Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding

  This is the pure vanilla version of tapioca pudding, which in my opinion is quite fantastic.

There is something about the new year and January that just say old fashioned desserts to me.  Tapioca pudding is one I like to make during the winter months.  It sure says simple comfort to me.   I never had tapioca as a kid but my husband did.  I don't even know why I started making it except that  my husband was going on about it one night at dinner and I was intrigued.   Vanilla bean tapioca pudding has been a regular dessert ever since and that has been quite a few years.   My kids fell in love with it and to this day get excited when I say I am making it.  That is kinda nice.

So today I would like to share an old fashioned, not so fancy (unless you want it to be), homey pudding.  You can definitely make this with vanilla extract just make sure it is the real thing, no imitations please.

 Topped with dried apricots, cherries, raisins, pistachios and toasted walnuts.  Yum.

You might be wondering what is my secret recipe?

Promise not to laugh.  My secret recipe is on the back of the box of Bascom's tapioca.  I did do my research on tapioca recipes and they are really not that different and this recipe is really good and simple. Why look further? The quality of ingredients do matter as with most simple recipes.  For instance, I use whole milk because that seems to always make thick, creamy pudding.  I love puddings made with vanilla bean so I use vanilla beans.  The vanilla flavor is outstanding.   If you are using vanilla extract, double the amount that they ask for on the box and make sure it is quality vanilla.  Also 1/2 cup servings just doesn't cut it in my house so I definitely double the recipe (and sometimes even triple, leftovers are fun).  Ever had vanilla tapioca pudding with dried fruits and nuts on it for breakfast.  Not a bad way to start the day!  I will probably stick to my muesli and yogurt but a spoonful or two can't hurt.  Right!?
These are small pearl tapioca.  Tapioca is a starch that is derived from the cassava plant and is processed for use into powder, stick, flakes and pearls.  Tapioca is used as a thickening agent and is gluten free.  Large pearl and small pearl tapioca are interchangeable but I usually cannot find large pearl tapioca.  Bubble teas use large white or black tapioca.  I had a coconut bubble tea in New York City that was to die for, well almost!

Topped with dried fruit:  raisins, cherries and apricots.

I will confess that this tapioca pudding is a little thick.  It was perfect when it was warm but after it was chilled, well it got really thick.  When cooking tapioca pudding I do try to get it thick enough so that if the hydrated tapiocas seep then I can stir it and it will be fine.  I like leftovers so this is my little trick.  Maybe I went a little too far.  I like creamy, thick puddings so it didn't go to waste.  Like that was going to happen.  Tapioca does seep or weep after a couple of days.  It just does.  Just so you know.

So here is my recipe based on Bascom's Tapioca Pudding that you can find on the back of the box:

Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding  adapted from Bascom's Tapioca box recipe
12 - 1/2 cup servings (who are we really kidding here!)
8 - 3/4 cup servings(Ok, but I might want more)
6 - 1 cup servings (that is more like it)

1 cup of small pearl tapioca
6 cups of whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of sugar
4 large eggs
2 vanilla beans or 1 vanilla bean and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Cover the tapioca in water and soak at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Whisk the eggs with 1/2 cup of milk until completely blended.  Add the rest of the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla beans to a saucepan with the egg mixture.  The vanilla beans should be split lengthwise with a knife and scrape the seeds out into the milk mixture.  Also drop in the vanilla bean (if using extract, add after the pudding has been cooked).

Drain the tapioca and add to the milk mixture.  Turn the heat on medium and slowly heat the pudding, stirring constantly, until it has thickened.  This should take about 20 minutes.  If adding vanilla extract, it should be added now. This pudding can be served warm or cold.

Toppings:  Try dried fruits such as blueberries, cherries, apricots or golden raisins.  Toasted nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, coconut and/or pistachios.  Also try an all fruit preserve such as apricot or blueberry as a topping.

