Chinese New Year Ends with Sweet Balls AKA Tang Yuan

 These dessert balls are made with a peanut butter filling surrounded by glutinous rice flour. A traditional dish usually brought out to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival and the end of Chinese New Year. Note the round shape, helping enforce their symbolic meaning of family reunions and togetherness.

The Dough

It is relatively easy to make using two main ingredients of glutinous rice flour, though you may see it called “sweet rice flour,” and warm water. Optional ingredients are to change the color. Beetroot juice for a pinkish hue, and matcha powder for green are used.

The Filling

There are a multitude of choices for filling but the most tradition are peanut, black sesame paste or red bean paste. Some modern fillings can include chocolate, fruit or taro (so stay tuned for a follow up recipe using my Filipino heritage. – hint: it includes an influence by our traditional Bilo Bilo recipe). It can also be eaten plain, meaning no filling at all. But in this recipe we decided to go the peanut butter route. Now there are a few options. You can take regular peanuts, chop them up and roast them until fragrant and toasty brown. Then add some peanut butter and a preferred oil like coconut or butter. Or you can use a store bought peanut butter (either smooth or crunchy). If you are using a smooth peanut butter you can add some crunch and flavor by adding about a tablespoon of roasted sesame seeds to the filling. We choose a simpler filling of extra crunchy peanut butter.

The Sauce

Again this is optional with a multitude of different flavors. Ours includes a ginger simple syrup, or it can be served in plain warm water as these balls are fairly sweet in itself.

Sweet Rice Ball (Tang Yuan)

Course Dessert


  • Sauce Pan
  • Small Pot
  • Small ice cream Scoop Optional


The Dough

  • 2 Cups Glutinous Rice Flour
  • 1 Cup Warm - Hot Water

The Filling

  • 3 Tbsp Peanut Butter Crunchy or Smooth
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar Powdered or regular (be aware if using regular the filling may turn a bit gritty).
  • 1 Tbsp Oil or Butter (softened) (Oil can be coconut oil or similar) We used unsalted butter.

The Sauce

  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar White sugar is also a good substitute
  • 1 Slice Ginger Medium to large in size

Cooking the balls

  • Enough water to fill your pot about halfway to 2/3 full.


The Filling

  • Combine the peanut butter, butter and sugar. Roast your sesame seeds and add it to the mixture if you are going this route. Mix well.
  • Store in the fridge until you are ready to use it aka while you prep the dough. It’s best leaving it in there for at least half hour to an hour because it makes it easier to work with it later.

The Dough

  • Add water to the flour.
  • Knead until smooth.
  • Cover with damp towel or plastic wrap.

Creating the balls

  • Totally optional but we use a small ice cream scoop to portion the dough. (About a small golf ball).
  • Then we rolled it into a ball and stuck a finger in it to make a crater.
  • In that depression we added about a teaspoon of filling.
  • We closed the hole and rolled it until it was a smooth ball again.
  • Repeat the creation of the balls until no filling and dough is left.


  • Boil a pot of water
  • Once the water is roiling add your balls. They are fully cooked when they start floating to the surface.

The Sauce

  • While your balls are cooking, combine sauce ingredients in a sauce pan on medium high heat.
  • Stir occasionally.
  • Watch the sauce thicken.
  • Remove the ginger.
  • Finish by adding the balls to a bowl and topping them off with your finished sauce. ENJOY!

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