Tapioca Couscous: a Simple, Sweet Dessert

Though this tasty treat has spread now throughout the world, tapioca once was found only in Brazil. It’s a product of the cassava — a tuber native to the nordeste (northeast) of my country. Tapioca is the starch which comes from its bitter root, and was discovered before European explorers arrived.

This recipe for cuscuz de tapioca (tapioca couscous) is much appreciated by Brazilians during the winter holiday season, especially in the month of June. This is when we have the Festa Juninha (June Festival) to celebrate the patron saints of the nordeste: Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony, and Saint Peter.

By the way, if you visit places like Olinda — a historic city in Pernambuco just north of Recife — you’ll find tapioca served in a different manner than you see here. There it’s made in a skillet, much more like a French crepe. In fact, we put different fillings inside as well: from butter to cheese or meat.


the Origin of Tapioca Couscous

The story behind tapioca couscous reflects the diverse heritage of Brazil. Though tapioca was originally processed by the Tupí (an indigenous people of Brazil), they didn’t have milk or sugar — both of which were brought over later by Europeans. Ultimately, it took the creativity of African slaves to develop this delicious dish.

During the era of slavery in Brazil, women slaves did most of the domestic work. So, whether in the home or in the market square, they were responsible for cooking. It was the resourcefulness of African cuisine that mixed the starchiness of tapioca with the sweetness of sugar and milk to make couscous.

It’s really an easy and inexpensive recipe; just follow the steps below. I live in Rio de Janeiro, and you’ll see tapioca couscous sold by vendors walking along the beach. They always cover this little treat with consensed milk before serving — a delight that fills my eyes and makes my mouth salivate!

If you’re using a bag of shredded coconut, you can mix a bit of water into the flakes (especially if you’re eating it at the beach). At home, you might want to use half water and half whole milk instead. Experiment to see what suits your taste. Please enjoy, and tell me if you liked it in the Comments.


Tapioca Couscous • Cuscuz de Tapioca

Total Time: 30 Mins


  • 500 g of tapioca
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 400 g of grated coconut
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 500 ml water
  • 500 ml milk
  • 1 pinch of salt


  1. Boil the water. Mix with the tapioca and sugar.
  2. Then add 300 g of grated coconut, a pinch of salt, and milk.
  3. Mix well. Place on a platter and let cool for at least 2 hours.
  4. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded coconut as decoration.
  5. Add condensed milk on top, as you wish.

Photos: Public domain and Laura

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Luana Flôr

Luana Flôr

Luana is passionate about Brazilian literature. She lives in Rio de Janeiro, and loves to make sweets like brigadeiro. Lu says that, in Brazil, food is the best reason to gather with friends and family -- because, over a good dessert, the conversation gets tastier, too.


  1. André Castello says:

    Deu água na boca.

  2. Felipe Gostosão says:

    Que isso heim… Luh conzinheira internacional, esta melhor do que a Ana Maria (+vc) kkkkkkkkk…. mais e sou MAISSSSSS Luh Flor de Luz!

    Guys can do that will be successful, not try more trust in international chef! kkkkkkkkkk

  3. vinicius ferreira vianna says:

    I really appreciate couscous when the weather is cold…. Especially with condensed milk!!

    I would like to now…. it’s true what some people tell about couscous being an aphrodisiac?

  4. Roberto says:



  5. Luis Carlos Felipe Junior says:

    che bello, non sapevo che si potesse cucinare ..
    il mio orgoglio
    Voglio sapere quando uno di questi lo farà per me =)
    sono belle foto, e il distacco .. Vi auguro successo

  6. Luis Carlos Felipe Junior says:

    I didn’t know you were able to do such a thing…
    proud of you sweet…
    just wanna know when you’ll be cooking me some sweets like these ones…
    hope u get your success soon, so you can open a restaurant and i can get diabetic fullfilling my own with these wonderment!! ^^

  7. vitorsantoss says:

    Very cool, made for Lu flor :)
    she got skills

  8. Cara, eu amo isso.

  9. Alex Carapia says:

    hum…delicious! *_*

  10. jarbas says:

    vc nao é ana maria.. mas sou mais vc! kkkkkkk

  11. Hugo braga says:

    Um quero um pouco hemmmm,deve ser maravilhoso,que vir aqui em casa fazer um desses?! rsrsrsrs

  12. Felipe Gomes says:

    Great recipe!

  13. Sole says:

    Muito obrigado! Acabo de llegar de Buzios y me enamore del cuscus de tapioca <3 haré la receta!

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