Bubble (Boba) Shakes

Last weekend I taught a Vietnamese Street Food class. It was such a fun time and I wanted to share another item we prepared. Being that it's Friday and I like ending the week on a sweet note, it was only fitting to share these Bubble (Boba) Shakes! Fresh fruit gets a fun whirl with ice and a touch of fruit juice before being poured over mini pearl tapioca 'bubbles' and served with a fat straw in a tall glass...

If you've never heard of or even tasted a bubble shake, you need to this summer! Bubble shakes are known for the tapioca balls that sit at the bottom of the glass beneath a blend of fresh fruit, fruit juice and ice. The fun thing about this drink is slurping the tapioca balls up through a fat straw and chewing the tapioca balls. It's quite a texture shock at first but after you get used to chewing and slurping, it's quite fun and delicious too. So let's first talk about the bubbles, or boba. Boba are the tapioca balls that are quite important in this recipe. Typical boba used in these shakes are large and require roughly 30-45 minutes of boiling in water plus an additional 30-34 minutes of steeping to cook through. They become tough and chewy upon coming in contact with cold liquid so they are quite temperamental too.
I personally don't like the big tapioca balls - it's just too chewy for my tastes - so instead, I use mini tapioca pearls. These are much smaller, they cook and steep for a shorter amount of time and because they are small, they don't have as much of a chewy texture. To me, they are more like little bubbles in my fruit shake. I tend to purchase small tapioca pearls at Asian markets since they are relatively cheaper but if you don't have an Asian market in your area, you can try some health food stores or even online. A more mainstream brand that carries small pearl tapioca is Bob's Red Mill.

Now these small tapioca pearls are deceiving in that you can make quite a bit with a small amount. For a 1/4 cup of small tapioca pearls, you'll need 5-6 cups of water. Upon cooking through, it will yield about 2 cups of small tapioca pearls.

The next part of making bubble shakes is the fruit and juices. For my class, I made a boba bar of sorts, providing prepared small tapioca pearls, bowls of fresh fruit (canteloupe, mango, pineapple and strawberries), some concentrated fruit purees (coconut, banana, cherry), fruit juices (pineapple, fruit punch, orange) all to encourage trying different flavor combinations, a large container of ice and a few hand blenders.

This was not only easier for me, but so much fun for students to really customize their shakes. Essentially, it's just a matter of making a fresh fruit shake and pouring it over your cooked tapioca pearls set in the bottom of your serving glass!

These bubble/boba shakes are a favorite at our house during the summer because it's a great way to use the seasonal fruits. You can also omit using ice and use frozen fruit instead. The key is to blend the fruit to your preference and combine it with the tapioca. Now some folks think the tapioca is mixed in the blender with the fruit. This is not the case - when the tapioca comes into contact with something cold, it immediately seizes or firms up,making it tough to blend smoothly. It's best to only combine the tapioca and fruit shake just before serving.

So if you're looking for a new way to use those summer fruits ( or any fruit for that matter) and need a new twist to your usual fruit shakes and smoothies, add some bubbles and make it fun! At home, we recently concocted this boba shake which includes frozen strawberries and it's juice, frozen pineapple, and some POM pomegranate coconut juice. It was a delicious, tropical shake that went perfectly with our bubbles!

In fact, to help encourage you to make some boba shakes or just enjoy fruit juices, POM Wonderful and I have partnered up and I'm hosting a giveaway to a lucky reader! One lucky reader will receive a one-month supply of POM Wonderful's 100% Juice Blends (2 bottles of each 48oz variety and 2 bottles of each 12oz variety) as well as a POM insulated tote. Now that is one easy way to get your boba drink on! If you would like a chance to receive this giveaway, leave a comment here or on our Facebook page... and a winner will be randomly chosen on Friday, July 25th!

Bubble (Boba) Shakes

For boba:
1/4 cup small pearl tapioca
5-6 cups water

For shake:
1/2 cup fresh fruit of your choice
1/4 cup fruit juice of your choice
1/4 cup ice cubes

For the boba, add water to a large pot set over high heat. Cover and let it come to a boil. Add tapioca, stir and cover. Continue to boil tapioca on high heat for 25-30 minutes. Uncover, stir and remove from heat. Cover once again and let tapioca steep for 10-15 minutes. Transfer tapioca to a fine mesh strainer and drain while running cold water over the tapioca to cool completely. Place tapioca into a sealed container and add water to cover. Seal and set aside. The tapioca will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week if covered with water. 

For the shake, add fruit, juice and ice to your blender or hand blender container. Blend until smooth. 

To serve, place 1-2 tablespoons of tapioca into the bottom of a tall glass. Pour fruit shake into the glass and serve immediately with a large, wide straw (big enough for tapioca to be slurped through.)

The tapioca will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week if covered with water. 


  1. man, I love boba! Why haven't I tried making it myself? You make it look so easy! Yum!

  2. This looks fabulous. My kids love tapioca drinks so we are trying this over the weekend :-)