Black Sesame Tang Yuan – Chinese Glutinous Rice Ball (黑芝麻湯圓)

Like all the dessert dishes that made their ways to Yi Reservation, Tang Yuan (also known as glutinous rice  ball ) is no exception one of my personal favorite sweets. Unlike the other desserts on this site though, I, actually made these tang yuan all by myself with the recipe I got over the phone from my 80 year old grandfather, whom has been making tang yuan every year for the past 5 decades.

Traditionally, tang yuan is served in festivals and major holidays in China as the name and the shape of it symbolizes the togetherness and completeness. It comes many regional variations and many flavors ranging from bean paste filled to pork meat filled. My all time favorite tang yuan with black sesame filings.

Using my grandfather’s recipe I made the black sesame filled tang yuan from scratch. A special ingredient called sweetened winter melon is added to the fillings to make it hearty but it’s optional as it becomes hard to find once past the Chinese New Year. I made extra black sesame and stored in the freezer. Now if I wanted to cook some tang yuan all I have to do is just make some dough and fold up a few tang yuan ( you can also make extra tang yuan and store them in the freezer. This is why I’ve been eating it consistently ever since I made my Chinese New Year dinner.

Tang yuan is normally served warm and this is how you should eat it. Pick up one soft and juicy tang yuan using a spoon. Take a tiny bit on the doughy skin. You can watch the sesame fillings rush out as the steam escapes from the inside at the same time. Use the tip your tongue carefully test out the fillings to make sure it won’t burn you alive. Once you are ready, go ahead and take a BIG bite or swallow the whole thing. Let the creamy juicy sesame fillings explode in your mouth as you chow down the chewy dough. Don’t stop here, reach out for the next one before I take it from you….

Oh yea, did I mention that once I had 10 of these for breakfast?

[stextbox id=”info” bgcolor=”9fdfd9″]Ingredients

For Sesame Fillings (for about 30 tang yuan)

1 cup Black sesame

2 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Peanuts or walnuts or mix of both

2 stick Unsalted butter (or lard), melted

2 Oz Sweetened Winter Melon, minced (optional)

For Tang Yuan (for 8 – 10 pieces)

1 cup Glutinous rice flour

1/2 cup water

Pre-made sesame fillings (shape into balls ahead of time)[/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”custom”]Step-By-Step for Fillings
1. Roast the peanuts and coarsely grind them in a food processor.
2. Add the sesame and sugar to the food processor and grind everything into powder.
3. In a non-stick container mix the sesame mixture with sweetened winter melon.
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4. Gradually add butter to pan and stir to mix. It should form something like thick paste. Carefully flatten the surface.
5. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch grids and refrigerate until solidified.
6. When making the tang yuan, cut each grid into 1/2 inch cubes and shape into balls.  You can store the fillings in a freezer for up to one month.
[/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”custom”]Step-By-Step for Tang Yuan
1. Mix the glutinous rice flour and water to make the dough. Roll it by hands until the dough becomes sticky like play dough. Divide the dough into 1.5 inch balls and keep them covered with a damped towel as they dry up very quickly.
2. Take a piece of dough and carefully shape it into a bowl.
3. Place a piece of sesame fillings in the middle of the dough.
[nggallery id=60]
4. Seal the opening carefully. Make sure the dough is not penetrated anywhere.
5. Gently shape the balls as round as possible by rolling around with both hands.
6. In a pot of boiling water cook the tang yuan until they float on the surface for at least 1 minute. It will take approximately 6 minutes to cook.
[/stextbox]

105 comments

  1. I made this recipe today , Yi. It is delicious …tho I did only use 1 stick of butter and 3/4 cup of sugar and used the walnuts instead of peanuts (because I don’t care for them) and it turned out almost perfect. Next time I will use the whole cup of sugar or add honey to make it a little sweeter. The dough recipe is the easiest I’ve used ( I have tried others with less success).

  2. Saw your recipe and looks good. However, I purchased black sesame powder instead of the seeds. Can that be used and if so, what amount should I use?

    • Is the sesame powder sweetened? If so you might have to do some trail and error to find the right amount. I would start with half cup of powder and no sugar and keep on adding it until you get the right consistency. Hope this helps.

  3. So Yum, sesame balls, in all its flavours! This is awesome. I have been looking for the black sesame filling or its recipe for a long time. Thanks for sharing. I will definitely give this a try.

  4. First time to make tang yuan and I followed your recipe 1 cup glutinous rice, 1/2 cup of water,but cannot form a dough. I put additional 2/3 cup of flour into the original watery dough. Do you know why I couldn’t form a dough as you demonstrate here?

