Mango Sago (Coconut Tapioca Pudding)

Mango sago, an Asian-inspired tropical chilled treat, combines creamy coconut tapioca pudding and sweet and tangy mango chunks in an irresistible paleo and vegan-friendly dessert!

A side view of a cup filled with mango sago, a coconut tapioca pudding with fresh mango cubes on top. There is a red banner that says paleo, vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

As a kid, I didn’t really like the Asian desserts that my mom made for special occasions. She’d set a bowl of sweet coconut-infused soup filled with tiny tapioca balls and honeydew melon in front of me, and I’d stare forlornly at it. Couldn’t she tell that I wanted a slice of chocolate cake, just like my friends at school?

Now that I’m older and wiser, I miss those just-sweet-enough Chinese desserts that I used to begrudgingly eat as a kid. Maybe my tastes have changed as I’ve matured, but I’ve come to appreciate—and even crave—the fresh, bright, and subtle flavors and textures of Asian treats. This paleo and vegan friendly mango sago gloriously replicates these flavors—and it hits the spot without too much work!

What is mango sago?

Mango sago is a Cantonese dessert that originated at a renowned Hong Kong restaurant, Lei Garden, back in the mid-1980s. As legend has it, the head chef came up with this chilled creamy and coconut-y tapioca pudding infused with mango and pomelo while opening up a new location in Singapore—he wanted to create a dessert that would appeal to local Singaporean tastes and keep customers cool in the hot, tropical climate.

An overhead shot of someone taking a spoonful of mango sago from a clear glass.

Since its invention, mango sago has spread in popularity across Asia and can be found at many boba shops and Asian dessert parlors across the world. Although there are many variations on the original, the main component remains the same: a creamy, not-too-sweet thin pudding made with coconut milk and infused with tiny tapioca balls, and then mixed with fruit. Personally, I prefer more of a contrast between the creamy coconut pudding and the sweet-tart mango so I don’t blend them together.

Paleo and vegan mango sago

The traditional recipe is made with both condensed milk and coconut milk, but dairy doesn’t agree with me, so I’ve created a version that only uses coconut milk and a smidge of honey (or maple syrup for vegans) to add sweetness. You can use another non-dairy milk in place of coconut, but you won’t feel like you’ve been transported to the tropics! Adding toasted coconut flakes is optional, but I find that it adds a nice crunch to this dessert.

Two hands adding toasted coconut on top of clear glass filled with mango sago, a coconut tapioca pudding with diced mango

How do you cook tapioca?

Cooking small tapioca pearls properly can be a little tricky, so here are my tips:

  • Use small pearl tapioca and not minute tapioca. I use Bob’s Red Mill brand.
  • No need to rinse tapioca pearls ahead of time!
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil, before adding the tapioca. Also, stir occasionally to keep the little pearls from sticking.
  • Simmer the tapioca for 15 to 20 minutes or until the balls are translucent. A few may still have a tiny white dot in the middle and that’s okay.
  • Pour the cooked tapioca into a fine mesh sieve and rinse well with cold running water to keep the tapioca pearls from sticking to each other.

A spoonful of cooked small tapioca pearls. They are translucent and look like small rubber balls.

What other fruit can you use?

Another reason I like to make a coconut milk tapioca pudding first and add the fruit later is so I can change the flavor depending on what I have on hand. Although mangos are my favorite fruit to eat with sago, I also like to serve it with fresh berries or sliced stone fruit. And when I’m too lazy to wash and cut up fruit, I top the sago with frozen fruit!

Can you make mango sago ahead of time?

Yep! You can make the coconut tapioca pudding up to 4 days in advance and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. A thin hardened shell of coconut fat may develop on top, but just take the pudding out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving and stir in the shell. No one will notice it because you’ll be topping the tapioca pudding with crispy coconut flakes and juicy cubes of fruit!

Other Asian-inspired paleo desserts

Looking for more not-too-sweet paleo desserts with an Asian flair? Here are some of my faves:

Let’s make mango sago!

