Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls [recipe]


Happy year of the Horse! Lots of good eatin’ these next few days…I’ve been preparing several traditional dishes that my husband’s side of the family likes to enjoy for the new year, as well as some new ones, like this dessert! Every dish that we serve on lunar new year’s eve symbolizes family unity, prosperity, great health and fortune. The roundness of the glutinous rice balls symbolizes unity and togetherness, so it’s a great dessert to enjoy with your family and friends. They are usually made with plain glutinous flour and served in a ginger sugar syrup/soup, the texture is soft and pillow-y with a slight chewiness. I spotted some gorgeous Okinawan sweet potatoes (they are purple!) at the Chinese market and decided to incorporate them into the rice balls and serve them in a creamy coconut soup. While the coconut is probably more Southeast Asian, I don’t think anyone will be complaining about the flavors.


How gorgeous is this purple hue? Okinawan sweet potato are sweeter than your average sweet potatos, but it’s also drier and more dense. I made two batches, one with the purple sweet potatoes, and one with regular Japanese sweet potatoes (with yellow flesh.)

I researched recipes from Chinese cookbooks so everything was in grams. I did my best to convert them to ounces and cups, but if you have a scale that does both ounces and grams, follow the metric recipe with grams measurements.

Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls in Coconut Soup


Glutinous Rice Balls:

  • 150g (3/4 cup) sweet potato
  • 100g (3.5oz) glutinous rice flour, like Mochiko
  • 25g (1.5 Tbsp) cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water (if using purple sweet potato, add more water while kneading because the potato is a lot drier)
  • 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Coconut soup:

  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk (I used light)
  • 1 cup water
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup sugar


  • Peel and dice the sweet potato, steam until cooked. In the mean time, bring a large pot of water to boil.
  • Place the cooked sweet potato into a large mixing bowl, mash until smooth.
  • Add the rice flour, cornstarch, water, and oil to the sweet potato. Mix and knead with your hand until a dough forms.
  • Place the dough onto a clean working surface. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll each piece into a log. Divide each log into 10-12 pieces, and roll each pieces into small balls, about 3/4″ to 1″ in diameter. But feel free to make them smaller. Obviously larger size rice balls will take longer to cook, but you can stuff the larger rice balls with sweet red bean (azuki) paste or black sesame paste. (Once rolled into round shape, you can freeze and cook them later. Place the rice balls on a tray in a single layer and be careful to not let them touch or they will stick. Place in freezer for an hour, once frozen you can transfer them into an airtight zip bag.)
  • Cook the rice balls in the boiling water. Stir them occasionally to prevent sticking. The rice balls are done when they float to the top of water. Meanwhile, add coconut milk, water, sugar, salt and bring to a simmer. Adjust the sweetness.
  • When the rice balls are done, fish them out with a slotted spoon, and transfer them into the coconut milk. Serve immediately.


The dough with yellow sweet potato was soft and easy to work with, while the one with purple sweet potato required more water. Both had the same soft texture once cooked. Don’t overwork the dough or it leads to tough rice balls.




These looked gigantic! All in the camera’s angle I suppose. They were all about 1″ in diameter.


I love a colorful kitchen!



3 thoughts on “Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls [recipe]

  1. Yummy !!! Did you show Nini pictures of the rice balls? She has been talking about purple rice ball… I was wondering where she got the idea.

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