Coconut Tapioca with Caramelized Mango Cheeks

Crystalline tapioca beads, boasting chewy deliciousness, suspended in a creamy, coconutty pudding crowned with the exotic, warm sweetness of caramelized fresh mango.  Tastes like Hawaiian sunshine in your mouth!


Tapioca pudding.  It's retro, old-fashioned, brimming with sweet, smooth childhood-memory goodness. 

But, then again, it's hip and divinely indulgent whether for a snuggly, rainy, Spring eve or served up all pretty for company, easily urging muffled oohs and aaahs, from dinner guests.

And look, look!  This is so cool!

Look what it's made from....all the ingredients...... E V E R Y T H I N G  G R O W S ........from the good 'aina (earth, land)










Coconut Milk








Tapioca Pearls made from Cassava Root










Pure Cane Sugar and Brown Sugar









Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice










Pure Vanilla Extract made from Vanilla Orchids









Fresh Mango Cheeks


See!!!  I told you it was cool.

This pudding oozes delicious, creamy coconut-ness, unadorned, but when dressed up with those fragrant, freshly pan-caramelized mango cheeks, it turns that classic, old dessert we used to know into mouthfuls of tropical, sweet indulgence.

And it's so easy to make! Tappearls

The best tapioca pearls to use for this recipe are quite small, but not those teeny weeny ones.  And, as mentioned, most usually called 'Tapioca Pearls', but sometimes 'Seed Tapioca'.  This size is perfect for this recipe, as it requires no soaking, so you can whip up some pudding on a whim.  No matter what, that's always a good thing.

The photo to the right shows the tapioca pearls I usually use, resting in a teaspoon, to give you an idea of the size of those tasty little orbs.

When I first started playing with this recipe, we were happily whiling away our days and nights in Kona Coffee Country, so my experimentation with toppings took a definite Big Island twist.  Every version of topping that I have tried so far, all worked perfectly with the tapioca.......sliced, fresh apple bananas dipped in lime juice, then finished with a good splash of dark Maui rum......grilled pineapple spears drizzled with warm butterscotch sauce......fresh, tart, tangy lilikoi (passionfruit) pulp scooped right on top and marbled into the pudding. 

All versions are as good as the original, although, I must admit there is something overly alluring about 'caramelized mango cheeks'

As this easy-to-make dessert has already pretty much become one of those go-to recipes around our house, I see tapioca puddings, in my future, adorned with fresh-picked Okanagan berries, quickly caramelized fresh cherries, plump peach slices splashed with slightly warmed brandy......Mmmm. 

When you decide to give this pudding a try, go crazy, have your way with the toppings, this recipe begs you to play.  But no matter what, do try it with the caramelized mango cheeks sometime.  It'll make your tastebuds smile.



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Thanks to Donna Hay magazine for inspiration for this great recipe

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2 - 400ml.(13-14 ounces each) cans good quality coconut milk
(shake the can and make sure the milk is not too watery)
Generous 1/4 cup small tapioca pearls
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 mango cheeks
1/3 cup brown sugar
8 or more tablespoons water

Place the coconut milk, tapioca pearls and sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook, stirring frequently.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, for 18-20 minutes or until the tapioca is clear and cooked through.

Stir in the lime juice and vanilla until combined and allow to cool slightly.  Scoop pudding into small bowls or dessert glasses.  Can be made ahead to this point.

Press the mango cheeks in the brown sugar.  Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat and cook the mangoes, cut-side down, for 2-3 minutes or until caramelized and very slightly browned. Remove mango cheeks from pan.  Immediately add water to the pan, and as it bubbles, swirl the pan to create a syrup with the caramelized sugar.  Swirl, swirl, swirl.

Top each pudding bowl with a mango cheek and drizzle with the pan juices to serve.  'Ohoiho!  Enjoy!