Do tapioca pearls expire?

In this article, we answer the following questions: Do tapioca pearls expire? Does tapioca flour expire? Are tapioca pearls healthy and can one use them after they expire? We explain the benefits of tapioca pearls and why they are so unique.

Do tapioca pearls expire?

Tapioca pearls can and do expire, usually after 9 or 12 months after their production date, depending on the manufacturer. If you have opened a package of tapioca pearls but only used part of it, it is best to put the rest into a plastic bag and make sure to seal it well, and they should last for a fairly long time. Cooked tapioca pearls should be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of 48 hours. 

China is the world leading importer of cassava products, importing an estimated 9.5 million tonnes of flour and starch and also accounted for 63% world share of cassava import value in 2017. African countries were not among the leading importing and exporting countries while Asia led both the import and export cassava market with 72% and 73% contributions respectively (1).

Tapioca pearls are small balls that, like the tapioca that we traditionally know, are white and hard, but with a spherical shape, and when cooked they become transparent and gelatinous. 

Tapioca pearls are pearls formed in spherical shape and are a mixture of gelatinized and un-gelatinized starch produced by heat-moisture treatment. Even though there is no standardized procedure in making tapioca pearls, the current methods in practice have some common steps, which can be generalized as, moistening the starch up to 50% moisture and then giving a mechanical shaking to form sphere shapes. The spherical shaped starch is then undergone with a two-step heating where it is roasted in a rotary dryer at about 200-300°C and then cooled and again undergoes a secondary drying of 50-60°C before packing. The final product is a fine pearl, which is fragile when given a little force. And when the product is cooked, it acquires a transparent, chewy, gel like nature (2).

This tapioca format has been the most popular in Asian cuisine, and in the West, it is widely used in creative cuisine, because it provides a different texture, because it absorbs flavors and, among other things, due to its attractiveness, pearls from Japan are a tasty dish.

Tapioca is a very old food that is once again having a presence in many dishes, we are not talking about home cooking (surely in many homes it is consumed regularly), but about professional cooking, we find dishes with tapioca from the hands of many cooks, particularly in one of its formats, tapioca pearls, also known as pearls from Japan.

Tapioca pearls can adapt their color depending on what it is cooked with, so it can often be reminiscent of salmon roe or spheric false caviar, saving in preparation time and money, since tapioca is cheaper. You already know that tapioca is the starch of yucca, also known as cassava for cassava, the root of a tropical plant of the Euphorbiaceae family (Manihot esculenta).

Unlike tapioca in small granules that we can find in any supermarket, tapioca pearls or pearls from Japan are still not very easy to find, with online commerce it is easier, they have specialized stores and those dedicated to the sale of Sector of the restoration.

How long does boba last? 

The shelf life of boba or tapioca pearls primarily depends on whether they are cooked or uncooked. For uncooked boba, it is better to leave them in the packing that they came in. Simple refrigeration is not recommended when it comes to storing bobas. Place them in a simple syrup and then refrigerate. Bobas stored this way can last for 72 hours.

However, when pasteurized and kept under refrigeration, boba has an increased shelf life. In a study, tapioca pearls were pasteurized at 100°C for many minutes, pressurized for 30 minutes and added with calcium chloride, a preservative. The calculated shelf life of the product was 1 year at T<10°C (3). In another study, tapioca pearls were boiled at 100°C for many minutes and then thermally treated in the microwave, which increased its shelf life to 30 days in the refrigerator (2).

How long do tapioca pearls last?

An unopened packet/bag of tapioca pearls can last from 6 months to 1 year in the pantry (4). Remember that you should always store the tapioca pearls in a cool dry place in the pantry. Avoid storage in the refrigerator as it is not recommended.

Does tapioca powder Expire?

Tapioca powder (flour) can last quite a long time. All starches and flours usually will have a long shelf life, about 6 to 12 months, if kept in a dark and cool place, such as your pantry (4). In any case, you can always check the tapioca powder before using it. Does it still smell good? Does it look odd? Your senses are the best in determining whether the tapioca powder is still good to use. 

