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Black Sesame Tang Yuan: Sweet Glutinous Rice Balls

Tang Yuan is a traditional Chinese dessert that is typically eaten during the Chinese New Year celebrations, especially the Lantern Festival. It is as important to the Southern Chinese as dumplings are to those in the North.


Black Sesame Filling Ingredients (12 tang yuan)

  • 4 Tbsp black sesame powder

  • 3 Tbsp sugar

  • 2 Tbsp water

  • 4 Tbsp lard or coconut oil


I made 18 tang yuan when recording the process, so the amount in the images may seem to be more.

  1. Roughly mix the sesame powder with sugar, water, and lard or coconut oil. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds until the mixture turns into a running paste. Mix well. Transfer it into a freezer bag. Freezer the paste until solid, 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Make 12 small portions of the sesame paste. Shape each portion into a round ball as quickly as possible (some of the sesame paste might melt in your hand). Store them in the freezer for another 10 minutes before wrapping.

Dough Ingredients (12 tang yuan)

  • 1 cup of glutinous rice flour

  • Water


  1. Add glutinous rice flour to a mixing bowl, and slowly add 1/2 cup of water, stirring the mixture simultaneously. Knead the mixture into a smooth dough (a little damp but not sticky). Adjust the water and flour amount if necessary.

2. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Take 10% of the dough and boil it until floating in water. Add the cooked dough to the main dough. Knead again until smooth.

3. Roll out two logs and cut them into 12 portions. Make small round doughs before wrapping, about 1 inch in diameter. 

Wrap Tang Yuan

  1. Make a small dent in each dough with your thumb and pinch and flatten the side to make a bowl with your thumb and index finger. Add the filling and close it up by gently pushing the side upwards. When the hole on top closes, roll it out into a ball.

If the tang yuan gets dry and cracks before cooking, dip it in water and roll it in glutinous rice flour.

Store Extra Tang Yuan

  1. Dust a baking sheet with some flour.

  2. Line up the freshly wrapped tang yuan. Leave small gaps between each one.

  3. Wrap up the baking sheet with saran wrap. Store them in the freezer for 1 hour until they are frozen.

  4. Remove them from the baking sheet and bag them in freezer bags. Store them in the freezer for up to one month.

Boil Tang Yuan

  1. Bring 7 cups of water to a boil.

  2. Add tang yuan one by one to the water. Stir gently with the back of a spoon immediately to avoid sticking.

  3. Once the water is boiling again, turn the heat to medium-low and let them simmer uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes. When the tang yuan are floating and soft but not flat and leaking, turn off the heat. 

  4. Serve hot with some cooking water or ginger brown sugar water.

Note: Do not thaw frozen tang yuan before cooking. 


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