While there are countless Chinese dishes that are now beloved staples known around the world, it’s safe to say that one area of Chinese cuisine that hasn’t quite hit the mainstream is dessert.
In fact, when it comes to Chinese desserts, most people immediately think of fortune cookies.
And sure, while I do love breaking into those crispy yet cryptic goodies (mainly for the confusing prose), trust me when I say there are much better options.
(In fact, fortune cookies are a predominantly American invention with Japanese roots, but that’s a story for another time.)
In general, Chinese desserts tend to be milder and less sweet than the decadent desserts revered in Western cultures. Flavours like red bean, sesame, mango, coconut, and almond are usually the star of the show, rather than chocolate or caramel… but trust me, they’re absolutely delicious, and well worth a try.
Looking to add some more Chinese desserts to your repertoire? Keep scrolling for a roundup of our top Chinese dessert recipes!
Hands down, one of the most popular Chinese desserts out there is the almighty Egg Tart, made up of a sweet eggy custard that pairs perfectly with a flaky pastry shell.
Many variations of this dessert exist, but the most popular “styles” are Hong Kong style (smaller, with a flaky puff pastry shell), Guangzhou style (larger and flatter, with a shortcrust shell), and Portuguese style (creamier and scorched on top, with a more delicate shell).
While Egg Tarts are easy to purchase from any Chinese bakery, there’s something simply irresistible about making your own and inhaling them fresh out of the oven.
Luckily, Papa G has created an ultra easy recipe full of shortcuts that can help you make this dream a reality… with minimal fuss!
Check out our quick & easy Egg Tarts recipe for more details.
Puddings are a staple of the Chinese dessert scene, and one of the most popular flavors (usually served at the end of banquet meals or dim sum) is mango.
In particularly fancy restaurants, this mango pudding will often be served in the shape of a Koi Fish, which makes it an ideal Chinese dessert to make if you’re looking for something with wow factor.
But, Koi-shaped or not, Papa G’s mango pudding recipe is super easy and delicious. We also give tips on where to buy those impressive pudding molds!
Check out our Mango Pudding recipe for more details.
Coconut Milk Pudding
Coconut Milk Pudding is another popular Chinese dessert that, much like Mango Pudding, is a popular treat at dim sum and banquets.
And luckily, it couldn’t be easier to make at home!
Check out our Coconut Milk Pudding recipe for more details.
Deep Fried Sesame Balls
Another Chinese dessert popular at dim sum is the Deep Fried Sesame Ball, which consists of a sweet filling encased in a crispy, sesame-coated shell.
These delicious golden-brown treats are usually filled with lotus or red bean paste, although you really can’t go wrong with more unconventional fillings like Nutella or chocolate.
The most beautiful part of this recipe is you can customize it to your own liking, with whatever fillings you want.
Check out our Deep Fried Sesame Balls recipe for more details.
Black Sesame Tang Yuan
Black Sesame Tang Yuan (roughly translated to Black Sesame “Soup Balls”) are a heavenly Chinese dessert with an addictively chewy skin made of glutinous rice flour on the outside, and a perfectly sweet and nutty filling made of black sesame on the inside.
This is a popular Winter Solstice & Chinese New Year food, and is often saved for celebratory occasions like weddings.
Of course, nothing can stop you from whipping up a batch whenever the cravings hit… and you’ll be pleased to learn it’s actually not too difficult to make yourself!
Check out our Black Sesame Tang Yuan recipe for more details.
Sweet Nian Gao
Another popular Chinese New Year dessert is sweet Nian Gao, a sticky steamed cake made with various types of rice flour and wheat starch.
Only lightly sweetened with brown sugar, it makes for an ideal dessert for those who don’t have too much of a sweet tooth.
Best of all? It’s SO easy to make. This version takes literally just a few minutes to throw together, and then you just let the steamer work its magic.
Check out our full Sweet Nian Gao recipe for more details.
Coconut Tapioca Soup
For a warm and comforting Chinese dessert, I’d highly recommend giving Coconut Tapioca Soup a try.
This is one of many “dessert soups” in Cantonese cuisine that are usually served at the end of a multi-course banquet meal.
Made up of sweetened coconut milk and addictive little tapioca pearls, this light dessert is perfect after a filling meal.
Recipe coming soon
Red Bean Soup
Another popular “dessert soup” is Red Bean Soup, which (despite its name) is actually very sweet.
This sweet soup takes on many variations depending on where you are in China, but the Cantonese version involves mixing the red bean with a variety of fix-ins like rock sugar, tangerine peels, and lotus seeds to yield a unique treat that can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Truth be told, this one is more of an acquired taste than some of the other Chinese desserts on the list (I used to hate it as a kid!) but it’s definitely one to try if you’re looking to create an authentic multi-course Chinese feast.
Recipe coming soon
Red Bean Buns
Popular as a sweet treat on its own for breakfast or dim sum, red bean buns are another tasty Chinese dessert you can try…. although serving it after a super heavy meal is probably a guaranteed food coma!
These fluffy delights are packed with a sweetened red bean paste, which contrasts perfectly with the neutral flavours of the steamed bun that surrounds it. A definite must-try, especially if you’re a red bean fan.
Recipe coming soon
Another sweet bun that is popular in Chinese cuisine is the delicious egg custard bun.
These fluffy bao are packed with a creamy custard filling made of eggs, which give the treat its distinctive yellow color.
Between you and me, this is one of the best Chinese desserts you can try, although they’re perhaps best enjoyed on their own for breakfast or as a snack.
Recipe coming soon
Alright, this is a weird one, and quite possibly a very niche novelty from my Canadianized Chinese upbringing, but Lime Jello was actually a staple of dim sum and buffet style restaurants for me growing up, so much that I now associate green Jello with Chinese cuisine.
Truly, as a kid, a meal didn’t feel finished until I had one of these dense blocks of Jello, which were usually thicker and bouncier than usual Jello Cups.
Check out our full Dim Sum Style Jello recipe for more details.
BONUS: Dragon’s Beard Candy
While not easy to make for yourself at home, I felt this list of Chinese desserts wasn’t complete without mentioning one of the most unique Chinese sweets in the world: Dragon’s Beard Candy.
You can think of it as a Chinese version of cotton candy, with wispy strips of sugar wrapped around a sweet filling made of either crushed peanuts, coconut, or sesame seeds. Its texture is difficult to explain, with a melt-in-your-mouth sugariness that contrasts perfectly with the crunchiness of the filling inside. Honestly, you just need to try it for yourself to see!
According to popular legend, this treat dates back to the Han Dynasty, when it used to be prepared for royalty. Luckily, these days even us non-royals can try it too.
We don’t think we’ll ever attempt making this treat for ourselves, so we have no recipe to give, but our best tip is to find a market that sells this unique candy so you can see what all the hype is about!
Last but not least, we have one of the most famous Chinese desserts: mooncake.
This decadent treat is almost eaten exclusively during the Harvest Festival, which means it’s not an everyday kind of dessert, but it’s well worth a try when the occasion strikes.
A lot of mooncake variations exist, but the most typical versions are made of either red bean or lotus paste, with a delicate crust and a salted duck egg in the middle. Their beautiful shapes are achieved through pressing the cakes in a detailed mold before serving.
As you can probably tell, mooncakes are a fairly laborious endeavour, and given their widespread availability during the Mid-Autumn Festival, we’re not likely to attempt making our own from scratch any time soon… but if you have the opportunity to try this unique treat, make sure to go for it!
Did We Miss Any Of Your Favourite Chinese Desserts?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more recommendations to our list!