Old-Fashioned Tapioca Pudding – Tastes Better From Scratch

Three red velvet cookies with cream cheese frosting, stacked on top of each other on a plate.

This delicious old-fashioned Tapioca Pudding recipe is one of my favorite classic desserts and only requires the simplest ingredients, including small tapioca pearls, milk, cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

If you love homemade pudding be sure to try my Banana Pudding, Baked Rice Pudding, Raspberry Bread Pudding, or Sticky Toffee Pudding!

A serving glass with tapioca pudding in it.

There are a few recipes that were instrumental in sparking my love for cooking at a very young age, and Tapioca Pudding is one of them–along with my mom’s spaghetti sauce, German pancakes, and Belgian Waffles. These recipes are so easy to make that I could follow the instructions on my own, and what kid doesn’t love tapioca pudding, with fun chewy pearls?

This is a great dessert to make ahead of time, and you can serve it warm or cold. For more classic desserts, try my Peach Cobbler, Apple Crisp, or Grandma’s Oatmeal Cake!

What is Tapioca?

Tapioca is a starch that comes from the cassava root and formed into little pearls that gives tapioca pudding its signature texture and is naturally gluten-free. The natural starch tapioca flour is often used as a thickening agent, like for my Blueberry Pie.

Ingredients Needed:

  • Small tapioca pearls:The distinguishing ingredient in tapioca pudding, and be sure to buy the small ones for this recipe. They’re hard little beads that will cook until tender, thickening the pudding and creating a fun texture.
  • Milk and cream: for the base creaminess of the pudding.
  • Granulated sugar: for sweetness.
  • Eggs: for thickening.
  • Salt
  • Vanilla
The ingredients needed to make Tapioca Pudding.

How to make Tapioca Pudding:

Cook Tapioca: Add milk, cream, sugar and salt to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then stir in tapioca and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often for about 45 minutes.

Tapioca pearls cooking in a pot with milk and sugar.

Temper the Eggs: Add the eggs to a bowl and whisk to combine. Add a spoonful of hot tapioca mixture to the beaten eggs, stirring well as you pour it in. Repeat with another few spoonfuls of hot tapioca, stirring after each. This helps temper the eggs and bring them to a warm temperature without “scrambling” them.

A ladle full of hot tapioca and milk being whisked into a small bowl with beaten eggs, to temper the eggs.

Simmer Pudding: Add tempered egg yolk mixture to the saucepan with tapioca and stir well to combine. Cook for 2-5 more minutes, just until thickened (keep in mind it will continue to thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Creamy homemade tapioca pudding in a pot.

Let Cool and Serve: Transfer to a serving bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding (to keep it from forming a rubbery skin on the surface). Allow to cool before serving. Serve warm or chilled.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: This tapioca recipe is a great dessert to make ahead of time! Just store in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface for 2-3 days.

To Freeze: Homemade tapioca pudding freezes well as long as you allow it to cool completely. Store in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Freeze for up to two months. Thaw completely before serving.

Recipe Variations:

  • Minute Tapioca:
    • 2 3/4 cups 2% or whole milk
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons minute/instant tapioca
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Add the milk and egg to a medium saucepan and whisk well to combine. Stir in sugar and tapioca and let sit for 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium and bring mixture to a bubbling, full boil (stirring constantly, being careful not to let it burn!). Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and cool for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
  • Chocolate Tapioca Pudding: Add ½ cup of chopped semi-sweet chocolate after adding the eggs. Cook for 2-5 more minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  • Coconut Tapioca Pudding: Swap out the milk for coconut milk.
  • Vegan Tapioca Pudding: Substitute the milk for coconut, almond milk, or your favorite plant-based milk and swap out the heavy cream for full fat canned coconut milk.

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Recipe

  • Add milk, cream, sugar and salt to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then stir in tapioca and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often, until mixture has slightly thickened, and the tapioca pearls have plumped and softened, about 45 minutes.

  • Add the eggs to a bowl and whisk to combine.

  • Add a spoonful of hot tapioca mixture to the beaten eggs, stirring well as you pour it in. Repeat with another few spoonfuls of hot tapioca, stirring after each. (This helps temper the eggs and bring them to a warm temperature without “scrambling” them.)

  • Add tempered egg yolk mixture to the saucepan with tapioca and stir well to combine. Cook for 2-5 more minutes, just until thickened (keep in mind it will continue to thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

  • Transfer to a serving bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding (to keep it from forming a rubbery skin on the surface). Allow it to cool before serving. Serve either warm or chilled.

To Make Ahead: This tapioca recipe is a great dessert to make ahead of time! Just store in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface for 2-3 days. To Freeze: Homemade tapioca pudding freezes well as long as you allow it to cool completely. Store in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Freeze for up to two months. Thaw completely before serving. Tapioca Pearls: If you only have instant or minute tapioca, use this recipe:
    • 2 3/4 cups 2% or whole milk
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons minute/instant tapioca
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add the milk and egg to a medium saucepan and whisk well to combine. Stir in sugar and tapioca and let sit for 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium and bring mixture to a bubbling, full boil (stirring constantly, being careful not to let it burn!). Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and cool for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or cold. Chocolate Tapioca Pudding: Add ½ cup of chopped semi-sweet chocolate after adding the eggs. Cook for 2-5 more minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Coconut Tapioca Pudding: Swap out the milk for coconut milk. Vegan Tapioca Pudding: Substitute the milk for coconut, almond milk, or your favorite

Calories: 405kcalCarbohydrates: 53gProtein: 10gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 139mgSodium: 285mgPotassium: 346mgFiber: 1gSugar: 36gVitamin A: 767IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 284mgIron: 1mg

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*I originally shared this recipe on September 2016. Updated October 2018 and March 2022.

Author: editor

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