Top 26 Popular Chinese Desserts/Snacks You Should Try

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Mar. 10, 2023

Chinese desserts/pastries feature exquisite ingredients, a wide variety of styles, various fillings, and beautiful shapes.  Chinese desserts are deeply intertwined with its food culture and are imbued with a strong festive atmosphere. 

The most famous Chinese desserts include Water Chestnut Cake, Osmanthus Cake, Sesame Balls, Sesame Candy, and so on. 

1. Water Chestnut Cake

Water Chestnut Cake

 Water Chestnut Cake (马蹄糕 mǎ tí gāo) is a traditional pastry from South China like Guangdong and Fujian provinces. This snack first appeared over 1000 years ago. 

The main ingredients of Water Chestnut Cake include water chestnuts, sugar, and edible oil. The ingredients are mixed with water to form a paste-like mixture and then steamed to create the cake.

Water Chestnut Cake is typically yellow and semi-transparent in appearance, with a sweet and fragrant taste.

The snack is widely served at food markets in South China today. 

2. Osmanthus Cake

Chinese Osmanthus Cake

Osmanthus Cake (桂花糕 guì huā gāo) is a famous dessert in South China's Yangtze area such as Shanghai.  It is made of glutinous rice flour, sugar, and osmanthus. The cake has a strong aroma of osmanthus and a very sweet taste. 

3. Mung Bean Cake

Mung Bean Cake

Mung Bean Cake (绿豆糕 lǜ dòu gāo) is one of the traditional Chinese pastries and is one of the best refreshing snacks in summer.

In the past, It was eaten mainly during the Dragon Boat Festival. To seek peace and health, ancient Chinese would eat foods such as zongzi, realgar wine, mung bean cake, and salted duck eggs during the Dragon Boat Festival for peace and health. Now, Mung Bean Cake is a very common dessert in China. 

4. Crystal Cake

Crystal Cake

Crystal Cake (水晶糕 shuǐ jīng gāo) is a traditional pastry in Beijing. As the name suggests, it is a translucent cake that looks like a crystal. It is made from glutinous rice, sugar, osmanthus, and peanut oil.

5. Walnut Cake

Walnut Cake

Walnut Cake (核桃糕 hé tao gāo) is a traditional pastry in East China's Zhejiang. It is mainly made from wheat flour, eggs, sugar, edible oil, and walnuts. Due to the addition of walnuts, it has a slightly crispy texture and a distinct walnut aroma.

6. Thousand-Layer Cake

Thousand-layer cake (千层糕 qiān céng gāo) is a traditional Chinese snack and a famous pastry in Zhejiang. It has distinct layers and bright colors. It is mainly made from flour, sugar, dried fruits, lard, and other ingredients.

7. Liang Gao

Liang Gao Chinese dessert

Liang Gao (凉糕 liáng gāo) is made from rice, glutinous rice, brown sugar, and other ingredients. It can be found in Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Hainan, Zhejiang, and other regions. It is refreshing and delicious and is a very good snack in the summer.

8. Wife Cake

Wife Cake

Wife Cake (老婆饼 lǎo pó bǐng) is a traditional Cantonese pastry. It is so called as the legend goes the snack was first made by the wife of a famous dim sum master. 

 It is made from flour, eggs, winter melon, sesame, and other ingredients. The baked Wife Cake is crispy on the outside, and soft and sweet on the inside. It will melt in your mouth when you eat it. 

9. Sesame Balls

Sesame Balls

Sesame Balls (麻团 má tuán) is a very popular dessert during the Chinese Lunar New Year.  It is popular throughout China and has different names in different regions, such as Ma Yuan, Fried Jujube Cake, Fried Round Cake, and Fried Dough. 

Sesame Balls are made from deep-fried glutinous rice balls coated with sesame seeds. They can be hollow or filled with red bean paste, peanut paste, and other fillings. They are crispy and delicious.

10. Dragon Beard Candy

Dragon Beard Candy

It is so named because the dessert has a clean, white, and dense appearance, as fine as a dragon beard. It was once a snack for the imperial court.

The delicacy was originally called "silver thread sugar". An emperor of the Ming Dynasty discovered this delicious dessert during his travels around the country. It has a fragrant taste and unique texture. The emperor liked it very much. He then ordered it to be brought back to the palace and named it "Dragon Beard Candy".

Dragon Beard Candy (龙须酥) is made from wheat flour and maltose. It is as white as silk and tastes sweet and fragrant. 

11. Pineapple Cake

The Chinese Pineapple Cake

It is said that Pineapple Cake (凤梨酥 fèng lí sū) originated from the Three Kingdoms period over2000 years ago. Liu Bei, emperor of the Shu Kingdom,  used it as a gift when he got married.

Nowadays, in Taiwanese wedding customs, Pineapple Cake is still used as a gift. The pastry has a crispy crust and is filled with not only pineapple but also winter melon.

12. Shaqima


Shaqima (沙琪玛 shā qí mǎ) was originally a specialty dessert of the Manchu people.  

