Tapioca-Coconut Delight

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

In this delicious cross between a custard and a pudding, cooked tapioca is topped with a layer of creamy coconut-milk custard. The contrast between the soft chewiness of the tapioca and the smoothness of the custard is a pleasure. With 3 tablespoons sugar, the pudding is sweet but not intensely so; you may prefer to use 4 tablespoons sugar. I like to mix white and green tapioca pearls so the tapioca layer is bright green. Use the regular ones, not the big pearls that are used for bubble tea.

Serve this chilled in small bowls as dessert or as a sweet treat. Top each serving with slices of mango or peach if you wish.



  • 3 cups water
  • ¾ cup regular tapioca pearls (white, colored, or a mixture)
  • About ½ cup hot water, or as needed
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup sugar


  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour
  • 1 cup thick canned or fresh coconut milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract


Pour the 3 cups water into a wide pot and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in the tapioca and bring back to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a strong simmer and cook, half-covered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add water if the pan starts to run dry; I usually have to add between ¼ and ½ cup hot water at this point. Add the salt and continue to simmer until the tapioca is tender, another 5 minutes or so.

Add the sugar and stir well, then cook for a few minutes more. Pour into a 7-inch square cake pan or an 8-inch pie plate that is at least 2½ inches deep. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until firm.

Whisk the egg yolks well, add the sugar, and whisk again. Sift the flour into the coconut milk and stir to make a smooth paste, add the vanilla extract, then add to the eggs and whisk or stir until you have a smooth batter.

Transfer to the top of a double boiler and cook, stirring frequently, until smooth and thick, 5 to 10 minutes (if the custard starts to clump, lift the pot away from the heat, toss in an ice cube, and stir, then resume cooking and stirring over lower heat). Pour the custard on top of the tapioca and smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes, then refrigerate. Serve chilled on its own or with fresh fruit.