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Tanghulu Recipe (No-Fail and Stays Crunchy!)

Tanghulu, also known as Chinese Candied fruit, is an irresistible Chinese street food consist of skewered fruit coated in hardened sugar syrup.This creates a sweet crunchy shell around the fruit that makes for the perfect bite every time. This Tangulu recipe is sure to change the way you eat fruit forever.

tanghulu fruit

A favorite among Chinese children and adults. Surprisingly, only a few ingredients are needed to make this tasty treat!

tanghulu candid strawberries on a stick

If you’re looking for a delicious and fun snack, why not try making your own tanghulu at home?

Tanghulu – Chinese Nostalgic Street Food

Legend has it that this dish dates back to Tang Dynasty times. It was originally known as “tang hulu”, meaning “sugar-coated hawthorn fruit”. Today, people of all ages enjoy this dish, and many street food vendors sell it in China. Tanghulu is a delicious and nostalgic treat that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth! There are many different variations of tanghulu with different fruits depending on region and seasonality.

Chinese candy fruit

It’s a popular Chinese street food that consists of candied fruit skewers. By dipping fresh fruit skewers in a hot sugar syrup, once cooled, the sugar hardens into an irresistible crunchy shell.

There are many reasons why tanghulu is so popular. First, the candy is very tasty and sweet. Second, the skewers make it easy to eat on the go. Third, the Hawthorn fruit have many health benefits, such as aiding digestion and helping to reduce cholesterol levels.

strawberry tanghulu on a bamboo stick

Fourth, tanghulu is a fun food to eat. The process of eating the candy off of the skewer is satisfying and enjoyable. Fifth, it’s relatively affordable.

The Science of Cooking Sugar

It can be difficult to work with sugar syrup if you’ve never made it before. Sometimes it helps to understand the science behind Sugar Work.

Sugar is a soluble carbohydrate that consist of two molecules, glucose, and fructose. When dissolved in water, it forms a sticky solution. This is because the sugar molecules will link to each other and form chains. For the chains to break down by the body, they will need an enzyme called sucrose synthase.

Cooking temperature greatly affects the final consistency of sugar. Sugar dissolves slowly at low temperatures and does not crystallize.The term “inverted sugar” refers to this kind of sugar. Candy makers and bakers use it because it does not crystallize.

cooking sugar syrup for candid fruit

At high temperatures, sugar molecules break down and crystallize. It is referred to as “raw sugar” or “crystallized sugar”. The crystals give hard candies a crunchy texture. For making Tanghulu, we’re looking for the temperature range from 149-154°C /300.2-309.2° F.

P.S. If you want to dive even deeper into the science of sugar work? I found this website Food Crumbles has a brilliant and thorough article all about it.

Fruits for Tanghulu

Traditionally, hawthorn is the most popular fruit for Tanghulu in China. This type of fruit is sort of tart and tangy which goes well with the crunchy sweet coating. Don’t worry though if you can’t find hawthorn fruit. You can use candied almost any other fruit to make Tanghulu. My options include Strawberries, Grapes, Tangerine wedges, cherry tomatoes, and Blueberries. Oh, just keep in mind, they have to be firm and fresh.

fruits on bamboo sticks

You can use other fruits as well, the key is little to no moisture. I do not recommend using melons like  Watermelon or Cantaloupe or using other wet fruits like Pineapple, Dragon fruit, Mango, or Kiwi.

The key to perfecting your has to do with how dry your fruit is. Make sure to dry off your fruit completely and then again for a safety measure before you dip it into your sugar syrup. Because of this, the wetter fruits will be really hard to perfect. If you want to try them, I’d wait until you’ve given the recipe a try a few times and feel solid in your technique before branching out to the more difficult fruit.

Out of all the options, my favorite fruit to use is strawberries.

