This is a tropical twist on a classic tapioca recipe. Pairs perfectly with fresh mango for a Thai-themed dessert. But honestly, you can’t go wrong using any fresh fruit; strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches…The sky is the limit!
Tapioca is a classic dessert. You can find my recipe for classic tapioca here. But there are so many other variations as well. I have had sweet potato tapioca, honeydew tapioca and pumpkin tapioca. I have some variations of my own swirling around in my head, so expect to see those recipes soon. This is my take on coconut tapioca. This pairs perfectly with sweet fresh mangoes. It has a Thai feel and reminds me of the popular Thai dessert, mango sticky rice. Of course, this would pair nicely with any fresh fruit. You could even add toasted coconut or shaved chocolate. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Growing up, my mom always used tapioca granules. But recently, I have found tapioca pearls. They come in large and small pearls. They give a lot more texture to the dessert than the granules do. With the small pearls, you need to soak them for a couple of hours to help them soften when cooking. The large pearls need to be soaked overnight. I typically use the small pearl for my tapioca desserts. But this recipe will work well with either; you’ll just need to soak the large pearl tapioca longer.
Any fresh fruit will pair nicely with this tapioca, but mango, in my opinion, is the best! There is just something about mango and coconut that goes together so perfectly. To get the best mangoes, it is best to buy them in season, which is the summer months here in Hawaii. Buying locally grown will ensure you are getting the sweetest, freshest, and best-tasting mangoes! If fresh mangoes are hard to come by where you live, you could use frozen. You will have a softer texture than if you were using fresh and frozen will have a slightly less sweet taste, but it’ll work.
For this recipe:
In a small bowl, soak the tapioca in a can of coconut milk. Stir it well to incorporate the coconut solids with the liquids. There is no need to refrigerate; just let it sit on the counter, stirring it occasionally. I found 3 hours to be enough time to get the tapioca pearls soft enough to cook up quickly.
After the tapioca has sat in the coconut milk for 3 hours, pour all the contents into a medium saucepan. Add to the tapioca, milk, salt, sugar, and egg yolks and heat on medium heat, stirring frequently. You do not want to bring the mixture to a boil because you risk scalding your milk. You want it to be steaming and to see movement in the saucepan, but not a boil. Once you reach a simmer, turn it down to a low simmer (medium-low heat), and let it simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, continuing to stir constantly. It will begin to thicken as the eggs cook and tapioca absorbs more of the liquid.
After 10 minutes, you’ll want to check that your tapioca pearls are soft and no longer chewy. Take a small amount in a spoon, be careful because it will be very hot, and taste to check that it is done. You do not want your tapioca balls to be chewy or tough. If you need to cook it longer, cook for an additional 5 minutes and check again, repeat until done. If your tapioca is taking longer than 20 minutes, make sure you haven’t turned the temperature down too much.
Once the tapioca is done, remove it from the heat. Let the tapioca cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your egg whites. With a handheld beater, beat the egg whites with 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks are peaks that do not collapse when you lift your beater (turn it off before lifting it). This should only take a couple of minutes. Add the coconut extract and gently fold the egg whites into the tapioca.
You can serve the tapioca warm or chill it in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Top with mango or fruit of your choice and enjoy!!
Coconut Tapioca Pudding
- 1 cup small pearl tapioca, not granulated or quick cooking
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 cups milk
- ¾ cup granulated sugar + ½ tablespoon (for egg whites)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 eggs yolk,
- 2 teaspoons coconut extract (or instead you can use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
- mango or other fresh fruit
- shredded or shaved coconut, toasted, (see notes) (optional)
- Shaved chocolate (optional)
- In a small bowl, soak 1 cup small tapioca pearls in one can of coconut milk. Stir and let sit on the kitchen counter for 3 hours (no need to refrigerate), stirring occasionally.
- After letting the tapioca soak, pour it into a medium saucepan. Add to the tapioca mixture, 2 cups of milk, ¾ cup sugar, salt, and egg yolk. Heat on medium heat, stirring frequently to keep milk from scalding. Once the tapioca mixture is simmering (do not boil), turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly to keep milk from scalding.
- Carefully taste-test the tapioca to be sure the pearls are soft and no longer chewy. If the tapioca pearls are still chewy, cook for an additional 5 minutes and check again. When the tapioca is done, remove it from the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes.
- While the tapioca is cooling, beat the egg whites with 1 tablespoon sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Stir the coconut extract into the tapioca and gently fold in the egg whites until completely incorporated.
- Serve warm or chilled for 4 hours in the refrigerator. To serve, divide tapioca into individual bowls and top with fresh mango or fresh fruit of your choice. Garnish with toasted coconut or shredded chocolate (optional).
How to toast coconut in a skillet:
In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, toast coconut until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes.
How to toast coconut in the oven:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden and fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 to 10 minutes.