Yuanxiao 元宵

Yuanxiao is a Chinese dessert, traditionally eaten on the 15th day of the lunar new year (which was just this past Thursday!). I’ve been wanting to write a post about yuanxiao for forever now because with minimal ingredients and cooking time required, I don’t only make them for special occasions, but whenever I feel like it! Making yuanxiao requires a bit of practice to get a feel for what the consistency of the dough should be like, how much filling to put inside, etc, but these glistening orbs of chewy deliciousness will have you making them over and over again anyway. I’m sure you’ll be a master in no time!

Yuanxiao 元宵 (a.k.a. TangYuan  汤圆)


Makes about 30 medium-sized yuanxiao



  • 8 oz. glutinous rice flour (half a bag)
  • Water


You can really make yuanxiao with any kind of filling you like. Below are just a few suggestions, the first two being traditional and the third less so:

  1. Red bean paste (can purchase at any Asian grocery store) + chopped walnuts
  2. Ground black sesame + coarsely ground peanuts + peanut butter + honey
  3. Purple sweet potato + black mission figs + sugar


  1. To make the dough: Slowly add water to the flour while mixing with chopsticks. When a dough starts to come together, use your hands to knead it into a smooth mass. The dough should be pliable and moist enough it doesn’t crack when flattened or folded but not too moist that it is gooey or doesn’t retain its shape once filled.
  2. To make the filling: It’s really up to your personal taste in terms of what ratios of certain ingredients to use and the sweetness level. The important thing is to make sure the filling consistency is solid enough so it’s easy to work with (I tried filling yuanxiao with nutella and jam before, and it was a struggle…).
  3. To make the yuanxiao (step-by-step photos below): Rip off a small piece of dough and flatten it on the palm of your hand. Add some filling in the center (if you are just learning, it’s a good idea to start with a conservative amount of filling and gradually fit more). Peel up the edges of the dough and wrap it over the filling, sealing the edges by gently pinching them together. Roll the filled dough between your palms so that it becomes smooth and spherical. Voila! Set aside on a tray lined with parchment paper or dusted with glutinous rice flour. Repeat until all the dough has been filled.
  4. Boil for 4 minutes or until the yuanxiao are semi-translucent and have floated to the top.
  5. Serve in a bowl with the boiled water and enjoy hot!
  6. Note: The filled yuanxiao can also be frozen and boiled later, which is extremely convenient if you wish to enjoy only a few at a time. To freeze, just put the yuanxiao on a dish in the freezer until they harden and are completely frozen. Then transfer them to a sealed bag.

    Red Bean + Walnut (left), Purple Sweet Potato + Fig (center), Black Sesame + Peanut (right)


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