Taiwanese night markets are a major reason why we love visiting Taiwan. We’ve eaten our way through a night market in nearly every major city in Taiwan and the experience never disappoints. It’s like having your own street food degustation experience.
We start with things like curry fish balls and oyster omelettes before moving on to more substantial dishes like pepper buns and scallion pancakes. Ultimately, we end the night with Taiwanese dessert before rolling ourselves back to our hotel. It’s a gluttonous endeavor that happens almost every night in Taiwan.
You can check our Taiwanese food guide for suggestions on what night market staples to look for, but for Taiwanese desserts, you don’t need to go anywhere. In this article are fifteen of the most delicious desserts to stuff your face with in Taipei or in any other city in Taiwan.
TAIWANESE DESSERTS QUICK LINKS
If you’re visiting Taiwan and want to learn as much as possible about the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour or taking a cooking class.
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MUST-TRY TAIWANESE DESSERTS
1. Douhua (Tofu Pudding)
There’s no better way to start this list of Taiwanese desserts than with douhua, a popular Chinese snack made with silken tofu. It’s an ancient Chinese dish that’s become widely consumed in many countries throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia like Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore.
Douhua is short for doufuhua and can be either savory or sweet. It can be prepared in a number of ways depending on where it’s from, but in Taiwan, it’s typically made with very soft tofu and ginger or almond syrup. It’s often topped with other ingredients like tapioca balls, peanuts, red beans, mung beans, and fruit.
You can find tofu pudding pretty much anywhere in Taiwan. It’s a staple at night markets, public markets, and dessert shops. Like any great comfort food, it can be eaten at any time of the day. It can be served cold or hot but personally, I enjoy it most as a hot breakfast dish or dessert snack.
2. Aiyu Jelly
Aiyu jelly is a type of Taiwanese jelly made from the seeds of the awkeotsang creeping fig. It’s a plant that’s endemic to Taiwan and parts of southeastern China. When combined with water and rubbed, the seeds produce a yellowish gel that sets into a jelly when cooled in the refrigerator.
Aiyu jelly is often used as an ingredient in bubble tea or shaved ice desserts. It has a neutral taste and fun bouncy texture that’s similar to grass jelly or boba. When eaten on its own, it’s usually served over ice cubes and flavored with lime or lemon juice, honey, or some other type of sweetener.
3. Bao Bing (Shaved Ice)
When you visit any major city in Taiwan, you shouldn’t have trouble finding shops selling shaved ice desserts. Known locally as bao bing, it’s one of the most refreshing and popular Taiwanese desserts.
Taiwanese bao bing is very similar to Korean bingsu except the shaved ice is more ribbon-like than flaky. There’s also a greater emphasis on fruit toppings which I prefer. Mango bao bing (pictured below) is amazingly delicious and something I find myself always ordering at Taiwanese dessert shops.
Bao bing in Taiwan is typically made with ribbons of finely shaved ice sweetened with condensed milk. You can enjoy it with a variety of toppings like seasonal fruits, ice cream, azuki beans, sweet potato chunks, aiyu jelly, and grass jelly.
Mango bao bing is the bomb but so is bao bing topped with boba. The texture of the chewy tapioca balls with ice cream and finely shaved ice is to die for.
4. Tang Yuan
Tang yuan is another traditional Chinese dessert that’s consumed in many parts of East Asia and Southeast Asia like Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They’re made with glutinous rice dough that’s shaped into balls and served in some type of flavored hot syrup.
Tang Yuan can vary greatly in size. They can be the size of ping pong balls or smaller like marbles. They can be filled or unfilled, with some of the most traditional fillings being azuki bean paste, sweetened crushed peanuts, lotus seed paste, and sweet sesame.
In recent years, tang yuan in Taiwan is being made with trendier fillings like brown sugar, peanut butter, salted egg, and strawberry condensed milk.
Tang yuan is an important festival food that’s traditionally eaten during festivals and celebrations like the Lantern Festival and Chinese New Year. In Taiwan, it’s one of the main dishes prepared to celebrate the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival.
5. Taro Balls
As its name suggests, taro balls refer to a popular Taiwanese dessert soup featuring chewy taro and sweet potato balls. They’re popular throughout Taiwan but especially in the former mining town of Jiufen.
Taro balls can be served hot or cold. Order a cup in Jiufen and you’ll be served a multi-colored mix of taro balls, sweet potato balls, green tea balls, and kidney beans.
6. Honey Castella Sponge Cake
Honey castella sponge cake is a soft and bouncy cake from Taiwan. It’s essentially the Taiwanese version of Japanese castella cake, a specialty of Nagasaki that was introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century.
The Japanese and Taiwanese versions of castella cake are similar except the latter is made with all-purpose flour, baking powder, and an SP emulsifier. It’s also enriched with honey unlike the Japanese version which is traditionally made with bread flour and no other sweeteners except sugar (though this is no longer the case).
Taiwanese honey castella cake is light, moist, and buttery with a light sweetness derived from honey. If you like sponge cake, then you need to try this dessert in Taiwan.
7. Sweet Potato Balls
Visit any night market in Taiwan and you’ll find street food stalls with the letters QQ on their sign. This is the Taiwanese term for snacks with a chewy and bouncy texture. It comes from the Minnan word khiu which means “soft, springy, or elastic”. It’s a term that can be used to describe the texture of tapioca pearls and taro balls.
Taiwanese people love these bouncy snacks and so do I, one of my favorites being these sweet potato balls. They’re basically puffed-up balls made with mashed and fried sweet potato, taro, or a combination of both. They’re delicious and so much fun to eat.
8. Wheel Cake
The wheel cake is another popular Taiwanese dessert originally from Japan. It’s basically the Taiwanese version of imagawayaki, a Japanese pancake-like dessert made with a variety of fillings.
