Yuanxiao Dumplings for Lunar New Year

Yuanxiao Chinese dumplings recipe

The Spruce / Nita West

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1006 Calories
45g Fat
141g Carbs
13g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 1006
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 45g 57%
Saturated Fat 19g 97%
Cholesterol 71mg 24%
Sodium 12mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 141g 51%
Dietary Fiber 8g 27%
Protein 13g
Calcium 203mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Chinese dumplings are a popular treat during the Lunar New Year season, which is full of wonderful traditions and celebrations.

But no celebration is complete without the special dishes that mark the season. As candy canes are to Christmas and pumpkin pie is to the American Thanksgiving, yuanxiao dumplings are to the Lunar New Year.

Yuanxiao (Lantern Festival) dumplings—or tangyuan as they are also known—are a traditional treat during the New Year season, specifically Lantern Festival, the last day of the traditional Lunar New Year celebrations. During the Lantern Festival, paper lanterns fill the night sky with beautiful light, symbolizing the letting go of past selves and looking to the future. The Lantern Festival has also since commercialized into a sort of Chinese Valentine’s Day following in line with the historic tradition of matchmaking in the streets during the festivities.

Yuanxiao are sweet glutinous rice balls that are typically filled with a sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or even peanut butter. The Chinese believe that the round shape of the yuanxiao dumplings and the special bowls in which they are commonly served symbolize family togetherness. By eating the rice balls, they will bring their family happiness and good luck in the new year. For this very belief, these dumplings are also served at Chinese weddings and any other occasion of family reunion.


  • 4 1/2 cups/500 grams sticky rice flour
  • 7 ounces/200 grams butter
  • 7 ounces/200 grams black sesame powder
  • 8 ounces/250 grams sugar​
  • 1 teaspoon wine

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Chinese dumplings
    The Spruce / Nita West
  2. Mix the butter with sesame powder, sugar, and wine (you will need to heat the mixture a little bit).

    Mix butter with sesame powder
    The Spruce / Nita West
  3. Cool completely (freezing for 15-20 minutes if necessary). Form the mixture into small balls using approximately 1 level teaspoon each and rolling them with your hands.

    Roll into balls
    The Spruce / Nita West
  4. Place the glutinous rice flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, a small amount at a time, working and shaping the dough until it has a texture similar to modeling clay — not too soft, but smooth and easy to manipulate.

    Rice flour in bowl
    The Spruce / Nita West
  5. Pinch off a piece of dough approximately the size of a golf ball, roll the dough into a ball and use your thumb to make a deep indentation in the dough.

    Shape into balls
    The Spruce / Nita West 
  6. Place a sesame ball into the hole before closing it up. It is important to make sure the sesame ball is completely covered with the dough. Continue with the remainder of the dough.

    Place sesame ball into hole
    The Spruce / Nita West
  7. Cook the dumplings in boiling water. Make sure to keep stirring in one direction while cooking. When they begin to float on the water, continue to boil for about one minute while reducing the heat.

    Cook dumplings
    The Spruce / Nita West
  8. Remove and enjoy!

    The Spruce / Nita West


  • Sticky rice (glutinous rice) flour and black sesame powder are available at most Asian markets. If you can't find black sesame powder, you can grind black sesame seeds in a food processor until they form a powder.
  • The amount of water needed with glutinous rice flour can vary quite a bit depending on the humidity level where you live and even the age of the flour.
  • Glutinous rice flour can be a bit tricky to work with—at first it looks too dry, and the next thing you know the dough is sticking to your hands because you’ve added too much water. If that happens, add a bit more glutinous rice flour. On the other hand, if the dough is too dry, add more water, a small amount at a time.