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Tapioca Pudding and Being Gluten-Free

by Lauren | Celiac Teen on June 8, 2010

Every now and then, I am reminded of one very important thing: every single person who is gluten-free has had different experiences. We eat different things when we’re sick. We found out about our disease(s) in different ways, with different time spans and different amounts of doctors. We adapted to this diet in different ways, maybe by eating more natural foods or by racing to the nearest gluten-free product on the shelf. After all of those hours in waiting rooms, with sore stomachs or endless amounts of other symptoms, it all comes down to this: We are gluten-free because we need to be, because our bodies are happier this way.

I haven’t been glutened since January (thank goodness!), but I’ve become increasingly aware of the insanity that ensues in our bodies. I am incredibly lucky to know. And so are you (if you don’t, you could ask for it on your next blood test. Couldn’t hurt {I’m not a doctor though}). Yes, I realize this post is a few days late – May was Celiac Awareness Month, but the truth is that we don’t just have celiac in May. Gluten is a no-go for me and countless others, whether they have celiac or not, all year long. All day, every day. But don’t look at me with sadness or guilt. This is a fantastic thing. As I’ve said before: I know what is wrong, and I can fix it. Without any (additional) medication. That is not only a beautiful thing, but fairly miraculous, if you ask me.

So although I wasn’t sick, this was one of my favourite foods for when some gluten attacked my intestines. Except then, it wasn’t homemade. Now, it is. It’s the same recipe I used for the strawberry rhubarb tapioca pudding cake, just completing the tapioca part :).

Rather than type it out here, I’ll just direct you to Elise’s site. She has a fantastic resource of recipes, some of which are gluten-free (they have their own category even!), so you can definitely spend lots of time there, and find many fantastic things. The only (minor) change I made was to soak it for a very long time. It was only sort of because I forgot about it soaking in the fridge. So, I soaked the pearls in the 3 cups of milk for about a day and a half, but make it however you wish :). Oh, and I put little bits into these cute little bowls and covered them with plastic wrap and kept them in the fridge for a few days, having them as after-school snacks. Easy as pie.  But, well, pudding.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

It’s leveled off.  Chilled for a few hours.

The thing about going gluten-free is that before, you can look okay.  Like a normal person.  But the truth is that you’re fighting a daily battle – against yourself.  Cutting gluten out of that mix let my intestines take a rest.  It let me enjoy my food even more.  Trust me, when your tummy aches on a daily basis, the only thing that’s going into your body is comfort foods.  Or at least I did my best to have as much of those as I could.  They help your head when your body isn’t into the game.  When you don’t know what’s wrong, having at least half of the food equation happy is a good thing.  At least it was for me.

Take a bite.  A safe bite.

After diagnosis, diligence is key.  The possibility that there could be a wayward protein – Yes, just one – is not worth the risk.  Simple foods, such as this tapioca pudding are heaven.  They’re made from simple things.  Milk, Eggs, Tapioca, etc.  Foods that aren’t foreign.  Oh, the foreign ones will most definitely come, but they aren’t the only safe gluten-free foods out there.  There are so many more.  You just have to keep an eye out.

Eat as much – or as little – as you need.  I gobbled it up.

When food is both your cure and your enemy, it can be confusing.  But the truth is that it is here.  It is beautiful.  Once you’re sure it’s safe, gluten-free foods easily make their way into your mouth.  You don’t have to force it though.  In the beginning, I would try anything that was gluten-free, sometimes just because it was.  You can have delicious foods too.  Simple ones, extravagant ones.  Some with a handful of flours and time put into them, others straight out of the ground, washed and eaten right there.  Don’t be afraid.  Your tastes might change, mine did.  I also got better and better about understanding flours and how they interact.  Now I can recreate things just as I remember.  Sometimes even better.

So with all of that, I just want to say that gluten is a crazy thing, but we’re all on this beautiful journey together.  Our bodies demanded that we take note and having done so we were afforded the opportunity to rediscover food as a whole.  Don’t be afraid of it.  From simple tapioca pudding to complicated croissants, gluten-free becomes just like any other cuisine.  Except it has one advantage over all the rest – it gets to incorporate them all and morph them into a delicious mosaic of meals and treats which (almost) anyone can enjoy.