Tanghulu Recipe

In order to make Tanghulu that stays crunchy, I incorporated some ingredient ideas from “Toffee Apples“. That’s why this recipe takes more than just sugar and water. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

tanghulu recipe
  • Fruits– Your choice of fruit, I recommend using strawberries if it’s your first time making this recipe.
  • Organic White Sugar– You can’t make sugar syrup without sugar. Sugar comes in all forms, but Organic White Sugar (castor sugar) is what works best in the recipe to obtain the beautifully clear and glossy look of Tanghulu. Brown sugar is sometimes used for Tanghulu, but I find it doesn’t stay crunchy like white sugar.
  • Water– Just a small amount of water is needed. The water will help the ingredients in your sugar syrup mix together.
  • Cream of Tartar– Adding cream of tartar to your Tanghulu recipe helps to prevent sugar crystals from forming (some people like to use white vinegar). It makes sure the final product is smooth without large crunchy sugar capsules. If you’d like to know more, feel free to check out is cream of tartar vegan?
tanghulu recipe stays crunchy
  • Glucose Syrup– Glucose syrup helps to smooth and thicken your sugar syrup mixture and also helps to bring your mixture up to temperature more quickly (In China, they use maltose). I’ve also tried brown rice syrup and corn syrup a few times before, but I found glucose syrup worked best with this recipe, as it has the closest consistency to maltose syrup.
ingredients to make tanghulu
Agar Agar is made from seaweed, often used for vegan jellies.
  • Agar Agar Powder– Agar Agar powder is the secret ingredient to help your Tanghulu stay hard and crunchy for much longer. I found out this ultimate secret by asking some Chinese street vendors. Why do we need Agar Agar powder for Tanghulu? Often other recipes don’t call for Agar Agar powder and the beautiful hard glossy candied coating starts to melt off the fruit not long after the Tanghulu has been made.
  • Bicarbonate Soda/Baking Soda– Bicarbonate Soda or Baking Soda is a great way to make cleanup fun and easy and allows you to turn your Tanghulu mess into another fun treat! By using sugar science you can create Honeycomb candy which I’ll tell you more about in a moment.

How to make Tanghulu Step by Step

tanghulu recipe
  1. Select fresh strawberries or other suitable fruits, wash them, and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel. Lay the strawberries on bamboo skewers. I’d suggest just 3 of strawberries on one skewer, as too many could become difficult to cover in sugar syrup.
  2. Add organic castor sugar, water, glucose syrup, agar agar powder, and cream of tartar to a saucepan (width: 7″/18cm, height: 6″-7″/15-18cm). Mix all the ingredients well and turn the burner to medium-high. Bring the water and sugar mixture into the pot and bring it to a boil. Once the mixture starts boiling, do not stir to prevent sugar crystallization.
  3. It takes around 10-15 minutes, the bubbles are starting slow down. We can start doing temperature test when sugar syrup starts turning yellowish. Turn the heat to low and using a food thermometer to check. The range of temperature is 149-154°C /300.2-309.2° F (if too low, the sugar will be soft and sticky, if too high, the sugar syrup will start burning and taste bitter). If you do not have a food thermometer, you can use water testing method.
  4. When the syrup reaches the right temperature, turn the heat to low heat. Tilt your saucepan and immerse your fruit skewers into the sugar mixture one by one to coat the fruits until completely covered. Place each fruit skewer on your sheet pan with a parchment paper without overlapping. Sugar coating should harden instantly. Artfully and enjoy every bite!

How to make Tanghulu (Visual Aid)

How to Make Tanghulu Without Thermometer

If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t worry! Alternatively, when you’re cooking the sugar syrup, once your sugar syrup start turning light yellowish, you can start doing ” water-testing”.

the science of cooking
temperature too low
hard crack stage- hard ball candy temperature
Correct temperature

Dip your chopsticks into the syrup slowly, then quickly dip it into a bowl of icy cold water to cool down. If the sugar syrup becomes non-sticky, brittle, and easy to bite, and it is ready.

Note: Be careful when testing, as the syrup will be pipping hot and can easily drip onto your hands.

What to do with Leftover Sugar Syrup?

Like I mentioned above, there is another fun treat with leftover sugar syrup after making Tanghulu, which is Honeycomb candy (Honeycomb Brittle).

honeycomb candy (brittle)
honeycomb candy

You’ll need to make Honeycomb while the sugar syrup is still hot (if not hot, heat it on low until it bubbles again). After you finished the skewered fruit, stir the bicarbonate baking soda in carefully. The bicarbonate soda acts as a catalyst, and the mixture of your sugar syrup creates the airy texture of Honeycomb.

Pour this mixture out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and let it cool completely. Once your Honeycomb has cooled you can break it apart and enjoy.

