Creamy Coconut-Lime Tapioca "Custard" with Mango

Creamy Coconut-Lime Tapioca "Custard" with Mango

I love cool, creamy desserts in summertime.  Unfortunately, ice cream doesn't pack up well for picnics in the park, nor do other frozen treats, and traditional pudding just doesn't seem like picnic blanket food.  

I first tasted tapioca at a friend's house as a kiddo in New York.  The Grandma, who hailed from China, presented me with a dish of silky, pearl-colored tapioca flecked with something green and bright.  I have no idea what is was, but it was floral and light and lovely and as you can tell, very memorable.

My re-introduction to tapioca came via the boba tea craze, where tapioca pearls are set to float in sugary-sweet drinks.  I can't really claim to love these overly sweetened, artificially colored concoctions, and my first taste of one left - well, a bad taste.  But I remembered that beautiful treat from childhood and set out to learn how to make it myself.

Here is a creamy, coconu-ty tapioca with fresh, juicy mango.  It is simple to make and easy to pack for picnics - just place in 8-oz. mason jars, seal tight, and place in a cooler or in a picnic basket with ice packs.  This tapioca pudding will stay silky and fresh for only about 5 hours before it turns gummy, so finish it up the day you plan to serve it.

This dish requires letting the tapioca set for at least 6 hours, so plan accordingly.

Serves 4


2 c. whole milk

One can of unsweetened coconut milk (13.5 oz.)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 lime leaf (Lime leaves can be found in the herb/produce aisle at Whole Foods)

1/2 cup small pearl tapioca

1/3 c. honey

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped

pinch of fine kosher salt

2 c. diced, fresh mango

zest of 1 lime


1.  Combine the milk, coconut milk, lime leaf, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan.  Bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat, then stir in the tapioca.  Put the temperature on low and cook gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tapioca are soft and translucent.

2.  Remove the tapioca from the heat.  Remove and discard the lime leaf.   Stir in the honey, scraped vanilla bean seeds, and salt.  Spoon all of the tapioca mixture into a medium-sized bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.

3.  Gently fold half of the mango into the tapioca.  Spoon the tapioca pudding into dessert bowls or small mason jars.  Top with the rest of the mango and sprinkle each with a little bit of the lime zest.  Serve immediately or pack up for your picnic!