Warm Tapioca Pudding with Rhubarb

July 1, 2013

My dad gave me a second small batch of rhubarb last week, but it wasn’t enough to make the rhubarb crème brûlée I’ve been eyeing, which uses 2 pounds. This tapioca pudding recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook only calls for half a pound, which left me enough to make a small batch of rhubarb fool too. :)

The first unusual thing I noticed about this recipe was that the tapioca is cooked in water, not milk. Any time I’ve made tapioca in the past, it’s made like a custard and the tapioca is cooked in the hot milk before slowly adding eggs. This recipe has no eggs and the only dairy is ¼ cup of half-and-half! There is also very little sugar in the tapioca itself as most of it is used to sweeten the rhubarb. Finally, this is served warm, so it is much looser than a chilled pudding.

At first I wasn’t sure how much I liked the way this pudding turned out, but it grew on me after a few more bites. :) The rhubarb topping has a nice peppery kick to it and the texture of the warm tapioca was really interesting. Definitely not a kid-friendly dessert as it’s not very sweet overall, but it would be perfect for an elegant and light dessert to serve after a heavier dinner party. I think the rhubarb topping would also be tasty on top of a chilled tapioca custard pudding if you’d prefer to stay a bit more traditional.

Warm tapioca pudding with rhubarb

Serves 4


  • 8⅓ cups water
  • 1/3 cup plus 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
  • 2/3 cup pearl (preferably 1/8- to 3/16-inch) tapioca (not quick cooking)
  • 1/2 pound rhubarb stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced (1¾ cups)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine 8 cups water, 3 tablespoons sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Add tapioca in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer briskly, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tapioca is almost completely translucent, 35 to 50 minutes, depending on size of tapioca.
  2. Meanwhile, combine 1¼ cups rhubarb, ⅓ cup sugar, pinch of salt, pepper, and remaining ⅓ cup water in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is just tender, about 8 minutes.
  3. Purée rhubarb mixture in a food processor until smooth (or use a stick blender if you have one because there’s less risk of burning yourself with hot rhubarb). Reserve ¼ cup, and return remainder to saucepan. Stir in remaining ½ cup raw rhubarb and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, transfer to small bowl, and set saucepan aside.
  4. Drain tapioca in a sieve and transfer to 2-quart saucepan that rhubarb mixture was previously in. Stir in half-and-half, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla, and reserved ¼ cup rhubarb purée and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly.
  5. Divide tapioca among 4 dessert bowls and top with rhubarb. Serve warm.

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