Is Boba Keto? (We Have the Answer!)

Is Boba Keto

Boba tea, also known as bubble tea or pearl tea, is a classic drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. This drink typically consists of black or green tea with milk, sugar, and tapioca balls. Over the years, boba tea has evolved to include many drink and boba pearl combinations. In fact, many boba tea locations now offer a range of coffees, tea, juices, and smoothies—all able to be accompanied by your favorite boba pearl flavors.

Sadly, traditional boba is not keto-friendly. A typical ¼ cup serving of tapioca pearls will provide 34 grams of net carbs, which is already more than the daily allowance of carbohydrates on a typical keto diet. However, sugar-free boba or homemade, low-carbohydrate boba pearls are options to enjoy boba tea while on a keto diet.

Let’s explore what boba is made of, whether it’s healthy for you, popular drink combinations, and the best alternatives for those of us following a keto diet.

What is Boba?

Boba pearls are small, chewy spherical bubbles that are made of tapioca starch from the cassava root.

Boba tea classically includes black tea, milk, sugar, and tapioca pearls. These tapioca pearls are the original boba. As boba tea has gained popularity, the drink combinations have exponentially increased. Now, you can choose your milk ranging from skim to whole milk, or even choose non-dairy alternatives like almond or oat milk.

In addition to this, many teas can be flavored with powders such as almond powder or mango powder. Consumers can choose to substitute their black tea with green tea, fruit tea, coffee, juices, or even cold smoothies.

To complement the wide range of drink options, many different types of boba aside from the original tapioca pearls have been developed. Boba pearls now range from marble-size to pea-size and come in all shapes and colors. Sometimes they are even completely clear!

Boba is popular worldwide, but it originated in Taiwan, which now holds over 21,000 boba shops.

Boba Nutrition: Classic Boba Pearls

Tapioca Pearl Nutrition


  • Tapioca Pearls
    • Tapioca starch
    • Water
    • Modified starch
    • Potato starch
    • Xanthan gum
    • Caramel colors
    • Potassium sorbate
    • Sodium carboxylmethyl cellulose
    • Benzoic acid-S
    • Glavor
    • Antifoam
  • Sugar Syrup

Nutritional Facts (per 1 cup/152g serving):

  • Calories: 544
  • Total fat: 0g (0% DV)
  • Sodium: 1.5mg (0% DV)
  • Potassium: 17mg (0% DV)
  • Carbohydrates: 135g (45% DV)
  • Fiber: 1.4g (6% DV)
  • Protein: 0.3g
  • Calcium: 2.3% DV
  • Iron: 13% DV

Boba Nutrition: Most Popular Boba Tea Drinks

Boba Milk Tea Nutrition


  • Black tea
  • Whole milk
  • Tapioca boba
  • Sugar syrup

Nutritional Facts (per 16oz serving):

  • Calories: 240
  • Total fat: 3g
  • Sodium: 38.4mg
  • Potassium: 17mg
  • Carbohydrates: 56g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 0.3g
  • Calcium: 38% DV
  • Iron: 13% DV

Taro Milk Boba Tea Nutrition (16oz serving)

Taro milk tea is similar to Milk Boba Tea, except it is flavored with taro. The tea can either be flavored with taro extract or from scratch. Taro is sweet and has a vanilla profile, with similarities in flavor and texture to a sweet potato.

Often, taro is pureed and added to milk tea as a thickener and sweetener. A taro milk tea can be identified by its purple color.

Taro is often added to a jasmine or green tea base rather than a black tea base, but this is dependent on the taste preferences of the drinker.

Nutritional Facts:

  • Calories: 506
  • Total fat: 23g
  • Sodium: 648mg
  • Potassium: 17mg
  • Carbohydrates: 67g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 6g
  • Calcium: 38% DV
  • Iron: 13% DV

Thai Boba Tea

Thai milk tea is made from strongly brewed black tea, sweetened with sugar and sweetened condensed milk, and flavored with spices such as star anise, crushed tamarind, cardamom, cinnamon, and others. This tea is then served over ice and tapioca boba is added to it.

This drink is especially popular in Southeast Asia, and many Asian-inspired restaurants in Western countries serve this drink.

Nutritional Facts (per 16oz serving):

  • Calories: 201
  • Total fat: 1.9g
  • Sodium: 32mg
  • Potassium: 17mg
  • Carbohydrates: 46.5g
  • Fiber: 0.1g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Calcium: 8% DV
  • Iron: 4% DV
  • Vitamin A: 2% DV
  • Vitamin C: 1% DV

Matcha Boba Tea

Matcha is made from powdered green tea, which gives the drink its characteristic green color. Matcha boba tea is often sweetened with maple syrup or honey then served with your milk of choice and tapioca pearls.

Matcha has an earthy flavor and is high in antioxidants. For those looking for a boba tea drink packed with nutrients, matcha milk tea is one of the better options.

Nutritional Facts (per 16oz serving):

  • Calories: 248
  • Total fat: 8g
  • Sodium: 114mg
  • Potassium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 38g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Calcium: 20% DV
  • Iron: 0% DV
  • Vitamin C: 2% DV

Brown Sugar Milk Boba Tea

Brown sugar milk tea, also known as Tiger Milk Tea, is a flavor that was introduced and made popular by Tiger Sugar in Taiwan. This flavor gained so much popularity that it quickly spread to the western world, and now there are even ice cream flavors modeled off of it.

