There’s nothing better than authentic Chinese food, whether that be roasted duck or noodles bursting with a rainbow of flavours. And while China is a beautiful country famous for its selection of savoury dishes, this does not mean that the Chinese people don’t like something sweet from time to time.
In fact, China is also famous for its delicious and exotic desserts. Many of these are commonly eaten between meals and known for their unique shape and texture.
While Chinese food can now be found in restaurants across the world, many people still haven’t sampled many traditional Chinese desserts. This, despite there being so many to choose from.
In the following article, we have compiled a list of 25 traditional Chinese desserts. With our help you can learn more about each one and its significance in Chinese culture.
We have also included detailed recipes for each dish. So why not make your own traditional Chinese desserts from the comfort of your home…?
For the first dessert on our list, we have chosen a classic soybean pudding that can be eaten hot or cold. The dessert is made from a combination of tofu and soybean. The final dish is commonly eaten with a sweet syrup infused with ginger and pandan.
Soybean pudding is a popular dessert that can be found across eastern Asia. As is often the case, the recipe sometimes differs between the various regions. Because of it’s smooth and creamy texture, the pudding can be easily eaten with chopsticks or a spoon.
During the summer, it is common for people to eat the dessert with ice, which makes it more refreshing in the hot weather.
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Chinese mango pudding is the ideal dessert for fruit lovers. It contains mango, sugar and coconut that has been made into a smooth and refreshing mousse. While mango pudding can be found across the world, the Chinese recipe is renowned for its rich and creamy texture.
Unlike our previous choice, mango pudding should always be eaten cold. Understandably, the confection is a popular snack on hot summer days. Despite its simple construction, it is important to choose the best mangos for the recipe. Otherwise, you may not experience the dessert to its full potential.
While it is possible to make the pudding with ordinary milk, in Hong Kong it is made with coconut milk for an authentic tropical taste.
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This is another sweet dessert that first originated in China, although it can now be found across the world because of its lush and moreish taste.
Despite its creamy texture, the pudding is completely vegan. It uses coconut milk to form the base of the mousse. The dessert is also gluten-free and bursting with nutrients.
Of course, a defining element of this pudding is the tapioca seeds, which are made from a root vegetable called cassava. When it comes to making homemade tapioca pudding, the process should only take 25 minutes. Not much time if you want to experience a traditional and well-made dessert.
Depending on your preference, you can make this pudding thick or thin, with some people even eating it for breakfast.
Trying to avoid dairy products? Take a look at our Dairy-Free Desserts post.
Chinese steamed cake is made from brown sugar and can commonly be found in dim sum restaurants or carts. Despite its name, these traditional Cantonese desserts first appeared in Malaysia, where it is still eaten to this day.
While the sponge can look easy to make, the final outcome will often depend on the starter dough, with some people using baking agents to achieve an even rise. Unlike other cakes, this dessert is cooked in a bamboo steamer and should take on a rich and bouncy texture when baked.
If the cake proves too complicated to make from home, you can always go to Hong Kong and visit a dim sum restaurant, where the dessert is bound to be on the menu.
Does the talk of dim sum make you hungry for yum cha? Here are some of the most authentic Yum Cha Restaurants in Melbourne.
This rice cake is commonly eaten to celebrate the lunar new year, with the colorful sponge representing good fortune and health. Despite its association with festive celebrations, it is still possible to find this cake throughout the year, where it is served in restaurants and street markets.
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However, the most fascinating thing about this dessert is how it is made. The cake is steamed before being fried in a pan with eggs. The final result is a sweet and vibrant pudding that contains no dairy and little gluten.
Of course, making this cake yourself can be difficult, but the process will go a lot smoother if you have rice flour in your kitchen. This sweet baking agent helps to give the cake its distinctive taste.
Steamed rice cakes are another traditional dish served in restaurants across China. It is made by fermenting rice batter with a blend of sweet and sour tastes. Despite its strange appearance, the rice cake is best served cold and is prized for its light and fluffy texture.
When making this dessert, it is recommended that you use cooking oil to retain the cake’s moisture. However, you should avoid using strong-tasting oils that could overpower the final dish.
While steamed rice cakes are simple to make, they do require a certain amount of care, especially when letting the batter proof.
The cakes only contain a few basic ingredients and will take on a honeycomb texture once they have been cooked.
