Chewy, soft and addicting, this sweet potato “Dango” is a healthier take on traditional sweet rice balls that only use glutinous rice flour and water. Made only using 2 ingredients, this recipe can be prepared in under 30 minutes and is perfect for those on a gluten-free, vegan or nut-free diet.
By now, you probably know my obsession with all things mochi! This time I wanted to make a recipe that fits with the Lunar New Year’s coming up in a few days: sweet rice balls! Known as Tang Yuan in China, Gyeongdan in Korea, and Dango in Japan, these chewy, round balls are often a part of the New Years’ celebration and are said to bring good luck.
So why Dango? Even though they’re basically the same recipe, in China, the sweet rice balls are usually served in a sweet broth, and in Korea, they’re rolled in powdered seeds or sweetened beans. I liked the look of Dango because they’re served on wooden sticks. Also there’s something about this emoji 🍡 I can’t stop using
What are Dango / Sweet Rice Balls Made of?
Traditionally, these rice balls are 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.
That’s a lot of refined carbs, by the way, with virtually no protein or fiber.
In this recipe, I wanted to incorporate more nutrition and fiber by using mashed sweet potatoes. To keep the chewy texture of the dango, I also decided to use tapioca starch instead of the sweet rice flour.
Ingredients Used to Make Healthier Sweet Potato Dango
**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:
- American (orange) sweet potatoes produce bright orange dangos like the pics below 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.
- Purple Sweet Potato – Purple sweet potato (also called Japanese Purple Sweet Potato or Okinawan Sweet Potato) are not only beautiful, they’re enriched with Anthocyanin, known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancerous benefits. Purple sweet potato can be found in most asian grocery stores.
Tapioca flour (flour , also called tapioca starch) – While traditional dango are made with sweet rice flour, I decided to use tapioca starch instead to make sure the dango 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.
How to Make Sweet Potato Dango from Scratch
In a bowl, knead mashed sweet potatoes and the tapioca starch together until smooth and pliable, and no longer sticky.
If desired, divide the dough and add additional food coloring or flavoring powders such as matcha, turmeric, beetroot powder, etc.
Roll the sweet potato dango dough into Tablespoon sized balls
Drop the dango balls into boiling water, in batches if necessary.
Once the dango balls are done cooking they’ll float towards the top (kind of like gnocchi). Once all of the dango balls are floating, use a sieve or tea strainer to pull them out of the water
Let the dango cool fully (about 5 minutes) in the ice water.
Remove and skewer them in wooden sticks. Serve with honey.
Recipe Variations and Optional Add Ins:
- Other than coloring you can also add different flavorings to the dough before cooking. For example, you can add either a teaspoon of coffee extract or espresso powder, cocoa, cinnamon or Cardamom Powder. They’re not typically added in a traditional recipe, but you’re welcome to experiment!
More Recipes Using Sweet Potatoes (HERE)
What are some ways you can eat sweet potato dango?
- Plain and warm, served with honey or brown sugar syrup. Chocolate syrup works, too!
- If you don’t have wooden sticks you can just serve them in a bowl. See below
How to Store
- Once the sweet potato dango have been cooked, they can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours. For longer storage, I would freeze the individual dango 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 dango balls 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 dango balls as well as how crowded they are when they’re in the boiling water. Before you remove the dango balls out of the water, do a quick doneness check by taking out one dango ball and 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.
More Like these Dango Recipes (HERE)
Healthy Sweet Potato Dango (Sweet 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
- food coloring or powders, such as matcha optional
- 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 food coloring or flavoring powders such as matcha, turmeric, cinnamon powder, etc.
- 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 dango balls into the boiling water. If using a smaller pot, work in batches.
- Once the dango balls are done cooking they'll float towards the top. Once all of the dango balls are floating, use a sieve or tea strainer to pull them out of the water
- Let the dango cool fully (about 5 minutes) in the ice water.
- Remove from the ice water and serve with honey. You can also skewer them in long wooden toothpicks.