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Honey Pistachio Mooncakes

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These Honey Pistachio Mooncakes are baked mooncakes filled with chopped pistachios and sweetened with honey. The recipe does not use golden syrup and you can freely omit the lye water if you don’t have it.

honey pistachio mooncakes without golden syrup and lye water

It is the mooncake season now. Mooncakes are a traditional delicacy dedicated to the Mid-Autumn Festival which falls on the 15th day of the 9th month of the year based on the lunar calendar. Apart from the tradition of moon gazing, eating mooncakes is an absolute must for Chinese around the world.

This year, I am making my own mooncakes at home. These Honey Pistachio Mooncakes are a modern take on the classic five-nut mooncake (五仁月饼/Wu Ren Yue Bing). The traditional mixed nuts mooncake is made with five different kinds of nuts and seeds, but they will be replaced with my favorite nut: pistachios.

This recipe is easier to make than the traditional baked mooncakes as you will omit the long process of cooking the paste filling. It also shows you how to create mooncakes from scratch without purchasing golden syrup or lye water. If you have not made mooncakes before, and are a little intimidated by the steps required to make traditional baked mooncakes, I highly recommend these!

honey pistachio mooncakes without golden syrup and lye water



  • Cake flour. Use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour for the mooncake dough which will result in softer skin.
  • Honey. Golden syrup is usually used in the traditional mooncake dough to create a tender and moist dough that keeps its shape despite being paper thin and can be shaped into delicate patterns. Since it can be hard to find, I use honey as a substitute. Please note that the mooncakes made with honey will be lighter in color than the ones made with golden syrup.
  • Neutral cooking oil. Use any oil that has a neutral flavor, such as canola, sunflower, peanut, rapeseed, soybean, corn, vegetable oil, etc.
  • Lye water. Lye water is also known as alkaline water or kansui (枧水, jian shui). It is used in traditional mooncakes to neutralize the sourness of golden syrup. It causes mooncake skin to have a dark golden color. Also when reacting with acid, the carbon dioxide released will make the mooncake soft and fluffy. This recipe uses honey instead of golden syrup. Since honey is not as acidic, you only need half of the lye water or you can completely omit it.
  • Salt. For taste.


  • Pistachios. Roast pistachios first to enhancing the nutty flavor and make them crisp. Chop them roughly if you like them chunky or you can also use a food processor to finely chop them.
  • Cooked glutinous rice flour. You will need this to help the filling stick together so that it keeps the mooncake’s shape and does not collapse during baking. Since the mooncake should be fully cooked, you will need to toast the glutinous rice flour first to get rid of the raw taste and add a nutty flavor.
  • Honey. To sweeten the filling and make it sticky.
  • Neutral cooking oil. The mooncakes are aged for 3 days after baking to let the oil inside seep out and infuse with the other layer of dough. This way, the texture becomes soft and moist. Without oil in the filling, you will end up with dry and hard mooncake skin.
  • Sugar. To sweeten.
  • Salt. To taste.
  • Water. The filling will be way too crumbly and will fall apart without water. Once you add water, the filling will still be somewhat dry and slightly crumbly, but you should be able to squeeze everything together tightly and form a ball.

Special Equipment You Need

  • Kitchen scaleUse weight measurement instead of volume measurement for the best result.
  • Pastry brush. Use a pastry brush with soft bristles to brush the egg wash thinly on top of the mooncakes. I don’t recommend using a silicone brush for making mooncakes.
  • Mooncake mold. To shape the mooncakes. I use the small 50gr mold.
  • Spray bottle. It is a must to mist the mooncakes with water first before baking. This will prevent the skin from cracking after baking.

Baking Tips

  • You can omit lye water. This recipe uses honey, which is not as acidic as golden syrup in most traditional mooncake recipes. So, you can omit the lye water. Please note that the mooncakes made without lye water will be paler in color.
  • Rest the dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and rest for 1-2 hours. This helps to relax the gluten, making it more elastic. The longer the dough is rested, the easier it is to wrap the filling. Otherwise, you may find it easy to tear or crack.
  • Dust the mooncakes with flour before shaping. This prevents them from sticking to the mold.
  • Brush the egg wash thinly. Make sure to keep the egg wash thin to achieve a clear pattern. If you use too much egg wash, it will blur the pattern. To do this, use a pastry brush with soft bristles instead of a silicone brush. Clean the excess egg wash on the side of the bowl before brushing the mooncakes.
  • Make the mooncakes in advance. The mooncakes need to rest for 2 to 3 days to let the skin soften before serving.
  • Watch the tutorial video. Make sure you watch the video for a visual guide on how to make these Honey Pistachio Mooncakes.
honey pistachio mooncakes without golden syrup and lye water

Resting the Mooncakes

Freshly baked mooncakes are rather dry and hard after baking. They are best enjoyed 2 to 3 days later to soften the skin as the oil seeps out from the filling. Store the mooncakes in an airtight container in a single layer at room temperature.

