12 Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts

As you’re wondering about Chinese New Year desserts, you might feel surprised and greedy what traditional Chinese foods and snacks to serve for the holiday season.

Here is a list of the Chinese New Year classics! These are the the most popular traditional Chinese deserts, cookies, dim sum and cakes a Chinese family may have for a perfect traditional Lunar New Year Eve’s dinner. They cover the savory side of Spring Festival from different regions in China, from Niangao, Tangyuan, and eight-treasure rice pudding to a stick of sugar-coated haws.

Whether you’re planning for a taste of the sweet side when you’re having a food China tour or you want to try something delicious new, check out the top 12 Chinese New Year desserts.

1. Niangao (Chinese New Year Cake) - 年糕

Nian Gao is a traditional Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice, and the way it is made varies from region to region.

The word "nian gao" (rice cake) is synonymous with the word "gets higher year by year". So it is eaten during the Chinese New Year to signify that the coming year will be better than the current year, and that the income will be better than the current year.

Rice cakes can be steamed or eaten with brown sugar.

Chinese New Year cake

2. Fagao (Sponge Cake) - 发糕

Fagao is also a traditional Chinese dessert made with rice as the main ingredient. People in both the north and the south like it. It smells sweet and fragrant, and is nutritious for the elderly and children to eat. If you want to make Fagao at home, a tip for you -- add a little glutinous rice wine.

People usually eat Fagao when they have a happy occasion, and of course the Chinese New Year is a great time to enjoy it.

3. Eight-treasure rice pudding - 八宝饭

Another must-have Chinese New Year dessert, it is made of dried fruits such as red dates and lotus seeds, together with glutinous rice.Folk believe that eight-treasure rice pudding comes from the ancient eight treasures diagram.

Traditionally, it uses more ingredients and made made by mixing steamed glutinous rice with sugar and lard, added lotus seeds, red dates, dried kumquats, cinnamon, honey cherries, honey winter melon, barley rice, melon seeds, and sprinkled with red and green plum shreds.

Chinese New Year dessert

4. Sesame Ball - 麻团

Sesame ball is made from glutinous rice flour, usually filled with red bean and covered with a layer of white sesame.

An ancient traditional speciality deep-fried noodle dish, it is called Matuan (麻团) in the north, Zhazao (炸枣) in Fujian, Mayuan (麻园) in Sichuan, Zhendai (珍袋) in Hainan, and Youdui (油堆) in Guangxi.

Sesame balls tastes very crispy and sweet.

5. Fried Dough Twist - 麻花

It is a special deep-fried noodle snack with two flavours: sweet and salty. The sweet ones are mixed with sugar (powdered sugar sprinkled on the outside) or not mixed with sugar. Fried dough twist is also a Chinese New Year snack, and is loved by both children and adults.

Tianjin is famous for the production of big fried dough twist, while small fried dough twist are mainly produced in Hubei.

Chinese New Year dessert - fried dough twist

6. Sachima (Soft Brown Sugar Flour Cake / Egg Crisp Cake) - 沙琪玛

Sachima, which is the Mongolian translation of ᠰᠠᠴᡳᠮᠠ, is a sweet pastry specialised in Manchu. It is made by frying noodles, mixing them with sugar and cutting them into small pieces. Sachima has a beige colour, fluffy and soft texture, sweet and savoury taste, and a strong fragrance of osmanthus and honey.

Sachima originated from the offerings of the three mausoleums in Guanwai during the Qing Dynasty. It became popular in Beijing after the Manchus entered the country and became one of the seasonal pastries in Beijing.

Today, Sachima is also one of the most popular Chinese New Year desserts.

7. Walnut Cookie - 核桃酥

The taste of walnut cake from different places of origin is different, among which the walnut cake from Beijing, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan and Taiwan is the most famous.

Since walnuts and dates are mainly used as raw materials, walnut cake has very high nutritional value.

It is delicate, soft, glutinous and sweet, with a prominent aroma of peach kernels.

Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts - Walnut Cookie

8. Peanut Brittle - 花生糖

One of the most popular traditional Chinese New Year desserts and candies, it is made from peanuts and maltose.

9. A Stick of Sugar-coated Haws / Sugar-coated Haws - 冰糖葫芦

Sugar-coated haws is a traditional Chinese snack. It is made by stringing wild fruits on bamboo skewers and then dipping them in malt sugar dilution, which rapidly hardens in the wind. It tastes sour, sweet and icy.
Sugar-coated haws has the effect of appetising, nourishing the face, increasing intelligence, eliminating fatigue and clearing heat.

The ancient method of making sugar-coated haws began during the Song Dynasty. They can be found in teahouses, theatres, streets and alleys. Nowadays, when you go to the temple fairs in Beijing in the Spring Festival, you can see vendors holding up sugar-coated haws for sale.

Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts - a stick of sugar-coated haws

10. Tangyuan / Yuanxiao (Soup Dumplings) - 汤圆/元宵

It is a traditional food for Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival. The texture of tangyuan is soft, sticky, lubricated and refreshing. On the morning of the first day of the Chinese New Year, it is customary to eat soup dumplings.

According to records, it originated in the Han Dynasty. Soup dumplings made by southerners are filled with a variety of fillings, including sesame, sugar, bean paste, nuts and capers. Coins are also wrapped, and whoever eats them will have very good luck this year.

In some places, it is customary to eat tangyuan on the winter solstice, the first day of the Lunar New Year, and the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar every year, symbolising the reunion and happiness of the whole family and all the best wishes.

Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts - tangyuan

11. Tribute sugar - 贡糖

It is a must-have dessert for Chinese New Year in southern Fujian. Peanuts are ground with a stone mill. One part of the ground peanuts is mixed with a small amount of maltose and sugar and put in the centre for filling. The other part of ground peanuts mixed with maltose is rolled into a two-millimetre-thick strip, wrapped up and compacted into a long strip by hitting it with a wooden hammer. Cut with a knife into small pieces three or four centimetres thick.

Tribute sugar is small and lovely, wrapped in red paper, crispy shell, sweet inside.

12. Pea Cake - 豌豆黄

Pea cake is a traditional Beijing snack and a seasonal delicacy in Beijing in spring, just perfect to be a Lunar New Year dessert.

Keep reading:

  • Top 10 Traditional Meat Dishes for Chinese New Year
  • Chinese New Year Clothes & Outfits

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