How to Make Boba Without Tapioca Flour

different kinds of bubble tea

When you learn how to make boba without tapioca flour, the sky is the limit! You can make almost any flavor for your favorite boba tea with the ingredients you have at home.

How much do you enjoy bubble tea? It is incredible! I love the sweet and creamy drinks with the surprising boba pearls. It’s a combination that is as fun as it is delicious to drink.

Did you know you can make your own boba pearls? Yup! And it is easier than you might think. When you discover how easy it is to make boba without tapioca flour at home, you will be able to make bubble tea whenever you want it, without leaving your house.

Keep reading, and I’ll answer all of your questions about making boba – including how to make boba without tapioca flour and how to store them for the freshest flavors.


What is Boba?

Bubble tea plushie

Boba pearls are tiny little pearl-sized tea or dessert toppings. They are usually made with tapioca starch, and you can sometimes find them sweetened, but classic boba pearls often don’t have much flavor. The most popular way to enjoy them is in bubble tea.

Bubble tea started in Taiwan in the 1980s. The original bubble tea contained little jelly balls in it that were made out of tapioca powder. Since that time, two different types of boba balls have come about. Now when you order bubble tea, you have a choice between either popping boba or chewy boba. They are still typically made with tapioca powder.

Let’s look at the biggest difference between these two types of boba pearls.


Popping Boba

Also called bursting boba, popping boba is one of the most fun and delightful kinds of boba that you can find. Smaller than tapioca boba, they are filled with fruit juice and burst in your mouth when you bite into them. A very thin skin breaks open as you bite into the boba, creating the bursting effect.

One of the main ingredients in popping boba is seaweed extract, instead of tapioca starch in chewy boba. They also come in a variety of different flavors. You’ll find them most commonly in mango, strawberry, peach, and cantaloupe.


Chewy Bobas

Chewy boba is most commonly called a tapioca pearl or tapioca boba. They are chewier and do not burst when you bite into them.

Since they are made from tapioca starch, they usually don’t have any flavor on their own. But you might be able to find some tapioca boba that is sweetened with honey or sugar.

The most common color of tapioca boba is black, but some flavored varieties come in brighter colors.

For the sake of this guide, I will only be talking about tapioca boba (aka chewy boba).


What’s in Tapioca Boba

two tumblers of bubble tea

Tapioca pearls are made with just two ingredients – tapioca starch and water. As mentioned above, you may find some sweetened varieties with honey or sugar.

So what do you do when you don’t have tapioca starch? You make boba in different ways using flour or starch that reacts similarly to tapioca when heated.

Keep reading, and I’ll share my favorite ways to make tapioca pearls without tapioca starch.


What is Tapioca Starch?

Have you heard of the high-fiber cassava plant? Tapioca starch is flour that is extracted from the roots of cassava plants, native to Brazil. This starch has a similar look and feel to other popular types of starch, including potato starch, corn starch, and rice flour.

People use this gluten-free flour to thicken stews and make tapioca pearls.


Why Make Boba at Home

There are a lot of different reasons to make boba at home.

Sometimes it can be tough to find them in the store. So, when you want to enjoy these chewy little beads on top of your ice cream or in your tea, it’s often easier to make them yourself.

Making tapioca pearls at home can also save you money. Instead of paying the retail price for frozen yogurt or bubble tea, just make them at home, and spend a lot less!

It is also a ton of fun to make! Grab some friends (or your kids) and make a batch together. They are delicious and even more enjoyable to eat than they are to make.


How to Make Tapioca Pearls

Before we look at how to make boba without tapioca starch, let’s look at how to make them with tapioca. This way, you’ll understand more about boba and how to achieve the desired texture and consistency.

To make tapioca pearls, you just combine boiling water with some tapioca starch. Mix it gently, and then let it set.

When it is cool, roll it into a ball of dough. Next, roll the ball into a long snake and slice it into small pieces. Then, roll each piece into a smaller ball. Finally, boil each small tapioca pearl in more boiling water until it is completely cooked.


How to Make Boba without Tapioca Flour

Here we go! Now that we know more about the tapioca boba process, what do you do when you don’t have tapioca? Fortunately, there are a few different ways to make these chewy little pearls.

One of the best ways to make boba is with cornstarch, but I’ll share a few other ways as well.


How to Make Boba with Cornstarch and White Sugar

Cornstarch boba is really easy and one of the closest versions to the original boba.

  1. First, mix water and sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Then, add the cornstarch and mix it together really well.
  3. Keep heating and stirring this over low heat until it forms a dough.
  4. When it makes a dough, remove it from the heat and roll it flat.
  5. Cut it into small pieces and roll each piece into a small ball.
  6. Cover the balls in more cornstarch.
  7. Bring more water to a boil and add the cornstarch boba.
  8. After it cooks completely, transfer the boba to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.

That’s it! The steps are very similar to tapioca boba.


Brown Sugar Boba

Making brown sugar boba is just like making it with white sugar. Plus, it works best when you use corn starch instead of tapioca starch. You’ll discover that brown sugar boba has a richer flavor than white sugar.


