Yuanxiao Dumplings for Lunar New Year

Yuanxiao Chinese dumplings recipe

The Spruce / Nita West

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Cooling/Freezing: 20 mins
Total: 55 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 8 dumplings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1127 Calories
67g Fat
125g Carbs
13g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 1127
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 67g 86%
Saturated Fat 29g 146%
Cholesterol 108mg 36%
Sodium 654mg 28%
Total Carbohydrate 125g 45%
Dietary Fiber 7g 25%
Total Sugars 63g
Protein 13g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 511mg 39%
Iron 8mg 43%
Potassium 295mg 6%
*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.

"I enjoy trying something new, so I was excited to try a recipe for Lunar New Year! I love the flavor of black sesame and the sticky rice flour was a new ingredient for me, so making something delicious while learning something new is always a plus in my kitchen" —Kiana Rollins

Yuanxiao Dumplings/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 7 ounces (14 tablespoons / 200 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 7 ounces (200 grams) black sesame powder

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine, or white wine

  • 4 1/2 cups (500 grams) sticky rice flour, more as needed

  • 1/2 cup water, more or less as needed

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Chinese dumplings
    The Spruce / Nita West
  2. In a medium saucepan on low heat, mix together the butter, sesame powder, sugar, and rice wine until well combined.

  3. Remove mixture from the heat. Cool completely (freezing for 15 to 20 minutes if necessary).

  4. With your hands, roll the mixture into small balls, about 1 level teaspoon each. Set aside.

    Roll into balls
    The Spruce / Nita West
  5. Place the sticky rice flour in a large 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 and mold.

    Rice flour in bowl
    The Spruce / Nita West
  6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, assemble the dumplings.

  7. Pinch off a piece of dough approximately the size of a golf ball. Roll the dough into a ball, then use your thumb to make a deep indentation in the dough.

    Shape into balls
    The Spruce / Nita West 
  8. Place a sesame ball into the hole and enclose it completely in the dough. It is important to make sure the dough is securely sealed around the sesame filling. Be sure to smooth any seams with lightly dampened fingers and a bit of flour as necessary. Roll the remainder of the dumplings in this manner.

    Place sesame ball into hole
    The Spruce / Nita West
  9. Cook the dumplings in boiling water on medium-high heat. Make sure to keep stirring gently in one direction while cooking. When they rise to the top of the water, lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook about one minute more.

    Cook dumplings
    The Spruce / Nita West
  10. Remove the dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon as they become done. Blot gently on a clean kitchen towel, transfer to a large platter, and serve.


    • 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.