Chinese Desserts

Explore the Fascinating Culture of China Through These 12 Traditional Chinese Desserts!

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Updated on April 7, 2024

Reviewed by Aya Radwan

Chinese desserts have a long and rich history, dating back centuries. Traditional Chinese desserts are often made with natural ingredients like fruits, nuts, grains, and other plant-based ingredients. They are usually sweet in taste and served as a snack or an after-dinner treat. Many of these desserts have symbolic meanings in Chinese culture. For example, mooncakes are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival to symbolise reunion and harmony. Fortune cookies are served at the end of meals to bring good luck and prosperity for the future. Walnut cookies are given out during weddings to symbolise fertility and longevity. Almond jelly is often served on special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries to represent health and happiness.

Overall, traditional Chinese desserts are an important part of Chinese culture that has been passed down through generations. They not only provide a delicious treat but also carry deep symbolic meanings that can be shared with family and friends. So if you are looking to get your palate familiarised with this side of exotic Chinese cuisine, you might want to start with one of the following 12 traditional Chinese desserts. Regardless of your taste or reference, this list will have at least one dessert that deserves a place among your favourites. 

1. Fortune Cookies 

Fortune cookies have a long and rich history, tracing back to 19th-century China. Customarily served as a dessert after meals in Chinese restaurants, the classic crunchy cookie is made from flour, vanilla, sugar, and sesame seed oil with an intriguing twist; inside each one lies a paper slip containing words of wisdom or fortune. This exotic Chinese dessert was introduced by Chinese immigrants to the United States at the start of the 20th century, and it has remained popular ever since! From small round versions to larger rectangular ones, it’s clear that this sweet treat is here for good!

Fortune cookies are a yummy treat that adds fun to any occasion! Making them at home is surprisingly simple, and they can even be custom ordered with personalised messages or logos printed on them. To create their iconic shape, fold the cookie in half over the rim of a glass or wooden spoon before baking, then enjoy your homemade masterpiece! Not only delicious but also perfect for gifting, fortune cookies make any day extra special.

2. Soy Milk Pudding 

Soy Milk Pudding is a centuries-old Chinese dessert that’s become immensely popular in recent years. This traditional treat has an incredibly smooth and creamy texture, made with soybeans, water, milk or coconut milk, along with sugar and flavourings such as gelatin and vanilla extract. The pudding can be served warm or chilled, depending on preference. To give it another layer of deliciousness, you can also add spices like black sesame seed for extra zestiness. Alternatively, spoonfuls of cocoa powder provide a unique chocolate taste experience to tantalise your tastebuds.

Enjoy delicious, vegan-friendly Soy Milk Pudding anytime you’re craving something sweet! With just a few simple ingredients and minimal fat content, it’s a guiltless treat that can be enjoyed as an indulgent dessert as well as a light snack. Satisfy your cravings without the extra calories, and give it a try today!

3. Almond Jelly 

Almond Jelly is an indulgent and delightful Chinese dessert with a heritage dating back centuries. This classic treat consists of soaking sweet apricot kernels – also known as Southern almond (南杏仁) – then combining them with sugar, milk, and almond extract to create its distinct jelly-like texture. Enjoyed by generations across China for years, it’s no wonder why this beloved delicacy has remained popular over time!

Almond Jelly is a classic Chinese dessert perfect for ending any meal. It can be served cold and enhanced with the sweetness of additional toppings such as fruit cocktails or other fruits, and it can even be incorporated into recipes such as cakes or puddings. Making your own homemade version is also quite easy; all you need are plain gelatin powder, water, sugar, and milk mixed with almond extract before adding optional toppings. With just some simple steps, you’ll have this delicious treat ready to be devoured and thoroughly enjoyed!

4. Egg Tarts

Egg tarts, also known as egg custard tarts, have been tantalising taste buds for centuries. This traditional Chinese treat is made with a flaky pastry crust and scrumptious egg custard filling of eggs, sugar, milk, and sometimes even butter or cream! You can find these delectable treats in many Chinese restaurants as well as bakeries and street vendors.

A delicious reminder of ancient Chinese history, Egg Tarts were first created during the prosperous Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Originating in imperial courts as a snack known as dan ta or ‘egg cake’, it quickly gained popularity and spread throughout China for all to enjoy.

