Ginataang Bilo Bilo is a delicious tropical treat in the Philippines made up of rice balls, various slices of different fruits, and tapioca pearls all soaked in a bowl od coconut milk. It’s a delicious concoction that’s best enjoyed as an afternoon snack or dessert and can be served warm or chilled.
Ginataang bilo bilo was one of the favorites snacks to serve during merienda in my household, especially for kids. I remember that my lola loved to experiment with different fruits and ingredients to dump into our bowls of sweet gooey goodness so it was always an exciting thing to see what combination she has come up with.
You can include various ingredients when making gintaang bilo bilo but the most common and traditional Filipino recipe for this snack includes ingredients like riceballs, coconut milk, langka (or jackfruit), and tapioca. You can opt not to include the langka and replace it with your preferred fruits but the coconut milk, rice balls, and tapioca can never be excluded because we wouldn’t be able to identify it as a ginataang bilo bilo dish.
As I look online, some websites categorize this dish as a kakanin but I’m not entirely sure about that because it’s commonly served indoors and you’ll hardly find any ginataang bilo-bilo vendors out at the streets during the holidays or at bus stops which I think plays a portion on what constitutes a kakanin these days, although it does use rice balls as the main ingredient.
I also found that there’s a similar Chinese dish called tangyuan which uses similar ingredients like glutinous rice rolled up in balls served in a bowl of water. The Chinese typically serve these colorful snacks during the Chinese New Year.
Maybe the Filipino ginataang bilo bilo dish was influenced by the Chinese tangyuan dish and made our own version of it. Other websites also call it the warm version of halo-halo. Who knows. But I’m pretty sure that ginataang bilo bilo is a staple Filipino snack and like many staple Filipino dishes in the Philippines, each household has its own version of this dish.
And again, it’s such a fun Filipino dish to experiment with using different fruits. The most typical one is langka or jackfruit but I’ve seen so many different versions in the internet including one with ube that turned the coconut milk a beautiful purple color. Many ginataang bilo-bilo also commonly use saba or ripe plantains. Whatever you can get your hands on, you can incorporate it in the recipe.
Plus it’s up to the household if they want to serve the snack cold or warm. We typically serve ginataang bilo-bilo warm especially during a rainy day or a particularly cold night but I can see the huge appeal of serving it chilled, especially during hot afternoons.
For my ginataang bilo bilo recipe, I like to keep it simple. I’m going to use all the classic ingredients plus some ripe plantains or saba and sweet potatoes sliced into small cubes. I’ll list all the ingredients and their measurements below. All of them are easily available in local markets all over the Philippines.
Now for the cooking process. I was surprised on my first time cooking ginataang bilo bilo is divided into three parts. I guess I was just so used to immediately being served a bowl of this sweet gooey goodness during my childhood that I had the impression that cooking it only takes a minute or two.
But gintaang bilo bilo is prepared by first cooking the rice balls, then the tapioca pearls, and finally the ginataan which basically mixed all the finished ingredients altogether. Of course, the fruits and other ingredients are prepped and sliced first before adding it into the bowl.
Onces you’ve got all everything prepared and ready, it’s only a matter of combining it all together and creating the beautifully creamy and delicious ginataang bilo bilo. Serve it warm or chilled depending on the time of day and weather and you’re guaranteed for a delicious snack or dessert. Have fun scooping up all the different ingredients in the bowl.
Here’s my ginataang bilo bilo recipe which you can easily follow. Enjoy!
Ginataang Bilo Bilo – Sticky Rice Balls in Coconut Milk Recipe
- 2 cups glutinous rice flour
- 1 cup dried tapioca pearls soaked in water for at least 4 hours
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 ripe plantains sliced
- 1 large sweet potato sliced into small cubes
- 1 cup of sliced jack fruit
- Mix the rice flour with 10 TBSP of water and form into small dough balls.
- In batches, cook rice balls in boiling water for about 6-8 minutes or until they float to the top.
- Set rice balls aside. *tip: When ready to mix this with the rest of the ingredients, just pick them up with clean wet hands. Otherwise they will stick to each other.
- To cook the tapioca:
- Strain the tapioca if you soaked them.
- Drop them into the same pot where you cooked the rice balls and let it boil.
- Simmer over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until they are soft and translucent, strain then set aside. *tip: soak them in cold water when set aside so they don’t stick together.
- To make the Ginataang Bilo Bilo:
- Mix 3 cups of coconut milk and 1 cup water in a large saucepan/pot and bring to a boil.
- Add sweet potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes under low heat.
- Add tapioca (strain the water from the tapioca pearls if you followed my tip), brown sugar and rice balls into the pot, simmer for 10 minutes
- Add plantains and sliced jack fruit, let it cook for 5 minutes or until tender.
- Add remaining coconut milk, bring to a boil then remove from heat.
- Serve warm or chilled.