Introduction: Tangyuan (Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Sweet Soup)

Picture of Tangyuan (Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Sweet Soup)

Tangyuan are a traditional Chinese sweet usually served at festivals or Chinese New Year, or anything that is celebrated with family. They are little glutinous rice balls that may be unfilled or filled with sweet or savoury fillings, and served in syrup or broth. The little dumplings nestled together in the bowl represent togetherness!

We will be making sweet tangyuan filled with peanut, sesame and coconut in ginger syrup.

My mom and I both love these, and since they freeze well you can have them any time of the year.

BONUS: this dessert is gluten-free! The gluten in glutinous rice is different from wheat, so make this and impress your celiac friends!

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

3 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy; I prefer crunchy)
3 tbsp sugar
1½ tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1½ tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

2 cups glutinous rice flour
1 tbsp oil
about 1 cup water

3 cups water
1 stick brown sugar (or ½ cup packed brown sugar)
sliced ginger to taste
star anise (optional)

Step 2: Filling

Picture of Filling

First, toast the sesame seeds and coconut. You can do this in a dry frying pan on medium heat, and stir continuously until they are a uniform golden brown. I prefer to toast the ingredients separately as coconut can go from perfectly toasted to burned very fast.

If I am making this, I usually toast a lot more of each and then have toasted sesame seeds and toasted coconut on hand. Toasted sesame is very good on ramen or any kind of noodle dish and stir fries. Toasted coconut is great on your oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, in cakes and cookies, and both go in granola.

Stir all the filling ingredients together and put it in the fridge until needed.

Step 3: Dough

Picture of Dough

Measure out the flour. Make a well in the middle and add the oil and half the water. Stir until the dough turns stiff and lumpy. Then add the water a little at a time, stirring it in until everything comes together in a soft dough and it doesn't stick to the sides of your bowl.  You may not have to use all the water for this. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap while we make the syrup.

Step 4: Syrup

Picture of Syrup

If you have access to a chinese grocery store, you can buy brown sugar in neat bars. If you don't, measure ½ cup of regular brown sugar and put it in the pot with the water and sliced ginger. I usually slice about 1½"-2" of ginger which is enough unless you like things spicier. I put a star anise in mine for a little exotic flavour. Bring the syrup to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then cover and keep it on low heat until the dumplings are ready.

Step 5: Dumplings!

Picture of Dumplings!

Take out about a quarter of the dough. Leave the rest covered in the bowl so it doesn't dry out. Roll out the dough on a lightly  floured board into a rope about an inch thick and pinch it into 1" pieces.

Dust your hands with a little glutinous rice flour. Flatten one of the pieces of dough into an oval, and place a pea sized lump of filling onto it. Fold the dough in half and roll it between your hands to make a ball. Place the tangyuan onto a floured plate.

Repeat until you run out of dough. If you run out of filling, you can just make unfilled tangyuan.

At this point, the tangyuan can be easily frozen for later. Just put the plate in the freezer and transfer the tangyuan to a freezer bag once they are frozen.

Note: It is extremely tempting to put more and more filling into the dumplings as you make them! Try to resist this! You will end up with tangyuan that will leak all their delicious filling out into the broth when you cook them.

Step 6: Cooking

Picture of Cooking

Bring the simmering syrup back to a boil. Hold a spoon or a ladle under the surface of the liquid and gently drop the tangyuan onto the spoon, then release it into the syrup. This helps prevent the tangyuan from sticking to the bottom. Don't crowd too many of them in the pot. When the tangyuan float, they are done!

If you are cooking them from frozen, just drop the frozen tangyuan right into the boiling syrup, bring back to a boil, and cook as above.

Step 7: Enjoy!

Picture of Enjoy!

Ladle out the tangyuan into small bowls with some of the syrup and serve immediately. Eat them while they are still hot! If the tangyuan have been sitting a while in the bowl, they will start to stick together.

