Delightful Traditions: Mastering the Art of Korean Sweet Rice Cake Recipe (Yaksik Recipe)

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Embark on a culinary journey to the heart of Korean tradition with the delightful Yaksik, a sweet rice cake that weaves together the rich tapestry of flavors and textures characteristic of Korea’s storied culinary heritage. Known affectionately as Yakbap, which translates to “medicinal rice,” this dish is steeped in history, originally prepared for special occasions and festive celebrations. Yaksik combines glutinous rice with a harmonious mix of jujubes, chestnuts, and pine nuts, all brought together by a sweet and savory sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey or sugar. This delectable treat not only pleases the palate but also tells a tale of ancient customs and the communal spirit of Korean festivities.

In this article, we will guide you through the steps to create your own Yaksik at home, sharing expert tips and insights to ensure your sweet rice cake is as authentic and delicious as those prepared in Korean homes for generations. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a curious culinary explorer, the journey to making Yaksik promises to be as rewarding as it is tasty. Let’s dive into the world of Korean cuisine and discover how to make this traditional sweet rice cake, ensuring your culinary adventure is both enjoyable and successful.

Korean Sweet Rice Cake Recipe

korean sweet rice cake recipes

Korean sweet rice cakes, known as “Yaksik” or “Yakbap,” are traditional treats made from glutinous rice, sweetened and enriched with a mix of dates, chestnuts, and pine nuts, all bound together with a fragrant blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey or sugar. This dish, often prepared for special occasions and holidays such as Lunar New Year and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), carries with it centuries of history and cultural significance. Here’s a recipe to make your own Yaksik, inviting a piece of Korean tradition into your home.


  • 2 cups glutinous rice (sweet rice)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dried jujubes (Korean dates), pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chestnuts, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)


  • Rinse the glutinous rice in cold water several times until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in water for at least 4 hours, or overnight, for best results.
Cook the Rice:
  • Drain the rice and place it in a steamer. Steam the rice for about 30-40 minutes, or until it’s tender and translucent.
Prepare the Sauce:
  • While the rice is steaming, combine soy sauce, brown sugar or honey, and water in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil.
Combine Ingredients:
  • In a large mixing bowl, gently fold the steamed rice with the sauce, making sure each grain is nicely coated. Add the jujubes, chestnuts, pine nuts, and optional spices (cinnamon and ginger), and mix well to distribute evenly.
Final Cooking Step:
  • Transfer the rice mixture to a greased baking dish or a traditional Korean earthenware (if available). Press down firmly to compact the mixture.
  • Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can steam the mixture for another 30 minutes if preferred.
Cool and Serve:
  • Let the Yaksik cool to room temperature before cutting it into bite-sized pieces or squares. It can be served either at room temperature or chilled.
  • Adjust Sweetness: The sweetness can be adjusted according to taste. Start with less sugar or honey and add more as needed.
  • Optional Additions: Feel free to add other dried fruits or nuts according to preference. Raisins or walnuts can be great additions.
  • Storing: Yaksik can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. It can also be frozen and thawed for later consumption.

Enjoy making and sharing this delicious, sweet Korean rice cake, a treat that is as rich in flavor as it is in history and cultural significance.

Expert Tips

Making Korean sweet rice cake, or Yaksik, like a pro involves understanding the subtleties of ingredient selection, preparation, and cooking techniques. Here are some expert tips to elevate your Yaksik, ensuring it’s as authentic and delicious as possible:

1. Select High-Quality Ingredients

  • Glutinous Rice: Choose premium-quality glutinous rice for the best texture. The quality of rice directly impacts the chewiness and overall mouthfeel of the Yaksik.
  • Jujubes and Chestnuts: Use fresh or high-quality dried jujubes and chestnuts for their flavor and texture. Fresh chestnuts should be firm and glossy.
  • Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce: Opt for traditional Korean sesame oil and soy sauce to get the most authentic flavor profile.

2. Proper Preparation of Ingredients

  • Soaking Rice: Ensure the glutinous rice is soaked for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. This step is crucial for achieving the right texture after cooking.
  • Prepping Nuts and Fruits: Toast the pine nuts lightly to enhance their flavor. If using dried fruits like jujubes or raisins, ensure they are properly rehydrated to avoid hard bits in your Yaksik.

3. Balancing Flavors

  • Sweetness: Adjust the sweetness according to your taste. Starting with less honey or brown sugar is wise—you can always add more after tasting.
  • Soy Sauce: Be mindful of the soy sauce quantity to avoid overpowering the sweet notes. The goal is a harmonious balance between savory and sweet.

