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Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding

Old-fashioned desserts have come back into vogue as people try to keep family traditions and recipes alive. And with just one spoonful of this sweet, ultra-creamy vanilla pudding studded with tapioca pearls you’ll swear your grandmother is right there with you making it.

This vintage dessert, made with large tapioca pearls and vanilla bean paste, is perfect as is. But for a dessert like no other, and to draw in any tapioca skeptics, layer the creamy pudding with caramel sauce, peanuts, and chopped candy bars. It couldn’t be easier to make. Start by soaking tapioca pearls in milk overnight. This does two things: It softens the pearls, cutting down on their cooking time, and it releases starch into the milk, which, along with the egg yolks, thickens this silky pudding perfectly. Eat it as the purists do. Or, do you need some convincing to try this texturally intriguing pudding? Layer it with the flavors of a Snickers bar — it may just make you a tapioca convert.


10 servings

Total Time

45 minutes + soaking & chilling

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Test Kitchen Tip

Tapioca is a starch that’s extracted from the root of the cassava (also called yuca, manioc, and Brazilian arrowroot). Though tapioca is available in many forms, pearls are the most common shape.


Soak tapioca in milk in a saucepan, covered and refrigerated, overnight.

Heat tapioca and milk over medium until tapioca is tender, about 20 minutes. (Milk mixture will be steamy, but not simmering.) Reduce heat to low.

Whisk together yolks, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and salt in a bowl until smooth, then temper in 1 cup tapioca-milk mixture; slowly whisk back into pan. Increase heat to medium-low, and cook pudding until thickened, 2023 minutes. (Pudding should not simmer.)

Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath with a bowl set inside.

Transfer pudding to prepared bowl set in ice water bath; stir occasionally until pudding is cool. Press plastic wrap over surface of pudding, then chill until cold, at least 4 hours.


Soak the tapioca overnight to reduce the cooking time, and to allow it to release starches into the milk, which help thicken the pudding.


Temper, or slowly warm, the yolks by drizzling some of the steaming milk mixture into them, while whisking, which prevents them from scrambling.


Overheating the pudding can cause it to curdle, so don’t allow it to simmer. Then, to ensure the creamiest pudding, pour it into a bowl set over an ice water bath to stop the cooking once it’s thickened.

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