How to Make Brown Sugar Syrup for Boba

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Brown sugar syrup is a viscous liquid sweetener with a caramelized kick often added to cold beverages such as boba and iced coffee. To make the syrup at home, simply combine sugar, vanilla extract, and optional flavor enhancers in boiling water and allow the mixture to cool.

Some recipes only call for two ingredients; however, adding vanilla extract adds an extra layer of flavor to this sweet and sticky syrup.

Opt for light brown sugar if you’re planning to make bubble tea. The delicate sweetness from the runny syrup pairs well with the tea. Coffee enthusiasts will want to go for dark brown sugar (or muscovado sugar) to enhance the flavor of their coffee.

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Brown Sugar Syrup

  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1.5 cups 1x


Regardless of whether you're planning to whip up some delicious brown sugar milk tea from Taiwan or replicate Starbucks iced coffee, this syrup will surely delight you.


Units Scale
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


When simmering, keep the lid on the saucepan to prevent sugar crystallization. It’s important to allow the sugar to fully dissolve before mixing as it can also develop sugar crystals if not prepared correctly.

Always keep a close eye on the mixture. If it boils, it will turn into caramel.

If you want to add even more depth of flavor to your syrup, you can simmer the mixture with a cinnamon stick, add a teaspoon of nutmeg, or even grate in fruit zest.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes

Does It Matter How Long You Leave the Boba Pearls in the Syrup?

The longer the boba pearls sit in the syrup, the sweeter they will be. If you are in a rush to eat the tapioca pearls, letting them sit for twenty minutes is plenty.

To extend their shelf life, you can store the syrup and boba mix in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. If you keep them in the fridge without the syrup, they will dry out and become crunchy.

Are All Tapioca Pearls Made With Brown Sugar?

No, not all tapioca pearls are made with brown sugar. While the iconic black pearls that settle at the bottom of your brown sugar boba milk drink are commonly made with cassava starch and brown sugar, there are other types of tapioca pearls that don’t need that extra helping of sugar.

For example, clear boba is made with only tapioca starch and water. These pearls are chewy and have a neutral taste, making them perfect for absorbing the flavor of the sugary drink it settles in.

Furthermore, the sheer number of bubble tea variations paved the way for some bubble tea shops to use non-traditional ingredients. Popping boba and flavored boba use alternative sweeteners such as fruit juices to switch things up while still keeping a fun texture in your drink.

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Popping boba

What Is the Difference Between White Sugar and Brown Sugar?

White sugar is a more purified sugar type compared to brown sugar. White sugar has a milder taste and is less sticky than brown sugar. It also doesn’t clump as easily. The critical difference between the two is that brown sugar has molasses added back into it.

The higher molasses content in brown sugar makes it stickier, darker, and more flavorful. Brown sugar’s propensity to clump is due to its high molasses content, which is good for boba. The molasses permeates the tapioca pearls, resulting in their signature chewy texture. Here are some of our favorite brown sugar varieties to use for syrup:

What Is a Good Substitute for Brown Sugar Syrup?

While nothing beats the sweet goodness of brown sugar syrup, tapioca pearls can be sweetened in various ways. White sugar syrup, cane sugar, and honey are all excellent substitutes.

If you already have white sugar or cane sugar at home, you can easily make a quick syrup by dissolving your chosen sugar in hot water. It may lack the tantalizing ooze of the thick syrup of brown sugar, but it’ll taste just as good as brown sugar bubble tea.

Honey is another viable alternative. It’s lighter in flavor than brown sugar, but it still provides boba beverages with a delicious hint of sweetness. If that wasn’t enough, honey is also rich in minerals like magnesium and potassium, making it an excellent alternative for the more health-conscious crowd.


Joshua always had a sweet tooth, but he could never stand the fizziness of soft drinks. So when he was first introduced to milk tea, he fell in love with its creamy sweetness and lack of carbonation. Now, Joshua is constantly on the lookout for new and interesting milk tea flavors to try. His favorite flavor is Cheesecake, but he also enjoys Wintermelon, Taro, and Matcha.

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