Due to the historic background, Taiwanese traditional desserts are strongly influenced by Chinese and Japanese culture. As time goes by we have evolved these desserts into our own unique style, which includes: a wide range of usage of sweetened nuts and beans; and the famous “Q” texture that Taiwanese crave. Indulging in “Q” snacks is one of the top things to do in Taipei and can be found in desserts as well as savory dishes. Besides the famous bubble milk tea and pineapple cakes, there’s an entire undiscovered realm of Taiwanese traditional desserts that have yet to be exposed. Below are 15 delicious Taiwanese desserts we think you should try!
Yes, there’s no mistake of the desert–– the topping is sugar boiled peanut with sweet and salty flavored corn. Customers can add on sweetened yam, tangyuan (little balls made with glutinous rice) or other cooked beans which Taiwanese eat in our traditional desserts. In addition, pudding is also a nice extra touch for the shaved ice as well.
Yang’s Peanut and Corn shaved Ice（楊記花生玉米冰） store is at the famous shopping area Ximending. Located aside Hankou street for over 60 years, the sweet, refreshing and slightly-salty flavor are highly supported by the locals and Taipei people. Don’t be too surprised when you see a long line in summer!
“Yang Tao Bing” means star-fruit ice in Mandarin. It’s not just fresh star fruit with ice, but the star fruit is preserved. The geography of Taiwan allows Taiwanese people to grow and enjoy a great variety of fruits and preserving fruit naturally plays quite a role in our desert scene. When making preserved fruit, there will be semi-condensed juice as a by-product. Therefore, people start to add water or ice to distill the sweetness and turn the sweet and salty juice into refreshing beverages. In addition, Taiwanese people buy the preserved fruit juice for the saltiness in it when they are sick, and add in hot water. Many people consider hot preserved fruit juice as a mini cure, just like Japanese people drink ION water when they catch a cold.
Cheng Du Yangtaobig（成都楊桃冰）opened in 1966, the recipe and the flavor are all the same. There are preserved pineapples, star-fruits, and plums. If you are in the Ximen district for a walk or for shopping, you are welcome to have a taste of the tradition.
Grass jelly has a unique black color and “Q” texture that people on this island love. In Taiwanese, grass jelly is also called god’s grass, because it only takes a little to make plenty of jellies. Ancestors, therefore, think of it as the gift of God, so it’s how grass jelly is named.
Grass jelly tastes a little bitter, but sweet. It is often served as a soup with some sugar water or a topping on a variety of desserts.
A legit, nice grass jelly ice cannot do without delicious sugar water, and it isn’t easy to make, only a great amount of patience and experience can make great things work. Our recommendation will be Wanhua Lin Jian Fa Grass Jelly（林建發仙草冰燒仙草）which is located on the west side of Taipei. It has the perfect balance of sweet and bitter taste of grass jelly.
Mochi, the white fatty, Q-texture balls are one of the most common desserts in Taiwanese’ daily lives. These cuties are made from pounding glutinous rice. Every stall has its’ own recipe and procedure to make them. After mochi is pounded and shaped, they are thrown into sugar water and boiled until ready (sometimes they are prepared in a steamer). They are then coated with sesame or peanut powder sugar mix. Ingredients such as peanut, azuki bean, taro paste are very popular and often you will see various shops stuff these flavors inside mochi.
One of the best of mochi shaved ice can be found on the night market food tour. The mochi is fresh and smooth then dusted with toasted sesame and peanut powder. Condensed milk is then drizzled on top adding an additional layer of sweetness. If you are looking for things to to in Taipei and you want to eat this delicious dessert, the lines here are usually quite long, so it is nice to skip it when going on the Taipei Eats’ Night Market Tour.
Beans and nuts are very common in our desserts, and they are mostly cooked in sugar water until they are in perfect status––the shape remains, but fluffy, soft and creamy inside. Not only do we eat them as a dresser or toppings of shaved ice, but we also cook them into a sweet soup. During winter, Taiwanese enjoy azuki bean soup or peanut soup, adding in taro or sweet potato balls, tapioca balls, tangyuan. (We Taiwanese people would never miss out on any chance to eat something “Q”!)
A more traditional way to eat with bean soup is to use the bowl of sweetness as a dipping sauce for some Chinese churros. The crispy shell and tender heart of Chinese churros make eating sweet bean soups more interesting and enjoyable. Chinese churros also give extra aroma to the soup since it’s fried, which creates a nice touch for the humble dessert. A Ma Tsai Sweet Soup（阿嬤猜甜湯）and Long Du Bing Guo Room（龍都冰菓專業家） are located in the Wanhua area where the famous Huaxi Street Night Market and Longshan temple are. Both considered the best sweet soup in Taipei which offer legit traditional desserts that are not allowed to be missed.