Feel free to experiment with different fillings. Traditional fillings include red bean and black sesame paste, but maybe you could try making them with chocolate? Fruit? Poppy seeds? Custard?


clarie91s (author)2013-05-23

I saw the thumbnail of this instructable and I thought: "Oh my God! It's so cute! I wonder how they made the faces." Then I clicked in and saw the other pictures. Hey, maybe you could make some chocolate or black sesame glutinous rice dumpling dough, make faces out of them, and then roll them into the plain glutinous rice dough discs. You would have real faces on the dumplings then.

octochan (author)clarie91s2013-05-23

That is ingenious! I will have to experiment!

Greyman436 (author)2017-01-29

Really fun to make, did not turn out as good as I expected. I suggest when you make this, pay attention to the 1 inch of dough, I used more, and the dumplings turned out very thick shelled, and not enough on the inside to match it. Overall, great recipe.

ZhiaA (author)2016-01-28

I've tried making Tang Yuan, but different recipe, thought of using this recipe. It's look more more simply and easier to follow. Thank you for sharing.

KirbyN1 (author)2015-12-24

I am definitely going to do this... <mouth waters>... Thank you for sharing!

MarciaS7 (author)2015-11-01

I made this as I am teaching English in Beijing and Tangyuan came up in the lessons. I found the instructions to be very helpful and I think they turned out okay. Most of them are in the freezer for another day.

animal lover (author)2015-04-18

Can I leave out the filling and just have a sweet dough ball?

JamesL20 (author)2015-03-15

its exellant just one prob
ive got too much leftover paste

JamesL20 (author)2015-03-15

how much ML is the cups of water?

lynnloi2011 (author)2015-03-06

Fun to make for the last day of the Lunar New Year, completed it under 2 hours (the messiest part was making the dumplings, flour was everywhere....)

Overall great recipe, thanks! I would just suggest for anyone trying this to make note of the portion of flour needed to make X number of dumplings, so you can better estimate how much you'd need for next time. For me it was around 200g of flour for 30+ dumplings with leftover to spread onto the surface when portioning out the dumplings.

suzannealexis made it! (author)2015-02-12

They really taste good! I followed the recipe except I didn't have coconuts so I increased the peanut butter. My family really loved them.

I only have one concern. Would you know how to be able to put more filling and have less skin for the rice dumplings? Kindly share! Thanks :)

yyuxian made it! (author)2014-12-22

i made it! any tips and tricks as to not let the tangyuan with fillings to not spill out?

having some fun with a super sized ball.

ThisIsMyNameOK (author)2014-09-09

Thank you so much for this. :) I will definitely be trying it very soon. I just tried another recipe (literally, about 60 minutes ago) and was not happy with the result. Except for the ginger syrup, which I will be making frequently, with or without the Tangyuan, because I love ginger. I threw a few marshmallows on top too, just for fun, and it tasted pretty good.

I'm not near anywhere where there is such a thing as a Chinese market, or even a Chinese restaurant (unless you count Mandarin). The stores here are slowly starting to stock more Chinese foods and we can get a few things, like glutinous rice flour, so I have been experimenting and trying to learn how to cook what I can. Next will be snowskin moon cakes.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! :)

veronica2 (author)2013-05-22

how did u get the little faces on the dumplings on ur first pic? and is it okay to eat the dumplings without soup and cold too? will it still be good if it a day old?

octochan (author)veronica22013-05-22

To be honest, I've never eaten them a day old or without soup. I've always only cooked as many as needed (which is about 7 or 8 per person, and then a few more for people who want seconds). If you don't boil them, you can always put the uncooked ones in the freezer.

You could probably eat them without soup, but then they'd be very sticky. There is a version of this dessert where the dumplings are made a lot larger, steamed and covered in coconut instead of being served in soup. Look up "chinese coconut snowball".

