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Sweet Rice Balls with Black Sesame Filling (Tang Yuan)

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Tang Yuan (Sweet Rice Balls)

Sweet Rice Balls or Tang Yuan are often a part of the Chinese New Year and/or Lantern Festival celebrations. They are a dessert dish that symbolizes togetherness or reunion. So, anytime you are celebrating with family or friends together, they make an auspicious dessert!

Serving Size: 4 sweet rice balls per person

Active Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes


  • 7 tablespoons roasted black sesame seeds | 3 oz | 57g
  • 7 tablespoons sugar | 3 oz | 85g
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil | 3 oz | 85g
  • 1 cup of glutinous rice flour | 7¾ oz | 220g
  • ½ cup + 3 tablespoons warm water | 5½ fluid ounces | 164ml


  • Food Processor with the standard metal blade
  • Bench/Dough Scraper


  1. In a food processor, grind the sesame seeds and sugar together for a few seconds until the sesame appears like fine ground pepper.
  2. Add the coconut oil to the processor. It should be room temp or cooler so it’s still solid. Don’t melt/liquify the coconut oil. Process into a paste.
  3. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator to firm it up so you can more easily handle the paste.
  4. Set a small pot with a couple inches of water on high heat to bring it to a boil.
  5. Measure the glutinous rice flour into a mixing bowl. Slowly add warm water and mix it together with a pair of chopsticks. Form a 1 inch ball (about 1.5 oz or 45g) from some of the dough. Cover it and the rest of the dough with a damp towel.
  6. When the water is boiling, transfer the ball into the water. Stir gently to make sure it doesn’t stick. The ball won’t float. Set the stove to a medium-low temperature so that the water maintains a steady simmer. You don’t need a hard rolling boil.
  7. It’ll take 4-5 minutes for the dough ball to float. When it does, transfer it back to the bowl with the rest of the dough. Using the back of a wooden spoon or some other mixing spoon to work the cooked dough ball into the rest of the dough. Once worked into the rest of the dough, it should hold together well, and is relatively smooth. Cover the dough.
  8. While you are waiting for the dough ball to cook (float), retrieve your sesame paste mixture, and form small balls of paste. You should have enough paste to make 24 balls of paste that are about ¾-inch or 2 cm in diameter (about 9g each). Work quickly because the warmth of your hands will begin to melt the coconut oil. If needed, you can return finished sesame paste balls to the refrigerator.
  9. Once you have your sesame balls, you can then form a matching set of rice dough balls. Form the dough into a roll so that you can easily divide it into 24 equal pieces. Each should be about ½ oz or 16g. They will be a bit bigger than your sesame paste balls. Keep the dough and finished balls covered with a damp towel as you work.
  10. To assemble the final sweet rice balls, use the palm of your hand to flatten a rice dough ball. You can use your fingers to further press it into a circle about 2 inches or 5 cm across. Use the bench/dough scraper to lift the circle of rice dough from your work surface.
  11. Place a sesame paste ball onto the center of the circle of rice dough, and close the dough around the sesame paste ball. Roll the ball in your hands to create a smooth ball. Make sure it is fully sealed around the sesame paste ball. When it cooks, you don’t want it to leak out!
  12. Repeat this process to create all 24 sweet rice balls. Keep all of the rice balls (finished and unfinished) covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. Dry dough cracks and flakes. That’ll make it hard to work with, and any cracks in the finished product will lead to the filling melting and leaking out when you cook them.
  13. Fill a pot large enough to contain all of the sweet rice balls easily with water to the about halfway mark. Bring the water to a boil.
  14. Gently add the rice balls to the boiling water. Stir gently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The water will drop in temperature with the addition of the rice balls. When it returns to a boil, add a ½ cup of cold water to drop the temperature down again. Repeat this two more times. You don’t want the rice balls to cook in boiling water to help prevent them from expanding and splitting open.
  15. Use a slotted spoon or spider strainer to remove the cooked balls to a bowl. Serve with some of the cooking water. 


  1. Chopsticks are great for mixing small amounts of dough because the dough doesn’t have a lot of surface area to stick to. It’s easy to use one chopstick to scrape any sticky dough off of the other as needed. 

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