Lantern Festival is coming up, so I’m sharing a version of the traditional, celebratory tangyuan! 汤圆 Tāngyuán are glutinous rice balls stuffed with a sweet or savory filling. Like my Hubei Pearl Meatballs, round tangyuan represent reunion and togetherness. They’re made with glutinous rice flour and traditionally stuffed with sweet black sesame, red bean paste, or peanut filling. My version uses some modern conveniences for an unexpected twist on this traditional dessert, with a perfectly luscious molten lava center.
We celebrate 元宵节 (yuán xiāo jié) Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the lunar New Year, this year February 26th. This ancient holiday dates back about 2000 years marks to the 西汉 (Xī Hàn) Western Han dynasty and marks end of the traditional Chinese New Year celebration. So light a paper lantern and join me in welcoming the Year of the Ox!
I recently presented this recipe for peanut butter tangyuan as part of a fun virtual alumni event for YaleWomen in collaboration with Feb Club Emeritus. For all who are joining me from there, thank you so much for visiting! You can read more about my live event offerings here.
Ingredients for Peanut Butter Tangyuan
I have two versions of the sweet peanut tangyuan filling:
- Version 1 — easy traditional tangyuan filling
- natural peanut butter (preferably unsweetened): only ingredients should be peanuts and maybe salt
- sweetener: brown sugar / honey
- fat that is solid at room temp: e.g. coconut oil / butter / lard
- Version 2 — chocolate peanut butter fusion tangyuan
The dough is a super simple combination of 糯米粉 (nuò mǐ fěn) glutinous rice flour (aka sweet rice flour or mochiko) and water. Glutinous rice flour is finely ground glutinous rice (aka sticky rice), which is a special short-grain rice that is extra sticky, chewy, and slightly translucent when cooked. We often use it in Asian desserts like Japanese mochi, Chinese tangyuan, and 年糕 niángāo Chinese New Year cakes.
Like all rice, it is naturally gluten-free. Please note that this is not the same as regular rice flour! Look for the green bags (糯米粉 glutinous rice flour) not the red bags (粘米粉 regular rice flour).
I’m flavoring the soup with ginger root and 酒酿 (jiǔ niáng) Chinese sweet rice wine. It’s slightly alcoholic, partially fermented glutinous rice used in Chinese desserts. This is the most traditional accompaniment for tangyuan. A well-stocked Chinese grocery would carry it in the refrigerated section.
Other flavors to try include 糖桂花 (táng guì huā) osmanthus flower jam, 红枣 (hóng zǎo) jujube dates, and 枸杞 (gǒu qǐ) goji berries. For a fun, fusion-y twist, try sweetening with orange marmalade or fruit jelly for a twist on peanut butter and jelly. Sweeten the soup to your taste with honey or brown sugar. Or skip the accoutrements altogether and just enjoy the tangyuan plain. Any way you choose to go, they will be soft and melty and delicious!
Did you try this dish?
Tangyuan are the iconic dish of Lantern Festival. They’re best enjoyed piping hot and fresh, so the cleanup can wait while you share this sweet treat with loved ones. If you tried this dish, we’d love to hear how it turned out in the comments below. Share your results on Instagram with #thericelover and tag us @thericeloverblog. And as always, if you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.