Almond tea used to be very common in the Taiwanese dessert scene. We started drinking almond tea very early. After the 1940s many immigrants from China came to Taiwan, formed the habit of drinking hot almond tea with Chinese churros for an afternoon treat or late-night snack.
Almond tofu, on the other hand, has another story behind it. During the Tang dynasty, an imperial consort Yang used the mixture of almond and talcum for skin beauty. She had great results and as a result many women started to smear or eat almond for face whitening. Soon people began taking almond tea and mixing it with potato flour, which became almond tofu. It was said that the famous Empress Dowager Cixi from the Qing dynasty also ate almond tofu every day for good health and skin brightening as well.
Nowadays people don’t really eat them for beautifying function but for the warm, rich and sweet taste. Good almond tea is not that easy to find but some traditional dessert shops are still serving legit almond tea. Please try to avoid almond tea vendors in sightseeing places, they are often watered down.
Our recommendations will be Chun Mei Ice Shop（春美冰果室). The owner of Chun Mei used to work in Japanese restaurants, so the way he prepares the tofu is slightly different than other––details make perfection. There is also a cute shop that is offered on the Old School Food Tour by Taipei Eats. The shop makes almond tofu using traditional methods that have been around for close to a century, feeding multiple generations in Taipei.
There are many vendors which sell fried donuts around the corner of parks, outside the cinema, or on random streets. Nothing is more appealing seeing these plump white babies floating around in the oil pot and soon forming a golden-tanned outside. They keep sizzling while getting out of their hot tub, and then the donut maker dust a lot of fine granulated white sugar on the donuts right away. The crunchiness from the sugar and crispy fried batter is the first layer that you can experience. The tender yet slightly Q texture on the inside makes the whole donut fun and satisfying.
A good donut is simple, the flavor is clean but not plain. Viewing the menu on donut vendors, normally there’s something called “Shuangbaotai”, which means “fried twins” in Mandarin. No baby is harmed we promise. Shuangbaotai is a different shape of fried dough, and instead of using granulated sugar, coarse granulated sugar is the star of this show. The additional texture and sweetness for shuangbaotai, make it equally popular with fried donuts. You can find these deliciousness in Crispy Donuts（脆皮甜甜圈）.
Tang Yuan (湯圓) in Mandarin means rice ball. A ball shape treat which Taiwanese traditionally eat for the 15th day of lunar holiday/Chinese new year and also during the winter solstice. Tang yuan of course has the national “Q” texture that Taiwanese love. The rice balls are made from pounded and shaped glutinous rice (similar to mochi) and then the savory or sweet stuffings are wrapped inside. During the 15th day of the Chinese new year, we usually have the sweet ones, which are filled with sesame paste, peanut paste, or red bean paste. Since boba milk tea is wildly popular now, many venors have also created boba milk tea tang yuan. Sweet tang yuan is typically served with sugar water or with sweet peanut or red bean soup. However Yu Pin Yuan Hot and Ice Tang Yuan（御品元冰火湯圓) serves hot tang yuan on shaved ice and drizzled with osmanthus syrup. The floral aroma and light sweetness of the syrup definitely make the shaved ice refreshing and unique. Taiyi Milk King（臺一牛奶大王）and Zhengjiang Traditional Dessert Shop（政江號）also sells delicious tang yuan.
Besides sweet tang yuan, savory tang yuan is eaten during the winter solstice. The glutinous rice wrapping is the same, but the stuffing is minced pork simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and some spices, depending on the recipe. They are served in a soup stock which is cooked with pork and bones. They then add some vegetables and shallots confit. It certainly is a warm bowl of satisfaction! These unique tang yuan can be found on a Taipei tour, on the Night Market Tour with Taipei Eats.
You can find soy pudding or say douhua almost everywhere in Taiwan, yes, it is that popular. 「豆」means Soybean, and 「花」means flower, simply a dessert that includes soy curd, sugar water and toppings like boiled peanuts and beans, taro balls, jelly cake, or other ingredients that the shop provides.
The brine is the key that makes soy milk into soy curd. Plaster is another common coagulant to make douhua as well. Different coagulants lead to a lightly different texture, ones that use brine will be relatively soft and falls apart easier. Soy pudding that uses plaster tends to be firmer.
Douhua normally is a vegan/vegetarian dessert, and there are actually many good options on Uber Eats, such as Bean Village（豆花莊） or Means Dofa（明池豆花）. If you don’t have a chance stop by one of their locations during the day, you can always order douhua to where you’re staying! Enjoy the bowl of soft, simple and comforting Taiwanese flavor.
It’s said that pastry chefs from the Yi Fu Tang pastry store in Taichung are credited for the first to invent lemon cake. In 1964, when lemon cake appeared in the market, it went viral and soon became a classic dessert.