How to Make Mango Boba with Cornstarch

You’ll need a ripe mango, cornstarch, powdered sugar, and water to make mango boba. Follow this recipe and simply replace the tapioca starch with corn starch. It is a 1:1 replacement.

The steps are pretty basic:

  1. Puree the mango with a little bit of cornstarch and powdered sugar.
  2. Place this puree in a saucepan and heat it over low heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a dough.
  3. Keep adding a little bit of cornstarch, a bit at a time, until it thickens up into a batter that you can roll into a snake.
  4. Roll the dough into a snake and slice it into small pieces.
  5. Roll each small piece into tiny balls.
  6. Simmer them in boiling water until they are completely cooked.
  7. Then, transfer them to an ice bath to completely stop the cooking process.

That’s it!


How to Make Boba with Flour

You can also use all-purpose flour to make boba. First, combine water and brown sugar in a saucepan and heat it up. After the brown sugar completely dissolves, add the all-purpose flour. Keep mixing until it forms a dough.

This is the same process as when you use tapioca starch – it works the same way.

As you did with tapioca starch, roll out the dough and cut it into small pieces. Then roll each piece into smaller balls. Boil the boba in water until they are completely cooked, and then transfer to cold water to stop the cooking process.


How to Make Boba Pearls with Rice Flour

Rice flour is a lot more affordable and easier to find than tapioca starch. Luckily, it is a perfect 1:1 replacement for tapioca starch. When you make boba with rice flour, it comes out chewy and lighter than when you use all-purpose flour.

I suggest using brown sugar or honey to sweeten them since rice flour doesn’t have a ton of flavor.


Kitchen Tools Needed to Make Boba at Home

two tumblers of bubble tea

When you make boba at home, you will need a few essential kitchen tools. These tools are all used whether you make boba with cornstarch or rice flour.

  • Saucepan – This is what you will use to warm up and form the dough
  • Spatula or Wooden Spoon – Use this to stir the starch and water mixture
  • Cutting Board – You need some sort of flat surface to roll out the boba dough
  • Plastic Wrap – This prevents the dough from drying out while you cut and roll the individual boba.
  • Knife – Use this tool to cut the boba dough into smaller pieces.
  • Airtight Container – For storing the boba after you make it.


How to Use Boba

The most popular way to use boba pearls is to place them at the bottom of your different milk teas. Add them to hot almond milk tea, taro milk tea, Thai tea, or your own homemade bubble tea.

People usually don’t add them to frozen yogurt or desserts because they are so chewy and don’t pop. You could add them to the bottom of a fruit smoothie, though, if you are in the mood for a frozen dessert.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between boba tea and bubble tea?

Boba tea and bubble tea are two names for the same beverage. Originating from Taiwan in the 1980s, this drink combines tea, milk, and chewy tapioca pearls, which are often referred to as “boba” or “bubbles.”

What are the ingredients typically found in a boba tea?

A classic boba tea includes a tea base (like black or green tea), milk or a non-dairy creamer, a sweetener such as sugar or honey, and tapioca pearls. Additional ingredients can include fruit jellies, pudding, or flavored syrups to diversify the taste.

How many calories does a typical serving of boba tea contain?

The calorie content in a serving of boba tea can vary greatly, but a standard 16-ounce serving with whole milk and tapioca pearls can have around 300 to 400 calories. The addition of extra sweeteners or toppings will increase the calorie count.

Is boba healthy or good for you?

No, there aren’t any health benefits of boba. Since they are made from starch, sugar, and water, they are basically just added calories. They sure are delicious, though!

Are you supposed to chew boba pearls?

Surprisingly, this is a question a lot of first-time bubble tea drinkers ask. It might be confusing at first because the boba is so incredibly chewy, and it takes a while for it to dissolve in your mouth.

Yes, you are supposed to chew them. If you don’t chew them, they are not easy to swallow.

How do you store boba?

You can choose to coat your cooked boba with sugar or syrup after you cook them – that is optional. Cooked boba should be stored at room temperature or a bit warmer. Your pantry is a fantastic place for it.

Cooked boba pearls will only last about a day, so eat them as soon as you make them or within 12 hours.

Can You freeze boba?

No, you cannot freeze boba pearls, and you should not store them in the refrigerator, either. If you freeze them, they will change their texture too much after they thaw back out. If you refrigerate boba pearls, they will draw moisture from the cold air around them and become too soft.

You should store cooked boba pearls at room temperature to maintain their texture.


Final Thoughts on Boba without Tapioca Flour

There you have it! Once you master the art of making traditional boba pearls with tapioca starch, you can easily transition to making boba without tapioca flour. It’s basically the same process and steps – there aren’t a lot of differences. You can even choose to sweeten your pearls or leave them unflavored.

Boba pearls are a great way to add interesting tastes and textures to your milk tea or smoothies. They are also a lot of fun to make, especially with some friends and family around you. I hope you enjoy making some boba pearls at home too!


More Cooking at Home Tips

If you enjoyed learning how to make boba without tapioca flour, I have some more cooking and baking tips that you will enjoy reading next.

Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.