Try This Mango Coconut Tapioca Pudding for an Easy, Make-Ahead Dessert

A recipe for tapioca pudding, excerpted from the cookbook Sabai by Pailin Chongchitnant

I wanted to create a mango-coconut dessert that’s faster to make than mango and sticky rice. One day, after seeing the tapioca-mango dessert cups that are always sold at my local Chinese supermarket, I got this idea. Tiny tapioca pearls are folded into a silky coconut cream and topped with fresh, juicy mango. It’s the same flavor combination as mango and sticky rice, yet a vastly different eating experience. Tapioca pearls lose their soft chewy texture after many hours in the fridge, so this isn’t something you want to make too far ahead, but they’re so quick that you can prep the coconut cream in advance and cook the pearls while people are digesting dinner!

But before we get to the recipe, a note about working with tapioca:  “My tapioca pearls turned into mush in the water!” This has been the cry of far too many people, and I know exactly what has happened when they tell me this. They add the tapioca to room temperature water and bring it to a boil, like you would do with rice. This is understandable, since tapioca pearls kind of remind you of rice, right? So I need to stress the number one rule when working with tapioca pearls: do not add them to anything other than fully boiling liquid.

This makes sense once you understand what tapioca pearls actually are: simply tapioca starch that has been clumped together into tiny balls, similar to the way old cornstarch can get clumpy in the bag. So, if you put them in not-hot-enough water, they will just dissolve. But when they go into boiling water, the outside instantly gels up, creating a shell that holds the inside together while it cooks through.

(Related: Super Simple Vanilla Chia Pudding with Berries)

Mango Coconut Tapioca Pudding

Pudding Sakoo Mamuang Sohd | พุดดิ้งสาคูมะม่วงสด

Serves 4 to 6
Cooking Time : 30 minutes


  • 1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
  • 1 pandan leaf, tied into a knot (optional; see note below )
  • 5 to 7 tablespoons (62 to 75 g) finely chopped palm or granulated sugar (see note)
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) table salt
  • 2 tablespoons (15 g) rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
  • ½ cup (85 g) small tapioca pearls
  • ½ cup (10 g) julienned young coconut meat, fresh or canned
  • 2 to 3 sweet ripe mangoes, cut in ½-inch (1.2 cm) cubes


Bring at least 6 cups (1.5 L) water to a full boil over high heat to cook the tapioca pearls. Make the coconut cream by placing the coconut milk and pandan leaf in a small pot and bringing the milk to a boil over medium heat. Add the sugar and salt; stir until dissolved.

Dissolve the rice flour in the water, then pour it into the coconut milk while you stir with a rubber spatula. Keep stirring constantly until the coconut milk returns to a boil and the mixture has thickened. Remove the coconut cream from the heat, discard the pandan leaf, and let cool.

Sprinkle the tapioca pearls into the boiling water and stir until the water returns to a boil. Then stop stirring and let them boil for 12 to 13 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a small bowl of cold water to check doneness.

Check the doneness of the pearls by putting a small amount into the cold water. The pearls are done when any white centers remaining in the pearls look no larger than a tiny dot.

Drain the pearls through a metal fine-mesh sieve and run cold water through them until completely cool. Shake off excess water and transfer to a mixing bowl. If you’re not ready to serve, you can leave them at room temperature, covered, for up to 4 hours. For the best texture, it’s better to not refrigerate them.

To assemble, stir the coconut cream (it can be warm, room temperature, or cold) and the young coconut meat into the pearls, mixing well. You can taste the pudding with a piece of mango and add more sugar and/or salt as needed, depending on the sweetness and tartness of the mangoes.

Spoon into a small serving bowl and top with a generous helping of mango pieces. Serve within 30 minutes of mixing. The tapioca pearls will continue to absorb moisture from the cream as they sit, so the longer they sit, the less soft and creamy the texture will be. If you have any leftovers, you can store them in the fridge, but the texture will not be as good the next day.


If not using pandan leaf, use palm sugar instead of granulated sugar for added flavor.

If the mango is very sweet, use less sugar, and vice versa. Also, if you’re serving right after assembly, use less sugar, as the sugar will not have had time to absorb into the pearls and the dish will taste sweeter than if it had.

Make sure you use the tiny tapioca pearls that are no larger than 1/16 inch (2 mm) in diameter; they’re available in white or a mix of pink, green, and white.

Do-ahead: You can make the coconut cream in advance and either keep it at room temperature for up to 8 hours or refrigerate it for up to 3 days.

Tapioca pearls can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance and left at room temperature.

Sabai Cover

Excerpted from Sabai by Pailin Chongchitnant. Copyright © 2023 Pailin Chongchitnant. Photographs by Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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Originally Published in Best Health Canada