How to clean your pot after making Tanghulu

There are a couple of ways to clean out your pot after making Tanghulu. One way is to fill your pot with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling it occasionally. The film of sugar will eventually dissolve.

clean a pot with baking soda

Another way is to use a water and bicarbonate mixture. This is especially helpful if some of your sugar syrup has scorched the bottom of your pot. Simply fill your pot with water and mix in some bicarbonate soda. Bring it to a boil for about 20 minutes. By doing this, you will be able to loosen up burnt sugar and make cleanup much easier.

Finally, if you don’t need that pot right away, just fill it up with boiling water and leave it in the sink overnight. Since it’s just sugar syrup, it will dissolve in water again the next day.

How to Store Tanghulu?

If left at room temperature Tanghulu will start to melt. Although Agar Agar Powder helps the Tanghulu last longer without melting, but they should be eaten the same day they are made. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge if not consumed the same day.

Trouble Shooting

Q: Is Tanghulu chewy?

Tanghulu should always be crisp, with an audible crunch when you first sink your teeth in. If it’s 99% there but still a little sticky or chewy, that means the sugar syrup wasn’t heated to the Hard Crack stage during preparation.

Q:  How do I make Tanghulu without themometer?

If you don’t have a thermometer you can do a water test to check if the sugar syrup is ready. Follow these simple steps: drizzle the hot sugar syrup into a bowl of cold water. It should instantly harden into brittle crystal ribbons that easily snap. If the crystals bend, then it isn’t quite ready yet; keep testing at 30-second intervals until it reaches desired consistency. For flawless candy every time, I recommend using a candy thermometer.

Q: Why did my Tanghulu not harden?

If your Tanghulu didn’t harden it’s most likely because you didn’t get the sugar syrup to the correct temperature. You’ll want to check that your thermometer is reading accurately. Make sure that you are heating the sugar syrup up to the Hard Crack stage. Another reason could be too much moisture on your fruit. To solve this, just make sure that you are thoroughly drying off your fruit during preparation.

tanghulu pin

Hope you like these homemade Tanghulu! 😚

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More Vegan Sweets n Baking

tanghulu candid strawberries on a stick

Tanghulu Recipe (No-Fail and Stays Crunchy!)

Tanghulu, also known as Candied fruit, is an irresistible Chinese street food consist of skewered fruit coated in hardened sugar syrup.This creates a sweet crunchy shell around the fruit that makes for the perfect bite every time. Tangulu is sure to change the way you eat fruit forever.
5 from 13 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 10 Sticks
Calories: 167kcal
Author: SHU-CHUN

Ingredients

Suitable Fruits on Bamboo Sticks

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Cherry Tomates

Tanghulu Recipe

Honeycomb

Instructions

  • Select fresh strawberries or other suitable fruits, wash them, and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel. Lay the strawberries on bamboo skewers. I’d suggest just 3 of strawberries on one skewer, as too many could become difficult to cover in sugar syrup.
  • Add organic castor sugar, water, glucose syrup, agar agar powder, and cream of tartar to a saucepan (width: 7"/18cm, height: 6"-7"/15-18cm). Mix all the ingredients well and turn the burner to medium-high. Bring the water and sugar mixture into the pot and bring it to a boil. Once the mixture starts boiling, do not stir to prevent sugar crystallization.
  • It takes around 10-15 minutes, the bubbles are starting slow down. We can start doing temperature test when sugar syrup starts turning yellowish. Turn the heat to low and using a food thermometer to check. The range of temperature is 149-154°C /300.2-309.2° F (if too low, the sugar will be soft and sticky, if too high, the sugar syrup will start burning and taste bitter). If you do not have a food thermometer, you can use water testing method. (Note1)
  • When the syrup reaches the right temperature, turn the heat to low heat. Tilt your saucepan and immerse your fruit skewers into the sugar mixture one by one to coat the fruits until completely covered. Place each fruit skewer on your sheet pan with a parchment paper without overlapping. Sugar coating should harden instantly. Artfully and enjoy every bite!

Notes

(Note1)- If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t worry! When you’re cooking the sugar syrup, once your sugar syrup start turning light yellowish, you can start doing ” water-testing”.
Dip your chopsticks into the syrup slowly, then quickly dip it into a bowl of icy cold water to cool down. If the sugar syrup becomes non-sticky, brittle, and easy to bite, and it is ready.
Note: Be careful when testing, as the syrup will be pipping hot and can easily drip onto your hands.

Nutrition

Serving: 1portion | Calories: 167kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 26mg | Sugar: 41g | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 0.03mg

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