Creamy, dreamy, dairy-free coconut ice cream is laced with sweet and chewy mochi-like pearls of goodness in these Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bars. Made with just 6 ingredients and naturally vegan & gluten-free, these are a summer treat you need in your repertoire!
If you’re a fan of bubble tea (also known as boba tea), I’ve got a serious treat for you. Not only have I learned the secrets of making boba tea at home for a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay for one (remember my Easy Taro Milk Tea and my Matcha Boba Tea?), but now I’ve also discovered how to make Costco and Trader Joe’s copycat boba popsicles.
These impossibly delicious frozen confections are made with just 6 simple ingredients (one of which is good ol’ H2O) and they’re naturally vegan and gluten-free to boot. In short, they’re a dessert you can feel 100% good about eating and sharing with your family!
In addition to being ridiculously tasty and perfectly refreshing, these brown sugar boba ice cream bars are also super versatile. Flavor them with your favorite tea or extracts to open up a whole new world of possibilities. Heck, if you’re the enterprising sort, I can totally see a boba ice cream truck absolutely crushing it in the summertime. *Cue the digital piano music.*
What are boba popsicles?
Originally from Taiwan, boba popsicles are an Asian dessert craze that has taken America by storm. Chewy boba pearls are swirled into an ice cream base and frozen into popsicle molds for a frozen rendition of bubble milk tea that is to die for.
What do brown sugar boba ice cream bars taste like?
For this particular recipe, I focus on simply flavored homemade brown sugar boba pearls and creamy coconut-flavored ice cream. The result is quite stunning if I do say so myself.
The chewy (not tapioca) pearls are sweet and imbued with a deeply caramel-ly flavor that plays beautifully against the tropical sweetness of the coconut. To me, these lovely little creations taste like a tropical beach vacation on a stick.
As promised, you don’t need much to make this boba ice cream bar recipe. Here’s what you’ll need to gather:
- Water – For the best flavor, use filtered water.
- Dark Brown Sugar – For deep caramel and molasses notes.
- Glutinous Rice Flour – Regular boxed tapioca balls get far too hard to use in these frozen treats, so we’ll swap in mini mochi bites for our boba pearls instead! You can also find this product called “sweet rice flour” or “mochiko flour” depending on which brand you buy.
- Coconut Cream – Naturally vegan, lightly coconutty, super creamy, and thick enough to whip like whipped cream, coconut cream is a no-brainer for this dessert. Please note that not all coconut creams are created equal and some just don’t fluff up as well as others. I prefer the brand Taste of Thai, but Thai Kitchen, Whole Foods 365 brand, and Native Forest are all solid options too.
- Powdered Sugar – To sweeten and stabilize the coconut cream.
- Coconut Extract – To double down on the coconut flavor.
- Dark Brown Sugar – Feel free to use light brown sugar and spike it with a little added molasses. You can also make your own brown sugar using granulated sugar and molasses if needs be.
- Coconut Cream – If you’re good with dairy, feel free to swap in regular heavy whipping cream.
- Powdered Sugar – If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own confectioner’s sugar using granulated sugar and corn starch.
- Coconut Extract – Feel free to swap in other flavors of extract like vanilla or almond for different flavor profiles. You can also steep the coconut cream with tea bags and/or add a few drops of food grade essential oils. Read on below for more information!
Before we get started, I should note that this is a slightly more labor-intensive recipe that I typically share on the site. That said, it’s worth every minute of effort! All told, you’ll need about 45 minutes of active time in the kitchen to pull it off.
Also, don’t forget that you can break this into smaller chunks to make it feel more manageable — the brown sugar syrup can be made up to 2 weeks in advance, and the mochi-style boba dough can be made up to 24 hours in advance if wrapped well and kept in the fridge.
Step 1: Make the Brown Sugar Syrup. In a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar and water and heat on a high until boiling. Stir frequently and cook until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Make-Ahead Note: Brown sugar syrup should last in the fridge for upwards of 2 weeks.
Step 2: Make The Boba Dough. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the rice flour and brown sugar until combined. Add 2 ½ T boiling water to the rice mixture and stir until combined and a dough forms. You may need to use your hands towards the end to form into a workable dough. Make-Ahead Note: Feel free to wrap the dough very tightly in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Step 3: Shape The Boba Pearls. Transfer the dough to a surface sprinkled with more rice flour, and begin to form the dough into small boba-sized balls (a little smaller than a marble). Set them aside in a single layer. Pro tip: it helps to roll the dough into a long cord and cut it into small pieces, then roll it into balls.
