How to Make THE Famous Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bar


The price for Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bar are TOO DAMN HIGH. So we attempted to recreate our own.
Well, first things first, let’s figure out the boba aka pearls, aka tapioca balls. I mean, it can’t be that hard right? These bubble tea shops must be making bank. Tapioca flour + Sugar + Water, how hard can it be? 

The price of the Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream bars at the Chinese supermarket is too damn high!
We got this “on sale” at $8.99. My Asian heart aches.

Well, Try #1, Too Dry. FAIL. 

Try#2, Maybe I measured wrong, let’s try it again. Double FAIL. 

Try#3, Still too dry, add water. STILL FAIL. 

Try #4, more boiling water. It doesn’t hold its shape, just slowly becomes a pancake when set down. When boiled it’s really dry inside. FAIL. 

We’re beginning to wonder if making these brown sugar bobas are actually going to be worth it.

Try #5, Hmmm. It’s probably because I’m using a frying pan to boil the water .. too much is evaporating. Let’s change it to a small pot that I had to take out of the dishwasher and wash by hand. Looking good finally. We can finally boil a batch. This was the ultimate low of the entire experiment. The boba LITERALLY DISSOLVED! Couldn’t even try one. 

There may have been Try and FAIL #6 & 7… 8, 9 10 somewhere in there. We stopped keeping track. 

Hmmm, maybe we’re using the wrong type of flour. So we go back out and get TAIWANESE tapioca flour. Make it… FINALLY WORKS. It’s beautiful. Best tapioca balls ever. If you’re interested, here’s the recipe: How to Make Brown Sugar (Tapioca Pearls).

After a while we got really fast at rolling the bubbles. It took us over an hour the first time, but it came down to about 30 mins in the subsequent tries. Practice makes perfect I guess. Don’t worry, it will get faster and faster. 

How to make your own brown sugar boba
Attempt X we thought this must be it. Even took a commemorative photo…

So next, the brown sugar syrup. Brown sugar, water, bring it to a boil. Make it to a perfect syrup consistency. Perfect. DON’T TRY TO LICK THE SPOON! It’s really hot and you won’t be able to taste anything for days. Anyway, the syrup looks good, but when you set it aside, it’s going to get harder and harder and harder. You’re not going to be able to use it in your mould if it becomes a brown sugar brittle. In our next attempt we bring it to the point that we like it, turn down the heat, and add water and corn syrup slurry to thicken. This stays at the consistency we need it to be for days. 

The ice cream wasn’t too hard. The one thing to keep in mind is the sugar level in the ice cream. The pearls are sweet, as is the sugar syrup. We started by using a ¾ cup condensed milk, then a ½ cup. Both of those were too sweet, actually sweet enough to make your teeth hurt. We settled on a ¼ cup of condensed milk for this recipe. I’m sure you can find something else to do with the condensed milk. We usually put it on toast with butter and peanut butter, you can also put it into your coffee or tea as a creamer and sweetener. Or be beastly and eat it straight out of the can. 

Now that we have all the components we finally put together this brown sugar boba ice cream bar. At first, we just spooned it into the moulds (these are the ones we used btw), but it’s not ideal. It makes a huge mess and there are large clumps of bubbles. The best method we found is to use a squeeze bottle for the sugar syrup and a piping bag (or fill a bag and cut the corner) for the ice cream. To make our lives easier we folded the bag over our blender container. Using a spoon we layered the cream and bubbles, smooshed the bag a bit to distribute the bubbles a bit. I guess you can just mix the bubbles into the cream then fill the bag. We then cut the tip and piped it into the moulds. About two thirds of the way full we tap the moulds on the table to release any air. Fill the rest of the way, but not too full as it will expand a bit. If you’re putting in popsicle sticks, stick them about two thirds of the way down and not all the way through. Now the hardest part, wait until it’s frozen. This will take at least 4 hours. 

When you’re ready to eat it, leave it on the table for a few mins then remove it from the moulds. This makes it much easier to slip out of the mould. Yes, there will be some brown sugar left in the mould, and yes, we try to get it out as well. No waste! 

AND FAIL! The bobas could break some teeth. The saddest part, we were so confident, and we didn’t want to make another batch for filming, we spent the day filming this. Here’s a clip if you want to see people die inside.

