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Homemade Boba {Zhen Zhu} for Bubble Tea

Superfood Boba for Bubble Tea

by Shirley
Published: Updated:
homemade boba recipe for bubble tea

Homemade Boba {波霸} using superfood arrowroot flour is easy and healthy. They are perfect for iconic Taiwanese style bubble tea {Zhen Zhu Nai Cha 珍珠奶茶}.

homemade Boba {zhen zhu pearl} recipe for bubble tea

What is Boba {波霸}?

Boba usually is referred to as “Zhen Zhu” which means “pearl” in Mandarin Chinese. They are semi-sweet pearl-shaped chewy mini balls, similar in size to Shanghai-style Red Bean Xiao Yuan Zi {红豆小圆子}. Unlike Xiao Yuan Zi, which literally translates as mini rounds by the way, which is made of water-milled sweet rice flour, Boba is made from starch.

The traditional starch to make Boba is tapioca, which is a starch from the roots of the cassava plant. Since I have access to the superfood arrowroot four, I just use arrowroot flour instead. Needless to say, tapioca and arrowroot flour behave very similarly as a food starch.

homemade boba for bubble tea

How to make Boba at home?

At a high simplistic level, it takes three steps to make boba {Bo Ba or Zhen Zhu} at home.

The first thing first is to make a stretchy translucent “food glue”

Whisk a small quantity of arrowroot flour, traditional Chinese black sugar, and water in a hard anodized small frying pan until smooth. Turn the heat to medium and nonstop whisking until it starts to become translucent and stretchy. This takes about 1 minute and 20 seconds or so. Turn off the heat immediately and continue to whisk and let the residual heat turn the whole thing into a stretchy translucent “food glue”.

how to make boba part 1

The second step is to form a soft dough and roll mini rounds out of it

Remove the arrowroot glue to a dough mat, and fold additional arrowroot flour into the “glue” by chopping the glue up using a stainless steel dough cutter and mixing it with the arrowroot flour. Continue to do so until you can form a consistent soft dough. Now the dough is ready for rolling the mini rounds {Yuan Zi 圆子}.

To do that, work on a small portion of dough at a time. Knead it from all directions to ensure it has a consistent stretchy texture before rolling it out into a long skinny spindle. Then nip a small portion of the “spindle”, just enough to roll into the mini rounds. Use both hands to roll them into mini rounds.

By the way, if you prefer larger boba, then nip a relatively larger portion. If you prefer using a straw for the bubble tea, then the diameter of the boba should be smaller than that of the straw.

how to make boba part 2/3

Last but not least is to cook the Boba

Fill a large 8-Q stockpot with water, about 80% full, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a boil. Then add the boba mini rounds into the boiling water. Use a stainless steel spider strainer to separate them and wait until all mini rounds are floating to the top. This is a good indication that they are almost fully cooked.

Following that, turn the heat to simmer and cook for another 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat, use the strainer to fetch the boba, and add them to a large bowl with iced water. Rinse well and then fetch and store them in glassware.

how to make boba part 3/3

Homemade Boba Helpful Tips & Tricks

What is the homemade boba’s color come from? How to make a darker-colored boba?

The color of the boba is coming from the sugar used to make the boba. Traditionally we use the Chinese old-fashioned hand-made black sugar, which has a deep dark pigment I also use it to make brown sugar rice cake.

Handmade Black Sugar

What kind of starch can I use to make homemade Boba for bubble tea?

Traditionally people use tapioca. Mainly tapioca is widely available in Southeast Asia. However, if you have access to arrowroot flour, as I do, you can absolutely use superfood arrowroot flour to make homemade boba. Tapioca and arrowroot flour have very similar physical properties.

How to effectively roll homemade boba using both hands?

Ultimately it is the friction between hands that is the driving force to roll the boba. In order to have enough friction, your hands can’t be super smooth. This is tricky because you are handling this super silky feel arrowroot flour. The trick is to use a tiny bit of water to dampen the palms to create a tacky texture.

How to store homemade boba?