Tiger milk tea is characteristically recognized by the tiger-like brown streaks on the side of the cup from the brown sugar syrup. The brown sugar syrup is made by simmering dark brown sugar and water until thickened. This tea is typically made with black tea, milk or cream, brown sugar syrup, and tapioca boba.

Nutritional Facts (per 16oz serving):

  • Calories: 369
  • Total fat: 12g
  • Sodium: 189mg
  • Potassium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 54g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Calcium: 32% DV
  • Iron: 0% DV
  • Vitamin C: 2% DV

Is Boba Healthy?

Traditionally, boba offers little to no nutritional value. Boba pearls are almost entirely carbohydrates and high in calories per volume. While this may be great for a quick energy boost, it is not good for long-term health outcomes and will take up a large portion of your healthy daily calorie intake without providing much nutritional value.

Most boba contains high levels of sugar, which has been linked to the development of obesity and diabetes.

While Boba pearls are traditionally unhealthy, the drink that you are mixing the boba pearls with may provide some health benefits.

Green tea is a common base for Boba tea and provides health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and lowering the risk of heart disease or stroke. Green tea also has high levels of antioxidants, which lower the risk of many cancers.

Black tea has also been shown to have health benefits, such as possible anti-cancer effects, lowering blood pressure, increasing alertness, and improving heart health. To maximize the health benefits of boba tea, try asking for reduced levels of sweetener to be added to your drink!

What flavors of Boba pearls are there?

With the current popularity of boba tea, almost endless options are now available. Some common tapioca flavors include:

  • Mango
  • Strawberry
  • Honeydew
  • Passion fruit
  • Pineapple
  • Other fruity flavors
  • Coconut
  • Aloe
  • Vanilla
  • Almond
  • Honey
  • Savory flavors

In addition to traditional tapioca, common additions to boba tea include:

  • Grass jelly
  • Aloe vera
  • Almond jelly
  • Custardy egg pudding
  • Adzuki beans
  • Panna cotta
  • Chia seeds
  • Sweet potato balls

The nutritional profile of these types of jellies depends on how they are made, how they are sweetened, and how much of each is added into the drink.

What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a traditionally low-carbohydrate diet that includes a high intake of healthy fats and moderate protein intake.

When this diet is followed for 3-4 days, the body will switch into a state called ketosis. When in ketosis, the body burns fat as its primary source of fuel rather than carbohydrates. This can be great for short-term weight loss, as well as treating certain medical conditions such as epilepsy.

Generally, to go into a state of ketosis a person needs to eat between 20-50grams of net carbohydrates per day. Net carbohydrates are the number of carbohydrates consumed without including fiber.

Keto-Friendly Boba Alternatives

Because boba is almost exclusively carbohydrates with high amounts of sugar, and boba tea contains added sugar syrup and sweeteners on top of this, one drink can take you out of ketosis.

However, homemade sugar-free boba can allow you to enjoy boba without the high carbohydrate load. Here’s a simple recipe for how to make low-calorie, sugar-free, carbohydrate-free boba so you can enjoy the texture addition to your drink while staying in ketosis.

Coffee Keto-Friendly Boba


  • 1/2 cup of black coffee
  • 1 tablespoon of gelatin of choice
  • 1 cup of neutral oil, chilled
  • Water, chilled in the freezer


  • 1 large syringe
  • 1 medium pot
  • 1 large spoon to mix
  • 2 bowls
  • 1 colander


  1. Heat the coffee in a pot on the stove, and mix the gelatin in until combined with no lumps
  2. Stir until the mixture reaches a boil and begins to thicken
  3. Remove the mixture from heat and cool for 5 minutes
  4. Using the syringe, put drops of the mixture into the bowl of very cold oil (continue stirring)
  5. Drain the boba and oil mixture into a colander
  6. Pour the boba into a large bowl filled with cold water
  7. Continue the cycle of draining the boba and then placing in cold water until the oil is off of the pearls
  8. Store in an airtight container in the fridge

For each 4 boba pearls, this recipe will provide 13 calories and 0g of carbohydrates and sugar. This recipe was adapted from

What should I order at a Boba Tea House on a keto diet?

Unless there is a specific sugar-free or low-carb boba option indicated, it’s best to forgo the boba in your tea or coffee drink. This will ensure you are not accidentally ingesting high levels of net carbohydrates that will result in being kicked out of ketosis.

Drinks such as black coffee, black tea, and green tea sweetened by stevia can all be ordered at most Boba Tea Houses. These drinks provide 0g of net carbs and 0g of sugar.

Related Questions

Is boba vegetarian?

Yes, boba is traditionally vegetarian (and vegan!). This is because it is made from the cassava root, and gelatin is not typically used in its creation. However, some newer brands of boba may use gelatin. It is important to ask your server for ingredient details or check the label when buying a product.

Is boba gluten-free?

Yes! Boba is gluten-free and safe to consume for those with celiac disease or who prefer to avoid gluten.

Can diabetics consume boba?

Boba has high levels of sugar and a high glycemic index. Because of this, diabetics should only consume boba in moderation and consult with a healthcare provider before consistently incorporating it into their diet.

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Josie Burridge

Josie has always had a passion for food and for cooking. From a young age, she was always in the kitchen mixing up new recipes and serving way-too-elaborate meals. She graduated with a degree in biomedical engineering, emphasizing her studies on biology and biochemistry. She currently studies nutritional epidemiology, and loves combining her knowledge of science with her love of food to provide people with high-quality, up-to-date nutritional information and research.

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