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Considered one of the most popular desserts to come from China, these sesame balls are classed as a dim sum meal and are adored for their crunchy texture and nutty taste. The balls are commonly made from glutinous flour and contain a sweet paste made from red beans.
While these balls can be found year-round, they are also eaten to celebrate the lunar new year. They can contain various fillings and toppings. It is important to note that the balls also contain a small hole where the dough has expanded.
These dessert balls are simple to make and remain a popular confection throughout eastern Asia, although they can also be found in other countries as well.
If you are interested in desserts from other Asian culture, see our piece on Filipino Desserts.
This Cantonese signature has remained a popular dessert for centuries, even though it does not contain any pineapple. Instead, the name refers to the unique characteristics that form on the surface of the crust, which is said to resemble the tropical fruit.
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The buns are known to be crispy on the outside, with the interior boasting a similar texture to traditional Chinese bread. The dough is also loved for its pillow-like consistency.
These buns are commonly served as a snack in dim sum restaurants. However, you ever find yourself in the same location as a Chinese bakery, you will probably see people snacking on these buns between meals.
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As you can guess from the name, this dessert consists of long sticks made from deep-fried dough. They are consumed across China and other parts of the world. Similar to the western doughnut, these sticks are commonly eaten for breakfast and served with a selection of dipping sauces.
Because of their popularity, Chinese dough sticks are sometimes served as a main meal, where they are stuffed with minced meat and other fillings. The sticks are known for their crispy texture and gold-brown colour, which gives them an eye-catching appearance.
On the look out for the Best Dumplings in Sydney? See our guide.
If you are hoping to sample one of the most popular desserts in China, then we recommend this delicious annin tofu jelly. Unlike other tofu-based puddings, this recipe does not contain cream, which makes it a nutritious and healthy alternative.
Because the dessert is not native to a specific region of China, the recipe often changes depending on your location. Some provinces even substitute the milk with almond and soy to make it vegan-friendly.
Common ingredients include agar, almond and sugar – with the dessert being commonly served as a delicious dim sum treat. Despite its name, the pudding does not contain any tofu at all.
Vegetarian in fancy letting someone else rattle the pans tonight? Take a peak at our Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Melbourne.
Osmanthus is commonly used as a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese desserts. However, if you combine the substance with coconut, you can make a sweet and fragrant jelly that can be served between meals.
One of the best things about this recipe is its simplicity, as the jelly only contains osmanthus, coconut milk and agar. Perfect for anyone who loves the taste and smell of osmanthus, this pudding is traditionally served cold and can be eaten as a rest bite from the summer weather.
Loving these recipes? Then you may well like our post on Traditional Japanese Desserts.
Candied hawthorn is a popular dessert sold on the streets of China, where it remains a firm favourite among parents and children alike. Because of its accessible nature, the dessert can be purchased across the country. The snack is often served by street vendors and at food markets.
The vibrant confection is made from the famous haw fruit. The fruit is smothered in melted sugar, caramelizsed and impaled on a wooden stick. While the candies are common at new year celebrations, they can also be found year-round. Be warned. They are addictive!
Like fruit, but looking for something a little different? Head over to our Mulberry Recipes post for some new ideas.
Glutinous rice balls are yet another example of how rice flour can be used to make countless traditional Chinese desserts, whether that be rice cakes or colourful balls served during winter and new year celebrations.
While some rice balls come with different fillings, the dessert is commonly eaten plain. The balls are served in large bowls of sweet syrup infused with ginger. Fortunately, you can now purchase this dessert from shops and restaurants. Or you can make your own from scratch.
Distinguished by their vibrant colours, rice balls are known for their smooth and chewy texture. The syrup helps to enhance their natural sweetness.
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While some people would class this meal as an entree, it can also be eaten as a moreish dessert. Boasting chunks of sweet potato that have been covered in molten sugar, the dish is commonly served hot and can be eaten as a snack between meals.
Despite being served warm, it is advisable to dip these candies in water before eating them, as this will help the sugar to harden and make them easier to consume. However, you should not let the dessert get too cold, otherwise, you could find yourself trying to eat a hard and solid mass.
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To some people, the notion of eating red bean soup as a dessert may seem strange. Not in China, where remains one of the most traditional confections on the menu.
Commonly served warm, this sweet soup is made from a combination of red beans, lotus seeds and tangerine peels. The dish is a regular staple at new year celebrations.
