Songpyeon (Half-moon Shaped Rice Cake)

Songpyeon is a must-have Chuseok delicacy. These little rice cakes are stuffed with sweet fillings. Learn how to make songpyeon with natural food coloring options!

Korean half-moon shape rice cakes in yellow, green and white colors 

What is Chuseok

Chuseok (추석) is coming up! It’s one of the two most celebrated traditional holidays together with the lunar New Year Day (Seollal, 설날). Also referred to as Hangawi (한가위), it falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month – the same day many Asian countries celebrate a Mid-Autumn Festival. Families gather and celebrate the year’s harvest, giving thanks to their ancestors. Women of the house work hard for days leading up to this day to prepare a sumptuous holiday feast. See my 15 Chuseok recipes. In Korea, Chuseok is celebrated over 3 days. 

What is songpyeon

Songpyeon (송편) is a must-have Chuseok delicacy. These small half-moon shaped rice cakes (tteok, 떡) are stuffed with sweet fillings such as sweetened sesame seeds and traditionally steamed on a bed of pine needles. The name songpyeon stems from the use of pine needles, because “song” in “songpyeon” means pine tree. 

Songpyeon recipe (how to make Korean half-moon shaped rice cake)

These little rice cakes are near and dear to my heart, bringing back so many fond memories of this special holiday. A couple of days in advance, we would go to the nearby woods to pick pine needles. Making songpyeon was so much fun!

I remember the excitement I had sitting in front of several colorful huge heaps of dough – as if I was like a child sitting in front of big piles of play dough. But, shaping and stuffing these little guys was also a serious business. There was always a little unannounced competition among us – whose songpyeon looked the best.

My mother used to say I would have a pretty daughter because my songpyeon was pretty. She was right! I developed this recipe, so you can start making these at home, creating a new family tradition and build special memories.

Songpyeon in three colors

How to make songpyeon

Songpyeon dough: Songpyeon is made with short grain rice powder (쌀가루), NOT glutenous (sweet rice) powder (찹쌀가루). Traditionally, Korean home cooks soak short grain rice overnight, drain, and then take to a gristmill to get it ground into fine powder.

While that’s clearly not an option around here, there are bags of frozen wet rice powder for making rice cake (tteok) sold in the freezer section in Korean grocery stores.

I use boiling hot water to make the dough, and then knead until the dough is nice and soft. The longer you knead, the chewier the texture of the rice cake will be.

Natural food coloring: Songpyeon dough is typically flavored and colored with natural ingredients such as mugwort, kabocha, and dried fruit powders.  This recipe shows how to use mugwort powder and kabocha, I also played around with different natural food coloring and came up with a couple of other colors. You can choose any number of options I’ve given here, or use your own food coloring options. Also see my Beet songpyeon recipe for vibrant red color. 

Songpyeon filling: The most common filling is made with sweetened sesame seeds. Black soybeans and mung beans are also traditional. This recipe shows how to make it with sesame seeds.  

How to shape songpyeon

1. Tear off a small piece of the dough enough to make roughly 1-inch ball. Roll tightly between your palms to shape a ball. 2. Make a well in the ball by pressing into it with your thumb, and press outwards, with both of your thumbs, on the inside walls of the well to slightly expand the opening. 3. Place 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the well. 4. Seal tightly by squeezing the edges together. 5. Squeeze the whole rice cake lightly in your palm to firm it up. 6. Gently roll between your palms to smooth out the surface. 7. Shape it into a nice crescent shape by pinching the long ends with your thumb and index finger. 8. Pinch along the side to create a wing. 

the steps to shape and fill songpyeon

This recipe was originally posted in September 2012. I’ve updated it here with new photos, created a recipe card with minor changes to the recipe. 

More Chuseok holiday recipes:

Modeumjeon (Fish, Shrimp and Zucchini Pan-fried in Egg Batter)
Galbijjim (Braised Short Ribs)
Japchae (Stir-Fried Starch Noodles with Vegetables)
Nokdujeon (Savory Mung Bean Pancakes)
Sanjeok (Skewered Rice Cake with Beef and Vegetables)
Radish Soup (Mu Guk/Moo Guk)
15 Chuseok Recipes for more.

