Red Bean Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao)

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Gung Hay Fat Choy!! It’s the year of the monkey, which happens to be my year too! I wish you all have great health and the best of luck on your future endeavours.

I wanted to make something to bring back home for Chinese New Year and was gluten free too.  I was thinking of what to make while grocery shopping at my local Asian Market and strolled upon prepackaged nian gao.  My mom would get this every year, cut it up in slices, and pan fry it for dessert.  However, it was always way too sweet and now that my parents are watching their sugar intake, I decided to make it with less sugar.  Every year we have nian gao, because in Cantonese it kind of sounds like “Every year you’ll soar,” whether it’s in fortune, your career, your goals, etc.

Our family has always loved red bean flavored things, so I looked up a basic recipe for nian gao and added a little twist to make it red bean flavored!  For the red beans, I was too lazy to cook the red beans and create a sweet soup for the nian gao.  So, I went to my local Asian market to pick up a small can of prepared whole red beans & a can of mashed red beans (not pictured below).  You can add less or more red beans if you’d like, that’s up to you!  Here are the ingredients:



1 cup & 1 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cup water

1 lb of glutinous rice flour or 1 box of Koda sweet rice flour

2 tbsp of canola oil (or any mild flavored vegetable oil) & more to oil your springform pan

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 cup of prepared whole red beans

~ 1/4 cup of mashed red beans (not pictured above)


Step 1:

Oil your springform pan with a little bit of oil, and cut pieces of parchment paper to cover bottom & sides. You can cut one long rectangle piece for the sides, and a circle for the bottom. (as shown in the above picture)  If you don’t have a springform pan, any pan will do, just make sure you oil and cover the pan with parchment paper.

Step 2:

Add ~ 2 inches of water to a large pot, and place your steamer rack and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.

Step 3:

Put 3/4 cup water and dark brown sugar in a large bowl and microwave in 1 minute intervals until sugar is all dissolved.  Stir in between the intervals.  I had to heat mine for 3 minutes (3 intervals).



Step 4:

In a large bowl pour the brown sugar water, vanilla extract, 3/4 cup water, and oil & mix to combine.  Then add the rice flour and stir until it’s a smooth consistency.



Step 5:

Next, add the prepared whole red beans and mashed red beans to the bowl.  Fold until red beans are all distributed throughout the mixture.  If your water in your pot is boiling, you can lower the heat to medium-low.




Step 6:

Pour the mixture into your prepared springform pan (or any pan of your choice).  Lay a towel on the table then pick up your pan & let gravity bang it on the table.  Do this several times to get some of the air bubbles out of the mixture & to level it off.



Step 7:

Transfer the cake to your prepared steamer, the water should be boiling by now.  Steam your cake for roughly 1.5 hours.  You should check the water level in your pot constantly and refill it when necessary.  Also, try to avoid letting the condensation to drip on to the top of the cake.  In the beginning I kept opening the lid to check on the cake which dropped a lot of water on the top of the cake.  To take the water off, I just took a paper towel and dabbed the top of it gently.

Red Bean Nian Gao 40 minutes into steaming



Red Bean Nian Gao done steaming




Step 8:

When the red bean nian gao is done steaming, shut off the stove and remove the cake from the steamer.  Allow the cake to cool completely and cover it with plastic wrap to be served the next day.





We just left it on the counter and wrapped it up in plastic wrap, because if we had put it in the fridge it would have been too hard.  However, with the left overs you should wrap it up and store in the fridge.  This can last for up to 1 week.



My mom decided to cut the nian gao and pan fry it with a little bit of oil so it’s crispy on the outside & soft and chewy when you bite into it.  You can also do this to heat up your leftovers!

I enjoyed sharing a little bit of my culture and traditions with you guys & I hope you all enjoyed this recipe! I hope you all have a wonderful new year and great health 🙂

Feel free to leave a comment below, I would love to explore more recipes and check out more blogs!



One thought on “Red Bean Chinese New Year Cake (Nian Gao)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: