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Black Sesame Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)

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Soft and chewy glutinous rice balls filled with a sweet, nutty, and buttery black sesame filling, these Black Sesame Tang Yuan are a classic Chinese dessert enjoyed with a sweet ginger soup!

black sesame tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls in brown sugar ginger soup

Black Sesame Tang Yuan (黑芝麻汤圆) is a classic dessert eaten during Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival, and Winter Solstice Festival. This dessert is eaten during this time because of its auspicious meaning. The roundness of tang yuan symbolizes completeness and reunion. It represents family reunion, unity, and togetherness. 

tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls in brown sugar ginger soup

The glutinous rice balls on the outside are sweet and chewy like the mochi texture. There are various filling variations such as peanuts, red bean paste, and lotus seed paste, but the black sesame filling is the most classic version. The black sesame filling is buttery and nutty, with just the right amount of sweetness. When you take a bite of the balls, the filling will ooze out.

The sweetened ginger soup is my favorite way to eat these glutinous rice balls. You can use white or brown sugar for the soup, but I prefer brown sugar for its deep flavor with caramel and toffee notes. The mild-sweet gingery soup adds warmth and compliments the black sesame filling well. It makes this dessert so comforting, especially in cold weather.

Why Make Black Sesame Tang Yuan at Home?

You can easily find Black Sesame Tang Yuan packaged in packets and sold in the freezer section at Chinese and Asian grocery stores. All it takes is a quick boil.  So, why do you still need to make these glutinous rice balls at home?

  • No Additive. There are always additives in commercially sold glutinous rice balls.
  • Tastier. We use butter for the filling instead of cheap oil, which makes this recipe so much tastier than the commercial ones.
  • Easy to make. You only need black sesame seeds, sugar, butter, and glutinous rice flour to make these balls.
  • Togetherness. When you make it at home, you can get the whole family involved. It’s pretty easy to make at home, and it can be a fun activity with family, especially during the holidays.
tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls in brown sugar ginger soup

Ingredients You Need

Black Sesame Filling

  • Black sesame seeds. Toast them to make them nuttier. To toast them, you can put them in a frying pan over small heat and stir constantly for about 5 minutes until they smell nutty. Or you can also swap them with black sesame powder
  • Granulated sugar. To sweeten the filling.
  • Unsalted butter. Butter holds the filling together so we can roll them into balls. Once the glutinous rice balls have been boiled, the butter will melt. The filling will be runny and ooze out when you take a bite of them.

Glutinous Rice Balls

  • Glutinous rice flour. Or also known as sweet rice flour. This gives the balls that soft and chewy consistency. It is gluten-free even though it has the word “gluten” in its name. It is quite easy to find at any Asian grocery store. Do not confuse this with regular rice flour, which won’t work in this recipe.
  • Warm water. Make sure you use warm, not hot water. Hot water can cook your glutinous rice flour, causing it to get sticky when forming the dough.
tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls

Sweet Ginger Soup

  • Sugar. You can use any kind of sugar. White sugar, brown sugar, and rock sugar are the most commonly used for the soup.
  • Ginger. Adds warmth to the soup. Simmer in the soup for 5 minutes if you prefer a light ginger taste or longer if you like it stronger gingery taste.
  • Pandan leaves. To add a delicate fragrant aroma and taste to the soup. You can skip them if you don’t have them.
black sesame tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls in brown sugar ginger soup

Soup Variations

Here are some soup options you can use instead of the sweet ginger soup:

  • Red bean soup
  • Black sesame soup
  • Fermented glutinous rice with sweet osmanthus

Why Does Black Sesame Tang Yuan Burst Out When Cooked?

  • The skin is too thin. Make sure the skin is quite thick enough and uniform surrounding the filling.
  • The filling hasn’t fully been enclosed. The filling will leak when being boiled.
  • Cooked for too long. This causes the glutinous rice balls to get too soft.
black sesame tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls in brown sugar ginger soup


Cooked glutinous rice balls are best served right after they have been boiled. If there is any leftover, just store them in the sweet ginger soup or fresh water in the fridge for up to 2 days. The balls will harden when cold and must be reheated on the stove to soften.

For longer storage, you can freeze the uncooked glutinous rice balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat, not touching each other. Put them in the freezer for 1 hour and then transfer to a freezer bag. They will last for up to 6 months. When you are ready to eat, do not thaw and immediately cook them in hot boiling water until they float up.

black sesame tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls with black sesame filling

Use Leftover Frozen Tang Yuan to Make Pan Fried Tang Yuan

If you have many frozen tang yuan stashed in your freezer, try also this Pan Fried Tang Yuan recipe. Crispy exterior, soft and chewy interior, with runny buttery, nutty filling when we bit into it. So good!

More Chinese Dessert Recipes

black sesame tang yuan or chinese glutinous rice balls in brown sugar ginger soup
5 from 3 votes

Black Sesame Tang Yuan

Soft and chewy glutinous rice balls filled with a sweet, nutty, and buttery black sesame filling, these Black Sesame Tang Yuan are a classic Chinese dessert enjoyed with a sweet ginger soup!
Author: Jaja Bakes
Course: Dessert, Snack, Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 20 balls
Tap or hover to scale!
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes


Black Sesame Filling

  • 1/2 cup (60 gr) roasted black sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup (50 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (57 gr) unsalted butter, room temperatures

Glutinous Rice Balls

Sweet Ginger Soup

  • 4 cups (1 liter) water
  • 1/2 cup (100 gr) brown/white sugar, or more
  • 4 pandan leaves, knotted, optional
  • 4 inch (50 gr) ginger, peeled and sliced


Black Sesame Filling

  • In a food processor, blend roasted black sesame seeds and granulated sugar until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is evenly blended.
  • Transfer the paste into a small ziplock bag or small freezer-friendly container lined with cling wrap. Spread the paste evenly. Freeze for 15-20 minutes until slightly firm.
  • Cut and divide the paste into 20 pieces evenly. Roll each piece into a round ball with your palms. If the filling becomes too soft to roll, transfer it back to the freezer to solidify it.
  • Place the filling back in the freezer until you use it.

Sweet Ginger Soup

  • Add all the ingredients into a large pot. Heat on medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-20 minutes. The longer you simmer the soup, the more gingery and fragrant it is. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  • Discard the pandan leaves and ginger slices.

Glutinous Rice Balls

  • In a large bowl, add glutinous rice flour. Add warm water little by little and mix with each addition. The dough will look dry at this time, but don't be tempted to add more water. Knead the dough until smooth and pliable. If it is too dry, you can add a bit more warm water. It should not to wet either because it will not hold its shape.


  • Dust your work surface with a little bit of glutinous rice flour. Transfer the dough onto the work surface. Divide the dough into 2 evenly. Return 1 dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or damp towel when not using. Shape another dough into a log. Cut and divide into 10 even pieces. Shape into balls.
  • Take one ball and make an indentation in the middle with your thumb to form a small bowl. Add the black sesame filling to the center. Use your thumb to press the filling, while using your other hand to slowly stretch the side of the dough over the filling. Pinch to seal and roll the ball with your palms until smooth and round. Place the ball onto a tray that has been dusted with a little bit of glutinous rice flour. Repeat until 20 balls are made.
  • Once you have shaped the balls, you can freeze them and cook them later. Or you can cook them immediately.
  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the balls and cook until they float to the top.
  • Transfer the balls to the sweet ginger soup. Tang yuan can be served warm or at room temperature.



Serving: 1ball | Calories: 124kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 5mg | Potassium: 42mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 72IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 1mg
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5 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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