If you love the texture of bubble tea, you will love tapioca pudding, creamy with a unique texture, Postre de Tapioca con Coco is a comforting yet exotic tasting dish. It is definitely not the tapioca you had at school!
The stuff that children’s worst nightmares are made of, tapioca has had a bad press almost certainly since it was first invented.
Honestly though, it won’t bite.
My mother refers to it as slime, frog spawn or slimy frog spawn. It is an old fashioned Tom Brown’s School Days type pudding that seems to send people spiralling back into a yawning nightmarish chasm of overcooked cabbage, watered down ketchup, grey, gristly mince and teachers standing over you whilst you finished every scrap of foul tasting food.
Fortunately for me, whilst I too suffered the indignation of degrading school dinners, I wasn’t exposed to tapioca so it has no horrible connotations for me. Therefore, I was quite excited to prepare tapioca after seeing a delicious looking recipe in the Latin American Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard.
I have always had a rather strange desire to try these tiny, dazzlingly white spheres. I couldn’t possibly imagine what could be so disagreeable about them. What I was interested to discover was that Tapioca is not, as I originally thought, a grain, but in fact reconstituted, processed cassava root (and if that fact doesn’t make it seem all the more appetising, then I don’t know what will!). Tapioca and cassava are extremely popular in India and Latin America where they is used as a root vegetable, thickener or served as a sweet dessert. It is most commonly served in boba or bubble tea, the globes of tapioca offering a startling and delicious contrast to the tea.
The recipe in Luard’s book is called Postre de Tapioca con Coco which makes it sound infinitely more romantic and appetising than tapioca pudding. The little pearls are simmered gently, immersed in a creamy bath of canned coconut milk and sugar and then served chilled. I altered the recipe slightly by adding a little cinnamon, some freshly grated nutmeg, vanilla sugar and a few drops of coconut extract. I also added cream and milk to the dish and a knob of vegan butter for added enrichment. My final South Sea-esque flourish was mango puree.
I am not generally a fan of tinned fruit, with the exception of tinned plums which are great in a cake, but I was hugely impressed by the Natco mango puree. I remember reading a recipe for mango Bellini – apparently the celebratory drink du jour of the mid noughties – and being aghast at the price of £5.00 for the puree alone, which came in swish silver sachets.
For more than half this price, you can buy a huge tin of this slightly sweetened mango puree, use some today, some tomorrow and freeze the rest to make a delicious sorbet. Or just eat it straight out of the tin. You can also make smoothies with it too.
The Postre de Tapioca con Coco would make a fun dessert to serve at a dinner party; it would be interesting to see the general opinion of tapioca change rapidly as they taste this heavenly concoction, which is comfortingly creamy but redolently spicy too. The mango puree cuts through the richness perfectly, although you could use fresh mango or any other tropical fruits, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit or even some poached pears, plums or apples to make it a delicious wintry pudding.
What is Cassava Root and Tapioca?
The root of the Cassava plant is usually cooked up and used instead of potatoes. It is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin C, although it can’t be consumed raw as it contains cyanide. Once cooked or processed though, it has a myriad of uses, from treating hypertension and irritable bowel syndrome to being ground into flour. The bitter juice is turned into a thick syrup called cassareep and the leaves are pounded up and used in meat stews (called, rather fittingly, palavers). But, until we can buy cassava root in its most natural form in the supermarkets over here, we must satisfy ourselves with tapioca.
- tapioca pearls, dried. Mine are quite small, and they do come in different sizes, but don’t use the ones for bubble tea!
- canned coconut milk
- plant-based cream and milk of your choice
- vanilla sugar
- cinnamon and nutmeg
See recipe card for quantities.
In a jug, whisk together the creams, milk and vanilla extract
Place the whisked creams, cinnamon, sugar and tapioca pearls into a heavy bottom pan over very low heat
Simmer gently for an hour, or until the tapioca is soft, but not mushy. Taste for sugar. I like to beat in a little butter to make it extraordinarily velvety.
Serve either warm or chilled in glasses, topped with mango puree or fresh fruit of you choice
Hint: make sure to use a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring regularly to ensure the tapioca doesn’t stick.
- Mango puree – if you are concerned about the sugar content in pre-made fruit puree, please feel free to use some freshly sliced mango instead
- Sugar – use your favourite sugar alternative to sweeten this dish
- Fruit – if you don’t like mango, feel free to use any fruit you like, some fresh raspberries or blueberries would be delicious!
- Spices – try adding dried or candied ginger instead of the cinnamon
Store the cooked tapioca in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
You can freeze the cooked and cooled tapioca pudding in an airtight container for up to 3 months, thawing overnight in the fridge, before serving at room temperature.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Postre de Tapioca Con Coco
- 125 g Tapioca
- 400 ml coconut milk canned
- 200 ml soy milk
- 200 ml single cream vegan
- Pinch Cinnamon
- Grating of fresh nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons Vanilla Sugar or more to taste, regular sugar is OK too
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 tsp Butter vegan, optional
- ½ cup Mango puree I used Natcos own brand, or fruit of your choice.
- In a large heavy based saucepan, pour the milk, cream and coconut milk mixture, the tapioca and the sugar. Mix well.
- Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.
- Gently simmer over a very low heat for about an hour or until the tapioca is soft to the tongue but still retains its shape.
- Taste and add more sugar if required.
- The original recipe suggests leaving this to chill but I preferred it warm. Serve in glasses or bowls with Mango puree or the fruit of your choice.
- Enjoy and forget all your childhood nightmares….