Chinese red bean nian gao (紅豆年糕)

A traditional sticky red bean nian gao that is reminiscent of mochi and symbolizes prosperity. Sweet and chewy, this nian gao is a wonderful dessert to share with a large group!

Happy Year of the Rooster! I know that this post is a bit late, but better late than never, right?

I’ve been friends with Kenny for more than 10 years. He and I met at work through mutual friends. He comes from a family of chefs and restaurateurs – in fact, my husband and I used to go to his uncle’s Chinese restaurant every time we were in the area. We were especially fond of the dim sum items and were sad when the restaurant shut down a few years ago.

Every year, Kenny organizes a Chinese New Year celebration with his closest friends. In years past, we’d go to a local Chinese restaurant and Kenny would order all the dishes for us. As everyone’s families started expanding, we realized that hosting this yearly celebration at a restaurant would get more and more difficult with crying babies and restless toddlers.

So this year, Kenny invited us all to his house for dinner. He mentioned that we’d order Chinese food and just enjoy it in the comfort at his home. Imagine my surprise when I walked into his house only to find that he had spent the entire day preparing a feast instead. Kenny made dumplings, fried rice, noodles, stewed turnips, vegetables, Chinese sausages and even steamed a whole fish for the occasion.

I didn’t want to show up empty handed, so I made this Chinese red bean nian gao (紅豆年糕) as my contribution. Nian gao is a traditional Chinese dessert eaten during the New Year to symbolize prosperity and togetherness. I was thrilled when Kenny gave me the thumbs up on the dessert – he’s a Chinese food critic (and rightfully so), so I was happy when he said that the nian gao was excellent.

I added red bean paste to mine since my family enjoys the sweetness and the texture of the red bean. If that’s not your thing or if you can’t find it, you can omit it and just serve plain nian gao. But, I highly recommend including it if you can since you’ll probably need to find the glutinous rice flour at your local Asian grocery store anyway. Might as well pick up a can of the red bean paste while you’re there!

Chinese red bean nian gao (紅豆年糕)

A traditional sticky red bean nian gao that is reminiscent of mochi and symbolizes prosperity.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Keyword: Asian, Bars
Servings: 36
Author: Eva Bakes


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups milk of choice warm
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) glutinous rice flour (can find in most Asian grocery stores)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 can (18.75 ounces) red bean paste or sweetened red beans


  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x13" baking pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk. Slowly fold in the glutinous rice flour and baking powder and mix vigorously until most of the lumps are gone.
  • Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan. Drop spoonfuls of red bean paste on top of the batter.
  • Bake in your preheated oven for about 60-70 minutes or until the cake starts pulling away from the sides and the tops and edges start to turn golden.
  • Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.


The cake is best served the day of and will start to harden overnight. Keep this stored, covered, at room temperature.
Source: Food 52

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