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Honey Pistachio Mooncake Recipe: A Twist on Tradition

Let’s celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with this Honey Pistachio Mooncake Recipe -a great twist on a traditional favorite! There are many types of traditional mooncakes. You can find ones filled with lotus seed, red bean, green tea, salted egg yolks or mixed nuts. As I am more American than Chinese, I like to adapt my recipes to Western tastes.  I’ll give a link at the end of the post for traditional mooncake recipes. 

overhead shot of golden baked chinese honey pistachio mooncakes, with pistachios, and honey in accompanying bowls, with chinese red packets, and a rabbit button next to the cakes

What are Chinese Mooncakes?

Chinese mooncakes are traditional pastries enjoyed during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is one of the most important festivals in Chinese culture. These little jewel box  treats celebrate your family and friends getting together while taking in the cool vibes of the full moon. Mooncakes are known for their intricate designs and their rich, dense fillings.

three honey pistachio mooncakes on a rectangular platter viewed from above

Recipe Inspiration

Mooncakes were something that I would see on our family trips into Chicago Chinatown, when I was growing up in Indiana. My mom was a Chinese Cooking instructor for the Indiana University Extension program.  I, truthfully, didn’t enjoy Mooncakes when I was a child, because I was only exposed to those with salted egg yolk in the middle.  The mixture of savory and sweet didn’t appeal to me.  In fact, I still only eat egg whites, and won’t eat boiled egg yolk, even 60 years later!

So, let’s try a mooncake that is almost like candy.  I have such a sweet tooth. I know you’ll love this honey pistachio mooncake. It’s not overly sweet, and has the richness of honey, and the crunchy savoriness (is that a word?) of the nuts. For my adaptation,  I tried making Kristina Cho’s recipe  (paywall) several times. Unfortunately, whether it was the weather or the flour, my pastry kept falling apart, it was too soft.  So, with the dough  I’m making a small change with big impact, using a blend of bread flour and cake flour.  So, hey, LET’S GOOO! explore this delicious recipe!

Kristina Cho's Mooncakes and Milk Bread cookbook

Why Make Honey Pistachio Mooncakes?

Making your own Honey Pistachio Mooncakes is a fun little project.  Don’t you love the freshness of homemade goodies? I’m all about texture too.  I always want to eat food (and desserts are food too!) that have a lot of variation of textures. These mooncakes are not only sweet and crunchy,  the blend of bread flour and cake flour gives the mooncake a lighter, fluffier texture compared to using all-purpose flour.  Bread flour gives a structure to the pastry, but cake flour gives it a tenderness. They balance each other for a perfect texture!

wide shot of the honey pistachio mooncakes with pistachios and honey in bowls to the side, and red chinese money packets and a rabbit button to the side

Variations for Mooncake Fillings

While we’re baking up honey and pistachios in this recipe, try whatever your favorite nuts are.  I’ve used salted peanuts before, which is great because the salt and sweet is a nice combo. How about something luxurious like macadamias, or cashews?  What is your favorite nut?  I mentioned before that traditional mooncakes can be filled with a variety of ingredients such as red bean paste, lotus seed paste, and even salted duck eggs. Here’s a link to a recipe that steps you through more traditional fillings. Feel free to experiment and find your favorite combination!

Ingredients and Substitutions

For this Honey Pistachio Mooncake recipe, you’ll need:

  • Honey
  • Unsalted Pistachios (shelled of course)
  • Bread Flour – I like King Arthur
  • Cake Flour – I use Swans Down
  • Grapeseed Oil or other neutral oil like canola, or vegetable
  •  Golden Syrup ( I use Lyle’s that I found in a little British store in Los Angeles, but you can get it on Amazon )
  • Chinese Alkaline Water  helps with making the mooncakes shiny and golden. 
  • Coconut oil
  • Cornstarch to give  the filling a smoothness
  • Salt
  • Egg for the egg wash to give the mooncakes a golden brown color

How to Form the Honey Pistachio Mooncakes

  1.  Make the dough by mixing the flours, oil, golden syrup and alkaline water together. Set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes. 
  2. Then, make the Filling by pulsing the pistachios with the honey, golden syrup,  coconut oil, cornstarch and salt until you can press the mixture into a ball.
pistachios, honey, golden syrup cornstarch and salt in a food processor ready to mix

3. After, roll the filling into 12 balls and set aside until the dough is rolled out.
4.  Next, roll the dough into 4 inch circles.
5.  Then, place the pistachio honey filling into the middle of a dough circle.

a ball of pistachio and honey filling placed on a rolled out 4" disc of dough

6. Gather the dough around the filling, smooth and put onto a baking sheet covered in parchment.
7. Then, once all the dough balls are ready, flour the mooncake mold, and put a ball in.

a mooncake ball put into the floured mooncake mold

8. Next, turn the mold over, flat side against the board, and gently push the plunger down, so the mold presses the flower pattern into the ball, and forms the mooncake shape.

a hand pressing the mooncake mold to form the mooncake

9. Finally, lift the mold up, and press the plunger so the mooncake comes out into your hand. Success, and Beauty!!

 

a mooncake coming out of the mold
a perfect flower honey pistachio mooncake just out of the mooncake mold press in my hand

10.  Bake the mooncakes at 350F for 10 minutes until slightly golden.
11. Take them out of the oven for 10 minutes to cool, before brushing with the egg wash.  (You don’t want the egg to cook on the mooncakes right out of the oven.)

egg wash being put on a half baked honey pistachio mooncake

12. Put the mooncakes back in the oven until golden brown.

upclose of seven gorgeous honey pistachio mooncakes shiny and golden sitting on a small turquoise cake plate, with chinese money packets, a bowl of pistachios and a dish of honey on the concrete counter below

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What if I don’t have cake and bread flour? Can I use all purpose flour?
A:  So, even though using a blend of bread and cake flour in the Honey Pistachio Mooncake recipe results in a delicate yet structured pastry, you can use AP flour.  While you’re using AP flour, if the pastry is too dry and crumbly, add a tsp of oil at a time, and knead in.  If the pastry is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time. 

