These matcha & sweet potato “Tang Yuan” is made only using 3 ingredients with sweet potatoes as the main ingredient. They’re also gluten-free and vegan!
What are “Tang Yuan” / Glutinous Rice Balls Made of?
Traditionally, tang yuan (also known as Gyeongdan in Korea, and Dango in Japan) is made with sweet rice flour, sugar and water. Food coloring and or food powders such as matcha powder, beetroot, turmeric, ground black sesame, etc. are used to add additional color.
But in this recipe, I wanted to incorporate more nutrition and fiber by using mashed sweet potatoes. To keep the chewy texture of the tang yuan, I also decided to use tapioca starch instead of sweet rice flour.
More Recipes Using Sweet Potatoes
Ingredients Used to Make Healthier Sweet Potato Tang Yuan
**I’ve linked some of these ingredients to amazon.com to give you an idea of what they are, but you should also be able to find them in your local grocery store (usually, the natural & organic food section). They are also affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission as an Amazon Associate if you decide to purchase the items. The price will be the same for you, link or no link 🙂
Sweet Potato – You’ll need mashed, cooked sweet potatoes for this recipe. You can steam, bake or boil them until soft but here’s the easy method: Wash and wrap a whole sweet potato in a microwave-safe silicone bag (like this one) or in a plastic wrap, then microwave on high for 6-7 minutes (or more depending on the size of the potato). You can make sure it’s cooked by sticking a fork or toothpick into the center. Let them cool somewhat before handling and mash it with a fork.
There are many sweet potatoes varieties, and you’re welcome to use any variant you have at home. One thing you do need to take into consideration is the color: (orange) sweet potatoes produce bright orange tang yuan and not suitable for additional coloring. White sweet potatoes and Asian sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are light-colored, so they can be colored however you want.
Tapioca flour (flour , also called tapioca starch) – While traditional tang yuan are made with sweet rice flour, I decided to use tapioca starch instead to make sure the tang yuan textures are chewy and elastic, even with the addition of sweet potatoes. Arrowroot starch and Potato starch can also be used instead. Cornstarch does NOT work.
Matcha Powder – preferably ceremonial grade matcha powder for the best color, but any kind works. Sold in Asian grocery stores, or online, below:
How to Make
Healthier Sweet Potato Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)
Wash and steam sweet potatoes (preferably Asian sweet potatoes) until cooked through. Peel the skins, then mash with a fork.
In a bowl, knead mashed sweet potatoes and the tapioca starch together until smooth and pliable, and no longer sticky. If desired, add additional food coloring or flavoring powders such as matcha, turmeric, beetroot powder, etc.
Roll the sweet potato dough into Tablespoon sized balls
Drop the prepared balls into boiling water, in batches if necessary. Once they are done cooking they’ll float towards the top (kind of like gnocchi). Once all are floating, use a sieve or tea strainer to pull them out of the water
Let the tang yuan cool fully (about 5 minutes) in the ice water.
Recipe Variations and Optional Add Ins:
- Other than matcha powder you can also add different colors or flavorings to the dough before cooking. Here are some ideas:
- Black Sesame – add 2 Tablespoons of black sesame powder to the dough before cooking,
- Chocolate – add 1 Tbsp of cocoa powder
- Cinnamon – add 2 tsp of cinnamon powder
- Pumpkin Spice – use my pumpkin dango recipe, and add 2 tsp of pumpkin spice powder to the dough
- Some of these ingredients are not typically added in a traditional recipe, but you’re welcome to experiment!
- Filled – tang yuan can be either be filled or unfilled. I decided to keep these unfilled to keep it on the healthier side, but you’re welcome to fill them with black sesame, peanut or sweetened red bean fillings.
What are some ways you can eat sweet potato tang yuan?
- Served in a hot broth or syrup
- Plain and warm, served with honey or brown sugar syrup.
- Skewered like dango (below)
How to Store
- Once the sweet potato tang yuan have been cooked, they can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours. For longer storage, I would freeze the individual balls in a plastic freezer bag or an airtight container, then reboil them when ready to eat.
- The reason I don’t recommend storing them in the fridge is that these tang yuan tend to develop a weird waxy, hard texture when stored in the fridge. So eat within a day or freeze for best results.
- Boiling time (as well as serving size) will vary based on the size of the sweet potato balls as well as how crowded they are when they’re in the boiling water. Before you remove the tang yuan out of the water, do a quick doneness check by taking out one use a knife to cut it in half. Be sure the insides are cooked through before you take the rest of them out of the pot.
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Healthier Matcha Sweet Potato Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)
- 7 oz (200 g) cooked sweet potatoes use white or Asian sweet potatoes for best results
- 2/3 cup (80 g) tapioca, potato or arrowroot starch
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- Peel the cooked sweet potatoes while still warm and mash until no chunks remain.
- In a bowl, knead mashed sweet potatoes and the tapioca starch together until smooth and pliable, and no longer sticky.* Add matcha powder
- Roll the sweet potato dough into Tablespoon sized balls
- Meanwhile, boil a quart or two of water in a large pot. Also, get a ice bath ready (such as a bowl of ice water)
- Carefully drop the prepared balls into the boiling water. If using a smaller pot, work in batches.
- Once the tang yuan are done cooking they'll float towards the top. Once all are floating, use a sieve or tea strainer to pull them out of the water
- Let the tang yuan cool fully (about 5 minutes) in the ice water.
- Remove from the ice water. Enjoy!