Home Desserts 10 Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts

10 Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts

These easy Chinese New Year desserts are perfect to usher in the new year, but they’re delightful all year round.

Chinese New Year is a significant holiday in Chinese culture, where families gather and share the most important meal of the year – tuán niánfàn or New Year’s Eve dinner. 

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Chinese Cookies with Almonds

Fun fact: According to legend, Chinese New Year marked the day when a monster called Nian would come to attack villages.

Thus, families would hide in their homes and prepare food offerings to gods, hoping to be spared from the monster.

As twisted as its origin story may be, there’s no doubt that Chinese New Year is a joyous occasion where families share a festive meal and welcome the new year.

A feast isn’t complete without dessert!

So without further ado, here are 10 Chinese New Year desserts that will make your year sweeter and more delightful. 

1. Eight Treasure Rice Pudding

Say hello to babaofan, a sweet and sticky pudding made with glutinous rice and eight various fruit and nut toppings. 

A staple in Chinese New Year, it is believed to honor eight warriors who overthrew a ruthless king.

An alternate story says it was created by a starving general on the run who made this pudding using whatever ingredients he could find to survive.

Eight is also a significant number in Chinese culture, as it symbolizes prosperity and wealth. 

2. Sesame Seed Balls 

Sesame seed balls, or jian dui, are a popular dessert in China and Taiwan.

Sold both in streets and dim sum restaurants, these ubiquitous treats are beloved by everyone.

The balls are made of glutinous rice flour, which is why they have a nice, chewy consistency.

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They’re filled with red bean paste for flavor and covered in sesame seeds for crunch. Together, the components create one epic bite!

Full disclosure, though: perfecting these balls take practice. It’s a bit of a challenge to achieve that perfect shape!

Even if you don’t pull it off, trust that the balls will still taste great.

3. Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Sticky Rice Cake)

Nian gao is perhaps the most popular and well-loved dessert associated with Chinese New Year.

I can never say no to this sweet and sticky rice cake!

Legend says that families would offer the cake to the Chinese Kitchen God in the hope that he’ll put in a good word for them when he goes back to heaven. 

From the word “gao,” meaning “tall” or “high,” the cake symbolizes prosperity and success.

Some parents would also encourage young kids to eat the cake, telling them it would make them grow tall.

4. Fa Gao (Fortune Cake) 

Fa gao is another Chinese cake that symbolizes success. (The same is the case for every dessert with the word “gao” in it.) 

Think of it as a cross between a sponge cake and a muffin. The top splits open into three to four segments once cooked.

These splits are crucial – the more defined they are, the more luck they’ll bring.  

Classic fa gao has a golden brown hue, but you can dye the cakes, too, for a more festive feel.

5. Chinese Almond Cookies  

These round cookies symbolize coins and are believed to bring good fortune! They’re also super tasty.

They have a crispy exterior and a light and crumbly consistency – thanks to almond meal.

They don’t have overwhelming flavors, just the right amount of sweetness. They’re topped with an almond for extra nuttiness and crunch.

They also happen to be one of the easiest desserts on this list!

There are no fancy ingredients involved, and it all comes together in one bowl.

Fifteen minutes in the oven, and they’re done!

6. Fortune Cookies 

While they’re linked to Chinese cuisine, fortune cookies are actually an American creation.

Despite that, they still make for a fantastic Chinese New Year dessert! 

These crescent-shaped cookies aren’t necessarily famous for their taste.

It’s the experience of breaking it open and reading the fortune inside that makes it special. 

The great thing about making these cookies at home is that you get to write your own fortunes! It’s a fun way to usher in the New Year.

7. Chinese Glutinous Rice Balls 

Tang yuan is another staple in a Chinese New Year celebration.

Sticky and chewy balls are filled with a liquid filling and served in sweet syrup.

For a more colorful dessert, this recipe creates two types of balls – white, the classic color, and pink, using beetroot juice.

The filling is made of black sesame, which offers a sharp contrast against the pastel balls. 

Eating this dessert on Chinese New Year is believed to bring the family together. 

8. Taro Balls 

These small, chewy balls are made from mashed taro and sweet potato. The taro gives the balls it pretty purple hue.

While they’re also served on Chinese New Year, they can also be eaten any day.

In summer, they’re served chilled with sweetened beans, tofu pudding, or grass jelly. 

In winter, they’re served warm with sweet syrup. In this recipe, the balls are served in a sweet syrup flavored with brown sugar and ginger. 

9. Red Bean Soup 

Red bean soup is a sweet, thick, and creamy, soup filled with chewy tapioca pearls.

Served hot, it’s a cozy dessert that will warm your belly and soothe your soul.

The soup base is made of pureed red beans flavored with sugar and orange zest.

The soup is loaded with tapioca balls for wonderful texture contrast. It’s a simple, five-ingredient recipe that even kitchen newbies can pull off.

Pro-tip: don’t forget to soak the beans the night before you make this soup! They require 8 hours of soaking time to soften.

10. Egg Tarts 

I can’t get enough of egg tarts. Smooth and delicate custard cream rests in a crispy and flaky pastry shell.

These bite-sized beauties are so addictive! I challenge you to stop at one.

This shortcut recipe calls for store-bought puff pastry, which means you’ll get to serve these treats in no time!

10 Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts

Directions

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  • Prep a Chinese New Year treat in 30 minutes or less!
Chinese New Year Desserts

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INSANELYGOOD

Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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