When my friend Ruby tossed me the plastic baggie filled with pearl tapioca from the bulk bin at WinCo and asked me if I knew how to use it, I immediately knew that my next blog post would be about homemade tapioca pudding.
You might have noticed that I haven’t been writing much lately and the truth is that I still don’t feel much like cooking or writing. But today is a good day to talk about tapioca pudding because today is my Uncle Jim’s birthday and he loved tapioca pudding.
We lost my uncle a month ago, suddenly and unexpectedly, to complications due to a cancer we hadn’t known about long enough to even accept that it had arrived.
When I found out about my uncle, I was in transition between San Diego and Fresno. I have been in the middle of a huge move, a huge life change. I am going through a divorce and have moved back to Fresno alone.
I’m starting over. I’m terrified and excited and sad. But no matter what I’m going through or how I ended up in Fresno when I did, I’m glad to be here with my family during this tough time. I need them and they need me. We’re all still reeling.
So here I am, in the place where I grew up, in the place I never imagined I’d return to, unpacking boxes, sorting through emotions, trying to find my way home. And I just haven’t felt much like writing about food. And there hasn’t been much need for cooking as we’ve all been well-supplied with food in the past weeks thanks to generous friends and family.
But when I stopped by Ruby’s house on the way back from my last trip to San Diego and she pulled out that bag of tapioca, I knew that I would be making homemade tapioca pudding this week.
I need comfort. I need to cook. I need this place to feel like home. And as I said, it’s my uncle Jim’s birthday. I don’t know how to play golf or ride a motorcycle (either of which would have been his way to celebrate), but I can certainly make tapioca pudding from scratch.
This version of homemade tapioca pudding is based on a recipe I found in The Gourmet Cookbook. I made some changes, including using vanilla bean instead of extract and adding finely grated lemon zest. The flavors are perfect together.
As you’ll see from the ingredients list, this is a rich and decadent tapioca pudding. It’s well worth the 25 minutes you’ll stand in front of the stove stirring. Trust me.
For this pudding you need to use small pearl tapioca, not instant tapioca.
When making tapioca pudding, it is important to stir constantly (not vigorously—a slow, gentle stir is fine) and cook at a low temperature to avoid scorching. Using a thick-bottomed heavy pot is also helpful, but as long as you keep the heat low enough and keep the mixture moving, the pudding should turn out fine.
Although this version of tapioca pudding feels very grown-up with the vanilla bean and lemon zest, it will please kids and adults alike—just ask Ruby’s daughters, Emma and Abby!
Around the Web:
- Tapioca Pudding from Simply Recipes
- Tapioca Pudding from 101 Cookbooks
- Red Tapioca Pudding from The Perfect Pantry
- CrockPot Tapioca Pudding from A Year of Slow Cooking