Do Tapioca pearls expire?

If there has ever been a drink that has gained so much traction among Gen Z and younger millennials, it has to be bubble tea. With the world being a super highway of communication, it’s hardly surprising a drink originating in Taiwan has made its way around the world with such popularity. But one question remains to be answered, do tapioca pearls expire?

Did you know that tapioca pearls are made of cassava? The texture of the tapioca pearl ( also known as boba) in Taiwan is referred to as Q or QQ. The translation to English is vague but is thought to mean springy, bouncy, and chewy.

In this article, we look at tapioca pearls and tell you if they expire and what to look out for with old tapioca pearls or boba. We answer many frequently asked questions for you to discern what is good and what’s not.

Let’s get into it.

Do tapioca pearls expire?

Yes, tapioca pearls do expire, but at varying rates. 

It’s worth looking at tapioca powder to understand what tapioca pearls are. The tapioca powder is mixed with water and then made into pearls. It’s nothing more complicated than that.

As a stand-alone product, tapioca powder has a shelf life of approximately 6 to 12 months which means it is unlikely that tapioca pearls will have a shelf life that exceeds six months.

An unopened pack of tapioca pearls will last for 6 to 12 months stored in the pantry that is cool and away from direct sunlight. For unopened packs of tapioca pearls, it’s important not to store them in the fridge.

The tapioca pearls do not like being cold and will break and disintegrate if stored in the fridge in an unopened packet.

Dried tapioca pearls have a shelf life of 2 to 3 months in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. An open pack of dried tapioca pearls will last for about a week and should be cooked and eaten to avoid waste. Store dried tapioca pearls in an airtight container to maximize their shelf life of the pearls.

Unlike many foods, the expiration date on tapioca pearls has some relevance, and if you consume the tapioca pearls after the expiration date, you may become sick.

Bubble tea will last in the fridge for about 24 hours. After this, the bubble tea should be discarded, the flavor of the pearls and texture will diminish, and the tea will not be pleasant to drink.

Do tapioca pearls need to be refrigerated?

Not always. If you cook your own tapioca pearls, the pearls should be placed in a container and then left to cool, covered with sugar. When the pearls are cool, place a sealable lid on the container and store them at room temperature or in a cool dark pantry.

The pearls will last for approximately 10 hours. If you place the pearls in the fridge to try and extend the shelf life, you will end up with pearls that are hard and not chewy, which defeats the point of the drink. However, hard tapioca pearls will become soft if reheated.

Store-bought. Let’s say you purchased a packet of raw bubble tea pearls. Store the packet in a cool, dry area that stays below 77℉ to keep the items fresh.

The tapioca pearls in their sealed package can be preserved in this way for days, weeks, or even months. However, before consuming, remember to verify the expiration date.

Reseal the remaining boba pearls and store them in the same manner if you only need half of them. But be careful to use the remaining tapioca pearls within a couple of days.

Do tapioca pearls need to be covered?

Yes. If you have store-bought tapioca pearls, reseal the bag but know that the clock is ticking and the expiry of the pearls is looming up on you fast.

If you have cooked your own tapioca pearls, the pearls should be covered in sugar to make the syrup element of the bubble tea which gives the pearls that yummy sticky look when placed in the cup.

Place cooked tapioca pearls in an airtight container. Pearls that have been exposed to the atmosphere will degrade quickly, so use the pearls within two days to be on the safe side. If you don’t use the pearls within two days, discard them and start again.

Can you put warm tapioca pearls in the fridge?

Don’t refrigerate tapioca pearls; it makes them hard like bullets and can disintegrate.

Don’t put anything warm in the fridge; Your fridge temperature will be 40℉ -18℃ or a little lower. Placing warm food in the fridge will elevate its temperature while it radiates heat.

Your fridge may not be as efficient as you might have thought at removing heat. Most fridges take hours to come to 40℉ after being switched on after cleaning.

So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that food sitting at a temperature of 40-140℉ is in the food danger zone. It’s not just your warm food.  It is the contents of the entire fridge.

Above 40℉-18℃ bacterial growth on perishable foods will accelerate exponentially. It should be discarded if the food remains at an elevated temperature above 40℉-18℃ for just two hours.

 According to the USDA, after two hours in the food danger zone, perishable foods contain enough bacteria to cause food poisoning.

Do unopened packs of tapioca pearls go bad?

Tapioca pearls have an expiry date, so they will go bad and will not be fit for consumption. The good news is that they last long in unopened packs. Store-bought tapioca pearls can last for a year in an unopened pack.

The important thing is to look at the expiration date when you buy the tapioca pearls. On average, the expiration should be at least six months from the date of purchase, but this will depend on the brand. If the expiration date is short, you have an old pack of pearls.

How long can tapioca pearls sit out?

Two hours. Tapioca pearls are a perishable food source and, as such, will have bacteria growth.

Food sitting out at room temperature is in the food danger zone. The food danger zone is 40 to 140℉. If you leave perishable food (not just tapioca pearls) sitting in this temperature range for two hours, the food should be considered garbage and disposed of.

The reasoning behind this comes from the scientists at the USDA. They have assessed that the bacteria load on perishable food accelerates exponentially within this temp range, making the food potentially dangerous.

If you eat perishable foods that have been sitting out for two hours, you may be a candidate for food poisoning.

How long do tapioca pearls last in the fridge?

Tapioca balls should not be stored in the fridge. The pearls will become hard and inedible if stored in the fridge. They can also disintegrate. If you place bubble tea in the fridge, it has a shelf life of 24 hours and no longer.

To get the best from your tapioca pearls, store them covered in an airtight container in a cool dark pantry. Eat them within hours of making them for the very best bubble tea experience.

Do frozen tapioca pearls go bad?

In theory, frozen foods have an indefinite shelf life if constantly stored at 0℉, and the tapioca pearls do have a significant shelf life in the fridge of up to six months and beyond if stored correctly.

However, they will not last indefinitely, and if the six months are extended to a year, you will see the tapioca pearls degrade. They will lose their texture and flavor and will not be edible. They are not bad and will not cause harm. Just pointless eating something that is tasteless and has a questionable texture.

Here is how to store tapioca pearls in the freezer for six months.

  1. Prepare your tapioca pearls as you would typically do.
  2. Let the tapioca pearls cool to room temperature in a covered container.
  3. Put the tapioca pearls into an airtight container. This could be Ziplocs.
  4. Remove the excess air from the freezer bags and seal them.
  5. Place the tapioca pearls in the freezer.

Thawing and further use.

  1. When you want to get pearls from the bag, place the bag in boiling water to thaw, take what pearls you need, and refreeze.
  2. Once the pearls are thawed, place them in a colander and rinse.
  3. Cover with honey or simple syrup to add sweetness.

Final thoughts

Unlike other foods, tapioca pearls should not be stored in the fridge. If the packets of pearls are unopened, the pearls have a long shelf life of up to six months to a year.

Store tapioca pearls in the pantry at room temperature in an airtight container. Once the pearls are exposed to air, the countdown starts, and the pearls must be consumed within a day or two.

Tapioca pearls are excellent for freezing and will last for six months and a little longer if needed without losing texture and flavor.

If you have hard pearls, simply boil them to refresh them and return the chewy texture.

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