This sweet and refreshing taro boba milk tea (芋頭珍珠奶) is an easy-to-make treat comprised of taro root, tapioca pearls, and milk. Not only is this purple beverage Instagram-able, but it’s also creamy, perfectly textured with QQ boba, and easily customized to your preferences. No tea is actually necessary for this version of bubble tea - just the unique flavors of fresh taro!
what is taro boba milk tea?
Taro boba milk tea is a Taiwanese treat that actually directly translates to “taro pearl milk” or “taro milk” because there’s traditionally no tea in it. Nowadays, with the rising popularity of bubble tea, I’ve seen “tea” added to the English name. Those who are not of Taiwanese heritage see the tapioca pearls and assume all boba drinks include tea.
However, this recipe is so creamy and milky that it could almost be described as a taro boba milk latte. The earthy flavors of the taro root pair perfectly with the fattiness in the milk, and then the sweet boba mixture adds a boost of flavor and texture to the drink.
Served hot or iced, this beverage can be enjoyed year-round!
why I love this taiwanese drink?
Childhood memories are such a strong source of inspiration for me, and this recipe is no exception. It was inspired by one of my favorite drinks at Yi Fang, a Taiwanese tea shop, where one sip of their drink transported me back to the old-fashioned drinks I remember from my childhood in Taiwan.
With fresh taro, this recipe tastes pretty close to their Fresh Taro Latte with added pearls.
You can enjoy this drink with an easy no-cook snack or fully immerse yourself in Taiwanese cuisine with stir-fried rice noodles, called chhá bí hún (chao mi fen).
Another Taiwanese drink I love is watermelon milk (this version is a lactose-intolerant-friendly recipe too). For something cozy, you might want ginger lemon honey tea.
- fresh taro - Look for already peeled and packaged fresh taro at your local Asian grocery store like 99 Ranch Market. Get it delivered through Weee! (affiliate link) or Instacart. Additional taro powder can be used in a pinch if you can't find fresh taro, but it’ll taste more “artificial” than fresh.
- taro powder - To get the lovely purple color, you’ll need to add taro powder. This drink will still taste amazing without it though, so don’t fret if you can’t find any. Most taro powder sold in stores also contains other ingredients like sugar and milk powder (or non-dairy creamer), so make sure to check the ingredient list. This taro powder (affiliate link) actually has freeze-dried taro in it. Otherwise, the taro powder from Nuts.com adds a creamy taro flavor too.
- milk - Dairy milk is usually used for this drink, but I personally prefer oat milk (especially if you’re lactose intolerant like me). Oat milk (affiliate link) tastes amazing with this recipe.
- tapioca pearls (boba) - I use these tapioca pearls because they come dry and can be stored for up to a year. I measure out what I need for each recipe so no pearl goes to waste.
- light brown sugar - For adding sweetness to the boba mixture.
- sugar - To sweeten the taro root milk mixture.
See recipe card for quantities.
Taro boba or milk tea will not taste the same without fresh taro. That’s why the best Taiwanese tea shops use fresh taro in this drink.
Taro powder is used in taro smoothies with boba (tapioca pearls), sometimes called “taro snow ice” at boba shops.
- fresh taro - if you cannot find fresh taro, use additional taro powder to get a similar taro scent and creamy flavor.
- taro powder - If you have fresh taro, you don’t necessarily need taro powder other than for that lovely purple hue that store-bought taro milk has. If you’re intending to make this recipe vegan, check the ingredient list on your store-bought taro powder because it can include added sugar and milk powder. I use this taro powder.
- milk - Your favorite milk or plant-based milk of choice will work with this recipe. I like it with oat milk (which makes this recipe vegan) even though it’s traditionally made with cow's milk.
I’m going to go through each step in detail below, including step-by-step photos of how to cut the taro. In a hurry? You can jump straight to the printable recipe if you like.
Start by cooking the boba/tapioca pearls.
Bring four cups of water to a boil and add the tapioca pearls. Keep stirring to make sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the pearls are no longer opaque in the center (about 45 minutes). Cook time will vary based on the brand (check the package for specific times).
Check halfway through to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated – add more water if needed.
While the tapioca pearls are cooking, prepare the taro mix (instructions below).
Strain the tapioca pearls through a fine-mesh strainer, rinse with water, and transfer to a small mixing bowl. Add light brown sugar and stir to combine
Set your cooked tapioca pearls aside until you're ready to assemble. Note: fully cooked boba/pearls should look translucent throughout.
Prepare a large steamer with water and heat over medium heat. While the water is heating up, prepare the taro.
Begin by slicing the taro root into ¼-inch thick slices.
Then, cut those slices into ¼-inch this strips.
Line up the strips for easy chopping.
Chop the taro root strips into ¼-inch cubes.
Place fresh taro cubes in a heat-proof mixing bowl or container to steam.
Steam the fresh taro over medium-low heat just until soft (about 10 minutes). A cake tester or pairing knife should pierce through like cold butter.
The taro shouldn’t be too soft here since it will continue to cook once taken out of the steamer.
Blend 1½ cups of steamed taro cubes, ½ cup milk of choice, sugar, taro powder if using (or substitute with up to 1 teaspoon of additional sugar, to taste), and ¼ cup filtered water. Blend until smooth.
Optional based on preference: Transfer ½ cup of steamed taro cubes to a small bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Reserve the rest of the taro cubes for serving.
pro tip: cutting the taro into small pieces makes the steaming process a lot quicker. The reason why we're cutting it into ¼-inch cubes is so you can easily slurp the taro bits through a boba straw (affiliate link).