Q:  Can I use other nuts in this recipe?
A:   Absolutely!  Live it up! Experiment with different nuts like almonds, walnuts, or even macadamias or cashews for variations in flavor and texture!

Q: How do I store the mooncakes?
A:  Store the mooncakes in an airtight container at room temperature.  They actually develop flavor and the pastry becomes more tender over a few days!

Celebrate good times, come on! (who knows that reference?)

Join me on this super fun baking adventure and celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with this super yummy Honey Pistachio Mooncake recipe. With a sweet and nutty filling and a perfect pastry texture, these mooncakes are going to be awesome for your next celebration!

Watch how to make these Honey Pistachio Mooncakes

Play Video about overhead shot of golden baked chinese mooncakes, with pistachios, and honey in accompanying bowls, with chinese red packets, and a rabbit button next to the cakes
overhead shot of golden baked chinese honey pistachio mooncakes, with pistachios, and honey in accompanying bowls, with chinese red packets, and a rabbit button next to the cakes
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Honey Pistachio Mooncakes

Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time20 minutes
Rest time55 minutes
Total Time2 hours 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: asian cuisine, Asian Desserts, Chinese Dessert, Chinese Traditional Food, Honey Pistachio, Honey PIstachio Mooncakes, MId-Autumn Festival, Mooncakes
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Carole Yu

Ingredients

Dough Ingredients

Filling Ingredients

  • cup pistachios roasted and unsalted
  • 80 g honey (¼ cup)
  • 25 g coconut oil (2 tbsp)
  • 10 g cornstarch (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoon tap water

Instructions

Dough

  • In a large bowl, mix up your flours, oil, golden syrup and alkaline water.
  • Stir the ingredients until you get a rough dough, that is not fully mixed, with a somewhat uneven texture and appearance.
  • Then, knead the dough by hand until it is smooth, well-mixed, and holds its shape. This shows that the ingredients have been well-incorporated and the gluten has partially developed.
  • Shape the dough into a bulky frisbee shape, wrap it up in plastic, and then leave it to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Oven

  • Preheat the oven to 350℉ and place parchment paper on a large baking tray.

Filling

  • Using a food processor or blender, process the pistachios until they reach a coarsely ground texture.
  • Add the honey, coconut oil, cornstarch, and salt and pulse 2 or 3 times.
  • The filling will be crumbly, but when you press, it will stick together.
  • If you process it too much, you could get pistachio butter, so be light with your grinding.
  • Separate the filling into 12 even portions and then use your hands to roll each into a ball.

Shaping the mooncakes

  • Once the dough has sat out for 45 minutes, divide it into 12 equal pieces, and then use your hands to roll each into a dough ball.
  • One at a time, flatten the dough ball and roll out into a 4-inch circle.
  • If it sticks, while you're rolling it out, toss out a little flour and dust the dough.
  • Use the bench scraper to lift up each piece when it's circular.
  • Put a ball of the filling into the middle of the dough circle, and gently push the dough up. Pinch it so it totally encases the filling.
  • Smooth over any cracks and then use your hands to roll each dough/filling into a ball.

Baking the mooncakes

  • Put the finished balls onto the baking sheet, separating by at least 2 inches.
  • Prep the mooncake mold by sprinkling it with flour.
  • Set the ball in the mold, put the mold flat side against your board, or table, and push the plunger gradually so the dough is pressed against the mold. Do not press too hard as the filling can squeeze out of the dough.
  • Once all the mooncakes are made, bake until they are slightly golden, from 10-12 minutes.
  • Then, remove the sheet from the oven and let them hang out on the sheet for 10 minutes
  • Then, mix the egg and the tap water together, and lightly brush the mooncakes with the mixture.
  • Put the sheet back in the oven and bake until the mooncakes are a golden brown from 10-12 minutes.
  • After they come out of the oven, pop the sheet onto a wire rack. You can let the mooncakes cool on the sheet.
  • Keep the mooncakes in a sealed container at room temperature for several days; the dough will become softer, making them ready to eat after this period.
  • If they even last, you can store the mooncakes at room temp, or in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Notes

The mooncake mold recommended in the equipment section will make 12 small mooncakes from this recipe.  The diameter of the molds is about 2". There are also large mooncake molds which you could also use. In which case, this recipe would yield 6 large mooncakes. 

Check out these other delicious dessert recipes

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Scott Stewart

    5 stars
    This look so good!!! Great job!!!

  2. Inez Lindsey

    5 stars
    Hi Carole, As much as I like mooncakes the gift boxes are expensive and also if they are bakery made. Thanks for the easy recipe. Inez Lindsey

    1. Carole Yu

      That’s awesome that you found me. Yes, it’s a delish recipe and relatively easy. Let me know if you make them, I’d love to see if you post on IG with #YuCanCook

5 from 3 votes (1 rating without comment)

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