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. mokpochica Michigan joined 1/09 & has 89 comments

    We made these tonight with regular rice flour (we didn’t have any frozen at home). We added a lot more water to the dough than called for, but I think they turned out well. Luckily my husband has made songpyeon with my Mother-in-law before so he knew the consistency that the dough should be.

    I used red and green food coloring for the dough. It turned out pretty bright so I had to tone it down with the white songpyeon dough. So we ended up with just pink and green songpyeon. I will try the jello powder next time.

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

      awesome news! Your husband must be really interested in getting involved with making delicious food! Making good food together makes happy family! Jello powder sounds good. Let me know the result and upload the photo on my website if you can.

  2. 안녕 maangchi!!!
    i find your site by accident i am 25 from greece and my loving omma was korean
    송편 was my favorite dish!!!when koreans were more here every september they celebrate and made it…unfortunately its been 18years since i ate it!!!!
    do you knowhow can i have the ingredients here in greece???please???

  3. skt joined 9/10 & has 1 comment

    hi maangchi – my husband and i love your site and have made a ton of your recipes! for chuseok, i thought i’d try to make my own songpyeon with your help. unfortunately, it didn’t work out. the dduk consistency was a little weird and all the songpyeon deflated in shape when steamed — they all just looked flat and smushed. any thoughts? i want to try again so i can make it well for next chuseok!

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

      The dough must have been too wet. Did you add hot water when you knead the dough? If so, add less hot water and knead longer until the dough gets smooth so that it won’t fall apart when you steam it.

  4. Lynn4949 Singapore joined 4/10 & has 8 comments

    Hi Maangchi,
    Thank you for sharing the recipes with us.
    In your kimchi’s recipe, the ingredient of sweet rice flour is glutinous rice flour, right? Then how about the rice flour in the recipes of Rainbow Rice Cake and Rice Cake (songpyeon)? Is the must to use Frozen Rice Flour? Is not easy to get these ingredients in Singapore, can I use those normal Rice Flour? Noted from Wan’s comments, she used the glutinous rice flour to make the songpyeon and turn out successful, wanted to know are the other ingredients’ meaurement unchanged? Thank you.

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

      My answers:

      1, yes, glutinous rice flour is sweet rice flour called chapssal in Korean.

      2. For rainbow rice cake, you have to use rice flour made with short-grain rice which is soaked overnight and ground finely. Normal rice flour (dried)won’t be cooked properly even though you steam it for hours and hours.

      The reason I use frozen rice flour sold at a Korean grocery store is that it is pre-soaked and ground. The rice flour is wet, so it has to be kept in the freezer. Otherwise it will go bad easily.

      So if you want, make your own wet rice flour!

  5. Dee202 joined 6/10 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi..

    I will be experimenting with the process of making the songpyun. This will be my first attempt and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THEM already made! I do, however, have one question. I went to the Korean store and bought the frozen rice flour. It comes in Sweetened and UNsweetened. I didn’t know which to buy. What do you suggest? *btw, I picked up ONE bag of each because I want to make these sooooo bad!

    Thank you

  6. justineee Washington joined 3/10 & has 5 comments

    Hey! I made this with all different colors of jello and i made a songpyeon cake for my sisters birthday! It was so cute! And i also found out (by accident) that if you put some of the jello powder into the filling it adds a nice fruity taste! Im 100% south korean so these recipes bring back happy memories. Thank you so much Maangchi!

    ~ Justine

  7. HeeYoun Seattle, WA joined 3/10 & has 2 comments

    I bought rice flour to try these out, but it wasn’t korean, I believe it was made in thailand. I assumed that It’d be the same since it was the only rice flour I could find at the grocery store. When I added the three tablespoons of water it remained crumbly. So I added some more water. Eventually it did ball up, but it wouldn’t stretch very well, it seemed to break apart very easily. I’m guessing I got the wrong kind of rice flour.

    I was also wondering about how long did you have to kneed the rice flour and water before it turned into dough?

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

      Heeyoun, you must have been frustrated when you tried to make this rice cake! But all answers to your questions are in the recipe right on this page!
      You have to get rice flour made with short grain rice and sold in the freezer section because it’s a little wet.

  8. yashi London, UK joined 2/10 & has 5 comments

    Ah I went to my Korean grocery shop last week in C.London, and I bought this platter of different ddeok! It was delicious and they had these cute songpyeon which were slightly bigger than marbles and they were coloured pink, yellow and green on one side and white on the other!^^
    Now I have some idea of the texture when I try to make it ^^

  9. wan Singapore joined 1/10 & has 7 comments

    HI Maangchi,
    thank you for all the hard work you have put in so that we can have korean food. I made the songpyeon using glutinous rice flour (the only short grain rice flour I can find here) and it turned out great. We were eating it as fast as we could make it. My mother-in-law loved it too. After cooling it didn’t turn hard either! thanks again!

  10. Hi there! I just want to ask is this the same as Manna Tteokjib? I would like to make it but I can’t find a recipe. Can you help me? Thanks ^^

  11. Foods from Korea , Japan and Vietnam are so much better than food over here (north America) T.T. Is there a Korean version of Vietnamese Pho that you know Maangchi?I would love to learn how to cook it.

  12. So, the cotton cloth you use to steam the rice cake, can I just use a clean kitchen towel?

  13. Eun Young& has 2 comments

    What a great video. I appreciate the time you two took to make and post this video. I plan on making songpyun this weekend! Thanks!

  14. hi im mira from athens greece, im glad that i found your site, i enjoying your cooking demo, and trying to cook every recipe that you making. anyway more power to your cooking site,. if you dont mind send me of your recipe in my email (,thank you…

  15. i made them, but they turned out tough ;__; i don’t know why. Is it because i steamed them in a rice cooker?

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