Sorry but I have to run off quickly today, and leave you with this traditional and wildly beloved Chinese dessert.  These little pretty purses called tang-yuan, meaning “soup-circles”, are very popular, if not mandatory, at all major celebratory event and holidays because of their literal implication for roundedness and completeness. The elegance of its name may be lost in translation but I assure you that the reasons for their popularity are not, if you would just invest 1 hour of your life to find out.

The recipe for sticky rice ball-dough is an update from an older recipe, which I thought had a couple unnecessary steps and confusions.  Then instead of making a peanut-filling from scratch, which would probably never be as smooth with my incompetent food-processor, I decided to use a mix of store-bought smooth peanut butter with a little coconut oil (to loosen the texture further) and brown sugar.  The sticky rice wrapper is slippery and chewy, like little delicious purses bursting with lava-like peanut butter filling that comes with a hint of coconuts.  It’s a mouthful of complimenting textures and flavours, chewy and runny, sweet and slightly salty, intensely nutty and rich but balanced with the subtle bitterness and fragrance from lightly honey-sweetened green tea.

More than just words, they’ll complete you.

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*UPDATE APRIL 15, 2015:  Someone commented on how the rice balls crack after freezing, which happened to me today as well.  And the only difference I noticed about the process was that my dough was too wet and sticky this time.  Even though I used the exact amount of sticky rice flour and water, my 2 pre-cooked dough-balls were bigger than usual, which resulted in a huge difference in the wetness of the final dough.  So keep in mind.

*UPDATE 02/13/2016:  I made this recipe again and want to make a slight change to the ratio.  I find the original ratio to be too soft, so I would use 110 grams of water first instead of 130 grams.  If you find that the dough cracks or is too dry to stick together, then cook another small piece of dough and knead it in as Instructed.


Yield: 14~15 sticky rice balls

Serving Size: 4~5


  • 6 tbsp (105 grams) smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) coconut oil, warmed up slightly until melted
  • 2 tbsp (18 grams) light brown or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup (190 grams) sticky rice flour, plus more for dusting
  • Scant 1/2 cup (110 grams) water
  • 2 tbsp (25 grams) canola oil
  • Hot brewed green tea, lightly sweetened with honey


  1. TO MAKE THE PEANUT BUTTER FILLING: Whisk together smooth peanut butter, coconut oil and light brown sugar until even and very smooth, then chill in the fridge for 30~40 min until solidified. Scoop out little balls about 2 tsp each, then roll in a small tray that's generously dusted with sticky rice flour so they're lightly coated, and shape them as round as you can with your hand. You should have about 15+ of them. Flash freeze for 30 min to harden.
  2. TO MAKE THE STICKY RICE WRAPPER: Combine sticky rice flour and water in a large bowl with a fork. The mixture would seem very dry and chalky, and that's totally fine. Make 2 small balls (about 1 tbsp each but no larger) by squeezing the mixture tightly together with your hand, then cook them in boiling water for 5 min until floated to the top and slightly swelled up. Add the cooked balls back to the bowl, along with canola oil. Let cool for a couple min, then knead everything together for at least 5 min, into a very even, smooth and soft dough. It should be very pliable and very slightly sticky. If it seems tough and cracks, add another tbsp of water. If it's sticky, add more sticky rice flour until it isn't.
  3. Divid the dough into 12 equal portions and cover with plastic wrap. Take the peanut butter-filling out of the freezer (should be pretty hard at this point). Flatten 1 portion of the dough with your hand (do NOT dust with more flour) into about 1/8" (3 mm) thickness. Place 1 filling in the center, then bring the edges tightly together at the top, then pinch off excess dough. Roll the ball in between your palms to shape them as round and even as you can (but careful not to expose the filling), then roll in extra sticky rice flour and set aside on a tray. Repeat with the rest, then gather the scrap-dough and you should be able to make 2~3 more out of it. These can be kept frozen until needed.
  4. TO COOK AND SERVE: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Dust off any excess sticky rice flour, then gently drop the balls into the pot. Give it a gentle stir to prevent sticking on the bottom, then cook for 3~4 min until they float to the surface, then another min until slightly swelled up. Drain with slotted spoon, and serve with honey green tea.


