Nian Gao Recipe – Chinese New Year Cake

Bring in the Chinese New Year with this fantastic and traditional Nian Gao, or New Year’s Cake! It is both delicious and festive treat!

For the Chinese new year, rice cake and rice balls are naturally a must-have for any dinner table.

The rice dumpling symbolizes the roundness of the family, and the “gao” of the rice cake symbolizes the children in the family growing and developing.

What is nian gao?

Types of Nian Gao:

Rice cakes are divided into red rice cakes and white rice cakes: Red rice cake is made with brown sugar, while white rice cake is made with white sugar.

Nian Gao

Most people prefer red rice cakes, one is that it is festive, and the other is that the sweetness of red rice cake is a bit less than that of white rice cake.

Moreover, the surface of the rice cake will be festively decorated with peanuts and red dates, such as “Fu”, “Le”, “Cai”, etc, which means blessing, happiness, wealth in English.

Nowadays, many families in China no longer make rice cakes at home, and most of them go to the supermarket to buy a ready-made one.

Nian Gao

Our family still make nian gao at home every year, because the rice cakes bought are far less delicious than the rice cakes that I make myself, and the Chinese New Year cakes made by myself are always more sincere.

After years of practice, I have my recipe and procedure to make perfect nian gao.

Nian Gao

The deliciousness of rice cakes has a lot to do with the quality and ratio of rice. The cake made with only glutinous rice is too soft and lacks flavor. Adding a certain amount of rice can increase the toughness of the rice cake, making the rice cake more delicious.

Nian Gao

One trick I learned is to cut the rice cake into four squares, apply a thin layer of sweet potato starch, put it in a frying pan, fry until golden. This makes the rice cake very delicious.

Now I’m going to share what I have learned over the years on how to make the perfect brown sugar rice cake, so let us begin!


  • 1) 1000g Long glutinous rice
  • 2) 500g of rice
    3) 500g brown sugar
  • 4) Several leaves of bamboo leaves
  • 5) Peanuts,
  • 6) Red dates

How to make nian gao:

Step 1. Add long glutinous rice and rice into a pot.

Nian Gao step1

Step 2. After washing the mixed rice in the pot, pour the appropriate amount of water, so that the surface of the rice is 3cm under the water level, soak it for one night.

Nian Gao step2

Step3. Pour a small amount of rice and water at a time into a food processor, and repeatedly grind it into fine rice pulp.

Nian Gao step3

Step 4. Prepare a cloth bag (cheesecloth) and pour the rice slurry into the bag.

Nian Gao step4

Step 5. After all the rice pulp has been added, the mouth of the bag is twisted shut, and then a bowl or other heavy object is pressed against the surface of the bag containing the rice slurry to press out the moisture.

Nian Gao step5

Step 6. After the rice is pressed of all its moisture, it is removed from the bag and put into a pot.

Nian Gao step6

Step 7. Add 500g brown sugar.

Nian Gao step7

Step 8. By hand, mix it all together.

Nian Gao step8

Step 9. Mix until the brown sugar and rice are evenly combined.

Nian Gao step9

Step 10. Cross the washed bamboo leaves at the bottom of the mold.

Nian Gao step10

Step 11. add the right amount of rice into the mold.

Nian Gao step11

Step 12. Cut the leaves around the edge of the mold as shown below.

Nian Gao step12

Step 13. Wash the red dates and peanuts, and put the peanuts and red dates on the surface of the raw cake in whichever design or the amount you prefer.

Nian Gao step13

Nian Gao step13-2

Step 14. Put a proper amount of water in the steamer and put the mold containing the rice cake into the steamer.

Nian Gao step14

Step 15. On high heat, steam for 2 hours

Step 16. After the rice cake is steamed, let it cool and release it from the mold.

Nian Gao step16

Step 17. Cut the rice cake into four squares, apply a thin layer of sweet potato.

Nian Gao step17

Step 18. Pour a small amount of cooking oil into the pan

Nian Gao step18

Step 19. Add rice cake.

Nian Gao step19


Step 20. Space the rice cakes out onto the pan.

Nian Gao step20

Step 21. Fry one side until golden and flip.

Nian Gao step21

Step 22. After the cake is golden on both sides, take the rice cake and place onto a dish.



1. You can use rice flour to make this recipe easier.

2. If you like softer rice cak, just reduce the amount of rice.

3. When frying the rice cake, you can also coat the rice cake with the sweet potato starch and whisked egg. This will add a bit of extra flavor and texture.

4. To make the steaming process faster, you can also use a pressure cooker.

5. if you like white rice cake, you can replace brown sugar with white sugar, but the amount should be reduced to 400g, because the sweetness of white sugar is higher than brown sugar

6. A little bit of winter melon sugar can be put in the traditional rice cake as well.

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