Back to the drawing board on bubbles. So we began thinking. What makes this really work? Going through the ingredients, we knew the store bought version is kept together with chemicals, and ingredients not readily available to the normal consumer. Well how about mochi? That stays nice and soft in the freezer. Let’s try that. We used glutinous rice flour, with brown sugar, and boiling water. I also figured out the smarter way … I should measure the water AFTER boiling. I boiled the water in the kettle (much faster), then measured. The water is hot enough to melt the sugar without having to dissolve it in a pot. We made another mistake by accidentally using rice flour instead of GLUTINOUS rice flour. Don’t make that mistake, it’s a big hit to your ego haha. 

Glutinous rice flour
Make sure you get the GLUTINOUS rice flour in the GREEN package!

Anyhow, this time with glutinous rice flour it worked! These mochis are soft and stay soft in the freezer. It’s also MUCH MUCH faster in terms of cooking time (still the same amount of time to roll), like 5 mins vs the hour when making traditional bubbles. We put it into a wok to continue cooking/caramelize in brown sugar .. hence brown sugar boba. Went through all the steps again, waited another day, and SUCCESS! We have homemade brown sugar boba ice cream bars!

The bubbles in this stayed soft, the ice cream was rich, and the brown sugar was beautifully caramelized. 

Finding the suitable popsicle mold is a different story, I’m going to just put the link here to spare you the wild goose chase.

So is it worth it? That’s kind of up to you, BUT i can guarantee you that I won’t be spending $9 for 4 boba ice cream bars …EVER! 

Brown sugar boba ice cream bar recipe
After all the trial and error, we created a recipe we are proud of.
Deep caramelization of brown sugar swirls on the homemade boba ice cream bar
We love the deep caramelize flavours from the brown sugar syrup.
The boba of this homemade brown sugar boba ice cream bar is still soft and chewy on the inside.
The boba is still soft and chewy on the inside.

Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bar

The Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bar have been quite the craze, and as the weather gets warmer they are going to be in high demand – even with the exorbitant prices. Here's how you make brown sugar boba ice cream bars at home – from scratch!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: boba, boba ice cream, brown sugar boba

Equipment

  • Popsicle Molds
  • Heat proof bowl
  • Mixing bowl
  • Pipping bag or ziplock bag

Ingredients

Boba / Bubbles / Pearls (however you fancy it)

  • 100 g Glutinous Rice Flour plus additional for coating
  • 50 g Brown Sugar for the boba
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar for the syrup
  • 80 ml Water boiling

Ice Cream

  • 2 cups Heavy / Whipping Cream cold
  • ¼ cup Condensed Milk cold
  • also chill the mixing bowl

Brown Sugar Syrup

  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ cup Water
  • tsps Cornstarch
  • ¼ cup Water

Instructions

Boba / Bubbles / Pearls

  • In a large heatproof bowl add in glutinous rice flour and 50g of brown sugar. Pour in boiling water, mix together with a spatula immediately. Fold together until all the flour, water, and sugar combines into a sticky dough.
  • Being mindful that the ingredients may be hot, pour out onto a surface and knead until everything comes together and a soft spongy dough forms. It should not be dry or too wet and feel like very soft Playdough.
  • Cover the dough in plastic wrap while making the dough balls. Prepare a bowl with a few tablespoons of the glutinous rice flour for the rolled balls.
  • To make the balls, pinch off a piece and roll in your fingers or hands. These balls should be smaller than 1cm or ⅓ inch in diameter.
  • Place the rolled ball into the bowl with glutinous rice flour. Carefully toss, mix, or stir the bowl every so often to ensure that the balls are nicely coated and don’t stick together.
  • Bring a medium to large sized pot to a boil. Sift out any extra flour from the bubbles. Add the bubbles into the boiling water.
  • Boil for 3-5 mins or until all are floating and soft.
  • Heat a wok over medium heat. Add the other ½ cup of brown sugar to the wok. Add in the bubbles and stir constantly. Cook until the sugar has melted, caramelized, and it’s dark brown in color. Adjust the heat accordingly, don’t allow it to burn.
  • Pour out into a heat proof bowl and set aside.

Brown Sugar Syrup

  • Heat a wok over medium heat. Add in ½ cup of brown sugar and a ½ cup of water.
  • Stir constantly until sugar is melted, caramelized, and a nice dark brown color has formed. This should be a medium thickness in syrup.
  • Turn down the heat, add the cornstarch slurry. Bring the heat back up, stir until a medium to thick syrup has formed. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, pour into a squeeze bottle.

Ice Cream

  • Make sure to start with cold ingredients. In a large bowl, add the cream, mix with a hand mixer, or by hand until soft peaks have formed.
  • Add in the condensed milk, continue mixing until well combined and not yet to a stiff peak.