Again, this is a recipe I would recommend measuring by weight instead of volume.

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  • Tina Jui | The Worktop

    March 18, 2015 at 7:38 PM Reply

    This is beautiful! I used to be able to buy good tang yuan in LA, but since moving to London I’ve really been missing these. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’ll definitely be trying this one. Pinned and bookmarked :)

  • Christina @ The Beautiful Balance

    March 18, 2015 at 8:35 PM Reply

    And I thought green tea could not get any better…it just did.

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    March 18, 2015 at 9:03 PM Reply

    This recipe is too fun! I just love this idea girl!

  • Yen

    March 18, 2015 at 9:07 PM Reply

    Any chance we’ll also get the black sesame version? And perhaps, also the dry (rolled in sweetened ground peanuts) version? Please?

  • Ursula @

    March 18, 2015 at 9:17 PM Reply

    A friend from Malaysia made them a couple of weeks ago, filled with a tiny cube of palm sugar (gula melaka). I just loved the chewy texture of the rice balls and will definitely try them soon.

  • Kelsey M

    March 18, 2015 at 9:45 PM Reply

    Holy jesus, yes this would complete me.


  • cynthia

    March 18, 2015 at 10:15 PM Reply

    This is absolutely everything I want. So, so, so perfect, Mandy!!

  • Rebecca @ DisplacedHousewife

    March 18, 2015 at 11:21 PM Reply

    Oh, I love the idea of a black sesame version. Yes please!!!

  • Lisa

    March 19, 2015 at 12:21 AM Reply

    This brought back childhood memories! We ate these growing up. Will definitely have to try making them!

  • Michelle @ Hummingbird High

    March 19, 2015 at 12:31 AM Reply

    Whoa, Mandy. You are a culinary goddess. I didn’t even know you could make these at home! Freakin’ AWESOME!

  • june2

    March 19, 2015 at 1:24 AM Reply

    Yeah, this is beautiful. It’s such a foreign and exotic concept of a dish for an American and I love it! The peanut butter will be amazing but agree, I’ve gotta try it once with black sesame too. Also, that trick with the dough, adding two cooked balls to the flour is really cool! Thank you so much!

    • june2

      March 19, 2015 at 1:25 AM Reply

      Do you drink the green tea from the bowl after or use the spoon until it’s gone? Thx!

      • mandy@ladyandpups

        March 19, 2015 at 12:23 PM Reply

        June2, I don’t usually finish the tea. It’s kind of like a “carrier” to me. But if you want to drink it all, I don’t see why not :)

  • Betty

    March 19, 2015 at 2:30 AM Reply

    Oh my god, they look perfect!!!!!!!! Plus in green tea???

  • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats

    March 19, 2015 at 3:45 AM Reply

    These are beautiful. I have always seen these at Chinese restaurants but have never ordered them. They normally do not look this appetizing. I’m into the lava peanut butter :)

  • Pamela

    March 19, 2015 at 9:25 AM Reply

    We make something like this in Japan too! But we don’t stuff them as far as I know. They are served in a soup made of Adzuki beans, called shiruko. Sometimes green tea powder, matcha powder, is added to the rice flour before adding the water. They become super cool green color. Could you stuff the rice balls before cooking them? I am so totally going to make this!! This is so cool. I think it would work in the Adzuki bean soup, which is sweetened, not savory. The peanutbutter stuffed rice balls would be so nice in the Adzuki bean sweetened soup!! Sesame seed butter would be cool, too! Just a thought.

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      March 19, 2015 at 12:21 PM Reply

      Pamela, I totally know what you’re referring to. One of my favourites, too. And you’re right that there could be many different applications to the recipe. You can make non-stuffed rice balls from the dough as well. The stuffed rice balls, because of it’s sweetness and nuttiness, would probably go better in something light and refreshing. And the red bean soup would go with non-stuffed rice balls because of the same reason, I think. I’m definitely gonna publish a savoury version soon :)

      • Pamela

        March 19, 2015 at 5:18 PM Reply

        Actually, the Japanese ones are made with only water, no boiling step of just 2 of them and adding oil, then shaping and boiling again. A tiny bit of water is added, they are shaped into melon ball sized circles, flattened a bit, boiled, then put in cold water till ready to add them to the red bead soup. I really like your way of making them. I am going to try it stuffed and unstuffed!! The stuffed ones might go very well with a dusting of “kinako”, toasted ground soy bean powder, mixed with a bit of sugar. Or they make a syrup of that dark dark raw sugar they have here, “kuro zato”. A dribble or two of that would be yummy over the stuffed ones even though it would be sweet with sweet…..