Step 4: Boil The Boba. Boil a large pot of water and add the boba pearls. After a few seconds, stir the water to make sure the boba pearls aren’t sticking to each other. Allow the boba pearls to float to the top, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.
Step 5: Flavor The Brown Sugar Boba. Strain the boba pearls and place them in the brown sugar syrup to soak while you make the coconut cream.
Step 6: Make The Whipped Coconut Cream. Open the chilled coconut cream, and scoop out the hardened contents only. (Reserve the liquid for smoothies or another recipe later!) Add the hardened coconut cream to the mixing bowl, and whip on high for 30-60 seconds until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and coconut extract, and whip again for another 60 seconds until combined and smooth.
Step 7: Strain The Boba from the brown sugar syrup and then fold them into the whipped coconut cream mixture. Set aside the brown sugar syrup, don’t discard!
Step 8: Flavor The Ice Cream Mix. Pour 2 Tablespoons of the brown sugar syrup into the mixture, and stir until combined. Add another 2 T of the brown sugar syrup and mix until well combined. The mixture should still be fluffy but easy to pour.
Step 9: Freeze & Enjoy! Divide the mixture evenly into 6 popsicle molds. Freeze for 6-8 hours, then eat!
Tips & FAQ
Well, we’re actually making homemade “boba” using a quasi-mochi dough. Tapioca pearls – which are what is normally used in bubble tea – simply get too hard when frozen. By swapping in tender balls of glutinous rice flour balls (which is what is used to make mochi), we get a perfectly chewy boba-esque result!
If you’re planning on making actual bubble tea that you sip with a straw, freezing tapioca boba pearls is a great way to extend their shelf life. However, tapioca pearls get SUPER hard when frozen, so you don’t want to use them in your boba ice cream. Instead, we’ll make our own “boba” using a mochi-style dough that uses sweet rice flour.
Having a Moira moment? Not to worry. Folding is super easy! It’s just a way to incorporate heavier ingredients (like our mochi boba) into lighter ingredients (like our whipped coconut cream) without knocking all the air out.
Using a silicone spatula, cut vertically down the middle of the mixture, then sweep it around one side and under the mix to lift the bottom contents to the top. Continue, spinning the bowl as you go, until the mix is fully homogenized.
More of a visual person? Check out this video to see what I mean.
In our house, not long at all, I’m afraid! They’re just too good. However, if you have more self-restraint than we do, they should stay in tip-top shape for about 3-4 weeks.
While these delicious brown sugar boba popsicles are enough to make me weak in the knees, there’s always room for customization. Here are a few of my favorite variations:
- Matcha Flavored Boba Ice Cream – Instead of relying on coconut extract to flavor your ice cream base, add a couple of teaspoons of matcha powder to the coconut cream when you add the powdered sugar. Feel free to adjust by adding more to taste! Note: This should also work with other powdered ingredients like cocoa/cacao powder or powdered freeze-dried strawberries.
- Any Tea Flavored Boba Ice Cream – Admittedly, this will add a bit of time to your recipe, but it’s an excellent way to flavor your ice cream base with any kind of tea that you prefer. (I suggest black teas like oolong or English Breakfast.) First, you’ll need to warm your coconut cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and plop in 2 bags of the tea of your choice, then let steep for about 10-15 minutes. Strain, pressing the tea bags to remove as much flavor as possible, then chill the cream to firm up. Continue with the recipe as written.
- Tiger Milk Flavored Boba Ice Cream – Want more of the tiger stripes you’d see on Costco or Trader Joe’s boba ice cream bars? After straining the boba pearls from the brown sugar syrup, remove 4 tablespoons and set them aside. Place the remaining syrup in the pan back on the burner and simmer until it thickens considerably, about 10-15 minutes. Chill the syrup until room temperature or cooler, then drizzle it inside each of the popsicle molds before filling with your ice cream mixture.
- Essential Oil Flavored Boba Ice Cream – Feel free to use food-grade essential oils as an alternative way to flavor your ice cream base. Start with just 2-3 drops at first since essential oils are VERY potent, then increase to your liking.
