Growing up, tapioca pudding was the only dessert my dad had up his sleeve, and lucky for me, it was always delicious. On Sunday nights after dinner he’d disappear into the kitchen for a while and return with steaming bowls of vanilla-flecked pudding for my brothers and me. Little did we know how easy it was to make. Simply soak tapioca pearls in milk, then gently simmer the mixture with egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla seeds until it’s thick, with soft but pleasantly chewy tapioca bits.
What to buy: Pearl tapioca is made by passing moistened cassava starch through a strainer to create spheres in a wide range of sizes, with the small pearls being the most popular. Do not confuse them with instant tapioca pearls, which have been cracked or flaked, then cooked and dried—instant will not yield the same results. You can find pearl tapioca in the baking or ethnic aisle of most well-stocked grocery stores.
- Yields: 4 to 6 servings
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 1 hr 35 mins
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup small-pearl tapioca (not instant)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- Place 1 cup of the milk and the tapioca pearls in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Let the pearls soak uncovered at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Add the remaining 2 cups of milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla seeds, and salt and stir to combine. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture just comes to a simmer, about 10 minutes (do not let the mixture boil). Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture thickens and the tapioca pearls are softened and translucent, about 15 minutes. Serve warm (the pudding will thicken as it cools). Place any leftovers in a bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to keep a skin from forming, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.