    I’ve no problem with your spicy beef noodle.

    The additional glutinous rice finally taste exactly like mom’s.

    Thanks in advance for your reply!

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  6. Hi. Thanks for your sharing. I tried to make some recipe of yours it turn out great. Only what im concern is the black sesame taste weird n buttery so i eliminate the butter. But it turn out the sesame it self also taste weird(not like the prepacked in supermarket or restaurant). Some how it taste weird sort like rancid . I try 3 different bought pack sesame
    All taste the same. Is there anything i can do to eliminate the weird rancid alike taste. Notes i use 3 different brand of sesame and toast them n grind them. What did i do wrong?

    • Hi There, thanks for checking out my recipe. To answer your question about the rancid taste in sesame, do you also add peanuts and some dries to the mix? I think sesame seeds along would make a slightly bitter stuffing. Also, if you don’t use butter or some kind of fat, the stuffing will be somewhat dry. Would that be a reason you don’t like the taste? Please let me know if this helps.

  7. Great
    Definetly will try it out
    But i have One question
    What is the water in the First picture
    Where the Balls are in and ready to Serve
    Ive read Somewhere Else that they are Served with Sugar water
    Do i take the water in which i habe cooked them?
    And add Sugar to that water? Or should i Cook them in Sugar water?
    Or is it just fresh warm water with Sugar?

    • Hello Anya, first of all thanks for stopping by my blog. To answer your question, the water in the picture is just the water used to boil the balls – that’s how I normally serve it. However there are many ways of serving the balls, you can certainly add sugar to the water if that’s what you prefer. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  8. I don’t have unsalted butter can I use regular butter or oil ?

    • Hello, regular vegetable oil would not work but you can use salted butter if you don’t have unsalted butter. It’ll just taste a little bit salty. Please let me know how it came out.

    • I would send you a picture of it but it does let me lol, but it came out so weird I have to use unsalted next time , and rolling it was really hard, maybe cause I didn’t wait till it was solid, and 2 cups of sugar is a bit to much for me , prob use less next time, and do you blend your sesame ? Thanks you for the recipe ! (:

    • Hello, sorry for the late reply. Yes I blend my sesame seeds with sugar and nuts (if you use them) and of course please feel free to adjust the sugar amount to suit your own taste. I hope it came out better next time!

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  13. Hello! I freeze my left overs in the freezer and they all end up cracking. Why do you think that is?

    • Hi Jennifer, sorry to hear that your tang yuan cracked. The tang yuan cracks because it gets freezer burn from dehydratation. I normally wrap them really well using plstic wrapper and put in a Tupperware and I can store in the freezer for up to a month. How long did you store yours in the freezer?

    • Oh it actually started cracking soon after I put them in the freezer. I wonder if my dough is too dry?

    • I’d make sure you wrap the balls with plastic wrap and store in a covered container. Shouldn’t be from the dough because if it was too dry you’d have hard time rolling into balls in the first place. Hope this helps.

  14. Can I not use peanuts ?

  15. your photo look most tempting when I search in google.Thanks for you step by step photo and recipe. I will try it out this sunday morning to celebrate winter solstice day!

    • Hello, thank for leaving the comment. Please let me know how it came out :)

    • your recipe is awesome. it was love by all my family members. My father in law asked me how I know to make this delicious tang yuan?
      hahahaha I proudly said “google it”….
      again thanks for your wonderful recipe..
      I put less sugar. I only put 1 cup and it still quite sweet. Next time, I will put lesser sugar for my liking.

    • Hello Cheah PEi San, first of all thank you for checking out the tang yuan recipe. I am so happy to hear that your family enjoyed these delicious balls!! And I really appreciate you for letting me know about the sweetness. I’ll note it in the recipe so others can make their own adjustments according to their preference. Thanks again and I hope to see you around!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your granddad’s recipe. I made it tonight and it’s def a keeper. Very easy and sooo authentic! Now I don’t have to go and buy the filling. Can’t thank you enough!!

    • Hello Cindy, i am so happy to hear that the recipe worked out for you. it was really my pleasure to share this classic recipe that my grandfather shared with me. Thanks again for trying this recipe!

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  19. Hi Yi! Your recipe looks delicious. I was hoping to make some for the New Years. However, my son is allergic to nuts. Is it okay to use just all sesame? If so, do I just substitute the half cup of nuts with another half cup of sesame?

    • Hi Ellie, thanks for checking out this recipe. Yes can substitute the nuts with the same amount of sesame. Please let me know how you like it!