Lots of Love,

Twitter, Facebook, Foodbuzz and Flickr.

PS – I’m obviously not a doctor, so I’m not claiming to give any sort of medical advice :).

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret June 8, 2010 at 12:38 am

“when your tummy aches on a daily basis, the only thing that’s going into your body is comfort foods.”

That’s so true! I definitely try anything that is safe for me to eat now! It’s made me a lot more adventurous!

Theresa June 8, 2010 at 3:55 am

Beautiful post! I love the way you put everything. I’m so going to quote this: “When food is both your cure and your enemy, it can be confusing.”
I love how you’ve captured the sadness, and yet the beauty and joy that comes from being gluten free.
I haven’t tried tapioca pudding yet, but after that last photo I think I’ll have to!

Keesha June 8, 2010 at 7:37 am

Ditto what Theresa said….that’s a great line about food being both the enemy and the cure. Sometimes I feel like my friends and family think I’m food-obsessed (and I certainly do enjoy cooking and eating!), but it’s hard not to think about it a lot when it’s what makes you sick and what makes you better.

gfe--gluten free easily June 8, 2010 at 7:42 am

Amazing post, Lauren! So beautifully done. Thank you for it. And, of course, the tapioca pudding link and photos–so incredibly lovely. Tapioca is indeed comforting and naturally gluten free–the perfect combo IMO. :-) I’ve used tapioca in baking before, but never made it from scratch for pudding. Must do … it’s Mr. GFE’s favorite pudding. 😉


Jenn June 8, 2010 at 7:47 am

Superbly written Lauren! Tapioca pudding is a family favorite, I think my dad made it for us at least once a week growing up – actually, I think he still does for my mom :) My two favorite variations are chocolate and banana. My family never ever waited for it to chill, we always ate it warm, fresh off the stove :)

stephanie @ glutenfreebynature June 8, 2010 at 8:19 am

hi Lauren

this is a wonderful post. eloquently written. I identify completely with your sentiment that ” food can be both your cure and your enemy”. So very true. Btw, I haven’t had tapioca pudding in about 20 years so I think it’s high time I revisited a childhood favorite. Thanks for inspiring me to do so :)

Have a great week

Kate June 8, 2010 at 9:40 am

Lauren — I found out about you when I first joined the Daring Bakers. I wasn’t interested in your challenge because why would I want to make something gluten free? Ah, the irony. Some months later, I found out that the mystery pain I’d been having for a year was gluten intolerance (among other fun intolerances). I dropped Daring Bakers because right now I feel like a daring eater. Seriously, I have to think through everything I eat and it takes so much energy to feed my family and then me. And then sometimes I hurt anyway. Ugh.

You’re right. I need some tapioca pudding!

Thank you for your lovely, brave, beautiful, and delicious posts. By the way, the devil’s food turned out picture perfect (with pink whipped cream piping) and my daughter was so happy that we both could eat her cake.

Meg @ Gluten-Free Boulangerie June 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

I know just what you mean, when you say “But don’t look at me with sadness or guilt. This is a fantastic thing.”

So many times, when I’m explaining to people what I can’t eat and why, they say, “Oh wow…I’m sorry…” And all I can say to them is, “I’m not! I’m not sick anymore! Not to mention that gluten-free things can be delicious!”

I, too, am so very glad to know what was wrong with me and to know it can be fixed, all just by avoiding that one protein. I’m also so thankful for how the internet has connected celiacs, creating this diverse community of people sharing their recipes and stories. It was a pleasure to read your post.

Maggie June 8, 2010 at 11:35 am

You have such a way with words Lauren. You’re an optimist and I love that about you! I’ve never liked tapioca or rice pudding (it’s a texture thing). But your pictures make me want to at least try it – if someone else makes it for me :)

Wenderly June 8, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Absolutely enchanting you are. Lovely post. I have suffered with food allergies for a long time, and now my sister, who has suffered terribly with Lymes Disease may indeed also have celiac disease. We are waiting for results. Life is so serendipitous.
I believe that the “struggles” that we all face in life are blessings in disguise that aren’t reviled yet. The key is how we “choose” to deal with them, and you my dear, are doing a beautiful job. I look forward to reading more.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you DO with what happens to you.” ~Anonymous
And you are doing a great job!

