Boba is a popular beverage that almost everyone loves. If you’re here because you want to know the answer to the question is boba gluten-free? the short answer is yes. Boba is gluten-free (GF).
If you’re on a GF diet, it’s natural to be wary of gluten in anything you eat or drink. In this article, we’ll tackle all the ingredients in our favorite bubble tea.
We’ll go over boba pearls, crystal boba, popping boba, tea, milk, and other boba tea ingredients to determine if they’re gluten-free. So that the next time you’re on a bubble tea binge, you won’t have to worry.
What is Boba?
First things first, boba can actually refer to both boba pearls and boba tea.
In Taiwan, tapioca pearls are dubbed boba pearls because of their distinct spherical shape. The term ‘boba’ (波霸) is colloquial speak for breasts in Taiwanese.
Boba can also refer to a broad spectrum of milky tea beverages with sinkers. Also known as boba tea, bubble tea, pearl milk tea or zhenzhu naicha (珍珠奶茶) depending on where you’re from.
Are Boba Pearls Gluten Free?
Boba pearls are the “bubbles” in the milk tea drink. Chewy tapioca balls are frequently added to boba tea to improve the drinking experience.
Tapioca starch, sugar, and water are the ingredients used to make boba. Tapioca starch is from the cassava plant which is a South American plant used as a primary food source. It’s naturally gluten-free.
The pearls are usually black or brown in color depending on the sweetener used to cook and soak them in. The sweeteners are typically sugar, honey, or molasses. All of which are free from gluten.
Conclusion: Boba pearls are naturally gluten-free. There is no grain in tapioca starch or the sweeteners used in tapioca pearls.
Is Crystal Boba Gluten-Free?
Crystal boba is a variation of boba pearls. It’s also known as agar boba, agar pearl jelly, or crystal jelly.
This boba sinker comes from the konjac plant (Amorphophallus konjac). Konjac is native to tropical Asia. It’s a glucomannan-based processed snack that solidifies into jelly.
It’s a popular alternative to boba in bubble tea. Like boba pearls, crystal boba lends texture and flavor to milk tea. In its purest form, crystal boba is gluten-free.
- When you buy crystal boba from the store, check the product label for the ingredient list and the GF sign.
- If you decide to make it at home, make sure that you use GF ingredients such as flavoring and coloring to ensure that they are free from any grains.
Is Popping Boba Gluten-Free
Another popular type of boba sinker is popping boba. It’s also known as bursting boba, popping pearls, or juice balls.
As the name suggests, popping boba pops in your mouth and releases flavor when bitten. Popping boba has a distinct, soft, gelatinous outer layer that encases a flavorful liquid interior.
All the ingredients of popping boba are typically free from gluten – sodium alginate, calcium chloride, fruit juice, or powdered juice. Just make sure to look for the GF sign.
Is Boba Milk Tea Gluten-Free?
Boba tea is a creamy and delightful tea and milk beverage originating from Taiwan. It’s a velvety concoction of sweetened tea, milk, sweeteners, and sinkers.
The most common flavors of boba tea are black tea, oolong tea, white tea, jasmine tea, and green tea (or matcha). Most teas come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. All tea from this species contains no gluten.
But not all teas are gluten-free. Teas manufactured with grains and flavored tea may include gluten. While some teas are also made from sprouts which come from gluten-containing grains. Some teas that contain gluten:
- barley tea
- malted tea
- rye tea
- boricha tea
- chai tea
- sprouted tea
- matcha tea
A dairy or non-dairy alternative is added to milk tea to lend a creamy texture to the drink. The most common and classic type of dairy used is whole milk.
Some stores use condensed milk, soy milk, evaporated milk, and a variety of plant-based milk. While some cut costs by using milk powder mixed with water. Most of the dairy products used for boba tea are gluten-free. All types of milk, plant-based milk, or dairy milk alternatives are naturally free of grains such as wheat, barley, and rye.
Note: like tea, some dairy products may not be gluten-free. Flavored and fortified milk may not be gluten-free. Additionally, milk processed in a plant with gluten may be prone to cross-contamination. Check the product labels for the gluten-free sign.
As mentioned above, boba pearls, crystal boba, and popping boba are gluten-free sinkers. Other gluten-free boba tea sinkers include the following:
- aloe vera jelly – aloe vera gel (or meat) and sugar
- grass jelly – Cincau Hijau or Mesona Chineensis plant, sugar, water, and agar or konjac powder
- sago, – sago palm and sugar
- azuki red beans, – ayuki beans and sugar
- egg pudding – sugar, egg, milk
- taro balls – taro, tapioca starch, sugar
- sweet potato balls – sweet potato, tapioca starch, sugar
- nata de coco – coconut water and sugar
- whipped cheese foam – cream cheese, whipped cream, sugar, salt, milk
The most common sweeteners for boba tea are sugar (brown or white), honey, and fructose. Sweeteners generally are gluten-free.
In most cases, boba is safe to enjoy
Bubble tea is gluten-free if there are no other gluten-containing ingredients in the drink. If you are on a gluten-free diet, boba tea is safe to enjoy.
However, not all boba tea ingredients are the same. Adding flavorings that may contain gluten to your drink will also make it non-GF. There’s also the risk of cross-contamination.
Always ask your boba tea server for any gluten in their ingredients. Likewise, read the label of all the products you are purchasing to make bubble tea at home.