As you roll out the boba mini rounds and place them onto a plate, sprinkle with a tiny bit of arrowroot flour and then roll to ensure the bobo is covered with a thin layer of arrowroot flour. This way, they will not stick to the plate or to each other.

homemade boba recipe for bubble tea

Homemade Boba {Zhen Zhu} Recipe {Easy Yummy Superfood}

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 42 minutes

Homemade Boba {波霸} using superfood arrowroot flour is easy and healthy. They are perfect for iconic Taiwanese Style bubble tea {Zhen Zhu Nai Cha 珍珠奶茶}.

Ingredients

  • 45 g arrowroot flour, or tapioca flour
  • 20 g traditional Chinese black sugar, or dark brown sugar
  • 35 g water0o

Instructions

  • Add 12 g arrowroot flour, the black sugar, and water in a small hard anodized fry pan, and whisk to blend everything.
    whisk black sugar, water and arrowroot flour until blended
  • Turn the heat to medium and nonstop whisking until it starts to become translucent and stretchy. This takes about 1 minute and 20 seconds or so. Turn off the heat immediately and continue to whisk and let the residual heat turn the whole thing into a stretchy translucent “food glue”.
    heat while whisking the arrowrrot flour, black sugar and water mixture until it turns into translucent "glue" looking
  • Remove the arrowroot glue to a dough mat, and fold additional arrowroot flour into the “glue” by chopping the glue up using a stainless steel dough cutter and mixing it with the arrowroot flour.
    place the sugary arrowroot flour "glue" on the dough mat
    fold the arrowroot flour into the sugary arrowroot glue
  • Continue to do so until you can form a consistent soft dough. Now the dough is ready for rolling the mini rounds {Yuan Zi 圆子}.
    arrowroot flour dough with sugar arrowroot glue integrated
  • Work on a small portion of dough at a time. Knead it from all directions to ensure it has a consistent stretchy texture before rolling it out into a long skinny spindle. 
    roll a small portion of stretchy arrowroot floor dough into a skinny cylinder
  • Nip a small portion of the “spindle”, just enough to roll into the mini rounds.
    nip small portions of the stretchy arrowroot flour skinny cylinder
  • Use both hands to roll them into mini rounds. I usually do 4 at a time. If your hands are too dry and smoothy. Dab with a tiny bit of water, and rub between the palms to create that tackiness in order to effectively roll the mini balls between hands.
    roll boba between hands
  • As you roll the dough and roll out the skinny cylinder, whenever you feel the dough is too sticky, then sprinkle the arrowroot flour to smooth it out.
  • After you have made a batch of boba and placed them on a plate, sprinkle some arrowroot flour, and roll them back and forth to ensure all boba is covered with a thin layer of arrowroot flour. This way they do not stick together and to the plate.
    freshly rolled boba on the plate
  • Continue until you have done making all boba.
  • Fill a large 8-Q stockpot with water, about 80% full, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a boil. Then add the boba mini rounds into the boiling water. Use a stainless steel spider strainer to separate them and wait until all mini rounds are floating to the top. This is a good indication that they are almost fully cooked.
    cook boba in boiling water in a large stockpot
  • Turn the heat to simmer and cook for another 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat, use the strainer to fetch the boba, and add them to a large bowl with iced water. Rinse well and then fetch and store them in glassware.
    rinse freshly cooked boba in iced water quickly
  • All done! Store the boba in glassware in the refrigerator and use it for your bubble tea.
    homemade boba for bubble tea

Notes

  • The color of the boba is coming from the sugar used to make the boba. Traditionally we use the Chinese old-fashioned hand-made black sugar, which has a deep dark pigment I also use it to make brown sugar rice cake.
  • Ultimately it is the friction between hands that is the driving force to roll the boba. In order to have enough friction, your hands can’t be super smooth. This is tricky because you are handling this super silky feel arrowroot flour. The trick is to use a tiny bit of water to dampen the palms to create a tacky texture.
  • As you roll out the boba mini rounds and place them onto a plate, sprinkle with a tiny bit of arrowroot flour and then roll to ensure the bobo is covered with a thin layer of arrowroot flour. This way, they will not stick to the plate or to each other.

Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 86Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 2mgCarbohydrates 21gFiber 0gSugar 5gProtein 0g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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