Rice cakes steamed in pine needles

This recipe is a very special one, made for a very special occasion in Korean culture. It’s rice cake called songpyeon, which Koreans make for Chuseokthe Korean harvest moon festival. On that day, Koreans traditionally give thanks for the harvest and make songpyeon with the new rice from that years’ crop. 

Songpyeon is a little sweet, chewy, and nutty, with a subtle pine tree flavor that from steaming the rice cakes in fresh pine needles.

For this recipe you’ll need ssalgaru: 쌀가루 (aka mepssalgaru: 멥쌀가루, or short grain rice flour), a special kind of rice flour made from finely milled rice, soaked in water for hours. The rice flour is a little wet, so to keep it from spoiling it’s sold frozen in the Korean grocery store. Be careful not to buy chapssalgaru (찹쌀가루) which is also sold in the freezer section at a Korean grocery store. Chapssalgaru is made from sweet rice (aka glutinous rice) and it won’t work for this recipe. If you can’t find ssalgaru you can make your own with my recipe.

I used all natural food colorings to make this songpyeon, including the water from yellow gardenia fruits (chija) to make the yellow dough. I crushed a few gardenia fruits, added a few tablespoons of water and let it sit overnight. By the morning the water had turned a dark orange yellow. If you can’t find gardenia fruits, you can substitute it with orange Jell-O powder. Just mix some powder with water.

You can also do some creative experiments to create your own colors. I often use mugwort powder for green, and you could try strawberries for red. For filling, toasted sesame seeds, fresh beans, pine nuts, and sweet mung bean paste are usually used, but you can try to create your own fillings, too!

I hope you enjoy this recipe, which I first introduced to you nine years ago! I remade the video in HD and rewrote the recipe, just in time for Chuseok this year.

Happy Chuseok, and enjoy some songpyeon!



  • 3¼ cup short grain rice flour
    (mepssalgaru 멥쌀가루 or ssalgaru 쌀가루), sifted
  • 1 cup blueberries, washed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons yellow water from gardenia fruits
  • hot water
  • kosher salt
  • honey (or sugar)
  • ¼ cup fresh beans (cranberry beans or any fresh beans)
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, ground
  • pine needles, washed and pat-dried with kitchen towel
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

pine needles


Make the white rice cake dough:

  1. Combine 1½ cup rice flour, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ cup hot water in a bowl and mix it with a spoon until the dough is cool enough to knead by hand.
  2. Knead for about 1 minute until smooth.
  3. Roll it into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Set aside.

Make a bit of yellow rice cake dough

  1. Put a little more than 2 tablespoons rice flour and 1½ teaspoons gardenia fruit water into a small bowl. Mix it with a spoon and then roll it into a ball with your fingers.
  2. Wrap it in plastic wrap and set aside.

Make purple rice cake dough

  1. Place 1½ cup rice flour and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat a thick pan over medium high heat and add blueberries. Press and break the blueberries with a potato masher (or a large wooden spoon) as you cook them, until all the berries are broken. Let it bubble for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat. Put it into a mesh strainer over a fitted bowl. Press down and stir it with a wooden spoon to strain. You will get around 3/4 cup of hot blueberry liquid.
  4. Add ¼ cup to the rice flour. Mix it with a wooden spoon until the dough is cool enough to handle by hand.
  5. Knead the dough for about 1 minute until smooth.
  6. Roll it into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Set aside.

Make fillings

  1. Put the beans into a small bowl and mix with 2 teaspoons honey.
  2. Fold the the pine nuts into a piece of parchment paper on your cutting board. Pound the nuts through the paper or roll them with a rolling pin until they’re crushed. Put them into a small bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon honey.
  3. Put the sesame powder in a small bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon honey and pinch of salt.songpyeon materials

Shape songpyeon

  1. Take a piece (about 1 ounce) of white or purple dough and roll it into a ball in your hands.
  2. Work your thumb into the center of the ball to create a small cup out of it. Fill the cup with one of the fillings: beans, sesame seeds, or pine nuts.
  3. Seal it using your thumb and index finger and shape it into a half moon. You can leave it like that, or for some variation you can roll the half moon into a smooth ball and shape a little ridge on the top.
  4. Keep rolling and filling until all the dough is finished, about 12 to 14 songpyeon. Leave about 1 ounce of white and purple dough for flower petals.

How to make rice cake flowers

  1. Take a tiny amount of purple dough, about size of rice grain, and roll it into a ball with your fingers. Press the ball with your thumb and index finger to make a flat petal. Shape it into a petal.
  2. Gently attach the petal to a white songpyeon. Add four more petals to make a flower.
  3. Make a pistil with the yellow dough by rolling tiny amount of the dough and putting it in the center of the petals.
  4. Repeat with the rest of white, purple, and yellow dough.


