Make Your Own Vegan Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls With Ube) This Lantern Festival

Tang Yuan - Chinese Sticky Rice Ball Dessert in bowls and on a spoon

Tang Yuan — an essential part of the Chinese Lantern Festival menu. These are gluten-free, vegan, and kid-friendly and look like the universe! (Image: V for Veganista)

When I was a kid, my mother would make pink and white glutinous rice balls, or 汤圆 (tang yuan), on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. That particular day is 元宵节 (yuan xiao jie) for the Lantern Festival and marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival celebrations.

The round glutinous rice balls symbolize wholeness and family reunion, and are an essential part of the holiday menu. Traditional stuffings for tang yuan are peanut paste, sesame paste, or red bean paste. The tang yuan are then cooked in a ginger-muscovado broth or a sweet fermented rice soup.

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Since I got my hands on some beautiful ube, I decided to make tang yuan with it. The glutinous rice balls are colored naturally with butterfly pea/blue ternate and mashed ube. The filling is made of mashed ube, coconut cream, and sugar.

The most finicky part of this recipe is the kneading of the glutinous rice dough. Once you steam a small portion of the dough and return it to the uncooked dough, it will be extremely sticky. Persist with kneading, adding more glutinous rice flour if required. If you can’t be bothered, you can skip it — the end texture just won’t be as good.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

For the stuffing

  • 14oz (400g) ube 
  • 1 tbsp coconut cream 
  • 2 tbsp sugar 

For the dough

  • 12.7oz (360g) glutinous rice flour 
  • 8.5oz (240g) hot water about 176°F (80°C) 
  • 1.1oz (30g) oil 
  • 5  butterfly pea flowers 

For the broth

  • 2 cups water 
  • 5  ginger slices 
  • 0.25 cups muscovado sugar 


Making the stuffing

Ube steamed in a bowl
Step 1. (Image: V for Veganista)
  1. Steam the ube for 20 minutes until soft.
Ube mashed finely with a fork
Step 2. (Image: V is for Veganista)

2. Mash the ube finely with a fork. Remove a small amount for the glutinous rice dough later.

use and coconut cream that looks like dough
Step 3. (Image: V for Veganista)

3. Add 1 tbsp of coconut cream and 2 tbsp of sugar and mix well until it forms a dough.

purple ube balls for the recipes stuffing on white plate
Step 4. (Image: V for Veganista)

4. Make little ube balls for the stuffing.

Making the dough

Step 5

5. Soak blue ternate flowers in hot water to create blue water.

glutinous rice flour in silver bowl

Step 6. (Image: V for Veganista)

6. Knead 4.2oz (120g) of glutinous rice flour, slowly adding around 2.8oz (80g) of hot water about 176°F (80°C). Once the dough forms a non-sticky, pliable dough, add a couple of drops of oil and knead well.

blue, purple and white dough ball
Step 7. (Image: V for Veganista)

7. Repeat to make the blue dough using the blue ternate water. Repeat to make the purple dough using the mashed ube and (slightly more) water.

purple, blue and white dough ball
Step 8. (Image: V for Veganista)

8. IMPORTANT! Remove about 10 percent of the dough of each colour and steam it for about 10 minutes. Then knead it back into the dough. This is an important step for the best texture of the tang yuan.

3 tubes of different colour held side by side in hand
Step 9. (Image: V for Veganista)

9. Make three tubes of each color and put them side by side, then roll into a ball. Make a hole and put the stuffing in, closing the glutinous rice ball around it.

Tang Yuan balls that now have a galaxy like pattern in them.
Step 10. (Image: V for Veganista)

10. All the galaxy tang yuan are done! Dust them with some loose flour. You can cook them fresh (recommended) or freeze them.

Cooking the Tang Yuan

Step 11

11. Boil 2 cups of water with 5 slices of ginger and a quarter cup of sugar to create the serving broth.

Step 12

My tang yuan went a funny color because I left them in the fridge (not the freezer) and forgot about them for a few days before cooking. Don’t do that!

Tang Yuan cooking in boiling water.
Step 13. (Image: V for Veganista)

13. Cook the tang yuan in gently boiling water.

Step 14. (Image: V for Veganista)

14. When they float to the surface, they are ready!

Tang Yuan served in white bowls and yellow sugar broth
Step 15. (Image: V for Veganista)

15. Serve in the sugar broth.

Tang Yuan Recipe by: V for Veganista

mother, son and dog in garden
“Part of a multicultural family who live on an island in South East Asia. I like to share unpretentious and delicious vegan food from all cuisines, cooked in our tiny ghetto kitchen and photographed with my crappy phone.” (Image: V for Veganista)

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