Delicious Chao Nian Gao Recipe – Easy To Make At Home

If you’re looking to add some flavor and versatility to your cooking, then you need to try this Chao Nian Gao recipe – also known as Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes. This dish is not only a well-known Chinese cuisine classic, but it’s also incredibly delicious and easy to make.

As someone who has always loved exploring different cultures through their dishes, I can confidently say that this is one recipe you don’t want to miss. The hearty and chewy texture of the rice cakes combined with the umami flavors of soy sauce, chili bean sauce, and the sweetness of sugar creates a mouthwatering experience that is unforgettable.

What makes this recipe particularly special is that it is often enjoyed during the Lunar New Year – an essential holiday in Chinese culture. So, not only does it taste amazing but making it can be a cultural experience for those interested in learning more about Chinese New Year traditions.

In this article, I’ll guide you step-by-step through the entire process so that you can create your own delicious stir-fried Shanghai rice cakes in no time. Trust me; once you’re done, you won’t be able to resist digging in!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Chao Nian Gao (Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes)
Chao Nian Gao (Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes)

It’s not every day that you come across a dish as delicious as Chao Nian Gao. This mouth-watering Shanghai-style stir-fried rice cake recipe is packed full of flavor and texture, making it the perfect addition to any dinner table.

One of the things I love most about this recipe is its versatility. You can customize it to your liking by adding ingredients such as shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, and spinach, or adjust the spice level with chili bean sauce. The possibilities are endless, and you can get creative with the dish to suit your taste buds.

Moreover, this rice cake stir-fry is an easy-to-make dish suitable for any occasion. Whether you’re celebrating Chinese New Year or looking for a quick and delicious dinner recipe, Chao Nian Gao is a great choice.

The sticky rice cakes that make up the dish are mild in taste but have a chewy texture that adds depth and substance to the recipe. With soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and sugar mixed in with other ingredients, this dish has a complex flavor profile that will satisfy your palate.

In summary, if you’re looking for a new favorite meal or wanting to try something different from the traditional fried rice dishes, then Chao Nian Gao is a must-try. With its rich flavors, chewy texture, and endless customization options, this recipe won’t disappoint.

Ingredient List

 Sizzling Shanghai rice cakes stir-fried to perfection
Sizzling Shanghai rice cakes stir-fried to perfection

Ingredients you’ll need for this delicious stir-fried shanghai rice cake recipe

  • 1 lb. rice cakes (nian gao)
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil (or any other neutral oil)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup napa cabbage, sliced
  • 1 cup bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1-2 Tbsp. chili bean sauce (depending on the desired spice level)
  • ½ tsp. granulated sugar

This Chinese-style dish is packed with flavor and texture thanks to a delicious blend of veggies, spices, sauces and the main ingredient: Nian Gao or sticky rice cake. It’s a great way to experience authentic Shanghai stir-fried rice cakes without having to go to China! The ingredients are pretty common but if you cannot find nian gao in your area don’t worry, you can use frozen rice cakes or homemade ones made out of glutinous rice flour.

The Recipe How-To

Below are the step-by-step instructions on how to make the delicious Chao Nian Gao or Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes.


  • 1 lb. rice cakes (Nian Gao)
  • 2 cups of water (for soaking the rice cakes)
  • 1 cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 cup of spinach or bok choy
  • 1 cup of Napa cabbage, sliced
  • ½ cup of bamboo shoots (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (optional)

How To Make Chao Nian Gao:
Step 1: Prep and Soak the Rice Cakes

Firstly, rinse the rice cakes with cold water and then let them soak completely in cold water for at least 20 minutes. If you’re using frozen rice cakes, you can skip this step entirely.

Step 2: Prepare Vegetables and Mushrooms

While waiting for the rice cakes to soften, prepare and slice your vegetables and mushrooms.

Step 3: Saute Ginger, Garlic, and Vegetables

Heat up a wok over high heat until it starts smoking. Then add canola oil to coat the surface of the wok. Add minced ginger and chopped garlic before stir-frying them until fragrant but not burnt. Add sliced shiitake mushrooms if you have any. Keep stirring for a few minutes before adding all your veggies – napa cabbage, spinach/bok choy, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts.

Step 4: Add Sauce And Sugar

After stirring everything for around 5 minutes, add all sauces – soy sauce, dark soy sauce, chili bean sauce. Stir well before adding sugar to balance out the flavors.

Step 5: Add Rice Cakes

Now is the time to drain water from your soaked rice cakes and add them into the wok with vegetables. Keep stir-frying everything together for another few minutes until the rice cake becomes soft.


Once everything is well cooked and blended together perfectly, turn off heat and serve this hot dish with some steamed rice. It’s perfect to enjoy as a main dish or side dish!