Notes:  If you want to use low fat milk, then use 1% and mix 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with the sugar before adding the milk and eggs in the saucepan.  The box recipe has a different low fat recipe but I didn't really care for how it turned out.  You can skip the cornstarch if you want but the pudding will be thinner but still delicious.

Also if you want to reduce the sugar, up to a 1/4 cup less is possible if you are serving it warm.  It will be delicious.  If you are serving it cold, it will not seem sweet enough and taste a bit bland.  Chilling the pudding decreases the ability to taste the sweetness.  Ice cream is an example of this because it tastes much sweeter after it has melted.  

Final Note:  I am sorry it has been a while since the last post.  Our mothers have been giving us concern as of late and it has been quite distracting.  I wish I lived closer to both parents so we could be there for them more, a lot more.  This does give me angst but we will work through it and be grateful there is a loving family near by that takes the time to care for their needs.  We will do as much as we can from a distance and be there when we can.  

And I have been shoveling snow.  

And I took a trip to Minneapolis, MN where it was 0 degrees and with the wind factored in, -25 degrees.  I am very happy to be back in the snowy warmth of Pennsylvania.  I thought my face was going to freeze off.  Never have I felt bone chilling cold like that before. Scarves, hats, gloves and thermal underwear have a whole new meaning.  Wow.


  1. Looks delicious, and thanks for sharing your 'secret' recipe:) I now need to find some tapioca.

  2. I have never tried tapioca, I think because the pudding cups I used to see of it when I was a kid were less than appetizing, but this looks really good - similar to a millet breakfast porridge I am fond of making. Do you think this might work with a non-dairy substitute such as soy or almond milk? I'm not too big on dairy.

  3. cassie - I have seen recipes made with soy milk. I am not a big fan of puddings or yogurts made from soy milk but I do like drinking it, but that is just me. My daughter loves soy milk and anything made from it. I do think soy milk substituted for the low fat milk would work as the low fat version mentioned at the end of the recipe. I have not tried this before and if you do I would love to know how it turns out. Almond milk sounds delicious. The addition of cornstarch will help thicken it, along with the eggs and tapioca. Thanks for the comment. I am intrigued with the almond milk version.

  4. I fell in love with tapioca in South East Asia where we had sago pudding (sago is the name of tapioca over there) almost every day. And, of course, the bubble tea! It's soo tasty and so funny to drink/eat.

  5. hi! the recipe looks so yummy... can't wait to try it! question, though... when do you add the egg/milk mixture to the saucepan?

  6. Tara - the eggs and milk go in together in the beginning. Nice, instead of tempering the eggs. The reason that I add 1/2 cup of milk to the eggs in the beginning is that they tend to mix better when there is less milk. And then add the rest of the milk etc and then start cooking. OK? Thanks for this comment, I will adjust this in the post. Sometimes what seem so obvious to me . . . not so much. Thanks again.

  7. Well, I just tried to post but fouled up in the middle. So here goes again.

    I've been making a lot of tapioca lately and found out some things:
    1) Soak time is really important. "1/2 hour to overnight" won't cut it at all! Soak time seems to vary by brand (bob's is 1/2 hour, not sure about Bascom's yet but it seems to require longer) and Large pearl is certainly NOT interchangeable with small pearl because large requires WAY more soaking time, cooking time, and liquid. 2) You are so right about how the coldness cuts into sweetness! I also think it makes the vanilla flavor much less pronounced. I would definitely double the amount of vanilla in this recipe, maybe eating some of it warm and stirring in more vanilla when finished. 3) I agree with you that there is no reason to whip the egg white and add them in later. It's actually difficult to get the whites evenly distributed and I don't mind the more dense pudding, 4) I have found that unless you really cook the tapioca until BEYOND it goes 100% transparent, it will weep and get wet when cooled. Cook times are different for brand and certainly for size. So, every time I make tapioca, it's a bit of an experiment!

  8. Oh, another thing, I find try to add just enough water so that I don't have to drain it. Seems that 1:2 ratio of tapioca to water works for Bob small pearl. It might be less water for Bascoms (and/or require more soak time, not sure yet).


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