Tropical Thai Coconut-Tapioca Pudding

Mango and tapioca pearls
TailorTang/Moment Open/Getty Images
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings

This coconut-tapioca pudding recipe is a quick and easy dessert to prepare. Not only is it delicious and good for you, but it is also vegan and gluten-free.

Tapioca comes from the cassava plant. It is a root vegetable, not a grain, which is why it's gluten-free. It is nutritious enough that many Southeast Asians lived on it during World War II when food was scarce. Tapioca contains folate (one of the important B vitamins) and small amounts of healthy fatty acids. This means you can enjoy your dessert guilt-free. 


  • 1/2 cup/4 ounces tapioca (seed or Asian pearl tapioca)
  • 3 cups water (divided)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (13.5 ounces) can coconut milk (or "lite" coconut milk)
  • Garnish: table syrup (or maple syrup to serve)
  • Optional: 1 fresh mango (sliced)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a medium bowl, cover tapioca with 1 cup water.

  3. Let soak for 15 to 20 minutes or until the granules expand slightly. Avoid over-soaking or the tapioca will not be able to hold its shape.

  4. Pour off excess water.

  5. In a pot with a lid, combine tapioca, salt, and the remaining 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat.

  6. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding a little more water if necessary to prevent tapioca from bubbling and "spitting."

  7. When the tapioca turns soft and a little gooey, turn off the heat and place the lid on tight. Let it sit at least 10 minutes. The residual heat inside the tapioca will finish turning all of the seeds soft and translucent.

  8. Remove the lid and allow the tapioca to cool on the stovetop.

  9. Cover it again and refrigerate until it's cold; it will thicken and gel together.

  10. To serve, scoop about 1/4 cup or more of the cold tapioca per person and place in serving glasses or bowls.

  11. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup coconut milk over each portion and stir to mix. This pudding should be on the runny side and you will have to stir it well to distribute the tapioca.

  12. Add a little syrup to each portion (about 1 tablespoon or to taste). Each person can add more according to their preferred sweetness.

  13. Add slices of fresh mango or any tropical fresh fruit, if desired.


  • When buying tapioca, look for the "seed" type of tapioca. It can be found in the baking aisle of most supermarkets. You also can use pearl tapioca, which is often available at Asian grocery stores. Avoid "minute tapioca" which is basically tapioca starch (powder). If you happen to buy the larger pearls, they will take longer to cook and may require more water.
  • Use runny coconut milk for this dish. To test a can, shake it. If you can hear liquid sloshing around, it will work. For an even lighter dessert, use "lite" coconut milk.

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