Egg tarts, a classic Chinese speciality, continue to rise in popularity across China to this very day. They come in an array of flavours such as chocolate, coconut and almond, making them perfect for any occasion, from dim sum dishes to wedding celebrations and birthday parties. While the traditional egg tart recipe remains popular today, creative chefs have developed unique variations infused with regional spices sure to add a bit of an extra kick to its original flavour!

5. Fried Milk 

Fried milk is an iconic Chinese dessert that has been delighting taste buds for centuries. It’s a classic Cantonese dish consisting of a creamy, custard-like filling encased in a golden and crisp panko batter and deep fried until perfection! While it can be found on the menus at dim sum or Cantonese restaurants, you’ll also find folks savouring this delightful treat as a homemade recipe they enjoy with family and friends. Enjoy the sweet yet crunchy experience when each bite melts in your mouth!

This golden-brown dessert is sure to delight anyone who tries it, thanks to its unique combination of textures. All you need are three simple ingredients: granulated sugar, cornstarch and nutmeg for the filling, plus oil for deep-frying. Start by mixing these together in a 3-quart saucepan, then gradually add milk until all elements combine properly. Cut into 2 squares before frying each piece in hot oil until light and crisp on the outside while remaining lusciously creamy within. Finally, sprinkle powdered sugar atop as an extra indulgent touch and enjoy the timeless taste!

6. Wife Cake

For centuries, Wife Cake has been enjoyed as a traditional Chinese delicacy. This delightful dessert consists of layers of crisp and flaky pastry encasing an exquisite combination of sweet winter melon and coconut filling, truly fit for any special occasion!

The beloved Wife Cake has a long and storied history. Originating in China during the Tang Dynasty, it was traditionally served at weddings as a symbol of love, commitment, and unity between newlyweds. Today this delicacy is enjoyed not only throughout East Asia but across the globe; it’s particularly popular on special occasions like Chinese New Year or anniversaries, where couples often exchange them to commemorate their bond!

Though it typically features winter melon and coconut filling, modern interpretations of this classic dish may include other ingredients, such as red bean paste or sesame paste, to spark new flavours. While the type of dough used can be tailored depending on the region or personal taste preference – from lard to butter or vegetable oil – one ingredient remains constant: love! These handmade delights are created with care by bakers around the world, so they look decadent yet still deliver an astonishingly exquisite flavour experience every time.

7. Sesame Seed Dessert Balls 

Sesame Seed Dessert Balls, also known as Jian Dui in Cantonese or Zhima Qiu in Mandarin, is a classic Chinese delicacy that dates back centuries. These treats consist of glutinous rice flour moulded into balls and filled with sweet fillings like red bean paste before being rolled in sesame seeds and deep-fried until golden brown for an unforgettable taste experience. Savoury sesame seeds add nuttiness, while ingredients such as coconut milk or peanuts can be added to the filling mix to create even more complex layers of flavour!

Make an unforgettable impression during your next celebration with the simple yet satisfying Sesame Seed Dessert Balls! These delightful treats, a staple of Chinese New Year festivities, are made from easy-to-find ingredients in virtually no time at all. Sweet and nutty with just enough crunch for texture – everyone will love this tasty treat!

8. Almond Cookies 

Almond Cookies are a traditional Chinese dessert beloved for their sweet, nutty flavour and chewy texture. The combination of almond flour, butter, eggs, sugar and almond extract creates an indulgent treat usually served as an after-dinner snack or holiday delicacy, best enjoyed with tea or coffee to bring out the full depth in each bite! Whether it’s celebrating something special like Chinese New Year or just partaking in everyday pleasure, these cookies make every occasion even more memorable.

Create delicious and comforting almond cookies in the comfort of your own home! All you need are some simple ingredients like butter, eggs, sugar, and almond extract, or opt for all-purpose flour for some added texture. After mixing it all together into doughy goodness, simply shape them into small balls before baking at 400°F (200°C) until they come out golden brown perfection, ready to be devoured!

These sweet treats are not only delicious but good for you as well. With protein from the eggs and healthy fats from almonds, these cookies make an ideal snack choice to satisfy cravings without compromising health goals. Make them a centrepiece at your next gathering, or enjoy one just for yourself; either way, they’re sure to please all taste buds!

