Is boba vegan? Here’s what you should know – 2023

If some years ago, Starbucks’ pink drink was winning hearts all over the globe and taking over social media, then now the new trend is boba teas. I would be surprised if there is anyone who has not enjoyed the tea-based milky and fruity drink shaken with tapioca pearls.

But what exactly are boba pearls, and how is boba tea made? Is it vegan-friendly, can it be modified to fit a vegan lifestyle, or do we have to steer clear of those tasty drinks altogether? Let’s dive right into it and find out!

Boba pearls – what are they?

Boba itself refers to small edible and chewy pearl-shaped balls. Those pearls come in many different forms – all with slightly different tastes and looks. However, they are all made using the same technique – the starch is mixed with boiling water, and the dough is shaped into tiny balls. Let’s have a look at the most popular boba pearls.

Crystal Boba Pearls – Also called white boba, thanks to the milky white shade of the spheres. These boba pearls are made from a tropical Southeast Asia plant konjac flower.

popping boba

Popping Boba Pearls – A type of flavored boba pearl typically made with agar. The boba balls are filled with fruit juice – making the pearls burst and giving you a tasty treat when you bite down on them.

flavored boba

Flavored Boba Pearls – Now, these bobas take it a step further. Instead of the typical slightly sweet but not that flavorful taste, flavored boba comes in any flavor you could dream of. The boba pearls are usually soaked in sugary syrups.

Black Boba Pearls – Another type of tapioca pearls. These ones have been colored with dark food coloring or brown sugar to give the spheres an aesthetically pleasing dark shade.

clear boba

Clear Boba Pearls – These classical boba pearls are made from tapioca starch extracted from the cassava root. The tapioca starch carries a quality of gelatin-like texture when heated, helping to form round balls. Thanks to its clear color, it’s easy to achieve exciting colors with different food colorings.

Is boba vegan?

As we can see, all these different boba pearls are made from a few simple vegan ingredients and are free from any animal-based components. So, don’t be fooled by the jelly-like texture we have learned to associate with gelatin. Boba pearls get that texture from entirely plant-based sources.

However, as with everything, there is always an exception to the rule. For boba pearls, it’s flavored boba balls. It is not mission impossible to find vegan-friendly flavored bobas – most of them are 100% vegan. But make sure to avoid the honey and caramel ones. Those tend to be non-vegan – no shock here.

Is boba tea vegan?

While boba technically refers to the round tapioca pearls, people often mean boba tea by it. First originating from Taiwan in the 80s, bubble tea has gained popularity in the western world over the past few years. 

As we just learned, we don’t usually need to worry about the boba pearls not being vegan. However, it gets slightly more tricky when it comes to boba tea. But this does not mean that the tasty sweet drink is out of the picture for us plant-based people! There are a couple things to keep in mind and pay attention to when ordering vegan bubble teas from tea shops.

Bubble teas tend to come in two forms – we can have a fruit tea drink or a milk tea drink. Both usually contain three components – we have a tea base, milk or fruit juice, and obviously our boba pearls. It is no surprise that milk is the red flag here. So, always ensure that you get your bubble tea with fruit juice instead or ask the staff if plant-based milk is available to replace cow’s milk. Also, check with the employees when it comes to different toppings. For example – while grass jelly is fit for a plant-based lifestyle, lychee jelly can contain gelatin.

It is also worth noting that most boba teas contain sugar, which could potentially be filtered through bone char. Thanks to this unnecessary practice, some vegans choose to avoid sugar altogether.

Frequently Asked Questions

As veganism is about avoiding anything that comes from living beings, honey is not consumed by people following this lifestyle. Therefore, honey boba is not fit for us vegan folks.

Crystal boba, also known as white boba, is suitable for vegans. The boba pearls are made from a plant called the konjac flower.

Kung Fu Tea has plenty of vegan options. Just make sure to avoid the milk and honey teas.

Dunkin’ boba pearls are vegan-friendly and can be added to almost any drink.

More often than not, boba pearls are made from tapioca, a starch extracted from cassava root. This means that as long as you don’t add milk or anything else non-vegan into your boba drink, it is 100% vegan.

Sonic introduced popping boba drinks to their menu for a limited time. Unfortunately, there is no information out there on whether they are suitable for vegans or not.

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Cruelty Free Reviews

CrueltyFreeReviews serves as a digital guide and a handy manual for new vegans and experienced plant-based veterans alike. Founded back in 2018 by a group of plant-based enthusiasts, we are dedicated to a vegan lifestyle and animal rights. With our team having more than 10 years of plant-based guidance experience by now, we want to give back to the vegan community and support anyone on this journey.