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Songpyeon recipe (how to make Korean half-moon shaped rice cake)

4.8 from 5 votes
Korean half-moon shape rice cakes in yellow, green and white colors
Songpyeon (half-moon shaped rice cakes)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
 

Songpyeon is a must-have Chuseok delicacy. These little rice cakes are stuffed with sweet fillings. Learn how to make songpyeon with natural food coloring options!

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Asian, Korean
Keyword: chuseok, Korean rice cake, sesame seeds, songpyeon
Servings: 4 per batch
Author: Hyosun
Ingredients
Rice Powder (ssalgaru)
  • 2 cups wet rice powder per batch (about 16 songpyeon) 쌀가루 or 쌀떡가루 - a 2 pound-bag yields a little more than 6 cups (3 batches) - note
  • 4 to 5 ounces pine needles rinsed 2 – 3 times and air or pat dry (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Natural color option (pick any for each batch):
Basic (white dough)
  • 2 cups wet rice powder thawed to room temperature if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1 or 2 teaspoons boiling hot water
Green dough
  • 2 cups frozen rice powder thawed to room temperature if frozen
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons mugwort (ssuk garu, 쑥가루) or matcha/green tea powder
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 or 2 teaspoons boiling hot water
Yellow dough
  • 2 cups frozen rice powder thawed to room temperature if frozen
  • 1/3 cup cooked steaming hot kabocha, (danhobak, 단호박) 1/4 small kabocha steamed in microwave for about 5 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 or 2 teaspoons boiling hot water
Purple dough
  • 2 cups frozen rice powder thawed to room temperature if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1 or 2 teaspoons boiling hot blueberry juice 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries finely pureed with 1/2 cup water, strained and boiled
Pink dough
  • 2 cups frozen rice powder thawed to room temperature if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons raspberry juice 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries finely pureed with 1/2 cup water, strained, and boiled
Filling: fills about 16 (one batch)
  • 1/3 cup roasted sesame seeds
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • pinch salt
Instructions
Dough:
  1. For each type of dough, sift the rice powder into a bowl. Prepare the flavoring and liquid ingredients (water/juice/mugwort powder/kabocha) for each selected color of dough. Add the specified amount of the solid and/or liquid (making sure it’s boiling hot) to the rice powder, quickly stirring them in with a spoon. (Tip: Hold a teaspoon or two of the liquid and make sure more liquid is needed before adding it.)

    Songpyeon dough made with kabocha
  2. Knead, pressing and stretching with the heel of the hand. Fold and rotate the dough. Repeat the kneading process for 4 to 5 minutes. (If the dough sticks to your hands or the bowl after some kneading, it’s too wet. Add more rice powder in 1 tablespoon increments. If the dough breaks easily or is too stiff, it’s too dry. Add more boiling hot water in 1 teaspoon increments.)

    Kneading songpyeon dough
  3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
    Songpyeon dough resting
Filling:
  1. Roughly grind the sesame seeds in a grinder or blender. Add the sugar, honey and pinch of salt. Mix everything well together until the sugar and honey are evenly distributed.

    sesame seed filling for songpyeon
Assemble:
  1. To assemble, tear off a small piece of the dough enough to make roughly 1-inch ball. Roll tightly between your palms to shape a ball.
    shaping songpyeon dough
  2. Make a well in the ball by pressing into it with your thumb, and press outwards, with both of your thumbs, on the inside walls of the well to slightly expand the opening.
    Songpyeon dough
  3. Place 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the well. Seal tightly by squeezing the edges together. Squeeze the whole rice cake lightly in your palm to firm it up, and then gently roll between your palms to smooth out the surface. Shape it into a nice crescent shape. Pinch along to create a wing. Repeat until all the dough/filling is used.

    Songpyeon filling
Steam and finish:
  1. Boil water in a steamer. Place a thin layer of pine needles or a damp kitchen cloth on the steamer insert. Boil the water over high heat. When it starts to steam, place the rice cakes on the steamer insert without the pieces touching one another. Cover with a thin layer of pine needles, if available. Cover and steam for about 20 minutes.
    Steaming songpyeon
  2. Prepare a big bowl of cold water. Using a long-handed spoon or tong, remove the rice cakes from the steamer. Drop them in the cold water for a quick rinse, removing all the pine needles. Transfer the rice cakes to a colander to drain. Lightly coat your hands with the sesame oil and rub the oil on the rice cakes in batches. Serve warm or at room temperature
    rinsing songpyeon
Recipe Notes

Wet rice powder/flour is usually sold in the frozen section of Korean markets. 