4. Cooking Techniques

  • Steaming Rice: Steaming the rice rather than boiling it preserves the texture and allows for even cooking. Make sure the rice is tender and sticky before proceeding.
  • Even Mixing: When combining the rice with the sauce and other ingredients, do it gently to ensure even coating without breaking the rice grains.

5. Baking vs. Steaming

  • Choice of Cooking Method: Yaksik can be finished by baking or additional steaming. Baking can provide a slightly drier texture, which some prefer. Steaming will keep it moist and dense. Choose based on your texture preference.
  • Layering for Texture: For a more interesting texture, consider creating layers with the nuts and fruits in between the rice mixture when using a baking method.

6. Serving and Storing

  • Cutting: Allow the Yaksik to cool completely before cutting into pieces to maintain its shape.
  • Storage: Yaksik stores well in the refrigerator for several days and can be enjoyed cold or gently reheated. For longer storage, Yaksik can be frozen and thawed as needed.

7. Creative Variations

  • Experiment with Add-ins: Feel free to experiment with different nuts and dried fruits like walnuts, almonds, or raisins to add variety.
  • Adjust Spices: The traditional spices are cinnamon and ginger, but you can adjust the amounts or experiment with others like nutmeg for a different flavor profile.

By following these expert tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a Yaksik that not only tastes great but also pays homage to the rich culinary traditions of Korea. Enjoy the process and the delicious outcome of your efforts!

Why This Recipe Is Just So Good…

The Korean sweet rice cake, Yaksik, stands out as a culinary delight for several compelling reasons, making it a cherished dish in Korean cuisine. Its unique appeal lies in a blend of textures, flavors, and the deep cultural significance it carries. Here’s why this recipe is so beloved:

1. Complex Flavors

  • Yaksik harmoniously blends the sweetness of honey or brown sugar with the savory depth of soy sauce, enriched by the fragrant sesame oil. This combination of sweet and savory creates a complex flavor profile that is both rich and satisfying, distinguishing Yaksik from more straightforward sweet treats.

2. Varied Textures

  • The chewy texture of glutinous rice, combined with the soft bite of jujubes (Korean dates), the crunchiness of pine nuts, and the tender pieces of chestnuts, makes every bite of Yaksik an enjoyable experience. This variety of textures keeps the dish interesting and delightful to eat.

3. Nutritional Value

  • Yaksik is not only delicious but also packs nutritional benefits. Glutinous rice provides energy, while the nuts add healthy fats and protein. The jujubes contribute vitamins and antioxidants, making Yaksik a treat that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

4. Cultural Significance

  • Traditionally made for special occasions and celebrations, Yaksik carries with it a sense of history and tradition. Its preparation and consumption during holidays like Lunar New Year and Chuseok connect people to their heritage and create a sense of unity and continuity.

5. Versatility

  • Yaksik can be enjoyed in various settings: as a dessert, a snack, or even a light meal. Its rich flavor and satisfying nature make it suitable for different times of the day and for various culinary preferences. Additionally, it can be easily adjusted to cater to different tastes or dietary needs, making it versatile and universally appealing.

6. Aesthetic Appeal

  • With its golden-brown color, interspersed with the vibrant red of jujubes and the green of pistachios or other nuts, Yaksik is visually appealing. Its aesthetic presentation, combined with its delicious taste, makes it a standout dish for gatherings and festive occasions.

7. Comfort Food

  • For many, Yaksik is a comfort food that evokes warm memories and feelings of nostalgia. The act of making and sharing Yaksik can be a comforting, communal activity that brings people together, enhancing its appeal beyond just its taste and nutritional benefits.

In essence, Yaksik’s goodness lies in its ability to offer a rich sensory experience—through taste, texture, and tradition—making it a beloved recipe that transcends generations. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its special place in Korean cuisine and culture.

Storage Instructions

Korean sweet rice cake, known as Yaksik or Yakbap, combines delightful flavors and textures with the nutritional benefits of its ingredients, making it a cherished dish for special occasions and everyday enjoyment alike. Here’s how to store Yaksik properly to maintain its freshness and deliciousness:

Short-term Storage

  • Room Temperature: Freshly made Yaksik can be kept at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Cover it with a clean cloth or store it in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out. This is ideal if you plan to consume it within a day.
  • Refrigerator: For storing Yaksik for up to a week, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate. The cold environment helps preserve its freshness while maintaining the chewiness of the glutinous rice. When ready to eat, you can enjoy it cold or slightly warmed.

