Chilled Tapioca Pearls with Sweet Coconut & Melon

Tapioca Pearls with Sweet Coconut and Melon Recipe

Looking back through my blog stats, this is by far the most popular recipe searched. There aren’t a lot of Chinese cookbooks that feature this recipe, I wonder why? Its such a beautiful, exotic dessert. This is a recipe from my Mom – she used to serve this in the summer time to cool off. Usually its made with honeydew, but the cantelope was on sale, ripe and smelled so fresh! This isn’t a very well-known dessert in Asian American restaurants, but it can be found in dim-sum eateries in Hong Kong as a perfect ending to a meal. We served this as dessert after our Korean BBQ feast. It was just the right dessert to enjoy to cool us down after all the smoky heat of BBQ.

Tapioca Pearls with Sweet Coconut and Melon Recipe Tapioca


Tapioca Pearls with Sweet Coconut & Melon

Servings: Serves 8 Prep Time: Cook Time:

Notes: Do not combine the melon and the coconut milk until just before serving. Storing the honeydew and the coconut milk together in the same container makes the melon bitter. Do not overcook the pearls. If you are using the small sized pearls, follow the recipe exactly above and make sure you rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. If you use larger pearls, cook for a little longer time, maybe 30 seconds more, taste it and adjust time. Use full fat coconut milk. I rarely use lite because its just not worth it. Save your calories on something else, but not the coconut milk! I also get my coconut milk at an Asian market. I've tried other brands at regular supermarkets, but they never are as full flavored, thick and rich as the Thai brands. The brand that I consistently reach for is "Chaokoh."Tapioca pearls come in different sizes - I like using small size pearls, it goes really nicely with finely diced honeydew or cantaloupe.


3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup 1mm small dried tapioca pearls
1 cup whole milk
2 cups full fat coconut milk
2 cups 1/2 inch diced melon (honeydew or cantaloupe)


In a medium sized pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil. When boiling, turn the heat to low and stir in the milk. When the mixture returns to a boil, turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Make sure that you are not boiling the coconut milk (which would make it oily) Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Soak tapioca pearls in cold water for 20 minutes. The pearls will expand and turn bright white. Drain. In a medium pot, add about a quart of water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, add the drained tapioca pearls and stir constantly for 1 1/2 minutes. Immediately drain in fine mesh sieve and run cold water through the sieve to stop the tapioca pearls from cooking further. Combine with the coconut milk mixture and continue to chill in refrigerator. You can prepare everything above up to 3 days in advance.

To serve, ladle the sweet coconut milk with tapioca into a bowl and add a big spoonful of diced, fresh melon.

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Comments 29

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  3. Carolyn A. Collmer

    I would love to try your tapioca in coconut cream but in the recipe you say to boil the water and suger and I don’t see any in the recipe. How much water and sugar do you start with?

  4. SteamyKitchen

    Caroyln: Hey Carolyn,

    oops – there were some missing line breaks in the recipe.

    2 cups coconut milk (full fat) 3 cups water
    1 1/2 cups sugar Fruit: honeydew or cantelope, diced small

    should have been

    2 cups coconut milk (full fat)
    3 cups water
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    Fruit: honeydew or cantelope, diced small

    Just fixed it!
    thanks, jaden

  5. mooki

    There are other asian variations for this dessert but just as delicious!
    Instead of the melons, you can add in bananas or jackfruit πŸ™‚

    I grew up with the bananas πŸ˜€ such a comfort dessert dish

  6. Christina

    thanks so much! i made it today and its perfect! except for the fact that i over boiled the pearls or did something wrong. πŸ™‚

    with small tapioca pearls, it’s easy to overcook. follow directions on the package! when in doubt, shave off 1 minute from cooking time – if still need more cooking, just let steep in hot water for a couple of minutes. ~jaden

  7. Melanie

    Thank you so much for posting this! I was specifically looking for this recipe! Thre is a Chinese buffet we got o that has this and it is by far and away my favorite! How funny is it that I bought this brand of coconut milk at the Asian market before seeing your site! The only problem I have is that the bag of tapioca pearls I bought does not have any instructions to it!

  8. Charlie

    Nice post, just found your site recently. I’ve made this before, but i use taro instead. Will try the reduced time in cooking the tapioca since I seem to overcook it. However, how do you tell if the pearls are cooked? Thanks

    The color of the tapioca should be clear, not opaque. Also just take a spoonful and try it. ~jaden

  9. Rosalind

    There was a Thai restaurant I always went to in Taiwan that served this, but with mango and papaya pieces instead of melon. I was looking for this recipe because I loved that dessert. Thanks!

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  11. Kutsuwamushi

    I’ve been looking for desserts that I can make with tapioca other than pudding! I love tapioca.

    This sounds like it would be delicious with other fresh, summer fruit as well, like strawberries.

  12. Penelope

    Fantastic recipe! had mine with jackfruit. the coconut milk you recommended was superb. only thing was that i over cooked the tapioca a little bit.. but the coconut milk breaks it up once altogether.
    thanks so much for the recipe. definately comfort food!!

  13. jlee

    I made a huge batch of this for a book club after we read a book about China. The soup was delicious! The only thing I did wrong was not scoop the pearls off the bottom of the pot where they had gravitated so the servings were lacking in an abundance of the wonderful tapioca!

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  15. Khadija

    Hi, I am new to your blog and must say I am enjoying it a lot!
    I love, love tapioca. I usually have it with litchi. It tastes gorgeous, and even though it has all that cream, it is a very refreshing dessert.Mmmmmmm…..

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  17. Heather

    One of our friends made this recipe for a gaming night and we loved it! I have access to a wonderful Chinese market with all sorts of tapioca, but I had a question on if the recipe could be made using “minute” tapioca, which is much more common in big chain grocery stores. I have some of this type leftover from other recipes and was curious if I could substitute it for the tapioca in this recipe. My gut is saying that it wouldn’t work as well, but I was curious if it was possible or if anyone had ever tried this substitution.

  18. shama

    What would you recommend to make this dairy-free?
    Just water sounds too lackluster, but more coconut milk might be too heavy. I had something similar to this recently, served with chopped strawberries and lilikoi (passion fruit) puree. Delicious.

  19. Linda

    Sounds so good I am going to try it. Also when I was a kid (long time ago) we
    used to get what looked like tapioca squares. Looked like the tapioca was soaked, maybe then kneaded, put in a square pan and then steamed. It was chilled and slightly sweet and cut in squares. Do you know about this dessert?

  20. Linda

    Thanks for your reply. I guess I had better get to town and order some. I also would like to try to make it at home. If you know how to make it I would love to have you share. I am going to experiment and try to duplicate it at home. Love your site.

  21. Richa

    i made this today by following the recipe exactly but it is too runny ????? What is the right consistency for this dessert?

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  24. Titania

    Hi, I just recently came across your recipe and decided to try it out! I’m making this as a dessert for a dinner I am going to, so I was wondering how many servings does this recipe make?

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