However, the shelf life strongly depends on the initial microbial count of the processed product, on the packaging material and storage conditions. According to studies, the average estimated shelf life of tapioca flour packed in LDPE polyethylene bags was in the range of 3-4 months at ambient temperature (5).

Can you still use tapioca pearls to pass the expiration date?

You can still eat tapioca pearls after they expire and most likely nothing bad will happen. However, in time, the pearls will become less absorbent and lose their nutritional value (6). 

Are tapioca pearls healthy?

As a starch, tapioca is more appreciated than corn or wheat because its flavor is more neutral, so it goes without saying that it has no limitations when combining with different ingredients, both sweet and savory, these will be the ones that add flavor to some balls with a gelatinous and melting texture.

Another positive value of this food is its nutrient content, mainly carbohydrates, it is energetic but contains hardly any fat. It also does not contain gluten, so it is appropriate for the diet of people with celiac disease. However, there have been alerts about the finding of traces of gluten in some brands of tapioca, due to cross-contamination (8), so you will always have to check what you buy. According to studies, tapioca pearls contain 1.43% protein, 0.96% fat, 0.2% fiber and 79.35% carbohydrates (2).

Although as we mentioned, tapioca pearls or Asian pearls are often used as a complement to a dish, their use is just as versatile as tapioca semolina, it is a thickener and can be consumed in soups, creams, puddings, cakes, drinks … There is a very popular one known as Bubble Tea. It is a Taiwanese drink that can be made with different types of teas, fruit, milk, syrup … and incorporates some tapioca pearls. 

Does Bubble tea expire?

Bubble tea is best consumed fresh, and it can expire or go bad in just a few days. 

Bubble tea is a mixture of tea with fruit juice, milk, or yogurt, whose main hallmark is flavored tapioca balls (also known as tapioca pearls), which are submerged in the bottom of the drink. These balls are flavored with different jellies, sugars, or sweeteners and give the mixture a very particular flavor. Normally, boba milk tea shops will use instant boba which they make it daily and keep it with sucrose syrup to prolong shelf life but normally fresh making can be kept at most for two days because after this boba will lose its quality due to swelling and retrogradation. A study showed that using modified starch for the production of the pearls and storage of the boba pearls in syrup increased its shelf life to 4 days (7).

After 24 hours, the tapioca pearls in a bubble tea acquire a hard center and this may potentially cause digestive issues. This is why it’s best to consume it as soon as possible and prepare only enough tea to drink in a few hours.

The bottom line

In this article, we answered the following questions: Do tapioca pearls expire? Does tapioca flour expire? Are tapioca pearls healthy and can one use them after they expire? We explained the benefits of tapioca pearls and why they are so unique.

The expiration date of tapioca pearls is usually written on the package, Although it is safe to use them for a longer period of time, tapioca pearls do expire and we do not encourage consuming them out of date, as they can cause digestive issues.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

Other FAQs about Tapioca Pearls that you may be interested in.

What can I substitute for quick-cooking tapioca?


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  2. Bulathgama, Ashani Uthpala, et al. Development of Commercial Tapioca Pearls used in Bubble Tea by Microwave Heat–Moisture Treatment in Cassava Starch Modification. Euro J Eng Technol Res, 2020, 5, 103-106.
  3. Liu, Y., H. Cheng, and D. Wu. Preparation of the Orange Flavoured Boba” Ball in Milk Tea and Its Shelf-Life. Adv Food Process, 2021, 11, 143.  
  4. FoodKeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. Lestari, Dianika, Elvina Yessica, and M. T. A. P. Kresnowati. Shelf-life evaluation of packaged fermented cassava flour. Bandung Institute of Technology, 2019.
  6. Minch, D. Home storage of foods: shelf storage. The State University of New Jersey. 2020.
  7. Ratasrisomboon, Nutsinee. The effect of modified starch onto the quality of Tapioca pearl under low temperature storage in sucrose syrup. 2016. SCHOOL OF BIOTECNOLOGY, ASSUMPTION UNIVERSITY.
  8. Farage, Priscila, et al. Gluten contamination in gluten-free bakery products: A risk for coeliac disease patients. Public health nutr, 2017, 20, 413-416.