If you love boba or bubble tea, you may be familiar with three types of boba pearls popular recently, popping boba, crystal boba or agar boba, and regular tapioca boba.  Popping boba is also known as bursting boba, usually flavored with fruit juice or coconut.  I have introduced how to make tapioca boba previous and let’s cover how to make popping boba this time.   Keep reading to learn how to make popping pearls in various flavors and how to transform them into homemade bubble tea.

how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com

Whats popping boba?

Popping boba (also known as popping pearls, bursting boba, or popping bubbles) is both a bubble tea drink and the boba used in the drink. Traditional bubble teas use tapioca pearls, but popping boba is a little bit different.

Popping boba has different flavors based on the fruit juice used and the most popular two types are mango popping boba and strawberry popping boba. We will learn how to make popping boba from fresh fruits. Besides, I also make a coffee boba, which is first published by Starbucks.

Popping boba is less chewy than traditional tapioca pearls. When you bite into them, they “pop” and you get a burst of delicious fruit flavor. That’s why they are named popping. It can be used as a substitute for regular plain tapioca pearls and it is one of my new bubbles. We also have some awesome bubble tea recipes if you want to make some boba tea at home.

how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com
coffee popping boba on coffee milk tea

What is popping boba made of?

Popping boba is traditionally made from three main ingredients: fruit juice, sodium alginate, and calcium lactate.

Some recipes will include sugar, salt, seaweed extract, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. But for this homemade popping boba recipe, we’re keeping things simple.

How is popping boba made?

Popping boba is part of a new cooking trend called molecular gastronomy. As you’ll see in the video, it’s really cool seeing the boba being made. It is actually very simple, including two main steps.

Firstly, combine the fresh fruit juice with sodium alginate to get a thick consistent mixture.

Then In a separate bowl, you have cold water and calcium lactate. Each drop of the sodium alginate/fruit juice solution into the calcium instantly forms a small pearl with a thin and flexible skin.

Spherification is a culinary technique used to shape liquids into small, round spheres that can usually bring bursting flavors. This spherification process is a chemical reaction between sodium and calcium to form calcium chloride. The popping boba will have a firmer shell and juicy inside. Then you simply scoop them out of the calcium and you have popping boba.

Best popping boba flavors

Popping boba has lots of flavors. Most of them are fruit flavor based. Here are some of our favorite popping bubble tea drinks:

  • Mango popping boba: if you want to feel like you’re on a tropical vacation while enjoying your boba, go for mango. Mango juice also gives a super lovely dark yellow color to the popping boba.
  • Strawberry popping boba: this is a classic flavor and a great starter option. I love this too because of the lovely pink color.
  • Lychee popping boba: on a hot summer’s day, there’s no flavor quite as refreshing as lychee bubble tea.
  • Yogurt popping boba: this is the opposite of lychee, with a rich creamy yogurt flavor. It’s a great dessert option.
  • Passionfruit popping boba: this has a really unique sweet and tart taste as well as a lovely deeper yellow color.  
  • Blueberry popping boba: This is another classic flavor and one we think your kids will love!

We will cover three flavors- watermelon for the red ones (you can also use strawberry), mango popping boba for the yellow ones (passion fruit can create similar color too), and coffee boba for the brown ones.

how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com
how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com

Tools and equipment

We will need a few essential tools in addition to the ingredients.

  1. an electric mixer or blender: we will need a blender to mix the fruit juice with sodium alginate because it is hard to combine the two together well with your hands. But don’t over mix as the process may produce lots of bubbles inside.
  2. large bowls: I recommend using large bowls with a wider opening so it is much easier for dropping and transferring the well-made popping boba.
  3. a syringe or you can also use a squeeze bottle: We use either a syringe or squeeze bottle to create small drops of the fruit juice mixture.
  4. filtered water: using filtered water to guarantee the best result.

We tried both methods of using a syringe and squeeze bottle. The squeeze bottle method is much quicker. If you want to use a squeeze bottle, get yourself a funnel.

how to squeeze the popping boba out|chinasichuanfood.com
how to squeeze the popping boba out|chinasichuanfood.com

How long to soak the popping boba in calcium lactate base

The recommended time to soak popping boba in a calcium lactate base is around 1 minute.

Since the dropping process may take you some time, I suggest you scoop the popping boba out after 2 or 3 batches. If you soak them too long in the calcium lactate base, the shell becomes too thick to burst, so the boba is not popping or bursting at all.

Insufficient soaking time makes the shell too easy to break and the ball form is not well shaped yet.

how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com
how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com

How to make popping boba

Learn how to make popping boba at home with three flavors, watermelon, mango and coffee
5 from 36 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Resting time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes


mango popping

  • 2 tbsp. mango cubes
  • 200 ml water
  • 3 g sodium alginate

coffee popping

  • 1 tbsp. instant coffee
  • 30 ml hot water
  • 180 ml water
  • 3 g sodium alginate powder

Watermelon popping boba

  • 200 ml watermelon juice
  • 3 g sodium alginate powder

calcium lactate water base

  • 1 L water
  • 30 g calcium lactate powder


Watermelon popping boba

  • Place fresh watermelon pieces in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a strainer over a bowl or glass. You will need to use a spoon to gently push the juice out of the mixture.
  • Pour this back into the blender with the sodium alginate and blend until smooth.
  • Place this back into the bowl and remove any froth on the surface with a spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for at least 4 hours or overnight
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the calcium lactate and cold water.
  • Using a dropper, place drops of the watermelon/sodium solution into the calcium solution. You will see them instantly form into spheres. Using a strainer, remove the boba from the calcium solution and place them into a bowl of water after 1 minute.
  • Continue this process to finish all watermelon popping boba.