AmandaonMaui June 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I tried making the tapioca from “How To Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman a few days ago and it just didn’t turn out. He bakes his in the oven, and I just had to throw it into a pot and get it to thicken down that way.

Tapioca has been one of my all time favorite foods since I was a kid. I love it when it’s made with coconut milk.

Trissa June 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Eye opening post Lauren. Although I must say I used to feel a bit sorry for those who could not eat gluten but with all the great recipes you and your fellow gluten free bloggers come up with, it makes me realize that there is nothing to feel sorry for!

Elise June 8, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Hi Lauren,
Thanks so much for the shout-out! And for the reminder that some of the best foods out there are gluten-free, naturally. :-)

Ellen Allard @ I Am Gluten Free June 9, 2010 at 9:11 am

Lauren – you have a gift for words. I think a book is in your future. Thanks for the lovely words, the lovely recipe, and the reminder that the power to heal ourselves through the food choices we make is powerful indeed.

Dia June 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

& such lovely photos!! I also love tapioca pudding – it’s one of my ‘easy in the evening when I want something sweet’ deserts. I cooked up some local rhubarb the other day, with a handful of raisins, & a drizzle of honey at the end . . . & the first thing I added it to was tapioca.
I also make it with carob (naturally sweet) & chocolate, mixed . . . mmm; maybe tonight after my book group . . .
I often stir in some of my coconut milk kefir when I dish it up, if I want it extra creamy :)

Barbara Bakes June 9, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Your photography has gotten so good. Really great shots. I’m a tapioca lover too. I wish you continued success with your gluten free cooking.

Karen Robertson June 10, 2010 at 10:22 am

My 18-year old just had her wisdom teeth pulled, tapioca pudding is the perfect comfort food for the occasion. Thank you!

Nisrine@Dinners & Dreams June 11, 2010 at 10:45 am

I clicked on the croissants link and was pleasantly surprised by how good they looked. You are so bold for attempting gluten-free croissants.

SnoWhite June 17, 2010 at 11:07 am

Thanks for sharing this, Lauren! I hear you about food being a “cure” and an “enemy” — I feel that way oftentimes with my nut allergy.

Ivy November 7, 2011 at 7:28 pm

This is awesome! Im 14 and I just found out that I had Celiac last week and I
can’t eat any of my favorite but your website kinda shows me that you can live
through life eating good food and still do it and survive with Celiac.

MELINDA January 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm


Steven April 27, 2013 at 7:35 am

I am a 74 year old man who has been plagued with a welter of undiagnosible health concerns for many years. Despite many doctors and lab tests, I only began to realize I actually had a gluten problem a few months ago by experimenting with not eating the stuff. What a difference.

Kassie October 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I am grateful for sites like this and really appreciate your information. I was diagnosed a month ago and mine hit my joints even more than my tummy. I kept thinking I had arthritis and wondered why they could not find anything but I am so grateful for them finding celiac. I accidently ate gluten after being gluten free and the pain was so bad I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital it took a bit to realize that is what happened. So though there is a morning period where you think of all you cannot eat it is so not worth the pain and you get over it quickly and as you stated I find food I eat even better sometimes than what I ate before. Thank you again.

Barbara Barnes February 4, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I have been unable to find tapioca pearls that don’t have cross-contamination from being processed on the same line as wheat. Unfortunately, I am that sensitive, and had to clear out our spices, nuts, etc. and switch to those made in dedicated gluten-free facilities. Any suggestions? has tapioca pearls, but they are not part of their gluten-free line.

Amanda March 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Love that you’re constantly experimenting and love your positive attitude! Only sad thing is, I’ve got a rare combo of intolerances – gluten, corn AND rice! Unfortunately won’t be able to try this recipe but gutted as I love croissants. At ideas for how I could do this?

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