9. Chocolate Chinese Five-Spice Cake

Craving something sweet and unique? Look no further than the Chocolate Chinese Five-Spice Cake: a centuries-old recipe that offers an interplay of flavours, comforting yet tantalising. The perfect combination of cocoa and Chinese five-spice blend, including cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and Sichuan pepper, is sure to please anyone’s palate!

This rich and flavourful dessert is typically made from a combination of all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, and Chinese five-spice powder. Up your game by adding cocoa or Dutch-processed cocoa for an extra chocolatey kick. If you’re looking for some gluten freedom, then almond flour can be used instead – it’s just as scrumptious! To top off this deliciousness, try speckling it with ginger cream frosting, which makes for guaranteed satisfaction in every bite!

An addictive blend of sweet, savoury, and spicy flavours comes together in the iconic Chocolate Chinese Five-Spice Cake. Perfect for any occasion, this classic dessert can be served as a layer cake or individual cupcakes, ensuring your guests will not leave without being impressed! The rich chocolate flavour enveloped by aromatic five spices makes it an unforgettable treat that everyone is sure to love.

10. Fortune Cake

Chinese Fa Gao, also known as Fortune Cake or Cantonese Sponge Cake, is a traditional sweet pastry that has been enjoyed for centuries. Traditionally served during Lunar New Year celebrations, this steamed cupcake-like cake derives its name from the phrase “prosperity cake” and signifies good luck in the coming months. Baked with wheat flour and sugar to give it a fluffy texture, this dessert can be topped off with sesame seeds, coconut flakes, or dried fruits before being shared among family members to mark important occasions such as ancestor worship rituals or Chinese New Year festivities.

Fortune cake is a delightful confectionery with many variations! In some parts of China, it’s made using rice flour instead of wheat and can be flavoured to your liking by adding lard or vegetable oil as well as pandan leaves or matcha powder. The final result should always have an airy texture and just the right amount of sweetness.

Fortune cakes have been a beloved part of Chinese culture for centuries, often shared during important occasions such as weddings and birthdays. Their deliciousness has since spread around the world, so much so that they can be found at many global restaurants offering international cuisines! 

11. Walnut Cookies 

Walnut Cookies have been an integral part of Chinese cuisine for centuries. This delicious dessert is created with walnuts, sugar, and flour to give it a unique flavour that has earned the love of many! The preparation includes blending butter and sugar together before adding finely chopped nuts into the mix along with some flour. After shaping this dough into small discs or balls, they’re baked until golden brown, resulting in crunchy cookies filled with sweet nuttiness, perfect for pairing with either tea or coffee!

Perfect for any occasion, Walnut Cookies are classic treats that never go out of style. They make excellent additions to dessert platters and can also be enjoyed as an afternoon snack. Decorated with icing or sprinkles for extra colour and flavour, these delightful cookies will tantalise the taste buds whether you’re hosting family parties or simply indulging in something sweet.

12. Mung Bean Cake

Mung Bean Cake, also known as lvdougao or Moong Dal, is an iconic summer dessert in Chinese culture. This traditional delicacy can be a refreshing snack on hot days with its unique sweet and nutty flavour profile! Prepared using mung beans that have been soaked overnight for optimal softness, the mixture is then blended with butter, vegetable oil, and salt to bring out all of its best flavours. In northern Vietnam, another variation called Banh Dau Xanh has earned huge popularity over time due to its delicate texture combined with flour made by grinding down mung beans mixed together with sugar & soybean oil, making this delicious confection absolutely irresistible!

Mung Bean Cake is an age-old Chinese dessert that has stood the test of time! When summer comes around, this unique and flavourful treat provides a refreshing and delightful snack for people of all ages; for those looking to experience authentic traditional cuisine – with its irresistibly chewy texture – homemade or store-bought versions guarantee not just satisfaction but memorable flavour too!

From the classic mung bean cakes to the popular fortune cookies, traditional Chinese desserts offer a unique and delicious experience for anyone looking to explore the culture. Whether you’re looking for something savoury or sweet, there’s something for everyone among these 12 traditional Chinese desserts. From almond jelly to egg tarts, sesame seeds balls, and walnut cookies, these treats are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. 

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