Mango popping boba

  • Place mango pieces, water, and sodium alginate in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and remove any bubbles from the surface with a spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for at least for 4 hours or overnight.
  • In a different bowl, use a whisk to combine cold water and calcium lactate until the water becomes transparent again.
  • Use a dropper (either syringe or squeeze bottle) and place drops of the mango/sodium solution into the calcium water. They should instantly become spheres. One drop one time.
  • Use a strainer to remove the boba from the calcium water after 1 minute and place them in a separate bowl of water to rinse. Repeat this process to finish all mango popping boba

Coffee popping boba

  • Combine instant coffee powder and hot water in a measuring jug and mix together until blended.
  • Place this mixture into a blender along with the sodium alginate and blend until smooth.
  • Use a strainer to pour this into a bowl. Use the same spoon to remove as much foam as possible from the surface and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside.
  • In a different bowl, whisk together the calcium lactate and cold water.
  • Use a dropper to place drops of the coffee/sodium mixture into the calcium water after 1 minute. And rinse in fresh water in another bowl. Repeat this process to finish all of the coffee popping boba


How to make bubble tea with popping boba

Now you have your homemade popping boba, here’s how to use them to make a popping bubble tea drink. Ice cubes, black tea, sugar syrup, milk, and popping boba will be used for a homemade bubble tea.

  1. Fill the glass of your choice with ice cubes and then add black tea liquid.
  2. Add some syrup to sweeten the bubble tea. We’re just using sugar syrup in this instance.
  3. Add preferred milk to the glass. I use whole milk this time, nut dairy-free milk can also be used.
  4. Finish by gently adding the popping boba to the glass.
  5. Give this a stir and serve immediately.
watermelon popping boba  tea

Coffee milk tea with popping boba

If you want to make a more decadent and creamier bubble tea, try this coffee-popping boba recipe:

  1. Add ice to a glass, then followed with sweetened condensed milk. Sweetened condensed milk is concentrated milk with sugar. So it can work similarly to syrup. If you don’t have it by hand, try to use syrup to sweeten the coffee boba.
  2. Fill the glass with whole milk until 80% full. Pour in coffee liquid.
  3. Finish the drink with whipped cream and sprinkle coffee-popping boba over the top.
how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com
how to make popping boba|chinasichuanfood.com


Is popping boba vegan?

Yes, the popping boba pearls themselves are vegan. Sodium alginate and calcium lactate are both vegan-friendly, as is fresh fruit juice. Just double-check that the instant coffee you’re using only contains coffee granules and no milk products.

To make the bubble tea, simply use the dairy-free milk of your choice. Coconut milk is a great substitute for both the milk and condensed milk in the coffee-popping boba recipe. Then you can simply omit the whipped cream or make coconut whipping cream.

How else can I use popping boba?

Besides using them to make bubble tea, here are some other ways you can use homemade popping boba:

  • Add them to a milkshake or smoothie for a burst of flavor.
  • Sprinkle them over your fruit salad, yogurt parfait, or ice cream sundae.
  • Add them to homemade muffins or cupcakes (yes, they stay intact while baking).
  • Sprinkle them on a cake, just like what we did as tapioca pearls.
how to make popping boba at home|chinasichuanfood.com

Can I make popping boba without calcium lactate?

Yes, you can make popping boba without sodium and calcium. Instead, you use agar powder and vegetable oil. They won’t have the exact same texture as popping boba, but it’s the best substitute available. Plus, they get bonus points because they’re easy to make.

Check out some great instructions here, but you’ll need vegetable oil, fruit juice, agar agar powder, and cold water.  You freeze the oil for one hour, mix together the fruit juice and powder on the stovetop, then place drops of the juice into the oil. This will have the same reaction as the chemicals and the drops will become spheres instantly. Place the pearls into cold water and repeat the process.

How do you store leftover popping boba?

I recommend enjoying the freshly made popping boba. If you have leftovers, store the boba in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

We hope you enjoy the fun process that is making popping boba at home and celebrate with homemade bubble tea!

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  1. If you are going to do this, have at least 5 hours on your hands.
    I did all three for my Science Fair, but the Coffee was definitely my favorite. It was the easiest to make, while Mango and Watermelon tied for second place. The thing with the Coffee was that my blender couldn’t reach the coffee, since the blades are sort of high up, while the Coffee was low. I recommend adding extra water after blending. Another thing that was annoying was the foam, which took around ten minutes to get rid of. I was confused by the Mango because I did what the recipe said, but it didn’t turn out the same. But, all in all, this was a pretty good recipe. I rate it 3.664 stars, even though you’re not allowed to do decimals on a review.

    1. Hi, Deonna Harmon
      This is a very good idea. You can try it. I think it will be amazing when you make it. Remember to tell me your results.

    1. This depends on the amount you use each time. It is completely based on your own preferences. Usually, it should be enough for 2-3 people.

  2. 5 stars
    Please Cut to the chase on recipes. most people dislike this Form of elongated recipes. Please provide a tl;Dr for us.