Strawberry-Tapioca Parfaits

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Here’s my contribution to the #Berrylove Bloghop this month. Our farmers markets in San Diego are flooded with gorgeous local strawberries. My favorites come from either Carlsbad or Oceanside, about 20-25 miles north of us. We will tire of endless three-packs of berries in a month or two, but until then, strawberries rule!

My recipe for Strawberry-Tapioca Parfaits was inspired from one in a 2009 Gourmet entitled “Fruit-on-the-Bottom Tapioca Pudding”. Not a fan of fennel, I replaced the crushed fennel seeds with my favorite standby, Meyer lemon zest and juice. These cute glasses jumped off the shelf at Anthropologie yesterday, just begging to come home and have me take their picture.

I hadn’t tasted tapioca pudding since I was a kid when my mother used to make it for my Dad, who adored it. I had never made it with “real” tapioca pearls, so this was a cooking lesson for me. Larry, my stalwart recipe tester, told me that tapioca pudding was his favorite pudding when he was growing up. Who knew?

TIP: It took the tapioca 30 minutes to cool, not the 5-10 minutes described in the original recipe. Use the cooling time to prep and purée the berries.

Yields 6 six-ounce parfaits

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup small tapioca pearls
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar, divided use
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 quart organic strawberries, washed, hulled and halved

1. Using a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Whisk in the tapioca, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the tapioca turns opaque, about 15 minutes.

2. Whisk in the cream, 4 tablespoons of the sugar and the pinch of salt. Continue cooking until tapioca is cooked through, about 3 more minutes.

3. Transfer tapioca pudding to a metal bowl and submerge bowl into a bowl of ice water to quickly and completely cool the pudding. This will take about 30 minutes.

4. Using a food processor, pulse the prepared strawberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until coarsely puréed.

5. Divide the strawberry purée among 6 six-ounce glasses. Top each serving of berries with a layer of the cooled tapioca pudding.

6. Chill the parfaits in the fridge until cold, about 1 hour.

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24 Responses to Strawberry-Tapioca Parfaits

  1. Wendy Read (@Sunchowder) April 6, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    Gorgeous photo Liz!!!! Our strawberry season has almost ended here now. I just processsed a flat yesterday 🙂 Love this recipe and am going to try it too.

    • lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Thanks, Wendy – could you hear me cursing trying to keep the sides of those little glasses clean for their beauty shot?

  2. Rustic Garden Bistro April 6, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Very vibrant and colorful photo, Liz! And I like the angle you used to capture the strawberry parfaits, too. 😛 It has been years since I’ve made anything with tapioca in it, even though there’s a package in the pantry. Any chance you know what the shelf life is on tapioca pearls?


    P.S. I have the same Anthropologie glasses! We have them in green and blue, and are currently using the green ones to “grow” scallions in the window. 🙂

    • lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      No date on my package, Kim – I would bet they are kind of like rice and last a long while. I must have seen those glasses of yours Tuesday – no wonder I bought them!

  3. Jayne April 6, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Lovely picture! Looks good, I’ve not ever used tapioca before, only had the canned variety as a kid!

  4. current vintage April 6, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Gorgeous!!! Tapioca is one of Freddy’s favorite desserts, too. Maybe I will make this for him. I was in Anthropologie just a few days ago…I love that store!

    • lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 11:41 am #

      Hope you try it – Larry is gobbling this up. X0

  5. lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    It was a little “fiddly” as Nigella says, but only because I had never used tapioca pearls before.

    • Liz April 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      SO beautiful! I love the contrasting layers 🙂 Great #berrylove post!!!

      • lizthechef April 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

        Thanks – I need to look you up and follow more closely.

  6. The Wimpy Vegetarian April 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    Beautiful recipe and photo, Liz! The red of the strawberries is so luscious! And love the glasses – they’re perfect for a dessert like this. Isn’t it fun how we continue to learn new things about the loved ones in our lives?

    • lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      Thanks, Susan – yes, I had no idea Larry was a big fan of tapioca – now he wants a whole batch of the stuff…

  7. omgyummy April 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Liz – love the sub with meyer lemon – one of my favorite ingredients! Also – you did well at Anthropologie. I adore their stuff — have so far not let myself splurge but I need some new props to inspire me. Carol has their adorable berry baskets – almost bought those myself. Love the strawberries laying on the table.

    • lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

      I almost bought some of those baskets too!

  8. apuginthekitchen April 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    So pretty and I love tapioca pudding but have never made it, who knew it is so easy to make. This is fresh and creamy just the perfect light spring dessert.

    • lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      You are so right – it is a light, spring dessert. Larry ate 2 in a row…

  9. Elizabeth April 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I never grew up eating parfaits, so I forget about them. What a lovely thing to make for someone you love. Just a little bit of tasty beauty that you can lushly eat with a spoon. Parfaits are going to be a part of my summer table for sure. Thanks for writing this post.

    • lizthechef April 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      I think I will experiment with lemon curd and summer fruit – Meyer lemon curd, of course 😉

  10. Averie @ Averie Cooks April 10, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    this is so pretty! the pearls and the berries! would make a great bridal or baby shower girly luncheon dessert too 🙂

    • lizthechef April 10, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      Thanks, Averie – hoping for tips for you after your Photoshop tutorial…

  11. Oui, Chef April 13, 2012 at 5:05 am #

    This photo is yet another reason why someone needs to invent lick-a-vision soon!

  12. backroadsfoodie May 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Are you supposed to drain the water after the tapioca has simmered for 15 mins?

    • lizthechef May 17, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      There shouldn’t be any water – it gets absorbed and becomes pudding. Try instant tapioca if you are having trouble here –

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