  1. Add 2 inches of water to a large steamer and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat until we’re ready to steam.
  2. Line the steamer basket with a cotton cloth and fresh pine needles.
  3. Add all the songpyeon and put another cotton cloth on top of the basket and close the lid. This will stop water from dripping on the songpyeon while its being steamed.
  4. Turn on the heat to medium-high and steam for 30 minutes, then for 5 minutes at low heat.
  5. Remove from the heat and uncover. Let them cool for a few minutes, then take them out of the steamer with a spatula and a spoon. Brush each songpyeon with a little bit of toasted sesame oil.songpyeon steamed


  1. Serve them by themselves, or with tea. Keep any leftovers in the freezer when the rice cake is still fresh and soft. When you serve them again thaw them out at room temperature or reheat them in the microwave oven.

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  1. Joongie Love& has 2 comments

    Oh, I never thought of that. ^^ Thank you very much, I will try using that. ^_^ I appreciate the help!

  2. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    Joongie Love,
    How about using dried raisins?

  3. Joongie Love& has 2 comments

    Hi, I have been watching your cooking videos at youtube, and I think you are an excellent cook! You make it a lot easier to make these dishes, and they look so yummy. I have been wanting to try songpyeon for a while now, and I would love to make them on my own to see what they taste like but I don’t have any of the proper fillings. Is there any other sweet filling that I could use other than sesame seed, and bean paste? Thank you!

  4. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    Yes, you can make songpyeon without pine needles.
    “frozen rice powder is made with rice soaked in water and ground.”

    So if you want, soak some short grain rice in water for about 12 hours, drain it, and grind it finely.

    I have never used dried rice powder to make songpyeon, so I can’t give you clear answer.

    Thank you!

  5. Hi Maangchi, thanks for your recipes. I am from Singapore. Lately, I have this keen in trying out to make Korean food at home. By chance I get tof ind your blog and I find it is great. Especially the videos I can learn from your demonstration too. It is great. Thanks so much. There is one question I would like to ask you. I wanted to try out making songpyeon at home. In Singapore I couldn’t find any pine needles. Can I use something else to substitute it or can I omit the pine needles? Beside that, in your recipe you are using frozen rice flour. That day I went to the korean supermarket in Singapore, they do not have frozen rice flour. Can I use the normal rice flour to substitute frozen rice flour? Thanks so much. Hope in future can see more Korean recipes and video demo from your blog. Thanks and wish you all the best.

  6. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    You could use any green vegetable such as spinach.

  7. Just out of curiosity, since mugwort kind of a hard thing to find down here, are there any substitutions I can use? Also are there other types of traditional colors?

  8. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    Interesting! I love steamed rice wrapped and steamed in banana leaves.

  9. I think this is the ricecake I had at the Chuseok celebration at my church. I liked it so much because it reminded me of the Vietnamese Bánh dày my grandma used to make. Only difference was we ate it with a savory Vietnamese pate and steamed them on bannana leaves!

    I think I’ll give this recipe a spin once I get back home from college! Thanks Maangchi!

  10. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    frozen rice powder is made with rice soaked in water and ground. The powder is a little wet, so it has to be kept in the freezer, Otherwise, it will go bad easily.

  11. uberathlete& has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi. I have a question about frozen rice flour. Is there any reason why the rice flour is frozen? In some asian stores they sell rice flour that isn’t frozen. Do they freeze the rice flour to keep it “fresh”. I find that unfrozen rice flour has a certain off-taste.

  12. Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

    To Josh,
    Josh, oh, you are living in Busan now! Yes, the songpyun you made with others sounds very delicious! That’s how my grandmother made! Konggaru (roasted soybean powder) and chapsalgaru (sweet rice powder) are sold in a big grocery store in Korea. Ask a sales clerk to find the ingredients next time you go to lotte mart. Happy chuseok!

    Of course I miss the life in country side. I used to follow my grandmother to pick some green chili pepper, corn, and other vegetables. She prepared simple but the most delicious lunch with the fresh vegetables we picked together. I envy you! : )

    To Jo,
    The rice powder I use in this video is made with short-grain rice. Ask this question in forum in my website. You may get good answer there from others.

  13. Aw adorable outfits ^^

    maybe a silly question, but: can I replace that frozen flour with normal fine rice flour? and should I in that case then get non-glutinous rice flour?

    get a bit confused by the many variations of something so “simple” as rice flour…

  14. has 3 comments

    These look so delicious! You two are also adorable in your traditional dresses. Today I’m going to be making red pepper kimchi with cabbage and daikon from my garden, so I’ll be sure to send you pictures! Maangchi, do you ever miss living in the countryside?

  15. I just made these yesterday! I went to a local temple in Busan and made them with a group of foreigners and Koreans. We steamed them in a huge iron pot over a wood fire. It was great! Yummy!

    I’m having trouble finding ingredients to make your recipes now that I’m in Korea! Isn’t that funny? I go to the local Lotte Mart and I can’t find kong garu or chapssal garu anywhere! Or any large quantities of black sesame seeds, or pine nuts, or big bunches of spinach. I think I need to start shopping at the shijang.

    Happy Chuseok!

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