While this is most certainly a dessert and not a meal, I’m happy to report that it still boasts some pretty excellent nutritional benefits. First off, coconut cream is a pretty good source of vitamins and minerals.
Most notably, a roughly 1/2 cup serving offers 5% of the daily recommended value for potassium, which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, regulates blood sugar and fluid balance, and can improve symptoms of muscle cramping and fatigue.
Coconut cream has also been linked to reduced stomach ulcer sizes, and it may also help to lower bad cholesterol levels and improve metabolic function. Not too shabby, right?
In addition, these tasty brown sugar boba ice cream bars clock in at less than 200 calories and just 7 grams of fat per serving, making them a completely reasonable treat to incorporate into a healthy diet. They’re also gluten-free and vegan, meaning they’ll work for most diets!
Total nutritional content per ice cream bar is:
- Calories: 182 calories
- Total Fat: 7 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Sodium: 6 mg
- Carbohydrates: 29 grams
- Fiber: 0.5 grams
*This nutritional information is an estimate and calculated based on the ingredients used to create the recipe. The nutritional value of your ingredients may differ slightly. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.
This is what I personally paid to make this recipe:
- ½ cup + ¼ cup dark brown sugar: $0.29
- ½ cup glutinous rice flour: $1.03
- 13.66 oz can coconut cream: $4.28
- ¼ cup organic powdered sugar: $0.23
- 1 tsp coconut extract: $0.66
The total I paid to make this recipe was roughly $6.49 or about $1.08 per boba ice cream bar!
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Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bars
Brown Sugar Syrup
- ½ cup dark brown sugar packed
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup glutinous rice flour
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar packed
- 2 ½ tbsp water boiling
Whipped Coconut Cream
- 1 can coconut cream
- ¼ cup organic powdered sugar
- 1 tsp coconut extract
Make the Brown Sugar Syrup:
- In a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar and water and heat on a high until boiling. Stir frequently and cook until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Make the Boba Pearls:
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the rice flour and brown sugar until combined. Add 2 ½ T boiling water to the rice mixture and stir until combined and a dough forms. You may need to use your hands towards the end to form into a workable dough.
- Transfer the dough to a surface sprinkled with more rice flour, and begin to form the dough into small boba-sized balls (a little smaller than a marble). Set them aside in a single layer.
- Boil a large pot of water and add the boba pearls. After a few seconds, stir the water to make sure the boba pearls aren't sticking to each other. Allow the boba pearls to float to the top, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Strain the boba pearls and place them in the brown sugar syrup to soak while you make the coconut cream.
Make the Whipped Coconut Cream:
- Open the can of chilled coconut cream, and scoop out the hardened contents only. Reserve the liquid for smoothies or another recipe later! Add the hardened coconut cream to the mixing bowl, and whip on high for 30-60 seconds until fluffy.
- Add the powdered sugar and coconut extract, and whip again for another 60 seconds until combined and smooth.
Assemble the Boba Ice Cream Bars:
- Strain the boba pearls from the brown sugar syrup and fold them into the whipped coconut cream mixture. Set aside the brown sugar syrup, don't discard!
- Pour 2 T brown sugar syrup into the mixture, and stir until combined. Add another 2 T of the brown sugar syrup and mix until well combined. The mixture should still be fluffy but easy to pour.
- Divide the mixture evenly into 6 popsicle molds. Freeze for 6-8 hours, then eat!
If you end up making this and loving it, take a photo and tag me on Instagram! I’d love to see your versions of my recipes! And feel free to rate it down below in the comment section. I would really appreciate it!
I love boba, so these ice cream bars are totally calling my name! My kids will love them too, so I can’t wait to make them soon!
Megan Byrd, RD says
Yay! I love boba too! 🙂
This was such a fun summer treat to make! And it turned out delicious, too.
Megan Byrd, RD says
I’m so glad you loved it!
This was such a fun summertime treat to make with my kids!! We all though these ice cream bars were delicious!
Megan Byrd, RD says
That makes me so happy! 🙂 Glad you loved them!
Love how easy this recipe is. It’s perfect for our family!
Prajakta Sukhatme says
My kids love all things boba. We loved making these Boba Ice cream bars for the weekend pool party. Thank you for detailed step by step instructions. It was easy and everyone loved it.