- added sweetness - The sweetness of this recipe is similar to ordering 30% sugar in the bubble tea shops. Feel free to add more sugar to the blended taro mix to taste, starting with ¼ teaspoon at a time. You can also add more light brown sugar to the cooked tapioca pearls if you'd like.
- serve it hot - Boba drinks are just a refresher on a hot day. Enjoy this drink hot when you’re looking to warm up from the inside out.
- kid friendly - Omit the boba for younger kids since they may be a choking hazard. Instead, you can use small sago pearls.
- add tea - While this traditional recipe doesn’t include tea, you can add something like jasmine tea.
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- You’ll need boba straws that are wider to fully enjoy this drink. If you don’t have boba straws on hand, you can scoop the tapioca pearls and taro cubes out with a long spoon while you’re sipping. It’s a drink and a snack!
- I use this 1.5 ct stainless steel saucepan.
- I use the LiveFresh fine mesh strainer for straining the cooked boba.
- Large steamer
- I have the Vitamix 780, but any blender will do.
- Measuring cups and spoons.
- Mixing Bowls - I use these Pyrex bowls.
- Large glasses
Cooked tapioca (boba) pearls should be used right away. Once refrigerated, they will harden and the texture will be slightly mushy (rather than having that satisfying QQ bite) after reheating.
The taro can be cooked one day in advance and refrigerated. Alternatively, you can steam the small cubes for 8 minutes, allow them to fully cool, and then freeze in an airtight container.
Already mashed taro can also be frozen in ice cube trays or Souper cubes, then transferred to a sealed container/bag when frozen solid, and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When ready to use, reheat in a steamer or microwave and you can enjoy taro milk anytime!
💭 top tip
Freeze your steamed fresh taro cubes to have them ready to defrost when you get a craving for taro boba milk. I freeze the cubed and mashed taro in Souper Cubes Cookie Trays (affiliate link) for perfect single portions – then you can enjoy taro boba milk anytime!
You can find fresh taro at local Taiwanese and Korean grocery stores like 99 Ranch Market, H Mart, Japanese grocery stores such as Mitsuwa, Marukai, Uwajimaya, or online at Weee! (affiliate link).
Fresh taro doesn’t look purple at first glance. It’s a light grey or white, with flecks of lavender color when you cut into it. However, once you cook it and process it it may turn more purple. That's why taro powder is a fun addition to the fresh taro - it enhances the purple color.
If you would like to include tea, jasmine green tea may work but it will overpower the taro flavor that’s loved in this drink. You can replace the water with equal parts jasmine tea. If using jasmine tea, make sure to only seep the tea leaves in 180°F water for a maximum of 3 minutes.
🍵 more taiwanese drinks
Feeling nostalgic for other Taiwanese drinks? Give these a try:
These are my favorite dishes to serve with taro boba:
👨🍳 COOKING WITH KIDS
What can kid chefs help with?
- help with straining the tapioca pearls, rinsing them with water, and sprinkling sugar on top
- measuring out the milk of your choice
- mashing steamed taro if you don’t blend it
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Happy cooking! ~ Cin
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Please give this recipe a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ if you make it. I would love to hear from you! If you have any questions at all, let me know in the comments below.
taro boba milk tea 芋頭奶茶 (Taiwanese taro bubble tea)
cook the tapioca pearls (boba)
- ½ cup tapioca pearls (black) uncooked, about 2½ ounces (71 grams)
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
make the taro mix
- 10 ounces peeled taro cut into small ¼-inch cubes (can substitute with 1 tablespoon taro powder)
- ½ cup milk of choice traditionally made with dairy, whole milk, but it tastes great with oat milk
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon taro root powder mix can substitute with 1 teaspoon additional sugar
- ¼ cup water
serve taro milk tea
- Ice to serve for cold; can be served hot
- ¼ cup milk of choice divided
*The Instacart button above is an affiliate link, which means we do make a small profit from your purchases (your price is not affected by this commission).
cook the boba / tapioca pearls
- Bring the 4 cups of water to boil in a small (1.5 quart) saucepan.4 cups water
- Add the tapioca pearls, stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot, cover, and cook over medium-low heat until the pearls are no longer opaque in the center (about 45 minutes). Cook time will vary based on the brand (check the package for specific times). Check halfway through to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated – add more water if needed.½ cup tapioca pearls (black)
- In the meantime, prepare the taro mix.
- Strain the tapioca pearls through a fine-mesh strainer, rinse with water, and transfer to a small mixing bowl. Add light brown sugar and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to assemble.1 teaspoon light brown sugar
make the taro mix
- While the tapioca pearls are cooking, add water to a large steamer and steam taro cubes over medium-low heat just until soft (about 10 minutes). A cake tester or pairing knife should pierce through like cold butter. The taro shouldn’t be too soft here since it will continue to cook once taken out of the steamer.10 ounces peeled taro
- In a blender, add 1½ cups of steamed taro cubes, ½ cup milk of choice, sugar, taro powder if using (or substitute with up to 1 teaspoon of additional sugar, to taste), and ¼ cup filtered water. Blend until smooth.½ cup milk of choice, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 tablespoon taro root powder mix, ¼ cup water
- Optional based on preference: Transfer ½ cup of steamed taro cubes to a small bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Reserve the rest of the taro cubes for serving.
serve taro boba milk tea
- In two large glasses, add tapioca pearls, remaining steamed taro cubes, optional mashed taro, ice cubes, and blended taro mix. Top each cup with your milk of choice and serve with a boba straw.Ice to serve, ¼ cup milk of choice
equipment and highlighted ingredients
🌡️ food safety
- Wash hands before touching ready-to-eat items (steamed taro and cooked tapioca pearls)
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
share your thoughts below. let's chat at the kitchen table: