Boba has been a favorite drink of mine for longer than I can remember. It all started when I lived in Boston. I used to pass by Asian restaurants that advertised bubble tea in their windows. When I finally went in and tried this popular beverage, my life was forever changed. Upon moving to Los Angeles, I ordered boba often from Urth Caffe. Over the years, the trend caught on and boba shops starting popping up (pun intended) across the country. When visiting New York I fell in love with the drinks at Boba Guys, which expanded to San Francisco and LA.
But everything changed when I started the vegan keto diet. I’ll never forget the moment I realized how many carbs were in tapioca pearls. So, I decided to cut back on boba and make it an occasional indulgence. Until…I learned how to make keto-friendly bubble tea!
A magical ingredient called agar agar is a carb-free seaweed powder. It’s often used as a vegan gelatin alternative in desserts and candies (like gummy bears). I used it years ago to make plant-based Jell-O shots with a friend and didn’t think to use it again until I learned about keto boba.
And here’s the best part: you can make different flavored boba tea! All you have to do is mix in the agar agar with a liquid of choice, such as juice, tea, or coffee and it infuses the pearls with that flavor. Brilliant! Since discovering this I’ve made strawberry, peach, mango, earl gray, matcha, and coffee boba drinks. It’s been a fun activity during quarantine, ha!
My current favorite keto boba drink is a coffee smoothie with coffee pearls. I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do!
Note: some affiliate links are used in this post, meaning that I made receive financial compensation if you purchase something based on my recommendation.
Coffee Smoothie with Coffee-Infused Boba Pearls
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus 1+ hour to chill oil and make coffee)
Serving size: 1-2 servings; depends on how much boba you want in your drink!
Ingredients – For the Boba:
- 8 oz flavorless oil (such as organic sunflower or grapeseed oil)
- 8 oz coffee (freshly brewed or made from instant coffee)
- 1 tsp agar agar
- 1 tsp sweetener (such as a granulated organic stevia blend)
- filtered water (I use a Berkey water filter)
- ice (optional)
Tools – For the Boba:
- tall glass (with optional lid)
- measuring cup
- measuring spoon (tsp)
- small pot
- whisk (I use this electric whisk)
- 2 small bowls
- dropper, pipette or syringe (I use a cooking baster)
- glass boba straw
- candy thermometer (optional)
Instructions – How to Make the Boba Pearls:
- Pour the oil into the tall glass and refrigerate the oil until chilled, for at least one hour.
- Make 8 oz of coffee. I made it by combining 1 tsp of organic instant coffee powder with 8 oz of filtered water.
- Pour the coffee into a pot on the stove and heat until boiling.
- Sprinkle the agar agar into the coffee evenly and then whisk to combine well.
- Add the sweetener and whisk into the coffee mixture.
- Boil the coffee mixture until ingredients have fully dissolved, until approximately 195° F (measure with a candy thermometer if you have one, but it’s not necessary)
- Once the agar agar and sweetener have dissolved, remove the pan from the stove and let cool for a few minutes.
- Remove the chilled oil from the refrigerator (after at least one hour so it’s cold enough).
- Using a dropper or syringe, pipe coffee mixture and then drop into the tall glass of cold oil so that it forms spherical shapes (the boba pearls). The shapes may be different sizes and will keep their shape as they drop to the bottom of the glass. As long as the oil is cold enough, they shouldn’t clump together.
- Repeat step 10 until the entire coffee mixture has formed into boba in the oil.
- Fill one of the small bowls with chilled water. If needed, add some ice cubes to room temperature water to speed up the process.
- Put the sieve over the empty small bowl and pour the glass of oil and boba through the sieve until they’re separated (boba in the sieve, oil in the bowl).
- Optional: pour the oil back into the tall glass, cover, and put back in the refrigerator to use for a future batch of boba.
- Place the boba-filled sieve into the bowl of chilled water to rinse off the oil. Shake around and/or mix with a spoon until well rinsed. Taste the boba pearls to ensure the oil has fully washed off.
- Spoon the boba into a glass and top with the following coffee smoothie (or another drink of your choice, such as iced tea).
Ingredients – For the Coffee Smoothie:
- 8 oz organic coffee (can be freshly brewed, made from instant powder, or as cold brew)
- 2 oz plant-based milk (I use unsweetened Ripple pea milk or Milkadamia macadamia nut milk)
- 1 scoop plant-based protein powder (I use Sunwarrior’s Salted Caramel Lean Meal and it is INCREDIBLE in this recipe)
- 1 cup of ice
Tools – For the Coffee Smoothie:
- Blender (I use a Blendtec)
Instructions – How to Make the Coffee Smoothie:
- Combine all the ingredients and blend until well combined.
- Pour into the glass of boba and drink with a large glass straw.