugar and vanilla (we provide instructions to use either vanilla extract or a vanilla bean) and heat until thickened to about the same consistency as pancake batter.

Remove the tapioca mixture from the heat.  Add a few spoonfuls of the tapioca liquid to a bowl with beaten eggs – being sure to quickly whisk the eggs as you add each spoonful. (This step is called tempering and it raises the temperature of the eggs so they don’t start cooking as you add them to the hot tapioca liquid.)

Then, finishing cooking the tapioca until thickened and the tapioca pearls are soft and gelatinous. Spoon into serving bowls.


Tapioca Pudding

Do I serve Tapioca Pudding warm or cold?

The choice is yours. You can serve tapioca warm right out of the pan, or make it ahead of time and spoon it into individual serving dishes before chilling until ready to serve.

Because I like it best served warm, I will still make my tapioca ahead of time, then reheat slightly before serving. All you need to do is place the cooked tapioca in a saucepan, add a splash of milk, and reheat over low heat.  Gently stir the tapioca as it heats so it evenly warms throughout and the added milk is incorporated.


Tapioca Pudding

You may like these other custard dessert recipes:

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Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca Pudding

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


¾ cup small tapioca pearls, not instant or minute tapioca. *see Notes below

1 cup water

4 ½ cups whole milk

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, split down center and seeds removed and set aside with pod, **see Notes below

3 whole eggs, beaten in a medium bowl


In a medium non-stick sauce pan, bring water to a boil, remove from heat and stir in tapioca granules. Let sit untouched and uncovered for 30 minutes while you measure out your remaining ingredients.

After 30 minutes, stir the granules with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula to break up any that stick together. Do not drain any residual water.

Add milk and salt over medium heat and bring to a point where it starts to steam and bubble but do not boil.

Whisk in sugar, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla bean pod and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture will thicken as it cooks and be thick similar to pancake batter but not quite at its finished thickness yet.

For now, turn off burner.

Slowly add spoonfuls of the hot tapioca to the beaten eggs whisking vigorously as you add. This is to temper the eggs so they do not scramble when added to the pudding.

After adding about two cups of the hot pudding to the eggs, whisk the now tempered eggs back into the pudding and return to medium heat.

Cook for five more minutes stirring continually then remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.

If you are using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, add that in at this time.

Serve warm or cooled.

To store, place plastic wrap tightly over surface of pudding so that a skin does not form over the top.


*There are several brands of small pearl tapioca some suggesting soaking for 30 minutes with others suggesting soaking overnight. I found that soaking in hot water for 30 minutes worked for all brands. (Instant or ‘minute’ tapioca doesn’t require any pre-softening.)

**I use a vanilla bean in this recipe but a good quality vanilla extract can be used instead. If you use extract, stir in 1 ½ teaspoons at the end after the finished tapioca comes off the heat.

Keywords: homemade tapioca pudding


Tapioca Pudding

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  • Claude Lapointe wrote:

    What size is “small” pearl tapioca? Are there other sizes of pearl tapioca? For what are they used?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Claude – I don’t have an exact millimeter size to give you, but the Bob’s Red Mill package we used said “small” – we link to it in the recipe if you want to see the wording. It is the most commonly-used size for tapioca. There are, indeed, larger pearls sold – most often I’ve seen them used in boba tea but I suppose you could also use it in tapioca pudding – the soaking and cooking time would be longer than using the small pearls. Hope that helps!

  • George wrote:

    Wonderful! Just a note. My Bob’s tapioca pearls required 2 cups of boiling water to make the recipe perfect. A potato masher is a great way to distribute the pearls while cooking. Thank you!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks George!

  • Eppy wrote:

    I have tried a few recipes with disappointing results. This one was a hit. My 4yr old who is a fussy eater even had seconds. I reduced the sugar because I always do. Found the tapioca to be a bit lumpy after soaking and had to break it down while it was cooking otherwise I followed the recipe as it was. I’ll definitely be making this again. Thank you.

    • Martha wrote:

      So glad you had good results Eppy!

  • Benota wrote:

    Hi I find the cooking times totally different. I soaked the pearls in the boiling water, very clumpy, struggled to break up during cooking, I stirred the pearls for almost 45min for it to cook clear. After i tempered the eggs I stirred another 20min for it to thicken.
    It’s cooling at the mmoment, so can’t say the outcome, but looks good

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for your feedback Benota. We used the Bob’s Red Mill brand of tapioca pearls, which may cook different than other brands. We did include a note about this at the bottom of the recipe card…if you try the recipe again, I’d follow the package instructions for the initial soak and cooking time.

  • George wrote:

    Delicious! I like that it makes a generous amount we can have for a few days. I made the mistake of cooking it a little long because it didn’t look thick enough. I’ll try 15 minutes next time and it should be perfect. Haven’t had this since my Grandma made it it 60 years ago. Thanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re welcome George!

  • Rochelle wrote:

    Is it ok to freeze single size servings?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Rochelle – We haven’t tried it ourselves, but I think it would probably work ok.

  • Kate wrote:

    Will a lower fat milk work in this recipe? I’m thinking 2% instead of whole milk.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Kate – Sure, 2% would work. The end result won’t be as creamy but if that doesn’t bother you, you can use a lower fat milk.

  • Marjorie wrote:

    When I read in your recipe to soak the tapioca in boiled water it made so much sense . I always found that the tapioca soaked in cold water did not soak enough to clear the tapioca kernels. I just made it and so looking forward to having a tasty pudding. Thanks for posting the recipe.

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re welcome Marjorie! Hope the recipe is a success!

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