Lemon cake is a dessert that is basically soft lemon sponge cake covered with a fine layer of lemon white chocolate or lemon frosting. Nothing fancy but the cake and the chocolate/frosting create an interesting contrast, which makes the dessert irrefutable.
Nowadays you can see lots of places selling lemon cake. A nice traditional pastry store called Ruyi Sunny Cake 如邑堂 offers nice boxes of lemon cake–a great option for souvenirs. Some stores stick to the original forms and recipes, while other stores reform a little and add on their extra twist. But no matter what kind of lemon cake it is, the refreshing, forever-beloved sweet and sour flavor will still be the core.
Hong Yeh Cake（紅葉蛋糕） is the first cake shop in Taiwan that sells whipped cream cakes. Started in 1966, Hong Yeh founder Mr. Hsu created a special whipped cream that is light, fluffy and rich at the same time. Until now, cakes in Hong Yeh are still simple and delicious. The options are quite limited. Only chocolate, strawberry and orange flavors are available and the decorations are still very “traditional”. Recently taro and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (in Taiwanese style of course) are added, but the simple, classic ones are the best.
Even though there are many great cake shops in Taipei now that make delicate and beautiful masterpieces, Hong Yeh still remains remarkably popular. Consumers sometimes have to queue up for the cakes, and you can see the upright glass fridges are always stuffed with orders. Now they also offer cake slices, so there’s no need to struggle between portions and desire.
Many Taiwanese cuisine and desserts are strongly influenced by Japanese culture and wheel cake is one of them. The name comes with the shape, round and wooden color pies are pretty similar to car wheels. Wheel pies are made of egg, sugar, and flour, similar to pancake batter––Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. What’s even better, there is usually a great amount of hot, satisfying filling inside. Sweetened red beans and custard cream are classics, some really famous vendors such as Qingguang Wheel Pies（晴光紅豆餅） only sell these two flavors.
However, now it’s easy to find a wide range of fillings when it comes to wheel pies, such as sesame, peanut, taro, chocolate, matcha, mochi, or even savory flavors. The wheel pie stall which is located in Nanjing East road even serves peanut butter wheel pies with cilantro! Like many traditional desserts in Taiwan, you can find them around a corner of a quiet neighborhood or in night markets.
Egg pancakes are humble little treats that Taiwanese love, the aroma is so appealing when the vendor bakes them on the street. It’s also made of flour, eggs, and sugar, then poured into special grill pans and baked into an egg shape–delicious and comforting at the same time.
Now egg pancake makers are being creative. Pancakes are in different shapes: such as famous cartoons, animal shapes, heart shapes, and some vendors put fillings inside as well, but people tend to like the original flavor more. There are wonderful egg pancakes everywhere, but we still have our preference––the little vendor around Wuxing street——Old Fashioned Egg Pancakes（古早味雞蛋糕）customers can order a full piece of egg pancakes instead of individual round ones, which is more crunchy and fun to eat.
The geography of Taiwan has provided a great conditions to grow various fruits all year round. During the summer, it’s mango season. Boy are the mangoes in Taiwan delicious! We enjoy mangoes as much as possible when they are cheap and delicious. Since it’s a fruit for summer, it’s inevitably combined with shaved ice (duh). Mango shaved ice usually has shaved ice topped with freshly sliced mangoes, then topped with a huge ball of mango ice cream, drizzled with condensed milk at last.
The original inventor is the founder of the shaved ice shop, Ice Monster. However, Smoothie House（思慕昔本館) at Yongkang Street is also quite popular. A little unknown fun fact is the owners used to be married. No matter which store you go to, please try to go during summer when mangoes are in season. Otherwise, it’s highly possible that mangoes are not sweet enough. If that happens, go with whatever fruit is in season.
Thanks to Boba milk tea, tapioca balls are widely known as the “pearl” inside the drink. These little Q balls are made from tapioca, a starch extracted from the cassava root. Taiwanese people not only enjoy them with milk tea, but we also add them to several desserts. Shaved ice being one of them.
Opium Fen-Yuan Ice（公館鴉片粉圓） which is nearby MRT Gongguan station is a shop that makes tapioca balls the lead actor. The dessert is very simple, only shaved ice, tapioca balls with some sugar water. As the going says; simple can be harder than complex. Opium Fen-Yuan Ice cooks the tapioca balls into soft but also bouncy texture, the sugar water is clean and flavorful, making people coming back for more all the time. Like the name opium, it’s a dessert you can’t put down!
There are definitely more desserts that you can enjoy in Taiwan, but the list is a selection that we think are worth trying. Enjoy the sweet tour in Taiwan, and tell us what you think after you taste them! We also have more sweets and other foods in our 54 must eats in Taiwan.