  20. Hi Yi! Thanks for sharing your recipe with us! Do you add the butter at room temperature or do you melt it in a hot pan before mixing it with the rest? (Is the butter in liquid or solid form?) Thanks!

    • Hey Tofu, I melt the butter first then mixed with the rest of the ingredients. It’s easier to mix when the butter is more liquid. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks.

  21. i grind the sesame seeds but when i cook it there is still lumps

    • Hey, thanks for trying the recipe. Are you having problem with the sesame stuffing? Did you also use nuts, sugar, and butter (or lard) in the stuffing?

  22. My daughter loves black sesame tang yuan. I am so glad to find your recipe. It looks easy and you did a great job in posting the step by step instructions. I will definitely give this recipe a try. I am so glad your grandfather shared this wonderful recipe and tradition with you. Thank you very much!

    • Hi Alice, thanks a lot for your visit and kind words. I am glad you’ve found this recipe useful. If you do get to make it please let me know how it comes out! Thanks.

    • I tried the recipe twice – the first time did not come out and couldn’t understand why. Then I realized that I did not roast/toast the sesame seeds. Second time – I washed, drained and pan toasted the sesame seeds and then grind them. I used powdered sugar instead of regular sugar since my husband preferred not having the “crunch”, also added in some agave syrup in place of some of the sugar. The filling was chilled (all the butter rose to the top) then we cut and rolled them – chilled them again before rolling them into the tong yuan dough. Once cooked, the filling became too “runny” for our preference. Tasted great but we (my daughter and I) preferred the filling to be less “runny” . The butter taste was a little much for us too. So, the next time I cook this – I will use less butter and not add in the agave syrup and just use powdered sugar. Your recipe was a good start – but I will need to tweak it a little to suit our preferences. I still love having this recipe as a great jump start into something fantastic. Thanks!

    • hey Alice, thanks for giving this recipe the second try. I am so happy you are able to adapt the recipe to your own preference. I hope you’ll get the perfect Tang Yuan next time you make it. Please keep me posted. Thanks.

  23. Hi Yi was on your blog re Tang Yuan. May I have the recipe in gm or oz measurements. Looks interesting. Need to check with you re the black sesame may I know why you need to mix walnuts or peanuts into it. How is the taste of only black sesame. Thank you

    • Hey Christine, thanks for your visit. You can totally just use black sesame for the filling. As per your request I have converted all the measurements to grams. Please let me know if you have any other questions :)
      125g Black sesame
      400g Sugar
      70g Peanuts or walnuts or mix of both
      220g Unsalted butter (or lard), melted
      58g Sweetened Winter Melon, minced (optional)
      165g Glutinous rice flour
      115g Water

  24. Hi,

    I’m planning to make these really soon (they look really good on your blog!!)
    I used to make these without filling by myself when I was young..
    I have some questions about the tang yuan 😛
    Now I’m planing to make them with red bean paste filling instead but I don’t know how to make them :(
    Do the yang yuan stick to your teeth when u bite them, as in really sticky? Is there a way of making them without sticking your teeth as easily? will adding a bit of oil in the tang yuan mixture work?
    If I’m going to freeze them, is it ok to use another flour rather than rice flour when I’m storing them in the container?

    Thank you :)

    • Hi Joanne, I am so excited that you are trying out this recipe. I am sure the red bean paste version will taste just as good as the sesame filling. If you can’t find packed red bean paste please check out my easy red bean paste recipe. The rest of the steps should be the same as this recipe.
      Tang yuan is made of sticky rice flour so it will be sticky to your teeth. If you want to make it easy sticky you can consider mixed the sticky rice flour with some regular rice flour. I mentioned about the regular rice flour in this recipe here. Adding oil will help as well.
      Finally if you would like to freeze the tang yuan you can definitely use other types of flour to create a nonstick surface.
      Good luck with the tang yuan and please let me know how it came out :)

  25. Hi Yi, thank you for posting the recipe. I’d just made this today and it was delicious! Love the sesame filling. Thank you.

    • Thanks Abby. I asbsoblutely love Tang Yuan. However I only get to make it around Chinese New Year. I am so happy that you liked the recipe!

  26. Hi…I’m planning on making this real soon. Looks so yummy. Great job :)
    Questions….The water for making Tang Yuan, is it hot, warm, or room temp.?
    Can I store FILLED Tang Yuan in a freezer?

    Thanks :)

    • I mean…should the Tang Yuan be cooked before freezing?

    • No you do not need to cook them.