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • ⅓ cup small pearl tapioca
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (for vegan)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup toasted coconut flakes (optional)

Method

Bring 6 cups of water in a large saucepan to a rolling boil over high heat.

A stainless steel saucepan is filled with boiling water on a stovetop.

Once the water is boiling, pour in the tapioca.

A hand is adding small tapioca pearls into a saucepan filled with boiling water.

Lower the heat and maintain a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes…

A closeup of a large saucepan filled with boiling water and small tapioca pearls. A red spatula is stirring the contents of the pan.

…or until the tapioca is translucent, stirring frequently to avoid sticking.

A closeup of a silver spoon with small tapioca pearls inside. The tapioca pearls are clear and no longer white colored.

Pour the tapioca into a fine mesh sieve…

A closeup of a saucepan pouring cooked small tapioca pearls into a fine mesh sieve in a colander.

…and run cold water over it to keep the balls from sticking.

Running water is being poured into a fine mesh sieve filled with cooked small tapioca pearls.

Pour the coconut milk into the empty saucepan. Add the honey, vanilla and salt.

A hand is adding vanilla extract from a measuring spoon into a saucepan filled with coconut milk.

Bring the coconut milk to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the honey and salt.

A yellow spatula is stirring the contents of a saucepan filled with coconut milk, honey, vanilla extract, and salt.

Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked tapioca.

A yellow spatula is spooning cooked small tapioca pearls into a saucepan filled with sweetened coconut milk.

Transfer the contents to a sealed storage container.

A shot of someone transferring coconut milk tapioca pudding from a saucepan into a glass square container.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

A woman in a gray apron is putting a lid on a square glass container filled with coconut sago.

When you’re ready to serve, take the coconut sago out of the fridge and give it a stir in case there’s a thin layer of hardened fat on the top…

A spoon is lifting up a spoonful of coconut milk tapioca from a square glass container.

…and cut up a mango.

A closeup of someone cutting peeled mango into cubes on a rubber cutting board.

Grab some glasses and layer the coconut sago and diced mango.

A front shot of someone layering coconut sago with diced mango in a clear glass cup.

Top with toasted coconut flakes and dig in!


Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!


PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD

Print Recipe

5 from 7 votes

Mango Sago (Coconut Tapioca Pudding)

Mango sago, an Asian-inspired tropical chilled treat, combines creamy coconut tapioca pudding and sweet and tangy mango chunks in an irresistible paleo and vegan-friendly dessert!

Prep Time5 mins

Cook Time25 mins

Chilling time2 hrs

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: Asian

Keyword: Dairy-free, dessert, gluten-free, nom nom paleo, nomnompaleo, paleo, paleo dessert, Vegan

Servings: 4

Calories: 333kcal

Author: Michelle Tam

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • cup small pearl tapioca
  • 13.5 ounces full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (for vegan)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt 
  • 1 mango peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup unsweetened toasted coconut flakes optional

Instructions

  • Bring 6 cups of water in a large saucepan to a rolling boil over high heat.
  • Once the water is boiling, pour in the tapioca.
  • Lower the heat and maintain a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tapioca is translucent, stirring frequently to avoid sticking.
  • Pour the tapioca into a fine mesh sieve and run cold water over it to keep the balls from sticking.
  • Pour the coconut milk into the empty saucepan. Add the honey, vanilla and salt.
  • Bring the coconut milk to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the honey and salt.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked tapioca.
  • Transfer the contents to a sealed storage container. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  • When you’re ready to serve, take the coconut sago out of the fridge and give it a stir in case there’s a thin layer of hardened fat on the top and cut up a mango.
  • Grab some glasses and layer the coconut sago and diced mango. Top with toasted coconut flakes and dig in!

Notes

  • You can make the coconut tapioca pudding up to 4 days in advance and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge.
  • Although mangos are my favorite fruit to eat with sago, I also like to serve it with fresh berries or sliced stone fruit. And when I’m too lazy to wash and cut up fruit, I top the sago with frozen fruit!

Nutrition

Calories: 333kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 24g | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 17g

5

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *