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. Hi Maangchi, do you have any other recipes that you could share that requires mugwort powder? Or do you know how to store them or any tips to keep them edible for longer? I’m afraid that most of it will go to waste after the expiry date if I only need to use 1 teaspoon for this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing so many great recipes! ^^ Sarah x

  2. Benjamin887 Brossard, Montréal, Canada joined 6/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi! I have a question for you. I have tried many times making songpyeon for Chuseok. The dough was always cracking and was not smooth. Is it because my rice flour was not fine enough (I made homemade Korean rice flour using sushi rice and maybe it was not as fine as it should be)? Can you give me advices to avoid my dough from cracking please?
    Thank you and I hope to improve my songpyeons before Chuseok ;)

  3. MeeAe Colorado joined 2/13 & has 11 comments

    Happy Chuseok! Maangchi thanks for the advice about the Kkaktugi, it turned out beautifully this time, no funny smell. About the Songpyeon–the dough was kind of cracking while I was shaping them, even tho I added a little more water and kept it moist. Is this normal? Btw I made pink color with hot cranberry juice instead if water because I had it in my fridge and it was pretty! Is the dough supposed to be kind of cracking?

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

      Happy Chuseok! : )
      “Is the dough supposed to be kind of cracking?” Did you use very hot boiling water when you made the dough? If you did, you should knead the dough longer until the texture is very smooth just like playdough.

  4. iluvmaangchi Vancouver joined 8/13 & has 3 comments

    Mmm…..this is one of my favorite Korean desserts!! Thanks so much for sharing Maangchi! :D

  5. christinajin Puyallup, WA joined 5/13 & has 2 comments

    I love your website! I am half Korean and grew up eating Korean food on special occasions. This made me think that Korean food was difficult or time consuming, so I was always hesitant to learn. After finding your website, I cook Korean food every day! Thank you so much for making learning so easy and fun! Keep up the good work!
    P.S: what is the difference between songpyun and gyepiddeok?

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

      “..After finding your website, I cook Korean food every day!..” I’m so happy to hear that! : )
      The texture and the taste of songpyeon and gaepiddeok are different. Songpyeon is a little harder and chewier than gaepiddeok. And Songpyeon, shaped with rice flour dough, is steamed. The filling is usually cooked beans or sesame seed powder.

      Gaepiddeok is made with cooked rice cake stretched thinly, and sweet red bean paste is inside. The shape is a half moon. I will post my gaepiddeok recipe someday.

  6. Bia-Unnie Brasil joined 8/12 & has 1 comment

    Mangchi, can I replace: Frozen rice flour, sesame seeds, sesame oil, dried and skinned mung beans, pine needles, mugwort powder, strawberry Jell-o powder
    with any other ingredients?

  7. shikiziika philippines joined 9/12 & has 1 comment

    hi . what are the alternatives or substitute for mung beans,pine needles,jello and mugwort powder ? ?because those are not available here. thanks :)

  8. Maangchi, I have a question, I was thinking about making this desert for a long time, but could not get all the ingredients. Well, finally I found almost everything, but I am little bit confused, you said that rice flour needs to be frozen, but when I asked in the grocery store they showed me exactly this flour but not the frozen one and they said yes this flour is for songpyon. So do I need to freeze it before I use it, or its just the wrong stuff? Also, really dumb question, where do i get pine needles? Grocery store didnt have it, do i just get it from regular tree? :) where I live we have lots of those trees……. Thank you

  9. jaylivg Houston joined 7/10 & has 107 comments

    Maangchi , i bought this yesterday from the grocery store .. just wondering , is it supposed to be a little on the chewy side ?? thanks !

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

      You mean it was too chewy and hard? Any type of rice cake gets hard in several hours after it is made. We usually keep the leftover rice cake, when it’s still fresh, in the freezer. When you eat it later, you can thaw it out at room temperature, reheat it in the microwave oven, or steam it again.

  10. eera94 kuala lumpur joined 12/11 & has 7 comments

    is it different between frozen rice flour and rice flour ?? And can i just use sweet rice flour?

  11. karmijo Belle Fourche, SD joined 9/11 & has 2 comments

    MMM I love them and I remember when I was a kid they had this one with sesame seed with the sweet liquid oh I miss them can you tell me what is that sweet liquid?
    thanks Kim

  12. Charmaine Singapore joined 6/11 & has 18 comments

    Hello. Hm, I have been finding frozen rice flour, but can’t seem to find it. Can I use other rice flour?

  13. Stellalicious New York joined 8/11 & has 1 comment

    Can I use green tea (matcha) powder instead of mugwort powder?

  14. KimHyunJoongieLover United States joined 6/11 & has 3 comments

    Hi!! I was wondering that if I bought the sweetened frozen rice flour, then would the songpyeon with the mung bean filling be too sweet? Maybe I should lessen the amount of sugar to the mung beans?

    Thank you~

  15. Hyunjin joined 5/11 & has 3 comments

    Can I use red been filling instead of sesame seeds and mung beans?

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