The faces are done with photoshop :)

HollyMann (author)octochan2013-05-23

This is what the steamed Chinese dumplings in Thailand looked like:

benip90 (author)HollyMann2013-05-27

I had these as a kid, char siu bao well thats the pork steamed buns anyway, do you know any other varients of fillings for these sort?

sootzanyaw (author)benip902013-12-21

There are variety of fillings for this buns. Some of the common ones are red bean paste, pork, chicken meat+boiled egg, veggie, kaya, pandan, and peanut.
(Well, that's the common ones in Malaysia anyway)

clarie91s (author)HollyMann2013-05-23

I don't think this is a dumpling though; more like a bun. Dumplings have "skin" that's kind of like rolled pasta sheets but more sticky and chewy (once it's cooked). That's what I think anyway, because I haven't reaserched this before and I use the Chinese names for it most of the time.

-RoyaleWithCheese- (author)2013-07-04

I love tangyuans! I'm half chinese but I get to eat the 'original' ones only once in two years when I spend my holidays in china :( they sell the frozen ones where I live though, but those tangyuans taste not even nearly as good as homemade ones. I'm definitely trying this!

al-yazdi (author)2013-06-16

They taste amazing, and are ridiculously easy to make ! Thanks a lot !

NOODLE! (author)2013-06-06

These seem a little like syong peong, Korean dumplings that you make for chuseok, but they are just steamed on pine needles, so they are (very) sticky.

albertip (author)2013-05-28

I have tried peanut butter with honey, fruit jams and M&M as filling. For the first two, freeze the filling first. This helps a lot in the wrapping. For fruit jams fillings, instead of the ginger in the sweet soup, I used some orange peels and a touch of vodka.

Dominic Bender (author)2013-05-25

I made them! Grinding rice to flour - sticky rice - works just fine. They do really taste great (although I had to improvise some peanut butter grinding some peanuts, but anyway), but we could not eat more than 3-4 each... Maybe ours turned out larger than they should. Tasty, nevertheless.

octochan (author)Dominic Bender2013-05-25

Brilliant! I'm glad it worked out for you! What were you using to do all that grinding?

Dominic Bender (author)octochan2013-05-25

An old-school coffee grinder (not an exact image, but one of the general type). We use it every day for coffee, and I threw away the first rice flour (not much, mind) that way full of coffee remains, then it worked fine. Nive workout, too.

c3ralki1l3r (author)2013-05-23

Theses are amazing but sometimes my parents put brown rock sugar in it and its AMAZING!

HollyMann (author)2013-05-23

We used to have these in Thailand - but not in a soup son loved them...interesting texture! These look so cute!

JoongYin (author)2013-05-22

Are you from northern china?

octochan (author)JoongYin2013-05-23

No, I was born and raised in Canada. I'm trying to learn more about my parent's culture, though!

Dominic Bender (author)2013-05-22

Looks delicious, and I always love trying out new dishes. Thanks for sharing! Do you think I could improvise the rice flour by simply grinding some rice?

octochan (author)Dominic Bender2013-05-23

I don't know how good your grinder is; rice flour is pretty fine stuff. However, if you want to try it, make sure you are using glutinous rice! It's also labeled as sticky rice or sweet rice. If you try this with ordinary rice or non-glutinous rice flour the tangyuan will be very hard when cooked. I did that by mistake once. :P

bobribbon (author)2013-05-23

I added a bit too much water so the dough was rather wet. Still, they tasted amazing. I will make these often from now on. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

eevee1234 (author)2013-05-22

that looks soooo good :)

veronica2 (author)2013-05-22

also where do u find glutinous rice flour?

octochan (author)veronica22013-05-22

You can get this in any chinese grocery store for $1 or less, and possibly in a regular grocery store if it's in an area where there are a lot of asian people living. You might be able to find it at bulk or health food stores if you're lucky, but I expect it'll cost a lot more at those places.

lukish (author)2013-05-22

These are awesome!!! They're like mochi in sweet soup :D

Ranie-K (author)2013-05-22

Great photos!

About This Instructable




Bio: I love to make stuff, I love figuring out how stuff is made, I love reading about making stuff, and I'm terrible at documenting ... More »
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