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Khao Taen Recipe (Thai Crispy Rice Cakes)

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Khao taen recipe, a classic street food, brings the best Thai crispy rice cakes right to your kitchen. These treats are drizzled with a sweet combo of cane sugar and palm sugar, perfect for snacking or as a crunchy appetizer. Crispy on the outside and delightfully airy inside, so, so good!

Khao taen, Thai crispy rice cakes, displayed on a green banana leaf.

Looking for more Thai rice snacks? Check out my khao jee recipe for the most delicious sticky rice with egg patties!

What is khao taen

Khao taen, an authentic Thai snack, is a type of crispy rice cake traditionally made from sticky rice. These rice cakes are deep-fried until golden and crunchy, then coated with a caramelized syrup made from palm sugar.

What’s the sauce on Thai rice cakes

The sweet sauce on Thai rice cakes, khao taen, is a caramelized palm sugar syrup. This sweet sauce is sometimes enhanced with sesame seeds, complementing the crispy texture of the rice cakes.

Thai crispy rice cakes

This Thai rice cakes recipe (ข้าวแต๋น) is inspired by Northern Thai street food. It starts off with making sticky rice. Just steam glutinous rice until it’s perfectly sticky.

Feel free to check out my recipe for how to make Thai sticky rice for more info.

Thai crispy rice cakes with a honey glaze resting on a banana leaf.

Then, following Northern Thai tradition, we’ll soak the hot sticky rice in fresh watermelon juice. This infuses the sticky rice with a unique sweet flavor.

The sweet sticky rice is then shaped into thin crackers, left to be dried out in the sun for a day or two.

After sun-drying, a quick fry turns them into the crispiest, most addictive Thai snacks around.

Close-up showing Thai khao taen, crispy rice crackers, drizzled with caramelized syrup made from palm sugar.

Finally, we’ll drizzly the rice snacks with the most irresistible, caramelized palm sugar sauce ever. Sweet, fragrant, crisp, and so delicious!

Why try this recipe

  • Try traditional Thai cooking techniques: Learn traditional Thai cooking methods like sun-drying and cooking sticky rice!
  • Try an authentic Northern Thai snack: This recipe is a traditional local dessert or snack of the Northern people in Thailand, where sticky rice is a daily staple.
  • It’s ideal for party snacks: These crispy rice crackers are perfect for parties. Their crunch and sweet flavor make them a total crowd-pleaser!
  • Great for make-ahead: Prep these snacks ahead of time for your next event. Just keep them in a sealed plastic bag and they’ll stay crisp for a whole. They’re just as delicious when made in advance! Just give your Thai rice crackers a sugar drizzle before serving.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Top-view of ingredients for khao taen: grains of glutinous rice, toasted sesame seeds, palm cane sugar, watermelon juice, and more.

Sticky rice

  • Glutinous rice – Glutinous rice is known for its high starch content, which gives it a unique, sticky texture. The base of khao taen is steamed glutinous rice – sticky rice, a staple in Isan and Northern Thailand. It turns golden and crispy when fried, ideal for crispy sticky rice snacks.
  • Watermelon juice – This fresh juice infuses the rice with a fruity note and sweet touch.
  • Brown sugar – We’ll add a bit of cane sugar to the sticky rice mixture, infusing it with more of that irresistible sweetness.
  • Salt – A pinch of salt balances the sweetness, enhancing the overall flavors.
  • Sesame seeds – These add an extra crunch and a nutty flavor.

Caramel sauce

  • Palm sugar – Palm sugar adds a complex, caramel-like sweetness, different from regular sugars. Thai cuisine mostly uses palm sugar for Thai food.
  • Brown sugar – Contributes to the sauce’s rich sweetness and gives it an extra sticky consistency.
  • Salt
  • Water – Helps to dissolve the sugars and create a smooth consistency.

Cooking instructions

1. Wash and soak glutinous rice overnight.

Step-by-step visual guide: juicy watermelon chunks in a blender followed by the straining process to obtain a clear, refreshing watermelon juice.

2. Extract watermelon juice: Slice your watermelon into chunks that are easy to blend. Toss them in the blender and mix into a juice. Pour the watermelon juice through a sieve cloth into a large bowl, separating the pulp and the watermelon. Keep the watermelon juice, compost the pulp and seeds.

3. Steam sticky rice. For detailed instructions, see my how to make Thai sticky rice recipe.

Step 1 showcases a bowl of vibrant, red watermelon juice beside sesame seeds, ready for the mix. Step 2 and 3 reveal the transformation of Thai sticky rice, first plain, then absorbing the rich, pink hues of the watermelon juice, a key step in crafting khao taen.