More Mooncake Recipes

honey pistachio mooncakes without golden syrup and lye water
4.9 from 13 votes

Honey Pistachio Mooncakes

These Honey Pistachio Mooncakes are baked mooncakes filled with chopped pistachios and sweetened with honey. The recipe does not use golden syrup and you can freely omit the lye water if you don't have it.
Author: Jaja Bakes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 10 small mooncakes
Tap or hover to scale!
Prep Time2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time3 hours



  • 2 tbsp (25 gr) neutral cooking oil
  • 3 tbsp (60 gr) honey
  • 1/2 tsp lye water, optional
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 13 tbsp (100 gr) cake flour, more for coating

Pistachio Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups (200 gr) shelled pistachios, roasted
  • 1/4 cup (30 gr) glutinous rice flour
  • 2 tbsp (40 gr) honey
  • 1 tbsp (15 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15 gr) neutral cooking oil, 15 g
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp water, or more

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp water



  • In a medium bowl, add oil, honey, lye water, and salt. Stir to combine. Add cake flour and mix until well incorporated.
  • Cover the dough with cling wrap and rest for 1-2 hours.

Pistachio Filling

  • If you are not using pre-toasted pistachios, spread the raw pistachios in a single layer on an ungreased pan and toast in a preheated oven at 325F/160°C for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.
  • In a frying pan, toast the glutinous rice flour over small heat while stirring constantly for 5 minutes until it turns slightly brown. Cool completely before using.
  • Roughly chop the cooled toasted pistachios with a knife. Make sure your pistachios are not too big or they will be harder to roll into balls.
  • In a medium bowl, add chopped pistachios and cooked glutinous rice flour. Stir to combine. Add honey, granulated sugar, oil, and salt. Stir to combine. Add 1 tbsp water and mix until combined. The final mixture should be somewhat dry and slightly crumbly, but you should be able to squeeze everything together tightly and form a ball. If it falls apart, you may want to add a bit of water, teaspoon by teaspoon until the mixture comes together without falling apart.
  • Divide the filling into 10 even pieces or 30gr in weight. Squeeze tightly into balls. Set aside.


  • After the dough is done resting, divide it into 10 equal pieces or 19-20gr in weight. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the balls with a cling wrap to prevent them from drying out.
  • Take a ball of dough and flatten it thinly with your palm. Put a piece of filling in the center and cover it with the dough. Gently press and push the dough from the bottom to the top little by little until the filling is completely sealed. Roll into a smooth round ball with your hands. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180°C. Line the bottom of a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
  • Dust a ball with cake flour. Shake off the excess. Roll it into an oval slightly. Place into the cavity of a 50gr mooncake mold. Face it down on the prepared baking pan and press the handle to imprint to shape the mooncake. Lift the mold and press again to release it. Continue with the rest of the balls.
  • Mist the top of the mooncakes with some water. You don't want to make the mooncakes super wet, just mist them lightly to prevent the dough from cracking during baking. Bake the mooncakes for 10 minutes. Take them out from the oven and cool slightly for about 10-15 minutes before brushing them with egg wash.
  • In a small bowl, beat egg yolk and water until combined. Dip a pastry brush with soft bristle into the egg wash and wipe the brush on the sides of the bowl a few times to remove the excess. Brush the egg wash on top of each mooncake thinly. Don't brush too much egg wash or it will blur the pattern.
  • Bake them for another 5-8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to cool completely on a cooling rack.
  • When the mooncakes first come out of the oven, they will be dry and hard. Store the cooled mooncakes in a tight container. Wait for around 2-3 days for the skin to soften.


Using weight measurement is recommended for the best result.
You can omit lye water since this recipe uses honey, which is not as acidic as golden syrup.



Serving: 1mooncake | Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 91mg | Potassium: 209mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 75IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating


  1. I followed the recipe closely. But my moon cakes didn’t hold their shape perfectly like yours. They were a little wonky. And they didn’t brown as much still very pale as if they weren’t baked with any egg wash :(. What did I do???

    1. Hi Wendi,

      Can you tell me if you substitute or omit any ingredients in the recipe? And do you think which part, the filling or skin that caused them wonky?

      Do you use lye water? Lye water is optional, but mooncakes made with lye water brown better. Meanwhile, if you omit the lye water, the mooncakes will be pale in color.

      I also think the color of honey will affect the color of the skin. It is normal that the mooncakes made with honey paler in comparison to the mooncakes made from golden syrup.

  2. 5 stars
    Came out nice. Didn’t have a mold but round shape was good enough for this time. Recipe saved for next time. Thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    These are so beautiful, moist & delicious..you will will make them often as they’re actually really easy to.prepare. Next I’m going to try pecans.