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Comments

  1. These are really beautiful sweet treats, Hyosun. Even if I tried very hard I would never obtain such neat, equally shaped rice cakes. Not to mention their consistency which I’m sure is perfect. Happy Chuseok!

  2. I bought some Songpyun at the orean grocery store yesterday. I should have make some but didn’t have time. Your songdyoun looks gorgeous, Hyosun. Happy “Chuseok” to you and your family. Enjoy the full moon and make a great wish!

  3. What beautiful photos, and thank you for sharing this recipe and helpful photos! I love your natural food coloring! I wish I had all the ingredients and equipment on hand to try this out–well, if I ever do have the opportunity to make this, I now know where to find a good recipe! 추석 잘 보내세요!

  4. My Little Space says

    Oh wow, this is something I’ve been planning to make long time ago and you’ve all the details here. Thanks so much for sharing it. Happy Mid Autumn Festival to you too!
    Blessings, Kristy

  5. This is so pretty!!! I love Asian sweets as it’s not so sweet and it’s always subtle beauty. Happy Mid Autumn Festival to you!!

  6. Looks so pretty, first time seeing something like this.

  7. This is easiest Songpyeon recipe EVER! Thank you so much for sharing! Next Chuseok, I will surprise my mother-in-law with some well made songpyeon!

    • Thank you, Anonymous! I know your mother-in-law will be so proud of you if you make these. Both my mother and mother-in-law were very impressed with these.

  8. 효선 씨, thank you for the recipe. 추석 잘 보내세요. Sorry for the late wishes.

  9. Your blog is very unique and articulated lorry especially pictures. I really enjoyed your articles too. Ms. Ro.

  10. What a wonderful blog! I had a question about the shelf life of these rice cakes. I was given a box after celebrating a boy’s dol and they were so delicious but went stale and dry after one day. Is there anything I can do to make them edible again? Next time how should they be stored to make them last longer?

    • Thank you, Rosa! Rices cakes are best to be eaten within a day. If they are hard next day, you can steam or microwave them. They will get soft again. Keep them in the fridge if you’re going to eat in a few days. Otherwise, freeze them. You can steam or microwave to reheat. Cover with a soaked wet paper towel or napkin if using a microwave. It will prevent the rice cakes from drying out. Hope this helps.

    • Thank you so much for your response – that was very helpful!

  11. do they sell this in korea any day other than chuseok?

  12. I would like to try making this too! But is it okay to not include pine needles at all?

  13. oh so nice and delicious i want to make right now..

  14. Does the filling come out liquidy when it’s done? I tried a rice cake with filling that seemed to have sesame oil and something sweet…maybe honey, but it wasn’t as thick as honey?

  15. Denise Glenna says

    Hello
    I would like to purchase some purple rice powder by the bulk for cooking and eating can you give me some ideas in where I can buy this product.
    Thank you

  16. I decided to surprise my husband this Chuseok and I’m gonna try to prepare Songpyeong, Yaksik and Chalssaltteok… Let’s see the results… 🙂

  17. Looking at this recipe to get ready for tomorrow’s Chuseok and feeling inspired. I love all your creative ideas to get natural food colorings in the rice dough. Thank you so much, always!!

  18. Alba Morales de jung says

    Que delicias las recetas koreanas

  19. wow! i really love the look of your site. i came across it looking for a korean birthday cake. 🙂

  20. Hi! I’m making these for a school project and I have a few questions. First of all, How long would you recommend storing these? And will they stick together when you store them? It would be great if you could respond ASAP. Thank you so much!

    • Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I was busy with the family over the holidays. You can first freeze on a tray/dish without pieces touching, and then keep them in a freezer bag. This way, they won’t stick together. Songpyeon can keep well for a few months in the freezer.

  21. These look delicious . Where can you find pine needles? Can you take them off your trees and just rinse them first?

  22. These look delicious . Can you remove pine needles from your own tree and just rinse them before using/

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