5 Vegan Traditional Chinese New Year Desserts Recipes To Celebrate With

4 Mins Read

In Chinese culture, Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) is the most important celebration of the year . Also called the Spring festival, it denotes a time of positivity and fresh beginnings. Celebrated across Mainland China but also globally by the Chinese diaspora, food plays a significant role in the festivities. And these vegan versions of favourite dishes will make it a plant-based celebration to remember.

Traditionally, families come together for a celebratory Chinese New Year meal called tuán niánfàn on New Year’s Eve. (This year, Chinese New Year falls on February 1.) Dishes served are thought to bring good luck. Desserts always make us feel lucky, but if we can up the ante for the year ahead, we will. We’ve found five of the most traditional, tasty and easy to make vegan Chinese New Year desserts, so take a look and get cooking!

Image courtesy of Omnivore’s Cookbook.

1. Eight Treasure Rice Pudding (Ba Bao Fan)

Sweet, sticky, and decadent. Eight Treasure rice pudding is made from glutinous rice, red bean paste, and topped with, you guessed it, eight different fruits and nuts. Why eight? Because the number is a symbol of prosperity and wealth for Chinese culture. As well as being vegan, it is a gluten-free treat too, so ideal for allergen suffers.

Recipe: Omnivore’s Cookbook

Image courtesy of The Woks Of Life.

2. Chinese Sweet Rice Cake (Nian Gao)

Most families will make or buy nian gao during the New Year celebrations. The ultimate symbol of progress and growth, it is often gifted to loved ones as well. Thought to bring wealth and upward motion, the translation of ‘gao’ refers to being “tall” or “high”. Because of this, parents sometimes tell their children to eat up, if they want to grow tall. The sweet rice cake can be eaten hot and gooey or left to cool, to become a chewy treat. When cooled and sliced, it can be fried to be extra indulgent.

Recipe: The Woks Of Life.

Image courtesy of Fobby Foody.

3. Fortune Cake (Fa Gao)

A simple hybrid of a cake and a muffin, fa gao is a popular dessert that symbolises and draws success in the coming year. The splits on the tops are a crucial element. Most will break into three or four clear segments and the more defined they are, the better. The bigger the splits, the more good fortune is on the horizon. Traditional cakes are left a pale golden colour (created by the use of brown sugar). Some bakers like to add colouring for a pretty aesthetic.

Recipe: Fobby Foody.

Image courtesy of A Step Full of You.

4. Chinese Almond Cookies

These little cookies have a shortbread-like texture and are designed to look like coins. Fairly neutral in taste, it’s more of a textural experience to eat a few of these, with a pleasing crumble and crunchiness keeping things interesting. Candied or flavoured almonds would be a nice experiment, but the basic recipe is quick and easy to master. The best part is that you can justify eating plenty in order to draw wealth into the house!

Recipe: A Step Full of You.

Image courtesy of The Spruce Eats.

5. Sesame Seed Balls (Jian Dui)

The perfect allrounder, sesame seed balls cover a spectrum of mouthfeels. Crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle and then nutty, toasted and sweet, they are a wild ride. They are also vegan and a popular Chinese New Year dessert, but can take a bit of perfecting. Making the dough, stuffing it with red bean paste and rolling everything in sesame seeds isn’t the tricky part. It’s getting the frying right that takes practice. Even a badly-shaped sesame ball will taste delicious, as long as it doesn’t burn. the secret is to scoop out of the oil when a golden brown colour has been reached. Oh, and eat these as hot as you can, as that’s when they taste best.

Recipe: The Spruce Eats

Gong hei fat choy and gong xi fa cai everyone!

Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.


  • Amy Buxton

    A long-term committed ethical vegan and formerly Green Queen's resident plant-based reporter, Amy juggles raising a family and maintaining her editorial career, while also campaigning for increased mental health awareness in the professional world. Known for her love of searing honesty, in addition to recipe developing, animal welfare and (often lacklustre) attempts at handicrafts, she’s hands-on and guided by her veganism in all aspects of life. She’s also extremely proud to be raising a next-generation vegan baby.

    View all posts

You might also like