Top | Puddings, Custards, and Other Dairy Desserts

Tapioca Pudding

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)

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A children's classic, this soft dessert can be flavored in a variety of different ways. You can use any kind of milk, but whole milk tastes best.


  1. ½ cup small-pearl tapioca (not instant)
  2. 1 cup hot water
  3. 2 cups milk
  4. 1 egg, beaten
  5. ⅓ to ½ cup sugar
  6. Pinch of salt
  7. 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract or ½ vanilla bean, split, scraped, and sliced into 1-inch chunks


  1. Put the tapioca pearls into a saucepan and pour the hot water over them. Swirl to distribute the water evenly. (If using the vanilla bean, stir in all the seeds as well as the chunks of pod.) Let soak for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on pearl size, until the pearls have visibly swelled and softened. (The longer you can let the pearls soak — up to an hour or so — the softer and more delicate they'll be in the finished pudding.)
  2. Stir in the milk, egg, sugar, and salt. Stirring frequently, cook the pudding over medium-low heat until the pearls have become mostly translucent and the mixture has thickened considerably. Remove from heat. If using vanilla extract, stir in the extract.
  3. Scrape the pudding into a single large dish or individual serving bowls. Serve warm or chilled.


If you like, serve the pudding topped with fresh soft fruit, such as berries, bananas, or peaches. A bit of freshly grated nutmeg and/or chopped nuts is also nice. For adults, try stirring in a slug of brandy at the end before pouring the pudding into bowls. For an Indian-flavored dessert, replace the vanilla bean with 8 green cardamom pods. Serve with freshly chopped pistachio nuts on top. For a tropical treat, use 1 cup milk and 1 cup coconut milk. Add shredded coconut and mango chunks if desired. You can use instant tapioca instead of regular tapioca; just omit the water-soaking stage. For fluffier pudding, separate the egg. Cook the yolk along with the rest of the pudding. While the pudding cools slightly, whip the egg white (add a pinch of salt to help it firm up) until soft peaks form. Fold the cooked pudding into the whipped egg white.