Crunchy, sweet, and packed with delicious candied strawberries, my version of the Northern Chinese tanghulu is low-effort, high-impact cooking at its finest. Enjoy a strawberry tanghulu or make other candied fruit.
You’ve probably seen tanghulu fruit – or candied fruit – all over Instagram and TikTok, where everything from candied grapes to crunchy strawberries is coated in a sweet sugar syrup, left to harden, and put on a bamboo stick. And while I can’t whisk you to China for a taste of covered tonghulu, I can introduce you to my tanghulu recipe.
Strawberry tanghulu – my favorite – is so versatile. You can serve the glazed strawberries as a delicious dessert, midday snack, or even just on their own. I love them with a glass of my favorite bubble tea for a real boost of natural sweetness.
What Is Tanghulu
Street food from Northern China, this fruit snack is said to date back centuries. More specifically, to the Guanzhong region during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Tanghulu was believed to have been created for the wife of a member of the dynasty. A folk doctor was enlisted to create a snack that would help her gain weight, so he covered pieces of fruit – traditionally, hawthorn – in sugar syrup.
Since then, this tanghulu recipe has become more and more popular. And nowadays, you can find all sorts of tanghulu fruit and tons of candied fruit recipes – crunchy strawberries, candied grapes, and other sugar-glazed fruit.
What Is Tanghulu Made of
- Sugar: Use white granulated sugar over other kinds for a stronger syrup.
- Water: Fresh drinking water.
- Fruit: You don’t have to make candied hawthorn. Now, tanghulu is made with fruit like strawberries, green grapes, kiwi, blueberries – or whatever your favorites are.
You’ll also need a candy thermometer or other good food thermometer and skewers (metal or bamboo skewers).
How to Make Tanghulu
This candied fruit recipe requires just a few simple steps. Prep the fruit, make the sugar mixture, then dip the fruit skewers and set the sugar-coated fruit.
Step 1: Prep the Fruit
Wash and pat dry the strawberries (or fruit of choice). Make sure to dry them well – we don’t want any extra moisture. If wanted, remove the green stems.
Then arrange the strawberries on a skewer – you can add just one or several if using smaller berries.
Then set the skewers aside while preparing the sugar syrup.
Step 2: How to Make Tanghulu Sugar
In a medium-sized sauce pan, add the sugar and water. Then bring them to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
The temperature of the sugar water mixture has to reach about 300ºF/150ºC. This will take 5-10 minutes; the syrup will start to reduce. Check the temperature occasionally.
Chef’s Tip: If you don’t have a thermometer, here are two other methods for checking the syrup temperature.
Dip a small spoon in icy water. Then dip it in the sugar mixture. If the syrup hardens onto the spoon immediately, it has reached the right temperature.
Alternatively, drizzle some syrup into a bowl of ice water. It should set right away and form brittle crystal threads that break easily. If they bend, the syrup is not ready.
Step 3: How to Make Strawberry Tanghulu
After the sugar syrup has reached the required temperature, remove the pot from the heat. Take one of the skewers and quickly dip the strawberries in the mixture. Make sure they are all coated.
Prop the pot at an angle & dip the skewer in the deep part of the syrup or use a spoon to help cover all the fruit.
Place the skewer on parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet – the sugar coating should harden quickly and create a hard candy shell. Repeat with the rest of the skewers. Then enjoy your candied strawberries.
To make candied grapes, you can use the same steps. First, wash and dry the grapes well. Then dip the grape skewers in the hot sugar syrup.
Finally, place the candy grapes on parchment paper for the sugar coating to set.
Can Tanghulu Sugar be Used on Other Fruit
Yes, you can use this candy strawberries recipe for other fruit too. Choose your favorite from blueberries, kiwi (cut into thick slices or half/quarter moons), Hawthorn berries, kumquats, cherries, apples, tangerines, pineapple, or even cherry tomatoes. These all would make an amazing crunchy candied fruit snack.
So no need to be searching for tanghulu near me, just make your own at home!
How to Store Tanghulu
Tangulu sugar fruit is best enjoyed right away. In this way, with every bite, you can enjoy the hard candy.
If you need to store the candy fruit, cover lightly with plastic wrap and keep it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that the sugar coating will become softer as time goes by.
Use the ratio of 2:1 sugar to water – you can adjust based on how much candy fruit you’re making.
If the syrup’s been heated to the right temperature, the tanghulu fruit should harden almost immediately. If you are having issues, you can dip the candied fruit in ice cold water.
Too much moisture has likely gotten into the sugar syrup. You have to cook the sugar to 300°F/150ºC to get it to the “hard crack” stage of candying.
Tanghulu is best enjoyed immediately. But, if stored properly in a sealed, airtight container, your tanghulu can last for up to two weeks – though this will depend on the kind of fruit you use.
It’s likely the sugar syrup wasn’t hot enough or you’ve exposed it to too high humidity. Keep the tanghulu fruit in a cool place and make sure your sugar is cooked to exactly 300°F/150ºC before using.
The juices from the fruit are released in the fridge, which seeps into the syrup and causes it to dissolve. You can prevent this by storing it properly.
Other Sweet Treats
If you try this tanghulu recipe (candied strawberries), I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
How to Make Tanghulu
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 lb strawberries AND/OR blueberries, grapes, or other fruit of choice (see Notes below)
- Food Thermometer see notes if you don't have any food thermometers
- Skewers wooden or metal
Prep the Fruit
- Wash and pat dry the strawberries (or fruit of choice). Make sure to dry them well as we don't want any extra moisture.If wanted, remove the green stems from the strawberries.
- Arrange the fruit on a skewer – you can add just one or several if using smaller berries. Then set the skewers aside while preparing the sugar syrup.
Make the Tanghulu Sugar
- In a medium-sized saucepan, add the sugar and water. Then bring them to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- The temperature of the sugar water mixture has to reach about 300ºF/150ºC. This will take 5-10 minutes and the syrup will start to reduce. Check the temperature occasionally. At the right temperature, it will be amber/light-golden in color.See the Notes below if you don't have a thermometer.
Make the Tanghulu Fruit
- After the sugar syrup has reached the required temperature, remove the pot from the heat. Take one of the skewers and quickly dip the fruit in the mixture. Make sure they are all coated. You can prop the pot at an angle & dip the skewer in the deep part of the syrup or use a spoon to help cover all the fruit.
- Place the skewer on parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet – the sugar coating should harden quickly and create a hard candy shell. Repeat with the rest of the skewers.
How to Store Tanghulu
- Tangulu sugar fruit is best enjoyed right away.If you need to store the candied fruit, cover lightly with plastic wrap and keep it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator (up to 2 weeks). Keep in mind that the sugar coating will become softer as time goes by.