Is Boba Vegan? Find out the Simple Facts Here

Updated on: November 20, 2021
Author: Nick
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Vegan Boba - Is Boba Vegan

Anyone who is vegan knows how difficult it can be to find food that they like, especially when it comes to beverages. Ever since bubble tea became popular in North America, vegans have been wondering "Is Boba Vegan?".

Great news for all of the vegans out there, it's actually easy to make your bubble tea vegan-friendly!

This post will answer the question: is boba vegan? (Hint: usually yes) and provide you with a list of toppings that are vegan-friendly so that you never have another problem finding something yummy and cruelty-free again.

What is Boba Tea?

Boba tea (or bubble tea, or simply boba) is a delicious drink originally made from tea, milk, and chewy balls at the bottom of your drink. This drink has evolved to encompass a multitude of Boba tea flavors and boba toppings.

It's a great drink for vegans because there are so many easy swaps to make vegan boba for a plant based diet with lots of health benefits.

By the way, the name of this drink can be confusing. So for the purposes of this post, we use all three names above interchangeably.

Consume Boba at Tea Shops

What are Boba Pearls?

Boba pearls, or boba balls, are chewy tapioca balls at the bottom of your bubble tea drink, made of cassava root starch. They are infused with different flavors to give them a unique taste. There are also different types of boba balls such as crystal boba and popping boba.

Boba Tapioca Pearls

So, Is Boba Vegan?

The answer is bubble tea is typically vegan-friendly with some exceptions.

The biggest exception is the original classic milk tea flavor. It is not a vegan option, since it is typically made with milk.

Good news for many vegans though, there are plenty of ways for you to order your bubble tea or make it vegan! We have prepared a list of vegan boba tea toppings so that you can choose from these next time you order bubble tea!

What Boba Toppings Are Vegan?

  • Any tea base such as black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and so on.

  • Tapioca Starch that comes from the Cassava root. However, some tapioca pearls are infused with honey. These are NOT vegan.

  • Crystal Boba, which is a transparent variation of tapioca pearls made of Konjac, a plant native to East and Southeast Asia.

  • Popping Boba, made from water, fruit juice, sodium alginate (derived from algae), and calcium lactate (a salt, nothing to do with dairy despite the name) using the spherification process. Again, make sure the popping boba is not sweetened using honey.

  • Lychee jelly and other fruit jellies such as grass jelly, rainbow jelly, and aloe vera jelly are usually vegan friendly. Just make sure they are made from agar jelly and not sweetened with honey.

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners are generally vegan. However, there is a bit of a nuance here. Most white sugar no longer contains bone char, but best check with your server. You should be safe with organic white or brown sugar though. Further, some artificial sweeteners are tested on animals so this may be a deal-breaker for you.

  • Organic Maple Syrup since non-animal products are used. If not organic, avoid (see below).

  • Red Beans are also known as adzuki beans. Red beans are a staple in Asian desserts and usually come sweetened or unsweetened, so ask your server for more information on how they are sweetened just in case.

  • Milk alternatives like soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk

  • Taro Balls are purple and white balls made from the Taro root.

As you can see, there are many vegan toppings to choose from!

Bubble Tea - Lychee Jelly

What Other Toppings Should I Avoid as a Vegan?

The following bubble tea toppings should be avoided. They are not vegan.

  • Dairy Milk

  • Ice Cream since it often contains dairy products

  • Jellies not made from agar

  • Non-Organic Maple Syrup, because animal products are used during the processing

  • Egg Pudding since it contains eggs

  • Cheese Foam contains dairy

  • Rice Cream which contains milk and other non-vegan ingredients

  • Honey as mentioned several times in this blog post. Be sure to avoid any food containing honey if you are vegan!
Is Bubble Tea Vegan

Any Tips To Ensure My Bubble Tea is Vegan?

Here are some tips to ensure you get a vegan bubble tea.

Keep your bubble tea simple. If you add 15 toppings or ingredients, not only your taste buds will be confused but also there is a higher chance a non-vegan ingredient will find its way into your cup.

For example, you can order the traditional bubble tea, which is also known as the classic milk tea. The traditional milk tea contains only a few ingredients, which are black tea, milk, tapioca pearls, and brown sugar. 

Simply ask your tea shop to substitute cow’s milk for non-dairy milk, such as oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, or your favorite alternative.

As you can see, it's easy to create vegan versions of bubble tea!

Don't be afraid to order a milky drink. Dairy Milk can easily be substituted. You can also ask your bubble tea shop for dairy-free bubble tea. This will eliminate most of the non-vegan ingredients, to begin with.

Or you can opt for a fruity drink instead. Fruit juice is sweet enough anyway so you won't have to worry whether the sugar or sweetener is vegan.

Most jellies should be okay as they are made from agar or Konjac, but just ask your server just in case!

Finally, ask your bubble tea shop for a list of other ingredients, and simply substitute or discard any non-vegan ingredients!

If you also care for the environment and want to reduce plastic waste, then check out the 7 Best Reusable Boba Cups and Straws!

Plus you can store your extra boba for later in this Cute Boba Mini Fridge!

Frequently Asked Questions - Is Boba Vegan?

What are some vegan alternatives to dairy milk?

Vegan milk includes almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and oat milk. These are good substitutes for dairy.

Is boba vegan if it has sugar in it?

It usually is. Sugar comes from the sugar cane, but animal bone char has been used in the past during the refining process as a bleaching agent. The bone char is usually removed, but this means an animal product was used during the making of sugar. However, most modern sugar producers have moved on and used instead activated carbon or ion-exchange resins, which are vegan.

Are artificial sweeteners vegan?

Another nuanced answer, sorry! Some of them are tested on animals so you may need to research this a little bit more! Some natural sweeteners that are not tested on animals include maple syrup and blackstrap molasses. Although the latter contains calcium which could be from bone char. And if your maple syrup is not organic it may contain additives from animal products.

Boba Bubbles Originated in Taiwan

Bottom Line

In conclusion, bubble tea can definitely be vegan. We know ordering boba tea can be confusing, and it can be even more confusing if you are vegan. But as you can see there are still plenty of choices for you and still have a vegan boba tea!

We hope this has helped answer the question: is boba vegan.

Plus make sure to check out the Best Bubble Tea Kits so you can make your own vegan boba at home! Which vegan bubble tea is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!
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