Enjoy your delicious homemade Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes – Chao Nian Gao!

Substitutions and Variations

 This tender rice cake dish will satisfy your guilty pleasure cravings
This tender rice cake dish will satisfy your guilty pleasure cravings

As a culinary explorer, I love to experiment with different flavors and ingredients, and stir-fried rice cakes offer ample opportunities for substitutions and variations. Here are some ideas to make this dish even more exciting:

– Vegetarian Option: To make the dish vegan, simply skip the oyster sauce and replace it with additional chili bean sauce and soy sauce for an extra boost of umami flavors. You can also add in more vegetables like sliced bell peppers, bok choy or snow peas to make it a complete meal.

– Protein Options: Chicken or shrimp also go well with this recipe, and can be added during the stir-fry stage. Some other delicious additions include sliced beef or pork.

– Use Different Veggies: You can use any of your favourite vegetables to give a different flavour dimension to the dish. Try tossing in some bean sprouts, sliced shiitake mushrooms, spinach, napa cabbage or bamboo shoot for a unique combination of textures and flavors.

– Rice Cake Variations: If you can’t find nian gao (rice cakes), you can substitute them with sliced Korean-style rice cakes or even freshly made glutinous rice cake.

– Spicier Version: For those who love their food with a kick, add more chili bean sauce, sriracha or red pepper flakes.

– Make It Gluten-Free: If you’re on a gluten-free diet, swap out the regular soy sauce for Tamari soy sauce or coconut amino sauce.

By changing up ingredients and flavours slightly in this classic Chinese recipe, you can easily create your own signature style that will leave your taste buds tingling with delight!

Serving and Pairing

 Add some heat to your plate with this spicy Chao Nian Gao recipe
Add some heat to your plate with this spicy Chao Nian Gao recipe

When it comes to serving and pairing Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes, you have a lot of creative freedom. You can serve it as a complete meal or pair it with other dishes. Traditionally, this dish is served as breakfast in Shanghai, so you can enjoy it for brunch or even dinner.

This delicious stir-fried rice cake is slightly sweet and tangy with a chewy texture. To balance the sweetness of the rice cake, we recommend pairing it with a savory protein such as salmon or grilled chicken. You can also serve it with a side dish of bok choy, napa cabbage or spinach lightly sautéed in oyster sauce.

For a restaurant-style experience, try pairing the stir-fried rice cakes with Din Tai Fung’s famous Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings. You could also serve Shanghai stir-fried rice cakes alongside other Chinese classics such as General Tso’s Chicken, Kung Pao Shrimp or your Chinese New Year favorites.

If you’re looking for a vegan or vegetarian option, add more vegetables such as shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots or snow peas for extra crunch and flavor.

Lastly, don’t forget to add some hot chili oil or chili bean sauce for some spice! A cold glass of water around would be perfect to quench your thirst after every bite.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 A cherished classic in Shanghai's culinary scene
A cherished classic in Shanghai’s culinary scene

As a culinary explorer, I know that preparing meals in advance can be an efficient way to save time, especially if you have a busy schedule. Luckily, the Chao Nian Gao recipe is perfect for making ahead and storing.

To make ahead, take care not to overcook the rice cakes while stir-frying, as they will become too soft when reheated. You can cook them until they are slightly underdone and then finish cooking them when ready to serve.

For storing, transfer the leftover rice cakes to an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to three days. When reheating, make sure to add a little water around the edges of the pan and cover with a lid. Allow it to steam on low heat for about five minutes before stirring and enjoying.

If you plan to freeze your Chao Nian Gao for future use, allow it to cool down completely before placing it into a freezer-safe container. Store it in the freezer for up to two months. To reheat from frozen, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before heating through either in a microwave or frying pan after adding some water around the edges of the pan.

By using these tips for make-ahead, storage, and reheating, you are guaranteed to have delicious Chao Nian Gao ready whenever you want it without sacrificing any quality or taste.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Ready in minutes, perfect for a quick weeknight dinner
Ready in minutes, perfect for a quick weeknight dinner

To perfectly stir-fry the Chao Nian Gao, some tips and tricks can’t be neglected. As an experienced chef, I’m here to give you some insights on how to make the best Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes.

Firstly, consider soaking the frozen rice cakes in cold water for around 20 minutes to let them defrost before stir-frying. This will allow all the rice cakes to separate easily, preventing them from sticking together and becoming a sticky mess.

Secondly, ensure your cooking oil has reached its smoking point before adding the vegetables and rice cakes. The high heat will help to get that excellent smoky flavor and prevent the Chao Nian Gao from getting mushy.