    • Hello Pam, I am glad you are going to try making Tang Yuan soon. To answer your question, the water I use is at room temperature. And you can freez the Tang Yuan with filling inside. Just make sure you place the tang yuan in a well sealed bag or box because they’ll crack if exposed to the cold air directly. Hope this helps. Thanks for your visit.

    • Hi again, :)
      I just tried my first attempt. It did not go very well, unfortunately :(
      I had trouble with the filling part. The dough didn’t seem to stay together but kinda stick to my palm. Could it be the humidity that makes the dough wetter than it should be? And after shaping, before boiling, how should I keep the balls from sticking to the plate I put them on? (The beautifully shaped ones broke apart when I picked them up for boiling…so sad)

      One more ^^….the sugar in the filling mix still remains as grains after cooking. Is it supposed to be like this?

      Thank you for your time ^^

    • Hi Pam, sorry to hear that your first attempt didn’t go so well…but let me tell you that I had failed many times before I could make these balls correctly. Regarding the dough, I normally keep it slightly on the wetter side because the dough dries up very fast and once the dough becomes dry the ball will develop cracks. To keep the ball from sticking, I normally sprinkle a layer of rice flour on the plate and place the completed ball on the layer of flour. Lastly, the grainy texture in the filling is actually how should be. It small bits of sugar give the filling a little crunchy kick. However if you prefer a more smooth texture you can replace regular sugar with powdered sugar.
      Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

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  28. Will it make a difference to used regular butter as opposed to unsalted butter?

    • Hey Hung, thanks for your visit. If you use the regular butter the stuffing will taste a little salty. For better flavoring I’d use unsalted butter (or lard if you prefer), but if salted butter is all you have I’d use it but balance it out with a little more sugar. Hope this helps.

  29. is that icing sugar that you’re using?

    • hey, I use regular sugar. It gets blended with sesame and nuts so it becomes a little powdery. Hope this helps.

  30. It doesn’t actually explode, otherwise you’d be sent to the hospital….

    • Hi Emma, you are right I did exaggerate somewhat to sensationalize the effect from eating these creamy juicy rice balls =) rest assured I have not tried anything crazy that would actually send me to the hosptial:)

  31. HOW MUCH IS AN OZ

  32. can you tell me how much is a stick of butter in gm. thanks.

    • Hi Maddie, please see the conversion below. Please let me know if you have any other questions:
      1 stick of butter = 1/4 pound
      1 stick of butter = 1/2 cup
      1 stick of butter = 8 tablespoons
      1 stick of butter = 4 ounces
      1 stick of butter = 113 grams

  33. Yi,

    Your recipe is spot on! I tried a different one before but yours is so much better! I really enjoy trying your recipes and recreate them for my family. Thank you!

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  35. I am a teacher and have two students who are Chinese exchange students are are hosting a Chinese New Year party on Sunday. I would like to make these but would have to make them ahead of time. Is there any modification I can make to serve them at room temperature (and within a day)?

    • Hi Perri, I am glad that you are interested in making these. The problem with making these ahead of time is the skin of the rice ball gets dry and cracked easily. My suggestion is to make the rice balls then store them in a takeout box. Then leave the box in the freezer. When placing the balls in the box, make sure there is a thin layer of rice flour in the box to create the nonstick surface. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  36. I was making rice balls as a project for my school. Thank you for teaching me so well.

    • Hi Veronica, I am really happy to hear that you chose this recipe as part of your project. I hope you enjoy those rice balls!

    • I liked the Black Sesame balls but I wanted to know if you could tell me how you can make the rice balls with peanuts. Do I just grind the peanuts with the food processor and add some sugar?

      Let me know. :)
      Thanks!!

    • Yes. For the peanut filling, just grind the peanuts in the food processor. Then mix the peanuts with sugar and butter (or lard ). Please let me know how it goes it if you do make the peanut filling :)

    • Thanks for the information. I will tell you what happened after I’m done. :)
      Thanks again

  37. How do i add the sweetened wintermelon? Grind it in or just add it whole.

    • HI Sia, I like to have a little bites of sweetened winter melon in my rice balls so I coarsely chopped and mix with everything else.

  38. Hi there, I tried your recipe but I couldn’t get exactly the same filling like yours (watery) and the butter taste was rather strong. How can I make it too be more “watery”? By the way, I didn’t follow exactly your measurement of the butter as I felt it was too wet, could that be the cause?