Assembly

  • Fill a piping bag or large ziplock bag with a mixture of ice cream and bubbles. To make life easier, I like to put my bag inside of my blender or tall container with the top folded over the edge. I layer a few spoons of ice cream and a spoon of bubbles. I then squish the mixture to disperse the bubbles throughout. Alternatively, you can just add the bubbles into the ice cream and stir. Then fill the bag with the mixture.
  • Line the outside of the mould with some of the brown sugar syrup using a squeeze bottle. I like to do a thick layer at the top and allow the ice cream to push it down.
  • Cut one corner of the bag and pipe into the mould, stop about ⅔ of the way. Tap the moulds on the table a few times to get rid of any bubbles. Continue filling the mould.
  • Leave a little bit of space at the top for the popsicles to expand. Stick in your popsicle stick about ¾ of the way in.
  • Tap moulds on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
  • Place into the freezer for at least 6 hours and ideally overnight.
  • To remove from mould allow to sit for a few mins on the counter.

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20 thoughts on “How to Make THE Famous Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bar”

  1. I feel like glutinous rice flour, with brown sugar, and boiling water is not right. I tried it twice, and each time, it was way too watery. I followed the video quite closely. Flour in, sugar in, then pour boiling hot water right in, and it came out looking like a thick soup and not as a dough

    1. kindofcooking

      Hi Luke,

      Try doing it by weight instead. 100g glutinous rice flour, 50g brown sugar and 80 ml water. Hope this works out for you!

    2. kindofcooking

      We’ve been hearing this from a couple others too and figured that maybe because you have been using Western brown sugar (is that correct?) and that itself carries a lot more water content than Taiwanese brown sugar.

      1. I had the same problem as well. When I tried it the second time, I used 1 cup of glutinous rice flour and 1/2 of brown sugar (80ml or water doesn’t change) you should be getting better results !

  2. 5 stars
    I have been trying to recreate boba ice cream myself and came to the same conclusion that it was likely little mochi balls! I attempted to make it for the first time today & for some reason my mochi balls are still hard when i put them in the ice cream? And they didn’t brown too much either? Unsure if I had to let them boil a little longer? If you have any tips that would be great! And does the size matter as well? I know they weren’t uniform, unsure if smaller bits would become hard once frozen?

    1. kindofcooking

      Hi Maddy,

      Did you let it sit out a little bit before eating? Immediately out of the fridge they are hard but after a couple of minutes they are soft. We used Taiwanese brown sugar so the colour was significantly darker than Western brown sugar. You can try boiling it for a little longer as well, maybe that will help soften it. We cooked it down more with brown sugar after to create the syrup and taste, so I think that also helped with the texture too. I don’t think size matters here, ours was all different sizes because who really has time to make them all uniform… 😛

      1. I did a couple of tests and for whatever reason I was getting the same result. It would harden and be more so candied.

        But I figured out a solution and alternative way to cook the boba down, for anyone else that might be having issues like me!
        I treated the brown sugar syrup I melted the boba in like how you treat the caramel you make for flan; I put one cup of water and half a cup of brown sugar in a pot over low heat, I dissolved the brown sugar, put in my boba, then turned the heat up to medium and let it thicken. Occasionally stirring to ensure nothing was sticking together or burning. Eventually it thickened into a syrup. I think you can probably add the cornstarch slurry in case it isn’t thickening. or a bit more brown sugar dissolved in the water and not dumped over the boba should work too. Just have patience! Tastes great too! And I basically had my syrup done too! Two birds, one stone! Yay! You can also make more syrup if you need it.

        The boba did stay chewy and darkened in color too. So I’m glad I messed around with a couple of test batches! Hopefully this helps anyone that struggled like I did!

    1. kindofcooking

      Depends on your popsicle mold size. This makes 10-12. The leftover we just put it all in a box and it became scoopable ice cream!

    1. kindofcooking

      Hi Sammi! Unfortunately, you cannot use pre-made boba because that’s made of tapioca flour and it freezes rock hard!

      1. I tried googling Taiwanese brown sugar, but I wasn’t getting much results. What does the packaging look like if it’s ok to ask?

        Also thank you so much for the recipe, I’m really looking forward to trying this out!

        1. In Chinese it is 台灣紅糖 or 台灣黑糖. Try searching that. Funny enough the translation is Taiwan red sugar or Taiwan black sugar. Let me know if you’re able to find it!

  3. hi, i made this but my mochi was very sticky i had to keep adding more glutinous rice flour but it didn’t help much. and when i froze it they were rock hard. do you know why?

    1. Hi Shelly, did you use Western brown sugar or Taiwanese brown sugar? Also the temperature of the water might affect it too.

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