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Monday, January 31st, 2011

Chinese New Year Recipe: Yuanxiao (sweet rice balls)


Yuanxiao, or sweet rice balls, are traditionally eaten on Lantern Festival, which is the last day of the two-week Chinese New Year holiday. Lantern Festival falls on the first full moon of the new year and people traditionally go out on the street at night carrying lanterns, and light fireworks and visit friends and family. They also eat this sweet dessert, which has a round shape symbolizing family unity and happiness (and the full moon). The ingredients can be found at Asian supermarkets.




4 1/2 cups glutinous (sticky) rice flour
7/8 cup (14 tablespoons) butter
7 oz (200 g) black sesame powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp white wine




1. Mix butter with sesame powder, sugar and wine. You may need to heat the mixture a little to soften it. Let the mixture cool and then form into very small balls (as big around as a penny).


2. Put the rice flour in a bowl and mix with a little water at a time until it holds together and is soft like play-doh.


3. Make the dough into balls a little smaller than a golf ball. Make a deep indentation in each ball and put the smaller balls of sesame powder mixture inside, and then close it up completely.


4. Cook them in boiling water. Make sure to keep stirring gently in one direction while cooking. When the water reaches a boil, add some cold water and let it boil again. When they float on the water, continue to boil for about one minute at a lower temperature.


5. Remove from the pan immediately. Serve them while hot in a bowl covered with the water they were cooked in. You can also add some ginger and sugar to the broth to make a sweet syrup.


*This recipe has been partially adapted from:

© 2011 – 2013, Sophie Beach. All rights reserved.

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Sophie Beach lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and edits the news site China Digital Times. She and her husband are raising their two children bilingually in Mandarin and English. Sophie also runs the Hao Mama blog as part of a never-ending quest to find and share resources that make learning Chinese a fun and organic part of her children's lives.

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsHao Mama 好妈妈 » Blog Archive » Year of the Rabbit   |  Thursday, 03 February 2011 at 3:54 pm

    […] has done in four years of school. Simple and lovely and befitting the holiday. ICP also posted a recipe I put together for yuanxiao, a sweet treat for the holiday which is enjoyed all year around in our house (usually not made by hand, […]

  2. CommentsLunar New Year: January 23, 2012 | InCultureParent   |  Monday, 16 January 2012 at 10:28 pm

    […] Eve is a time for feasting with family and friends and many traditional foods are eaten such as yuanxiao (sweet, stuffed rice balls) in China, bánh chưng (steamed sticky rice with pork) in Vietnam and […]

  3. CommentsChinese New Year Celebrations Continue… | Editorial Creatives   |  Friday, 27 January 2012 at 5:19 pm

    […] rice flour with sugar fillings, are consumed, as they resemble the shape of the full moon. Click here for a […]

  4. CommentsChinese New Year Blog Party and Giveaway! « Miss Panda Chinese – Mandarin Chinese for Children   |  Friday, 08 February 2013 at 8:03 pm

    […] – Chinese Near Year Recipe: Yuanxiao (sweet rice balls) […]

  5. CommentsInCultureParent | Travel to Beijing with 5 Children’s Books   |  Thursday, 08 August 2013 at 8:19 pm

    […] about cooking a Chinese dessert with your […]

  6. CommentsMOONCAKE & YUANXIAO | DAILY DOSE OF ART   |  Saturday, 07 June 2014 at 9:54 pm

    […] you enjoy cooking, here is a recipe you can try out:Yuanxiao Recipe SourceIngredients: 4 1/2 cups glutinous (sticky) rice flour7/8 cup (14 tablespoons) butter7 oz (200 g) […]

  7. CommentsChinese New Year Symbols and Elements - Multicultural Kid Blogs   |  Friday, 06 February 2015 at 4:00 am

    […] Yuanxiao: sweet rice balls that are served in a bowl and eaten on the first night you can view a full moon in the New Year. They symbolize families gathering together for the festival. […]

  8. CommentsMOONCAKE & YUANXIAO | DAILY DOSE OF ART   |  Friday, 06 February 2015 at 10:19 pm

    […] you enjoy cooking, here is a recipe you can try out: Yuanxiao Recipe  Source Ingredients:  4 1/2 cups glutinous (sticky) rice flour 7/8 cup (14 tablespoons) butter 7 oz (200 […]

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