Long-term Storage

  • Freezer: Yaksik freezes exceptionally well, making it convenient for long-term storage. Cut the Yaksik into portions, wrap each piece tightly with plastic wrap, and then place them in a freezer bag or airtight container. This method can keep Yaksik fresh for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or use the microwave for a quick defrost. If microwaving, consider covering it with a damp paper towel to reintroduce moisture and prevent it from drying out.


  • Microwave: This is the quickest way to warm up Yaksik. Place the desired amount on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat on medium for 1-2 minutes or until heated through. The steam from the paper towel helps to keep the rice cake moist.
  • Steaming: For a more traditional approach, steam the Yaksik portions in a steamer for about 10-15 minutes or until they are thoroughly heated. This method is excellent for restoring the original texture of the rice cake.

Tips for Best Results

  • Avoid Repeated Thawing and Freezing: To maintain the quality of Yaksik, try to avoid repeated thawing and freezing cycles. It’s best to freeze in small portions that can be consumed in one sitting.
  • Keep it Airtight: Whether refrigerating or freezing, ensure Yaksik is stored in an airtight container or tightly wrapped. This prevents it from absorbing odors from the refrigerator or freezer and also retains moisture.

By following these storage and reheating instructions, you can enjoy Yaksik at its best, savoring the flavors and textures that make this Korean sweet rice cake a delightful treat any time you wish.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

korean sweet rice cakes recipes

Q: What is Yaksik?

A: Yaksik, also known as Yakbap, is a traditional Korean sweet rice cake made from glutinous rice, mixed with a variety of ingredients like jujubes, chestnuts, and pine nuts, and seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sweeteners such as honey or sugar. It’s a dish often prepared for special occasions and celebrations.

Q: Can I use regular rice instead of glutinous rice for Yaksik?

A: No, it’s essential to use glutinous rice (also known as sweet rice or sticky rice) for Yaksik. Glutinous rice has a unique sticky and chewy texture that is crucial for the authenticity of the dish. Regular rice won’t provide the same consistency or absorb the flavors in the same way.

Q: How long should I soak the glutinous rice before cooking?

A: The glutinous rice should be soaked for at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight. Soaking helps the rice cook more evenly and become fully saturated with the flavors of the other ingredients.

Q: Is Yaksik served as a dessert or a main dish?

A: Yaksik is versatile and can be served as a dessert, snack, or even as part of a meal. Its sweet and nutty flavor profile makes it a delightful end to a meal, but it’s also nourishing enough to be enjoyed as a standalone snack or side dish.

Q: Can I make Yaksik without a steamer?

A: Yes, if you don’t have a traditional steamer, you can use a makeshift steaming setup with a pot, a heatproof dish, and a rack or trivet that can elevate the dish above water. Ensure the setup allows for a tight lid to retain steam. Alternatively, you can bake Yaksik in an oven, though steaming is preferred for moisture and texture.

Q: How can I store leftovers and for how long?

A: Leftover Yaksik can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, freeze it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or reheat directly from frozen, with a bit of water added if microwaving, to restore moisture.

Q: Can I add or substitute ingredients in Yaksik?

A: Absolutely! Yaksik is quite adaptable. Feel free to add other dried fruits like raisins or cranberries, or substitute nuts according to your preference. The key is to maintain a balance between the sweet, savory, and nutty elements of the dish.

Q: How do I know when the Yaksik is properly cooked?

A: When steamed and mixed with its seasoning, Yaksik should have a glossy appearance and a sticky, cohesive texture. If baked, it should be moist but not wet, with the rice fully cooked and the nuts and fruits tender. The flavors should be well integrated, with no single ingredient overpowering the others.

Q: Is Yaksik gluten-free?

A: Yes, Yaksik can be considered gluten-free, as its main ingredients (glutinous rice, nuts, and dried fruits) do not contain gluten. However, be cautious with soy sauce and other additives, which may contain gluten unless specified as gluten-free. Always check labels if you’re cooking for someone with gluten sensitivities.

Q: How can I ensure the glutinous rice in my Yaksik doesn’t become too mushy?

A: To prevent the glutinous rice from becoming too mushy in Yaksik, proper preparation is key. Start by rinsing the rice thoroughly until the water runs clear to remove excess starch. Soak the rice for at least 4 hours, or even better, overnight, which helps the grains maintain their structure during cooking. When steaming, ensure the water doesn’t directly touch the rice. The rice should be tender but still hold its shape before mixing with other ingredients. Finally, when combining with the sauce and nuts, fold gently rather than stirring vigorously to maintain the integrity of the rice grains.

Q: Can I make Yaksik without a steamer?