It is made by mixing eggs and flour to make the dough, which is then deep-fried and coated with sticky syrup. Shaqima has a golden color, and it is sweet and crispy.

Shaqima is a very popular snack sold in all dessert shops in China. 

13. Sesame Candy

Chinese snack, Sesame Candy 

The Sesame Candy (麻糖 má táng) from Xiaogan, Hubei Province is the most famous. Sesame candy does not have a fixed shape or standard taste. Typically, it is made from glutinous rice, maltose, sesame, and peanuts, and has a fragrant, sweet, and crispy taste.

14. Donkey Rolling

Donkey Rolling cake

Donkey Rolling (驴打滚) is one of the most traditional desserts in Beijing It is mainly made from glutinous rice flour, soybean flour, and red bean paste. It is so named because Its appearance resembles a donkey rolling over. 

15. Mung Bean Roll

Mung Bean Roll (芸豆卷 yún dòu juàn) is also one of the traditional cakes in the Beijing area. Its main ingredients are mung beans and bean paste. The mung bean roll is snow-white in color and has a soft and delicate texture. It is said that mung bean rolls were once the empress dowager Cixi's favorite dessert.

16. Candied Fruit

Candied Fruit

Candied Fruit (蜜饯 mì jiàn) is a sweet made by pickling fruits and vegetables in sugar or honey. Common candied fruits include peaches, plums, apricots, jujubes, hawthorns, and waxberries.

Candied Fruit is a popular snack in Beijing. 

17. Sticky Rice Lotus Root

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Sticky Rice Lotus Root (糯米藕 nuò mǐ ǒu) is a traditional dessert in the Yangtze River area, where the lotus root is mainly planted.

Lotus root has a special symbolic meaning in Chinese culture, so this dish often appears at wedding banquets. Sticky rice lotus root is mainly made from lotus root and glutinous rice, plus rock sugar and honey, and sometimes osmanthus, making it very popular.

18. Sugar - Coated Hawthorn

Chnese sweet

Sugar-coated hawthorn (糖葫芦 táng hú lu) is a traditional Beijing snack. It is a childhood memory for many people. The classic sugar-coated hawthorn is made by coating hawthorn with syrup, which has a sour and sweet taste. In addition to hawthorn, there are other fruits such as apples, kiwis, persimmons, grapes, and so on.

19. Custard Bun

Custard Bun (奶黄包 nǎi huáng bāo) is a famous cantonese dim sum.. The so-called custard is a mixture of egg yolk and sugar, which gives the bun a rich milk and egg flavor. Now, Cantonese restaurants and tea houses all have it on their menus.

20. Glutinous Rice Ball
Tang Yuan

Glutinous Rice Ball (汤圆 tāng yuán) or Tang Yuan is a traditional delicacy for the Chinese Lantern Festival. The round shape of the Tang Yuan symbolizes family reunion and happiness. 

The glutinous rice ball is made of glutinous rice and has many options for filling, such as red bean paste, sesame, and so on.

Tangyuan originated in the Song Dynasty over 1000 years ago in the Ningbo area in Eastern China's Zhejiang Province. Tang Yuan produced in the city is still very popular around China. 

Although it is associated with the Lantern Festival, Tang Yuan is on sale in markets all year around.  

21. Eight Treasures Porridge

Eight Treasures Porridge

Eight Treasures Porridge (八宝粥 bā bǎo zhōu) is traditionally eaten during the Laba Festival, which is also called Laba Porridge. The porridge is made from eight different ingredients such as various beans, dried fruits, lotus seeds, and other ingredients. 

The ingredients of Eight Treasures Porridge can be adjusted according to one's taste, and it is also easy to make at home.

22. Black Sesame Paste

Black sesame paste (hēi zhī ma hú 黑芝麻糊) is a traditional Chinese sweet soup, usually served as breakfast or dessert. Black sesame is rich in nutrients such as vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and iron, making black sesame paste very popular.

23. Silver Ear Soup

Silver Ear Soup

Silver Ear Soup (银耳汤 yín’ěr tāng) is a sweet soup made with silver ear, a type of edible fungus that grows on trees and has been used as a health food since ancient times.

24. Red Bean Soup

Red Bean Soup (红豆沙 hóng doù shā) is a classic Chinese soup that is usually served as a dessert. Its main ingredients are red beans and soup, with some places adding lotus seeds and dried tangerine peel. Red Bean Soup can be enjoyed as a hot drink in winter and a cold drink in summer.

25. Ice Jelly

Ice Jelly (凉粉 liáng fěn) is a very popular Chinese street dessert, especially in summer.  It is refreshing and cooling and is ideal to eat in the hot weather. Ice Jelly is made from the seeds of the Ice Jelly tree, and after being mixed with water, it looks crystal clear. 

26. Tofu Pudding

Tofu Pudding

Tofu Pudding (豆花 dòu huā) is a very famous Chinese snack made from soybeans and a coagulant, giving it a texture similar to pudding. It can be made sweet or savory, with different regions having different preferences. 

The Tofu Pudding in Western China's Sichuan province is very popular.

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