Traditionally, wheel cakes were filled with azuki bean paste but they’re now made with a variety of sweet and savory fillings like chocolate, vanilla custard, fruit, corn, egg, and curry. Cooked in disk-shaped cast-iron molds, they’re a common sight at night markets throughout Taiwan.
Like sweet potato balls and wheel cakes, these hard-to-miss skewers of candied fruit are staples at Taiwanese night markets. Known locally as “tanghulu”, these glossy sweet treats are made with skewered fruit dipped in sugar syrup. After drying, the syrup hardens to form a sticky sweet candy coating.
Tanghulu can be made with different types of fruit but at Taiwanese night markets, the most common are made with whole strawberries or cherry tomatoes stuffed with dried plum.
As you’d expect, the sugar syrup coating is cloyingly sweet but biting into the fruit gives you a nice burst of acidity that helps temper the sweetness of the syrup.
If you’re a fan of Japanese mochi, then you’ll be pleased to learn that it’s become a popular dessert or snack in Taiwan as well.
Mochi refers to soft chewy cakes made with glutinous rice flour. They can be made in different ways but in Taiwan, they’re often stuffed with bean paste fillings and coated in peanut powder.
Like most foreigners, I’m accustomed to seeing stuffed mochi balls but at a night market in Hualien, we got to try this interesting grilled version.
The skewered mochi was shaped like a block and heated on a grill before being dusted with peanut powder and served with our choice of sweet sauce. Very interesting.
11. Pineapple Cake (Traditional Dessert Souvenir)
We rarely bring home souvenirs from trips, unless we can eat them. In Taiwan, these delicious pineapple cakes are among the most popular souvenir food items you can buy. They’re Taiwanese pastries made with eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and pineapple jam.
Aside from being delicious, this buttery pastry is popular in Taiwan because the pineapple is considered an auspicious symbol. In Taiwanese Hokkien, the word for pineapple is ong lai which sounds similar to a phrase for “incoming fortune”.
12. Sun Cake
Like pineapple cakes, sun cakes are a popular souvenir food item you can bring back from Taiwan. Originally from Taichung, they refer to round and flaky maltose-filled pastries that are often consumed with hot Chinese tea.
13. White Nougat
White nougat refers to a family of chewy confections made with whipped egg whites, sugar or honey, and roasted nuts. It’s a popular candy or snack in many countries around the world where it goes by different names like turron (Spain), mandolato (Greece), qubbajt (Malta), and alviță (Romania).
Taiwanese nougat is a little different from versions you’ll find in other countries because it’s made with additional ingredients like milk powder and dried fruit.
14. Boba (Bubble Tea)
Boba is the most iconic dessert drink in Taiwan. Also known as bubble tea, it refers to a family of tea-based drinks that was invented in Taiwan sometime in the early 90s. Today, it’s become one of the most well-known Asian drinks and is consumed in many countries around the world.
At its most basic, boba is a tea-based drink made with either black, green, or oolong tea mixed with milk or fruit juice. It can be made with different types of milk like condensed milk, powdered milk, soy milk, or almond milk. It can be served cold or hot with a dizzying number of add-ons like tapioca pearls, pudding, and fruit jellies. You can even specify your desired level of sweetness.
Boba in Taiwan is fun but it can also be very confusing, which is why I prefer to go with the classic pearl milk tea. It’s made with black tea, milk, tapioca pearls, and sugar. It’s the original version and still the most popular. I suggest trying versions made with brown sugar as well.
Fans of boba will have another reason to visit Taichung. The original Chun Shui Tang shop – the successful teahouse chain credited for inventing pearl milk tea – is located in Taichung.
15. Cheese Tea
Cheese tea is another fun and interesting Taiwanese tea-based drink. Similar to boba, it’s made with a base of green or black tea topped with a frothy cap of cream cheese, whipping cream, milk, and salt.
Drinking tea with a foamy mixture of cream cheese may sound weird at first but give it a sip and it may win you over. The combination of the cold, somewhat bitter tea with the sweet, salty, sharp-tasting cheese foam actually works.
Unlike boba which can be served cold or hot, cheese tea is always consumed with ice and never with a straw. You’re meant to drink it from the rim of the cup so you get a mix of tea and cheese foam with every sip.
Cheese tea was invented in Taiwan sometime around 2010. It’s become popular in many parts of Asia but has yet to catch on globally like its more famous cousin boba.
TAIWANESE FOOD TOURS
Eating your way through any city is fun, but if you want to learn more about the local cuisine, then you may want to join a food tour.
Simply put, no one knows Taiwanese food better than a local. Not only can a food-obsessed guide take you to the city’s best restaurants and night market stalls, but they can explain all the dishes to you in more detail as well. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of guided food tours in Taiwan.
TAIWANESE COOKING CLASSES
Food tours are great for finding the best examples of local dishes. But if you want to really dive into the local cuisine, then you may want to take a cooking class. Eating xiao long bao is one thing, but learning how to actually make it is another. Check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Taiwan.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TAIWANESE DESSERTS
If you visit Taiwan around September or October, then another Taiwanese dessert you may want to try is the moon cake. Moon cakes are consumed to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese communities throughout Asia.
Many people are familiar with Cantonese-style moon cakes but in Taiwan, you should try the traditional style of Taiwanese moon cake as well. Lighter in color and more bun-like in shape, they consist of flaky layers stuffed with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. The most popular version is filled with mung bean paste, braised minced meat, and fried shallots.
This version of moon cake looks and sounds delicious. According to one description, “this moon cake style looks deceptively simple, yet is known to be one of the most difficult to make.” We’re all about interesting food and that description piqued my curiosity.
We haven’t tried it ourselves but it’s definitely something we’ll look for should we ever visit Taiwan at that time of year.
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