What is tapioca? Tapioca is a starch extract derived from the root of the cassava plant, native to South America but now grown throughout many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. This unique extract offers a very low level of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It is also a rich source of dietary fiber, “good” cholesterol, and protein. Furthermore, tapioca contains key vitamins and minerals essential for optimal health. Outside of all its health properties, the most glorious benefit of tapioca is that with just a little effort, it turns into an easy-to-make and satisfying dessert.
In the summertime, sometimes you are not in the mood for cakes, pies, and other heavier desserts, and instead crave a treat that is cooling. Look no further! This light vegan tapioca dish serves up toasty coconut flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. It is also easy to dress up with a variety of toppings—I recommend fresh fruit as a healthful option. We all deserve to enjoy desserts! The key is to be mindful to enjoy sweets in moderation.
Vegan Tapioca Pudding
3 cups water
Pinch of sea salt
1 (2–inch) vanilla bean OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup tapioca pearls
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 to 2 cups organic coconut milk
- In a small saucepan, bring water and sea salt to a boil. In the meantime, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, and use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds. Save the outside of the bean and the seeds and set aside.
- When water is heated, pour in the tapioca pearls. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir often, for approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
- The pearls will start to change color, and the liquid will become slightly gelatinous. When this point is reached, pour in coconut sugar and vanilla bean or extract. Stir for approximately 1 minute.
- Add the coconut milk, and stir. Let this mixture simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the tapioca pearls from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- When completed, pour the pudding into a long, flat dish such as a Pyrex or a hotel pan. A bowl will also work just fine. Refrigerate partially covered with plastic wrap, until fully cooled.
- Serve topped with your favorite toppings—sky’s the limit!
Stir the tapioca pearls in water often with a rubber spatula to avoid sticking. Look for the pearls to begin to become translucent—this is a sign they are softening. Eventually they will no longer be white in the middle, and will work as a thickener, creating a gelatinous quality.
One of the most valuable mineral contributions of tapioca is iron. Iron is an essential trace mineral that transports oxygen in red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, aiding energy and endurance.
The tapioca root, also called manioc, yuca, and manihot depending on where you are in the world, is a natural gluten-free food. It is often used as thickening agent instead of wheat-based fillers.