Tapioca pearls are an extremely common ingredient that can be found throughout many East Asian countries and in different Asian dishes. If you are thinking of cooking with tapioca pearls, making drinks with tapioca pearls, or simply trying them for the first time, you may be wondering if they are edible at all.
The truth is that, yes, tapioca pearls are, indeed, quite edible. Tapioca pearls may appear as if they are a non-food item at first glance, but they are simply made up of starch from the cassava root, which is used in many dishes today. You can find tapioca pearls in many different dishes as well as sweet drinks, making it one of the most versatile ingredients to come from the East that has made its way to the West quite popularly.
What Are Tapioca Pearls Made Of?
Essentially, tapioca pearls are the starch that comes directly from the cassava root. Oftentimes, tapioca pears are boiled root starch that has been mixed with a variety of ingredients, including sugar water. These chewy pearls are a delight in many dishes and drinks across the East and West.
It is important to note that although original tapioca pearls were strictly starch derived from the cassava root, today, most pearls are made with a combination of ingredients: corn starch, sugar, sweet potato starch, and cassava starch can be found in mass-produced tapioca pearls on the market.
Are There Any Benefits to Eating Tapioca Pearls?
Actually, yes. Depending on where you source your tapioca pearls from and the ingredients used in the pearls, there are a few notable benefits to eating tapioca pearls, including:
- Lower in calories: Most tapioca pearls come in at just 60 calories per serving. This makes them optimal additives for beverages or as a snack on their own, depending on how you prefer to consume tapioca pearls. Regardless, tapioca pearls are typically considered a classically low-calorie snack, whether they are eaten in a dish or in a beverage.
- Hunger satisfaction: You may be surprised to discover that consuming edible tapioca pearls can be quite satisfying, especially if you are hungry. These can be optimal snacks for those who are watching their weight or even for those who are following a diet that is lower in carbohydrates.
- Great source of fiber: Surprisingly, tapioca pearls are also a good source of fiber. The level of fiber contained in tapioca pearls is significant enough to help reduce blood sugar levels and high cholesterol in some.
- May reduce additional health risks: Because natural tapioca pearls have the power to lower sugar levels and manage insulin resistance, there are many hypotheses that tapioca pearls may also reduce the risk of long-term heart disease and unexpected cancers.
What Do Tapioca Pearls Taste Like?
If you have ever eaten anything from the cassava plant, you may have some inkling about what tapioca pearls taste like. Tapioca pearl flavor will vary depending on how they are prepared and what types of drinks or dishes they are used in.
For example, in most Boba Tea drinks, tapioca pearls are added for a chewy and sweet addition. However, there are also plenty of East Asian dishes that include tapioca pearls for a more subtle and savory taste.
What Do Tapioca Pearls Look Like?
The white pearl-shaped starch balls typically range between 1 and 3 millimeters each (in total) and come in many different colors. Oftentimes, however, tapioca pearls are white, brown, or black (this will change depending on the processing method used).
How Can I Use Tapioca Pearls When Cooking and/or Baking?
Tapioca pearls, because they are strictly starch, are extremely versatile, whether you are cooking or baking in the kitchen. A few ways to consider putting tapioca pearls to use whenever you have them in your own pantry might include:
- For baking recipes: Obviously, tapioca pearls are known for making beverages such as Boba Teas, but did you know you could also bake with them? You can use tapioca pearls to create your very own grain-free bread, flatbread, or even almond bread, depending on your preferences.
- Beverages: One of the most popular teas to create with the use of tapioca pearls includes Boba Tea. Boba Tea can be made with pearls for a slightly sweet, chewy addition to any tea, regardless of the tea’s original flavor.
- Pudding: If you’re a fan of the texture and taste of tapioca pearls, it is also possible to use them to create unique puddings with a brand-new texture.
- Binding agent: Using tapioca pearls as a binding agent is also possible, whether you are creating a homemade pizza, or meatloaf, or if you are baking a loaf of bread from scratch.
- Thickening agent: Tapioca pearls also create thickening agents when you are making soups and sauces.
Is It Safe to Eat and/or Consume Tapioca Pearls?
Yes, it is absolutely safe to consume and digest tapioca pearls, especially when they are derived from a safe and organic source. In some cases, however, additives may be found in some tapioca pearls, which can be upsetting to one’s digestive system, especially for those with sensitive stomachs.
Do Tapioca Pearls Ever Expire?
Yes, in fact, they do. However, it’s important to note that most shelf-life stable tapioca pearls can last up to two whole years before needing to be tossed in the garbage.
If you are using organic tapioca starch, however, (with minimal additives and preservatives), you can store the starch for 6 to 12 months in an unopened container.
How Long Do Tapioca Pearls Last After They Have Been Cooked?
After you have cooked your tapioca pearls, it is best to consume them within 8 to 10 hours. This will help to ensure that the tapioca pearls remain as fresh and healthy as possible. This also minimizes the risk of unnecessary bacteria growing or contaminating the pearls.
Do I Need to Refrigerate Uncooked Tapioca Pearls?
Actually, no. There is no need to store any uncooked tapioca pearls you have in your pantry in the refrigerator (so long as they are shelf-stable).