Want to make popping boba at home? We have recipes for making bursting boba with Gatorade and also a recipe for popping boba beads using Sodium Alginate.
Whether you call them popping boba, bursting boba, bursting bubbles, juice balls, or popping bubbles, everyone seems to love Boba.
If you’ve visited a frozen yogurt shop, Boba is the edible gel beads you kids go crazy for or the beads in drinks like “Boba Tea” or “Bubble Tea,” and we are going to show you how to make popping boba at home.
You can make Boba pearls at home with simple ingredients and call it a fun science experiment.
What is Boba?
Boba is liquid-filled bubbles of fruit-flavored juices that pop in your mouth when consumed.
The cooking technique in cooking is actually called molecular gastronomy.
It’s food science that investigates the chemical and physical transformation of ingredients that occur in cooking.
Typically, Boba is made with a mixture of fruit juice (without calcium) mixed with powdered sodium alginate, then dripped in a cold calcium chloride mixture.
Today’s Best Recipe has Balsamic Popping Boba instructions to show boba isn’t just for a bubble tea drink!
Where does Boba Come From?
Taiwan is the innovator of traditional Boba.
In Taiwan, it’s zhenzhu naicha (珍珠奶茶). It’s called Q or QQ and is found in tea shops.
Boba’s exact origins are up for debate.
One legend says Hanlin Tea Room, a tea shop in Tainan was the creator.
The Legend of Lin Hsui-Hui:
Another legend gives credit to a Chun Shui Tang employee, Lin Hsiu-hui.
In the early 1980s, Liu Han Chieh owned a Taichung tea shop, Chun Shui Tang, where cold tea was served.
The company’s product manager, Lin Hsiu Hui, a few years later, attended a staff meeting and plopped tapioca balls into her iced tea–and the rest is, well, history.
Where Does Boba Get Its Name?
While people take sides on who created it, the origin of the name “boba” is agreed on.
Amy Yip, a Hong Kong sex symbol in the 1980s, her nickname is “Boba,” (it’s Chinese slang for her famous pair of body assets).
Cold Oil Spherification and Sodium Alginate Spherification:
For the primary recipe, we are going to use ingredients that you can find easily at a grocery store: vegetable oil, Gatorade, and agar powder (found in the Asian food section or on Amazon).
We also share a recipe for Popping Boba Beads using Sodium Alginate, which offers a more varied flavor medium, as explained below.
Cold Oil Boba Beads Method
Boba Beads Ingredients?
Cold Oil Popping Boba:
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Gatorade
1/2 teaspoon Agar Powder
How is Popping Boba Made?
Pour 1 cup vegetable oil into a glass and place in the freezer for 40-minutes.
In a medium saucepan, combine Gatorade and agar powder.
Over medium-high heat, bring Gatorade and agar powder mixture to a boil while stirring.
Pour Gatorade mixtures into a heatproof bowl and cool for 20-minutes.
Take the oil out of the freezer.
Fill a dropper with the Gatorade mixture and squirt it into the oil.
As soon as the juice hits, it will form a ball and sink.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beads to a bowl of cold water to rinse.
Drain beads in a mesh strainer.
Eat the beads or use them as an ice cream topping or stir into iced tea.
Solid pearls in oil that do not pop.
If the oil is not cold enough, when the spheres get to the bottom, they are still liquid and will merge. (you may need to keep the oil in the freezer for 1-2 hours)
If the agar mixture isn’t heated enough it won’t be hydrated enough to create the gel.
A dropper will not always give you the best ball shape because of the way the drop falls into the water.
Experiment with the dropping distance above the water (lower will be more uniform because the flavored liquid isn’t hitting the surface of the water with much force.
How to Make Popping Boba for Teas and Milk:
You can branch out and use Sodium Alginate, which will allow you a more varied range of flavors as you can use fruit juices of your choice to create the popping boba.