  • Ruth

    March 19, 2015 at 1:37 PM Reply

    The first time I made tang yuan (that yoo-En for non Mandarin speakers) was when we were working at Guo Fang Ka Da in Changsha back in 1999. Whoa, flashbacks!! I think this is a delectable version…gonna get made! Xie xie!

  • Desiree

    March 20, 2015 at 11:31 AM Reply

    These look so beautiful and delicious. I love the idea of mixing peanut butter with coconut oil. You now have me thinking all about peanut butter and coconut as a combination–maybe slather some peanut butter on some sourdough or Japanese milk bread fried in coconut oil? Hmmm…

  • Tina Jui | The Worktop

    March 21, 2015 at 5:51 PM Reply

    Hi Mandy, I made these last night and used a mix of almond and peanut butter. It was delicious! We popped them in the freezer for a bit since I made them before dinner, but some started cracking a bit as they froze. We moved them to the refrigerator to hold instead. Do you know why some of them crack (I see it in the store bought versions too) and how to prevent it? Thanks!

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      March 21, 2015 at 10:50 PM Reply

      Tina, if it cracked during freezing, it means not enough cooked dough is in the mix. So instead of boiling 2 balls of dough (about 1 tbsp each), boil 3 and proceed with the kneading. Let me know if this fixes the problem :)

      • Tina Jui | The Worktop

        March 31, 2015 at 1:38 AM Reply

        Thank you! I haven’t had a chance to make it again so I’ve been waiting to reply to your tip. But just wanted to say thanks first anyway. I’ll get back to you once I’ve made it next time to let you know.

        • mandy@ladyandpups

          April 15, 2015 at 2:26 AM Reply

          Tina, I hope you see this but today, the cracking problem happened to me, too. And it turned out, the problem was completely the OPPOSITE of what I told you. Please check the update above the recipe! I hope not too much damage was done. Sorry. M

          • Tina

            February 3, 2017 at 5:09 AM

            Hi Mandy, it’s been a while, but I was just making these again and referred back to your recipe. Thanks for that update! I’ve made these tang yuans a few times in the meantime, but have always just cooked them fresh, so no problems with the cracking. They are one of our favorite desserts in our household. The recipe is much appreciated here!

  • Charlie (Chockywoky)

    March 22, 2015 at 7:46 PM Reply

    I love this idea so much! The peanut filled tangyuan here always have these peanut bits in them – I think this smoother version would be a lovely change :)

  • Viv

    April 20, 2015 at 8:15 AM Reply

    Can’t wait to try this, it looks delicious!

  • kk

    February 8, 2016 at 5:11 PM Reply

    I just made this for our Chinese New Year’s eve celebration (we also made your roast pork!!) and it was a huge hit! I didn’t have coconut oil and was too lazy to get it. I substituted with butter, and it worked. It didn’t come out as runny as yours did though. I will try it again with coconut oil. Thanks again for another great recipe!!

  • Dorcas

    February 9, 2016 at 2:32 PM Reply

    We tried to make these in my son’s preschool class today and (don’t laugh) they squished everything to bits! So I came home and did it by myself and the dough was cracking and PB ended up oozing out! I followed your directions exactly (I swear!) twice and this kept happening! Finally, I cooked one and a tiny bit of PB oozed out but I ate it anyway and almost died because it tasted so delicious. Thank you.

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      February 10, 2016 at 12:21 AM Reply

      Dorcas, if the dough cracks during making, it could mean that it doesn’t have enough cooked dough to hold it together (Sticky rice flour is gluten free, so nothing to hold together). Try cooking another small piece of dough and knead it in. Hope this helps!

  • Ann Pierce

    September 4, 2016 at 6:53 PM Reply

    chewy and runny, sweet and slightly salty, intensely nutty and rich – what an amazing recipe!!!

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