    • Hi Elaine,
      Thanks for trying out the recipe. Yes the butter is what makes the stuffing smooth and creamy after you boil the rice ball. If you don’t like the buttery taste perhaps you can substitute to something else say lard (not sure if this is better)?
      Additionally, you can also increase the amount of peanuts because peanuts have a good amount of oil.
      Also, I find that the stuffing is a little bit more smooth if you grind the sesames and nuts to the finer state.
      I hope this helps. Please don’t hesitate to comment if you have any other questions!

    • Thanks for the prompt response. I currently still have lots of the mixed fillings in the fridge, can I still add the lard and / or grind the paste to be smoother using blender?

    • At this point you can still add lard/butter and mix with your existing stuffing. I’ve not done it but I think it will be hard to blend your stuffing in the blender at this point as it’s very sticky. Please let me know if you are able to refine the stuffing :)

  39. Thanks for the recipe, thinking of making these for coming Dongzhi

  40. Thank you for the great recipe. The photos and step-by-step guide are great! Have you tried other flavors besides sesame?

    • Hello Health Bee, thanks for your visit. Yes I’ve had other stuffing such as peanut paste, lotus seed paste, and even pork stuffing. However my favorite is still the black sesame flavor :)

  41. thank you for this simple and great recipe for tang yuen…i love mine mixed with peanuts and black sesame so would love to try this recipe. However my one suggestion is could you make it ‘friendly printing’ (ie. with a click i could just print the recipe).

    • Hi Jenny, thanks a lot for your suggestion. I am going to work on making the recipe print friendly. Hope you find more interesting recipes here!

  42. I love your blog. I want to make yummy rice balls so I was wondering where I could buy the ingredients? Do I need to go to a specialty store?

    Thank you! 😀

    • Hi Rose, thanks for your visit. You should be able to find all the ingredients in a Chinese grocery store. If you don’t have one near you a specialty store is your best bet.
      Black sesame and rice flour are somewhat common. The only thing that is hard to find out side of a Chinese store is the sweetened winter melon. But again that’s just optional
      Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  43. I love black sesame tang-yuan! Unfortunately, I’m allergic to peanuts- Is there a variation adjustment to the recipe that only uses black sesame? I don’t have a food processor so grinding up walnuts would be hard.

    • Hi Kiana, thanks for your question. To go nuts-free, I’d substitute the half cups of nuts with black sesame seeds and keep other ingredients the same portion. If you have access to the Chinese dried fruits (the sweet ones) definitely mix them in to make it a little more refreshing. Just keep in mind that your sesame filling is still going to taste awesome without the nuts.

      Please let me know how this works out for you :)

    • Awesome thanks. Once I gather all the ingredients together I’ll give it a try.

      Thanks for the help ^_^

    • Anytime! Please stick around for more exciting food and desserts!

  44. I am so happy to have stumbled into your blog. Early this year we went to Xiamen to our ancestral village, real rural area like I have never seen before. We were served this by our distant relatives and I was really skeptical. But after one first bite, I practically swallowed the content of my bowl. And my boyfriend’s. And my brother’s.

    I will let my mother know that I am trying this!

    • Hi Jun, thank you for sharing your story with me. I do hope you get to make Tang Yuan at home. Please let me know how it goes.

  45. guess what, i just made the sesame rice balls today :) it is soo good! thanks for the great recipe.
    my glutinous rice flour wasnt very nice tho…the texture..even tho its from japan and organic ><

    • Hi Vivienne, I am glad that your tang yuan came out delicious!
      Unfortunately I am not familiar with the Japanese organic rice flour. The one I use is made in Thailand. What’s your specific issue with the texture?

  46. i love tang yuan! really great step by step photos! :) i cant wait to make it soon!

  47. Wow, I’ve gotta try making these soon. Thanks for sharing, I want some now!

  48. I never knew that there was a lard component to the filling, no wonder it was so silky smooth!

  49. Oh these look so yummy.Peanuts and sesame together must be heavenly. I am just used to red bean fillings. Your step-by-step pictures are very helpful. Your blog is beautiful and full of great recipes. I sure will visit again.

    • Thanks Hyosun for your compliments.

      I’ve used red bean filings for tang yuan before. It’s just as delicious as the sesame ones and it’s definitely less hassle.

  50. These sweet rice balls look just gorgeous.
    My family usually serve the pre-made frozen ones around the Chinese New Year. But the homemade one sounds a lot better! Thanks!

    • Hi Jennifer, I used to buy the frozen tang yuan from Asian grocery stores as well. Although they are good the fillings are often too sweet for me. I like this homemade version as it gives you the flexibility to adjust the flavor to your own taste.

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