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Top 12 Chinese New Year Desserts


A New Year's celebration wouldn't be complete without sweet treats. Here are some Chinese desserts that are traditionally served during the New Year season, and fun recipes featuring symbolic Chinese foods. You might try catering to guests who have a sweet tooth with a rich dessert such as Peking Dust. For guests who want something lighter, fresh fruit is always an option - oranges symbolize wealth in Chinese culture. And if you don't feel up to cooking, some of these items should be available at Asian bakeries, particularly during the Chinese New Year season.

1. Sticky Cake (Nian Gao)

Steamed nian gao with shredded coconut  for Chinese New Year
3liz4/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
This is China's most famous cake, traditionally fed to the Chinese Kitchen God so he will report favorably on a family's behavior when he returns to heaven before the start of the New Year season. In Chinese culture, cakes symbolize togetherness and a rich life. The main ingredient in Nian Gao is glutinous rice flour, available in Asian grocery stores. The cake is filled with dried fruit and steamed.

Baked Nian Gao - Not comfortable with the idea of steaming a cake? Here is a recipe for baked Nian Gao. The cake is filled with red azuki beans, used in many Chinese festive dishes. And for a little extra help, here are step by step instructions, with photos, to make Baked Nian Gao.

2. Peking Dust

A fun, if filling, dessert - Fresh chestnuts are ground into fine pieces to represent the dust of the Mongolian dessert, and paired with whipped cream.
Top Picks:
Peking Dust

3. Almond Cookies

No Chinese New Year celebration would be complete without cookies! These almond cookies have a light, delicate flavor that is not too overpowering..
Top Picks:
Almond Cookies

4. Egg Custard Tarts

Served at Chinese bakeries and dim sum restaurants year around, these delicate tarts are even more popular during the Chinese New Year season.
Top PicksEgg Custard Tarts

Cooking Tips for Making Egg Custard Tarts

5. Sesame Seed Balls (Zeen Doy)

These are tasty balls of glutinous rice flour that filled with red bean paste and rolled in sesame seeds and fried. While sesame seed balls are available at Asian bakeries throughout the year, they are especially popular during the Chinese New Year season.
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Sesame Seed Balls (Zeen Doy)

6. Eight Precious Pudding

This famous banquet dessert is a pudding, traditionally made with eight types of dried candied fruits to "treasures" such as happiness and a long life.
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Eight Precious Pudding

7. Five-spice Peanuts

Peanuts symbolize longevity in Chinese culture. In this easy recipe the peanuts are coated in a syrupy mixture with brown sugar, corn syrup and five-spice powder.
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Five-spice Peanuts

8. Sago Tarts

Sago tarts are made with lotus seeds. Lotus seeds are often given to married couples to wish them many children.
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Sago Tarts

9. Sweet Red Bean Soup

At any Chinese New Year celebration you'll see red everywhere, as the color red is a powerful symbol of happiness and joy in Chinese culture. Made with red adzuki (azuki) beans, this popular sweet dessert soup is perfect for Chinese New Year. Lotus seeds and dried tangerine peel give the soup an interesting variety of textures and flavor.
Top Picks:
Red Bean Soup

10. Sesame Seed Custard

One of the more unusual Chinese desserts, this fried custard is made with toasted sesame seeds.
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Sesame Seed Custard

11. Fortune Cookies

Although they're actually an American creation, fortune cookies are a fun way to end a festive meal. Homemade fortune cookies taste so much better than storebought, and you can make up the fortunes to put in the cookies.
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Fortune Cookies
Top 9 Tips for Making Fortune Cookies
Chocolate Dipped Fortune Cookies

12. Preserved Kumquats

Resembling a miniature orange, kumquats are a popular treat during the Chinese New Year season, as they are a symbol of prosperity for the coming year.
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Preserved Kumquats

More Chinese New Year Recipes
Main Dishes
Quick and Easy
Vegetarian Dishes

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