Because of its natural ingredients, the soup is nutritious and filling, with the dessert sometimes being paired with rice balls to make it a full meal. Despite its popularity in the winter, the soup can be eaten year-round and made to your desired consistency.
See here for a run-down on the Best Chinese Restaurants in Melbourne.
China is known for its diverse range of herbal teas, so it’s logical they play an important role in the country’s desserts. For example, there is nothing more refreshing than a big bowl of green tea ice cream, especially on a summer’s day.
Featuring a delicious blend of green tea and coconut, this ice cream is silky smooth. Even better, you can easily make it in the comfort of your home. All you need to make it is coconut milk, pure maple syrup and a reliable ice cream maker. Of course, it is also possible to find this particular treat in restaurants across the country.
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And like many traditional Chinese desserts, this creation is also vegan.
Want more vegetarian and vegan content? See our ultimate guide.
Chinese bubble tea is a drink made from black tea and milk, which can now be purchased in establishments across the world. Since its rise as a Instagrammable beverage, the drink has become a popular confection for dessert lovers. It can be served with tapioca pearls, boba, coconut jellies and ice cream – all very photogenic.
While the Chinese still prefer the drink with the traditional tapioca, other eastern Asian countries have taken the classic beverage and infused it with different teas and blends, resulting in a wide range of delicious flavors.
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It’s impossible to write about traditional Chinese desserts and not mention Mooncakes.
Mooncakes are considered one of the most important desserts in Chinese culture, as they are commonly eaten to celebrate the mid-autumn festival. During this celebration, the Chinese people will give thanks to the moon by making food and spending time with their family and friends.
Despite being known as a mooncake, the dessert itself is actually made from a rich dough, which is then pressed into a mold and stuffed with a sweet bean paste. Because the cake is round in shape, it is said to represent togetherness, as well as the bond between loved ones.
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Coming from the northern side of China, sachima is another of the many traditional Chinese desserts commonly eaten during new year celebrations. It is made from fried flour dough that has been dipped in a sweet and fragrant syrup.
Once the strips of pastry have been fried, they take on a hard and shiny appearance. The treat can also feature nuts and other toppings. Like most Chinese desserts, the taste of the snack can change from region to region, even though its appearance will always remain the same.
See here for our recommendations on the Best Dumpling spots in Melbourne.
These delicious desserts can be found in Chinese bakeries across the country, where they remain a firm favourite among the Chinese people. Despite looking similar to powdered doughnuts, this dessert is actually a sweet rice cake. They may find them stuffed with peanuts and red bean paste.
In some ways, it could be said that the cake is similar to the Japanese mochi, although the dough is softer and sticky because of its high water content.
What’s better than a scoop of ice cream? Well, how about a scoop of ice cream that has been deep-fried in a sweet batter? This Chinese dessert can now be found all over the world, where it is made by taking a scoop of ice cream and coating it with cornflakes before it is fried.
While the ice cream does not melt during this process, it is important to use ice cream that is at its lowest temperature to achieve the best results.
Do you love the zing of fresh citrus in your desserts? Click through to our Easy Orange Desserts for some flavour sensations.
Coconut bar (otherwise known as coconut pudding) is yet another dessert that first originated in Hong Kong. where it can now be found in yum cha restaurants. The pudding itself is made from egg whites, which help to give the finished dish its smooth and creamy texture.
In addition to this, it is also possible to make the dessert using gelatin, which will help to maintain its shape and consistency.
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Ginger milk curd first originated in Guangdong, where it is commonly made with ginger juice, milk and sugar. Despite its gelatinous consistency, the pudding is best served hot and remains a popular dessert throughout eastern Asia.
To make the curd, you have to combine ginger juice with milk until it curdles, which results in a sweet dessert with a smooth and creamy texture.
This famous offering is an adored dish of many, so it had to make our traditional Chinese desserts list.
Yet another dessert served during the festive season, this rice pudding is named for the eight ingredients that make it, which include sticky rice, bean paste and several varieties of candied fruit.
Before it is served, the dessert is commonly brushed with a sweet and fragrant syrup, with the eight toppings being a reference to the significance of the number in Chinese magic and lore.
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For the final dessert on our list, we have chosen Chinese almond cookies, an old-fashioned confection that remains a popular favourite to this day. Like most Chinese desserts, these cookies are commonly eaten to celebrate the lunar new year, with their shape meant to resemble a lucky coin.
The cookies themselves are made from rich and flaky dough and will usually be garnished with a candied almond in the centre.