Thirdly, use good quality soy sauce and chili bean sauce for a rich and complex flavor profile. Doing so will elevate your dish to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Additionally, frying garlic and ginger before adding other ingredients can add an extra layer of flavor. Finely chop one or two garlic cloves and add them to the hot pan with some green onions and fresh ginger. Allow everything to get fragrant before stir-frying other ingredients.

Furthermore, do not crowd your pan with too many ingredients at once. This will lower your pan’s temperature and add too much moisture to the dish, resulting in undercooked food. Work in batches if necessary, so that everything cooks evenly.

Last but not least, always add a tiny bit of sugar if you want an authentic shanghai-style chao nian gao experience. It will balance out all the other savory flavors perfectly.

With these tips in mind, your Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes will undoubtedly be the most delicious ones you’ve ever made!


Now that you’ve learned how to make Chao Nian Gao, it’s time to answer some common questions about this dish. In this section, I will address the most frequently asked questions about this recipe and provide answers to help you perfect your Chao Nian Gao-making skills. From ingredient substitutions to cooking tips, these answers will equip you with everything you need to know to make the best Chinese stir-fried rice cakes. So let’s dive into the FAQ!

What are Shanghai rice cakes made of?

If you’re looking for a unique ingredient to add to your stir-fries, soups, or hot pot, consider Chinese rice cakes, also known as niangao. These oval-shaped cakes are made from pounded rice, giving them a sticky, chewy texture that’s similar to thick pasta. While there are sweet versions of niangao, the white variety is typically used in savory dishes.

How do you use frozen rice cakes?

When making rice cake, it is important to ensure that any frozen portions are properly thawed and softened in cold water prior to cooking. Once the rice cake is cooked, it is recommended to serve it hot and avoid any extended periods of refrigeration. However, if leftovers do occur, they can be stored in the fridge and easily reheated for a few days of enjoyment.

What is the meaning of eating nian gao sticky rice cake?

A delightful dessert known as nian gao, also referred to as ‘year cake’, is a sticky rice cake that carries great significance in Chinese culture. This cake is strongly associated with prosperity and is believed to bring good luck to those who consume it. The name ‘nian gao’ is closely related to the phrase ‘getting higher year on year’ and symbolises continuous growth and elevation in every aspect of life.

Do you have to soak rice cakes before cooking?

Rice cakes that have been dried out should be soaked for 10-20 minutes in boiling water before cooking them. However, if you have the luxury of time, soaking them in cold water for about 3 hours would be better, or leave them soaking overnight. This way, the rice cakes would become softer and more pliable, making them easier to cook with later on. The soaking process in water helps the cakes absorb moisture back into itself, which is vital before cooking them.

Bottom Line

In the end, Chao Nian Gao or Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes is a wonderful dish that has become a staple in Chinese cuisine. It is one of the best Chinese rice cake recipes that you can try at home. With its flavorful and delicious taste, you’ll be sure to make it a regular part of your menu – especially during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Use this recipe as a guide to make the perfect Chao Nian Gao dish for dinner tonight or any day of the year. Don’t forget to experiment with different variations and substitutions so you can tailor your recipe to your own tastes.

Whether you’re cooking for family and friends or just for yourself, this dish is sure to please. So why not give it a try? Follow these instructions and tips, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying some of the best Chinese stir-fried rice cakes that Shanghai has to offer!

And if you’re ever in Shanghai, be sure to visit Din Tai Fung for their famous version of this dish. In fact, make sure to try as many variations of Chao Nian Gao as possible – after all, variety is the spice of life!

Chao Nian Gao (Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes)

Chao Nian Gao (Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes) Recipe

Chewy rice cakes add texture and depth to this vegetarian stir-fry.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Calories 232.8 kcal


  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, peeled finely chopped (2 inch)
  • 3 ounces rice cakes, sliced 1/6 inch thick at an angle (fresh or frozen, thawed)
  • 1 cup canned bamboo shoot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small head napa cabbage, cored thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 ounces spinach
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


  • Heat oil in a 14 inch wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (1 minute). Add rice cakes, bamboo and cabbage. Cook, until cabbage is wilted (4-5 minutes).
  • Stir in soy sauces, chile-bean sauce and sugar. Cook until slightly thick (2-3 minutes). Stir in spinach, bean sprouts and sesame oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes more.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 158gCalories: 232.8kcalCarbohydrates: 25.3gProtein: 7gFat: 12.6gSaturated Fat: 1.1gSodium: 1358.2mgFiber: 3.2gSugar: 4g
Keyword < 30 Mins, Asian, Chinese, Easy, From Scratch, Greens, Inexpensive, Lunch, Spicy, Stir-Fry, Vegetable, Weeknight
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