Wishing you and yours togetherness and good fortune in the year ahead. 祝您元宵快乐，事事圆满！
Peanut Butter Tangyuan Recipe
Peanut Butter Tangyuan v2 巧克力花生酱汤圆
- Small saucepan
For the dough 汤圆皮
- 100 g
glutinous rice flour(scant cup) / 糯米粉，100克
- 88 g water (3 fl oz = 6 Tbps) room temp or lukewarm / 室温水，88克
For the filling – v1 Peanut butter 汤圆馅1：花生酱
- 70 g
natural peanut butter(4 Tbsp) see Note 1 / 有机花生酱，70克
- 30 g brown sugar (2 Tbsp + 1 tsp) or honey / 红糖，30克
- 10 g coconut oil / butter / lard (2 tsp) or more as needed, see Note 2 / 椰子油或猪油，适量
- 1 Tbsp peanut powder like PB2 (optional, as needed) to thicken the filling / 花生粉，约15克
For the filling – v2 Chocolate peanut butter 汤圆馅2：巧克力花生酱
- 10 mini Reese's peanut butter cups 迷你 Reese's 瑞茜花生酱巧克力杯
For the soup (optional) 汤料
- 4 slices ginger approx size of US quarter / 姜，4片
- 8 Tbsp Chinese sweet rice wine very optional (see Note 3) / 酒酿，8汤匙
- sweetener of choice like osmanthus jam, honey, sugar, or orange marmalade (to taste) / 桂花酱或果酱，适量
Prepare the peanut butter filling (Version 1 only — skip on to next section if using Reese's)
- Combine all of the ingredients for the peanut butter filling in a heat-safe bowl. Microwave on the defrost setting for 30 seconds to melt. Stir until well-combined and smooth. (see Note 4)将所有的馅料搅拌均匀。可以在微波炉的最低档（解冻）转30秒钟助化解。
- Transfer the filling into a small zip lock bag and press out excess air. Roll the bag into a log and freeze until solid, about 20 minutes.把馅料倒进一个密封塑料袋，冻成长条，越20分钟。
Prepare the dough
- Combine glutinous rice flour and water and stir until combined; the mixture will look dry and clumpy and this point. Bring the crumbs together and squeeze with your hands until it forms a rough ball. Knead until fully combined. The dough should be soft and malleable, with the approximate texture of fresh play-dough.将糯米粉和水揉成面团。
Roll the tangyuan (see video for more detail and tips)
- (optional) If preparing tangyuan extra for future consumption, the best way to store is to freeze. Take a sheet tray and lightly coat the bottom with extra glutinous rice flour to prevent sticking. (see Note 5)如果您打算多做一些汤圆，建议冷冻。盘上撒上少量糯米粉防止粘盘。
- If using peanut butter filling, remove ⅓ – ½ from the bag and cut 1 cm cubes. (see Note 6). If using mini Reese's, cut them in half.将冻好的闲聊切成1厘米的小块。将 Reese's 巧克力切半。
- Take a roughly 1" ball of dough and form a small cup.取出2厘米的糯米面，揉成球，再捏出小碗形。
- Take a piece of the filling, place it into the cup, and bring the sides up to seal the top. Pinch off any excess dough at the seam. Roll gently between open palms to form a round ball. Set aside.小糯米皮碗里放如一块馅料。收口，再用手掌轻轻地滚成圆形。
- Bring 3 – 4 cups water and (optional) ginger slices to a rolling boil in a saucepan on medium heat. Drop the tangyuan into the boiling water, and cook for an additional 90 – 120 seconds after all tangyuan have floated to the surface. When fully cooked, the dough should be very soft and chewy. Remove the tangyuan and set aside in serving bowls.锅里加入姜片和适量清水，中火煮至沸腾。汤圆一一放入。汤圆浮到水面后再煮90-120秒，捞出备用。
- Reserve ~1 cup cooking water per serving. Add the (optional) jiuniang sweet rice wine, 2 Tbsp per serving and any sweetener to taste. Other flavor additions can include jujube dates or goji berries. Bring the soup back to a boil and ladle over the tangyuan. Serve hot and fresh.汤里加入酒酿，糖桂花，蜜糖，枸杞，红枣等辅料，煮开后即可出锅。一定要乘热吃哦！
- For the peanut butter filling, you’ll need a natural peanut butter with no additional stabilizers. The only ingredients should be peanuts and (maybe) salt. Unsalted is preferable, but the most important thing is that it shouldn’t contain additional oils or emulsifiers.
- The added oil should be solid at room temperature. Lard is traditional, but I use coconut oil. Butter would also work.
- 酒酿 (jiǔ niáng) Sweet rice wine is a very slightly fermented rice that is sometimes used in Chinese desserts. A well-stocked Asian grocery may have it in the refrigerated section. If you cannot find it, it is totally fine to skip.
- The goal is to have a thick but fluid filling at room temperature that will freeze to solid. If you have a particularly runny peanut butter, I recommend adding defatted peanut powder (aka peanut flour or peanut butter powder) — I use PB2 — to thicken the mixture. If your peanut butter filling is too thick, add a little extra oil.
- Tangyuan are best eaten hot and fresh. Cooked tangyuan do not keep well, but they uncooked tangyuan store very well in the freezer. Place formed tangyuan onto the prepared sheet tray with space in between. Freeze until solid, transfer to a bag or container, and store for future use.
- If you’re new to making tangyuan, work in small batches, returning extra filling to the freezer. It’s much easier to work with solid filling. Depending on the ratio of dough to filling you use, you may need to make extra dough.
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