Sodium Alginate Popping Boba
- 5.3 ounces of favorite fruit juice*
- 5 grams sodium alginate
- 50 grams drinking water
- 6 grams calcium lactate
- 4 1/4 cups water**
- 2 cups clean water for rinsing
- food coloring of choice optional
How to Make Popping Boba Using Sodium Alginate:
- In a large bowl, add distilled water and calcium lactate and let rest (four hours is recommended (overnight is best)).
- In a separate large bowl, combine the drinking water with the sodium alginate and stir until smooth and thickened.
- Slowly whisk fruit juice into the sodium alginate/water mixture and whisk until smooth. Add any food coloring here.
- Give the water/calcium lactate solution a stir.
- Add the juice mixture to your syringe or dropper, and slowly create drops into the calcium lactate solution. Drops should rest in the mixture for up to ten minutes*.
- Add the rinsing water to a separate large bowl and rinse the boba pearls.
- Serve popping bowls!
Use a low calcium content (green tea, coffee, mango, lychee, strawberry, etc). High calcium content, like orange juice, will not work as it will clump.
It’s best to use real fruit juice with a pH below 3.6 may have issues–seek one that is not too acidic.
**tap water should be fine, but if your water is overly hard you may need to use distilled water.
Use a caviar maker or caviar box spherification kit if you are making large quantities of boba at a time.
The sodium alginate is a 1-percent solution to 100ml of juice (1gram sodium alginate to every 100ml of juice). A little more won’t change it too much.
Mini Boba: The smaller the spheres are the more difficult they will be to sink into the thickened sodium alginate bath.
The thicker a liquid is, the more surface tension it will have.
*The longer the sphere sits in the water, the thicker the gel will become.
A dropper will not always give you the best ball shape because of the way the drop falls into the water. Experiment with the dropping distance above the water (lower will be more uniform because the flavored liquid isn’t hitting the water’s surface with much force.
What is Sodium Alginate:
In the food industry, alginate is used as a thickening agent, gelling agent, emulsifier, stabilizer, and texture-improver.
Alginate has been used to coat fruits and vegetables, as a microbial and viral protection product, and as a gelling, thickening, stabilizing, or emulsifying agent.
How Does the Science Work?
It is the same concept as when you drop water into vegetable oil.
This is a technique known as spherification.
Popping Boba is made using a process called Spherification.
Credit for the invention of spherification goes to English food scientist William J. S. Peschardt, who patented the technique in the 1940s (U.S. 2403547).
In cooking, the spherification technique was spearheaded by chef Ferran Adrià at the famous three Micheline-Star, El Bulli Restaraunt in Spain.
The water forms into a small sphere.
In the Popping Boba recipe, you’re dropping the liquid into the solution.
The reaction causes the solution to form a thin, flexible outer layer forming the balls within a few seconds.
The beads’ formation uses agar, a natural gelling agent made from algae, that is dissolved into the warm liquid.
This makes the altar molecules form a web that solidifies as it cools.
When the mixture hits the old oil, the molecules on the outside of the drop chill so quickly that they form a thin skin that traps the liquid remaining inside.
Oil and Gatorade cannot combine, so the drops form spheres instead of dispersing into the oil.
Or in the case of the Sodium Alginate Boba, a gel forms when a calcium salt is added to a solution of sodium alginate in water. The gel forms by chemical reaction, the calcium displaces the sodium from the alginate, holds the long alginate molecules together and a gel or boba pearl is a result.
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup Gatorade
- 1/2 teaspoon Agar Powder
- Pour 1 cup vegetable oil into a glass and place in the freezer for 40-minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, combine Gatorade and agar powder.
- Over medium-high heat, bring Gatorade and agar powder mixture to a boil while stirring.
- Pour Gatorade mixtures into a heatproof bowl and cool for 20-minutes.
- Take the oil out of the freezer.
- Fill a dropper with the Gatorade mixture and squirt it into the oil.
- As soon as the juice hits, it will form a ball and sink.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beads to a bowl of cold water to rinse.
- Drain beads in a mesh strainer.
- Eat the beads or use them as an ice cream topping or stir into iced tea.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 83Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g
The Nutritional Information may not be accurate.