A favorite snack in Northern China, our tanghulu recipe moves beyond traditional hawthorn berries to include strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and more. Tanghulu is sweet, crunchy, and fruity. And it is easier to make at home than you might think.
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I first had tanghulu at a festival. I was memorized as the vendors made tanghulu strawberries. The juicy strawberries were covered in a hard candy shell that snapped when you bit into it.
What is Tanghulu?
Tanghulu is often mistaken for candied fruit. But unlike traditional candied fruit (a la our candied oranges) tanghulu is not soft. In fact, this popular Chinese street food is known for its hard candy shell. It is often referred to as ice candy or glass candy.
A hard-cracking outer sugar shell and soft fresh fruit on the inside. It is a fun treat you will want to make again and again. And this hard cracking noise has become a tiktok trend. How funny!
📖Why This Recipe Works
This recipe is easier than making traditional hard candy at home. A great beginner recipe. Also:
- Does not use corn syrup
- Quick recipe
- Can use any fruit you like
- Can be made without a candy thermometer
- Easy to eat
I serve tanghulu in the traditional way, on a long bamboo stick.
It is a fun addition to any dessert table. I especially love giving tanghulu strawberries on Valentine's Day instead of traditional chocolate-covered strawberries.
The ingredients are simple which is why I think everyone should try making tanghulu at home. For this recipe you need:
- Granulated White Sugar
- Fruit of your choice
Some people use corn syrup to stabilize their sugar mixture. I don't typically have this on hand, so I always make my tanghulu without corn syrup. If you want to use add ¼ cup of corn syrup.
See the recipe card for quantities.
🍓 Best Fruits for Tanghulu
Tanghulu is traditionally made with Chinese hawthorn berries. They are round and red which is why strawberries (stems removed) are the most popular tanghulu fruit.
The best fruits for tanghulu are firm and have smooth outsides and don't brown easily. My suggestions are strawberries, grapes, blueberries, and sliced kiwi.
Raspberries didn't hold up to the weight of the sugar during testing. And blackberries were my favorite flavor-wise, but the bumpy outside made them look less attractive.
⏲️ How to Make Tanghulu
Tanghulu is an easy recipe, but precision is very important to success of this recipe. We need to ensure the fruit is dry and the sugar coating reaches the proper temperature before adding the fruit.
Step 1- Prep Your Fruit
Wash and dry your fruit. Trim and slice as needed. I prefer to trim the tops off of strawberries.
The fruit must be dry for the sugar coating to adhere properly so don't skip the drying process. I like to set it on a baking rack to dry.
Skewer the fruit, only adding as many pieces of fruit as you can dip into the pot.
Step 2- Make the Syrup
Add the sugar and water to your pot. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the thermometer reaches 275 F degrees. Do not stir the mixture.
The hard crack stage is reached, 300° F so begin testing at 275 F to account for variance in your thermometer. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes.
When the sugar water mixture has reached the hard crack stage, turn the temperature down slightly to prevent burning. Dip your fruit skewer into the hot sugar syrup and gently turn to coat the fruit.
Work quickly and allow excess sugar to drip off before setting it on a Silpat or piece of wax paper. The sugar coating should harden almost immediately.
You can also dip the fruit skewers into an ice bath to harden the shell quickly.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- To clean your pot, pour the excess sugar mixture into a can and throw it away. Add water to the pot and bring to a boil. Pour down the sink. Repeat 1 to 2 more times to remove all the hardened sugar.
- For bright red tanghulu strawberries, you can add a few drops of red food coloring to your syrupmixture before dipping in the strawberries.
Because of how hard cleaning up hardened sugar is (see tip above for cleaning your pan), I don't use my reusable skewers for this recipe.
I highly recommend a Silpat. If you don't have one wax paper is the next best choice. And parchment is my least favorite.
I highly recommend a candy thermometer or electric thermometer that goes up past 300 F degrees.
🌡️ Storage and Food Safety
Tanghulu should be eaten the day it is made. The sugar will soften as it is exposed to moisture.
Caution should be used at all times when cooking and handling hot sugar. I like to have a bowl of ice water on hand just in case of accidental exposure. I can dip my hand or finger in immediately.
Use a long bamboo skewer to reduce the chances of burning yourself.
Children can help prep the fruit but should not be involved in the cooking or pouring of the sugar syrup.
More Sweet Snack Recipes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to test for the hard crack stage is to dip a clean spoon into the hot syrup and then dip it into ice water. If it separates into hard, brittle threads that break when bent you are at the hard crack stage.
Tanghulu should not be sticky, it should be like glass on the outside of the fruit. If your fruit is sticky the sugar mixture is still in the soft candy stage and needs to be heated to 300 F degrees.
📖 Printable Recipe Card
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 pound berries or other fruit
- Ice cold water optional
- Wash and dry your fruit. Slice if needed. The fruit must be dry for the sugar coating to adhere properly.1 pound berries or other fruit
- Skewer the fruit, only add as many pieces as you can dip into the pot.
- Add the sugar and water to your pot. Heat over medium heat until the candy thermometer reaches 275 F degrees. Do not stir the mixture. The hard crack stage is reached, 300° F so begin testing at 275 F to account for variance in your thermometer. (see notes). This will take about 10 minutes. Overheating the syrup will burn the candy.2 cups granulated sugar, 1 cup water
- When the sugar and water mixture has reached the desired temperature, turn the temperature down slightly to prevent burning. Dip your fruit skewer into the sugar mixture, and gently turn the skewer to coat the fruit.1 pound berries or other fruit
- Work quickly and allow excess sugar to drip off before setting on your prepared wax paper or silpat. The sugar coating should harden almost immediately.Ice cold water
- To check the hard candy stage without a thermoeter, dip a wooden skewer in the sugar and then dip it immediately into cold water. If it hardens the sugar is ready.
- When making tanghulu strawberries vendors often add a few drops of red food coloring to the sugar for a deeper color. Adding red dye is optional.
- I highly recommend a silpat or wax paper for cooling the candied fruit. Alternatively, you can use parchment paper but it might stick.
- Some recipes call for dipping the candy into a glass of cold water. You can do this if you find the candy is too sticky when you remove it from the sugar.