The lightly vanilla-scented tapioca is a perfect complement to the sweet, fresh fruit in this fat-free vegan dessert. They’re also low in sugar and naturally soy- and gluten-free.
Red, white, and blue and good for you too!
Silly as they are, those are the words that popped into my head as I sat down to write about these luscious parfaits. I had the Fourth of July on my mind when I started planning a dessert with strawberries and blueberries, but it occurs to me now that these two summer fruits, connected by a layer of vanilla-almond pudding, are more than just a pretty color scheme: They’re nutritional stars, too.
Blueberries routinely top the lists of healthiest foods, their dark blue color harboring antioxidants that are thought to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides and even reverse memory loss. But strawberries are also no slouch in the health department; their phytonutrients are associated with reduced deaths from cancer and protection from rheumatoid arthritis.
Antioxidants and phytonutrients are all well and good, but if you’re looking for a fun and festive dessert for your Independence Day celebration, heath benefits may not be your primary concern. You want something that tastes as spectacular as it looks. Well, let me help you out: These parfaits will be the hit of the party. The lightly vanilla-scented tapioca is a perfect complement to the sweet, fresh fruit. They might be a little time-consuming to put together, but once they’re made, they can chill in your fridge for hours until you’re ready to serve dessert. And here’s a bonus: Besides being loaded with healthy fruit, they’re low in sugar and naturally soy- and gluten-free. Let the fireworks begin!
- 3 cups almond milk, divided
- 1/3 cup small tapioca pearls
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (or 1 tsp. arrowroot)
- 3 tablespoons sugar (agave nectar can be used, but it will make the tapioca slightly darker)*
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 pound strawberries, washed and stemmed
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar*
- 1 pint blueberries, rinsed and drained
- Have ready: A deep metal bowl and a larger bowl, filled halfway with ice and water, that the metal bowl fits into with space around the sides.
- Place 2 1/2 cups of almond milk and the tapioca into a heavy saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally, and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Stir well every few minutes, scraping the bottom and sides to prevent sticking. Cook until the tapioca pearls are mostly translucent, 15-20 minutes.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of the reserved almond milk with the cornstarch and set aside. Add the remaining almond milk to the pan along with the sugar and vanilla bean. Increase heat and return mixture to a slow boil. Continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until mixture thickens.
- Remove from heat and pour pudding into a deep metal bowl. Remove the vanilla bean, scraping it down with a spoon to draw out some of its seeds, and place the bowl in the prepared ice bath. Stir it every few minutes until it cools, about 10 minutes.
- While the pudding is cooling, cut the strawberries in quarters. Put them in a food processor along with the agave nectar and pulse until coarsely pureed. Divide the puree among 6 small glasses (8-oz. juice glasses or wine glasses work best).
- Once the tapioca is cool, divide it equally among the 6 glasses, spooning it gently atop the strawberry layer. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, until well chilled. Add a layer of blueberries to each parfait and serve.
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