A: Yes, you can make Yaksik without a traditional steamer. One alternative method is using a rice cooker. After soaking the glutinous rice, drain it and add it to your rice cooker. Mix in the sauce and other ingredients, then use the standard cooking setting for glutinous rice. Another method is baking in the oven. Prepare the rice and ingredients as usual, then bake in a covered dish at 350°F (about 175°C) until the rice is fully cooked and has absorbed the flavors, typically around 30-40 minutes. Both methods can produce delicious Yaksik.

Q: What alternatives can I use if I can’t find jujubes or pine nuts?

A: If jujubes (Korean dates) or pine nuts are not available, there are suitable substitutes that can still capture the essence of Yaksik. For jujubes, dried apricots or raisins can be a good alternative, offering a similar chewy texture and sweetness. For pine nuts, slivered almonds or walnuts can be used, providing a comparable crunch and nuttiness to the dish. Remember to adjust the quantity based on the size and flavor intensity of the substitutes.

Q: How can I adjust the sweetness of my Yaksik without compromising the traditional taste?

A: To adjust the sweetness of Yaksik while maintaining its traditional flavor, start with reducing the amount of brown sugar or honey in the recipe. You can substitute a portion of the sweetener with a sugar substitute like stevia or erythritol, though this may slightly alter the flavor profile. Another method is to enhance the other flavors, such as by adding a bit more soy sauce or sesame oil, which can help balance the overall taste without adding more sweetness.

Q: Is there a way to incorporate modern flavors into Yaksik while keeping it authentic?

A: Incorporating modern flavors into Yaksik while retaining its authenticity involves subtle additions or swaps that enhance the dish without overshadowing its traditional elements. Consider adding a hint of orange zest or a splash of rum to the sauce for a contemporary twist. You can also experiment with different nuts or dried fruits, such as cranberries or pecans, for unique flavor combinations. These minor tweaks can introduce a modern flair to Yaksik, making it even more appealing to a wider audience while respecting its cultural roots.

By addressing these expert-level questions, you can enhance your Yaksik-making experience, ensuring a delicious result that pays homage to traditional Korean culinary practices while allowing room for personal creativity and preference.


As we wrap up our culinary exploration of Yaksik, the traditional Korean sweet rice cake, it’s clear that this dish is much more than just a delightful treat. It’s a bridge to the past, a nod to the cultural significance of food in bringing people together, and a testament to the timeless appeal of simple, wholesome ingredients combined with care and intention. Making Yaksik at home is not just about following a recipe; it’s about engaging in a ritual that has been part of Korean tradition for centuries, one that celebrates the joy of shared meals and the passing of traditions from one generation to the next.

With the insights and expert tips shared, you’re now equipped to create this exquisite dish in your own kitchen, ready to impress family and friends with both its taste and its storied history. Remember, the beauty of traditional dishes like Yaksik lies in their versatility and the personal touch you bring to them. Don’t hesitate to experiment with ingredients and adjust the flavors to suit your palate.

As you enjoy your homemade Yaksik, whether as a dessert, a snack, or a special addition to a festive meal, reflect on the rich cultural heritage it represents. Let each bite be a reminder of the power of food to convey stories, evoke memories, and bring people together. The journey through Korean cuisine doesn’t end here—there are countless other dishes waiting to be discovered and savored. But with Yaksik, you’ve taken a delicious step into a world where food is much more than sustenance; it’s a celebration of life itself.

Photo of author

Macaria Valerie

About the author

With over 15 years of experience in the culinary world, Macaria Valerie has developed a unique niche expertise in the art and science of rice cooking. Born in Taipei and raised in San Francisco, Macaria's passion for perfectly cooked rice is a blend of her Taiwanese roots and modern culinary techniques. She has traveled across Asia, gathering traditional rice recipes and cooking methodologies. Macaria is not just about plain rice. She's explored the depths of risotto in Italy, paella in Spain, biryani in India, and sushi in Japan. Yet, she believes that the core of these dishes lies in mastering the basic foundation - the rice. In her popular blog, "Expert Reviews Best Rice Cooker", Macaria shares not only her favorite rice recipes but also reviews the latest in rice cooker technology. She's been a consultant for major kitchen appliance brands, aiding in the development and testing of their rice cooker lines. In her spare time, Macaria conducts workshops and classes, ensuring that the art of cooking perfect rice is accessible to everyone. Whether you're aiming for a simple bowl of fluffy white rice or venturing into the intricate world of flavored rice dishes, Macaria Valerie is your go-to guide in the rice cooker niche.

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