4. Mix with the juice: When your sticky rice is still hot and steamy, mix it with the watermelon juice along with the brown sugar and salt, and let the grains soak up the flavor over the next 20 minutes.

Top image shows a hand holding a mold with watermelon-infused sticky rice. The bottom image shows the unmolding of round rice cakes onto a tray, ready for sun-drying.

5. Shape the crackers: Grab a round mold, like a mason jar lid, and press the cooled rice mixture into the shape. Then, remove from shape and let dry in the sun for approx 2 days until they’re dry. Repeat this process until you have shaped all your sticky rice. If the rice is too sticky, apply a bit of water to your mold.

Deep-frying the khao taen in a wok filled with oil.

6. Deep-fry: Heat oil for deep-frying until it’s hot enough to turn the sticky rice into golden puffs. Fry, drain, and let cool.

Preparation of caramel sauce in a pot.

7. Make the caramel sauce: In a pot over low heat, stir together water, salt, and sugar until they turn into a golden caramel.

8. Serve: Drizzle your kae taen with the caramel sauce and serve them up.

Kitchen tools

  • Shaped mold for shaping the rices cakes, like a mason jar ring. Avoid using ‘difficult’ shapes, like star shapes.
  • Large mixing bowl for soaking the rice with watermelon juice.
  • Baking tray for drizzling the rice cakes with sauce.
  • Cotton cheese cloth for straining watermelon.
  • Blender for mixing watermelon.
  • Mason jar for storing the sauce.
  • Sticky rice steaming pot.

How to serve Thai rice crackers

Drizzle up your crispy rice cakes generously with the homemade caramel sauce made from palm and cane sugars. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the rice cakes after saucing.

How to store

Once the sugar-coating is set and hardened (to prevent sticking), just stack your Thai crispy rice crackers in an airtight container or seal them up in a plastic bag. This method keeps them crisp for up to several weeks.

Frequently asked questions

Can I dehydrate rice cakes in an oven?

If sunlight isn’t an option, you can use an oven. Set your oven to the lowest possible temperature, ideally around 200°F (93°C) or lower. Place the prepped rice cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spaced out evenly. The process can take several hours. Flip half-way through. Another alternative is a dehydrator.

Can I make khao taen without watermelon juice?

Yes! Watermelon adds a sweet flavor, but you can also make it with just the sticky rice, which is easier.

What type of oil is best for frying khao taen?

It’s best to use an oil with a high smoke point and neutral flavor, like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil. These oils ensure that your cakes fry evenly and become golden and crispy without burning. Avoid olive oil.

More authentic Thai snack recipes you’ll love

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Khao Taen Recipe (Thai Crispy Rice Cakes)

Khao taen, Thai crispy rice cakes, displayed on a green banana leaf.
This khao taen recipe makes irresistible Thai crispy rice cakes drizzled with homemade caramel sauce.
Praew
Cuisine Thai
Course Dessert, Snack
Serving Size 20 rice cakes

Ingredients

FOR STICKY RICE

  • 17.6 ounces glutinous rice
  • 8.5 fluid ounces watermelon juice
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

CARAMEL SAUCE

  • 7 ounces palm sugar
  • 1.8 ounce brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons water

Instructions

PREPARE GLUTINOUS RICE

  • Wash and soak glutinous rice overnight.

EXTRACT WATERMELON JUICE

  • Slice your watermelon into chunks that are easy to blend. Toss them in the blender and mix into a juice. Pour the watermelon juice through a sieve cloth into a large bowl, separating the pulp and the watermelon. Keep the watermelon juice, compost the pulp and seeds.

STEAM STICKY RICE

  • For detailed instructions, see my how to cook Thai sticky rice recipe.

MIX WITH THE JUICE

  • When your sticky rice is still hot and steamy, mix it with the watermelon juice along with brown sugar and salt, and let the grains soak up the flavor over the next 20 minutes.

SHAPE THE CRACKERS

  • Grab a round mold, like a mason jar lid, and press the cooled rice mixture into the shape. Then, remove from shape and let dry in the sun for approx 2 days until they’re dry. Repeat this process until you have shaped all your sticky rice. If the rice is too sticky, apply a bit of water to your mold.

DEEP-FRY

  • Heat oil for deep-frying until it’s hot enough to turn the sticky rice into golden puffs. Fry, drain, and let cool.

MAKE THE CARAMEL SAUCE

  • In a pot over low heat, stir together water, salt, and sugar until they turn into a golden caramel.

DEEP-FRY

  • Drizzle your kae taen with the caramel sauce and serve them up.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • The watermelon adds a sweet flavor, but you can also make this recipe with just the sticky rice, which is easier.
  • For frying use an oil with high smoke point and neutral flavor like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil.

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