This traditional Korean sweet rice dessert, yakshik, is made with sweet rice, jujube, chestnut, and other nuts and seeds. Using an instant pot makes this authentic recipe extremely easy and quick to prepare. It also serves as a satisfying breakfast or snack.

Yakshik is traditional Korean sweet rice dessert with jujube, chestnut, and seeds.

Traditionally, one of the ways that Koreans celebrate the first full moon of the Lunar New Year (Jeongwol Daeboreum, 정월 대보름) is to make this sweet rice dessert called yakshik 약식 (or yakbap, 약밥), and enjoy it with family and friends to wish for good health throughout the year.

My mother made this delicious homemade rice treat from scratch every year. I often observed my mother as she made it in the traditional way, and I remember that it was quite time consuming. But with modern advanced cooking technologies, this old-fashioned Korean sweet dessert can be made very easily and quickly with a help of a popular cooking appliance – the instant pot.

I only wish my late mother would have had a chance to experience this method before she became too old to cook. She would have made it any time of the year. She loved this classic Korean sweet rice dessert.

I introduced the instant pot method of making this incredible Korean rice dessert recipe in my cookbookKorean Cooking Favorite. Here I am sharing the same recipe in this post so that you can easily make it at home.

It’s a gluten-free dish (if using gluten-free soy sauce), and it’s also vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

What is Yakshik (약식)?

  • Yak = medicine
  • Shik = food

So, the literal translation means “medicine food” due to the healthy benefits of its ingredients: dried jujube, honey, and cinnamon. Good stuff—and they each have some medicinal effect to our body. Some people call it “Yakbap, 약밥”, which means medicine rice.

Yakshik is a rice dessert that is traditional for holidays or special occasions. It’s made with sweet rice (aka glutinous rice—but remember, it does not actually contain gluten), dried jujube, chestnut, pine nuts, and seeds. The rice cake is seasoned with soy sauce, honey (and/or brown sugar), and sesame oil. This sticky chewy rice dessert is gently sweet and nutty with a contrasting texture. It is important to make it properly so that each grain of rice maintains its chewiness without being mushy.

Instant Pot Korean Dessert

The traditional preparation of yakshik requires soaking the rice overnight and steaming it twice. You make the caramel sauce separately and combine it with the rice during the second steaming. It takes lots of time and it’s labor-intensive.

With my instant pot method, you can make it a lot more easily and quickly. Although the authentic method makes an incredible sweet rice dessert, I will take the easier route by using the instant pot method to save myself from slaving in the kitchen.

No instant pot? No worry!

If you don’t have an instant pot, you can use an electric rice cooker to achieve a similar result. You will have to soak the rice for 6-8 hours beforehand, though, since it has no pressure to speed up the cooking.

  • Rice cooker method – Combine soaked rice with sauce mixture, jujube and chestnut. Cook with regular rice setting, about 20-30 minutes. Mix in the nuts, seeds, and sesame oil. Proceed to cooling.
  • Steaming method – Steam soaked rice in a steamer for 40 minutes. Add the sauce mixture, jujube, chestnut and steam again for 30 minutes. Mix in the nuts, seeds, and sesame oil. Proceed to cooling.
Korean sweet rice dessert is sliced and served on dessert plates.

What goes into Korean Rice Dessert?

  • Sweet rice (aka glutinous rice) is a must and it has to be the Korean short grain sweet rice called chaphsal (찹쌀). This rice is especially sticky and chewy when cooked. It is easily found in any Korean grocery store. You can also find Korean sweet rice online as well.
  • Dried jujube (daechu, 대추) is a traditional ingredient for yakshik. If jujube is not available, raisins, “craisins,” dried prunes, and dried persimmon are all great substitutes.
  • Chestnuts (bam, 밤) are sold as fresh or peeled and frozen in vacuumed packages in most Korean stores. If those are not available, try canned sweetened chestnut or roasted chestnut in the pacakage.
  • Pine nuts are another classic yakshik ingredient. You can also add walnuts or other nuts and seeds of your choice.
  • Roasted Sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds are great option to add.

How to make Korean sweet rice dessert with instant pot

Step 1: Rinse sweet rice several times and soak in water for 10 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside.

Note: If using an electric rice cooker instead of a pressurized instant pot, soak the rice in water for 8 hours in the refrigerator before cooking with the rest of ingredients.

Step 2: Cut the chestnut in halves or quarters depending on the size. Set them aside.

Step 3: Cut the flesh off of dried jujube to separate it from the seeds. Set the flesh on the side and collect the seeds. Put the seeds in a small pot and pour in 2 cups of water. Bring it to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. The water will become dark amber.

Step 4: Discard the jujube seeds and pour the stock into an instant pot. Add soy sauce, dark soy sauce (if using), honey (or brown sugar), and cinnamon; stir well until combined.

Step 5: Add the rice, chestnut, and jujube flesh to the stock and mix well. Close the lid and set the instant pot to a rice setting (or 12 minutes on manual setting). Make sure to seal the vent.

Step 6: When cooking is done, move the vent to quick release and let the steam escape. Open the lid and add the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds (or other nuts and seeds of your choice). Drizzle sesame oil and gently toss everything well.

Step 7: Grease a 9-inch square pan (or similar in size) with sesame oil. Put the rice mixture into the pan and press down with spatula or rice scoop. Let it sit on a wired rack to cool.

When fully cooled, turn out the rice on a cutting board and cut into desired size bars. You can garnish with jujube flowers and more seeds as you wish.

How to make dried jujube flower

Often, Korean dessert recipes and Korean drink recipes uses dried jujube as a decoration. The outer skin layer of dried jujube is cut around the seed, and roll it tightly, then sliced into small pieces.

Serving sized pieces of Korean sweet rice dessert (yakshik) are decorated with jujube flowers.

Freezing tips

Yakshik is best when eaten fresh. However, it freezes well, too.

To freeze, wrap the bars individually with a piece of plastic wrap tightly, and the put them in a plastic freezer bag.

To thaw, let them sit at room temperature in their wrappings until fully thawed. You can also remove the wrap and microwave for 2 minutes, or until soft.

More Traditional Korean Desserts

I love a Korean dessert after a heavy meal. These recipes below will make a great finale to any Asian meal.

Yakshik is traditional Korean sweet rice dessert with jujube, chestnut, and seeds.

Korean Sweet Rice Dessert (Yakshik) – Instant Pot

Korean sweet rice dessert cooked with sweet rice, jujube, chestnut, and other nuts in instant pot makes this authentic recipe extremely easy and quick to prepare. It also serves as a good breakfast or snack.
5 from 1 rating

Ingredients

Instructions 

  • Rinse sweet rice several times and soak the rice in water for 10 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside.
  • Cut the chestnut in halves or quarters depending on the size. Set them aside.
  • Cut the flesh off of dried jujube to separate it from the seeds. Set the flesh on the side and collect the seeds. Put the seeds in a small pot and pour in 2 cups of water. Bring it to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. The water will become dark amber. Discard the jujube seeds and reserve the stock.
  • Pour the jujube stock into an instant pot. Add soy sauce, dark soy sauce (if using), honey (or brown sugar), and cinnamon; stir well until combined.
  • Add the rice, chestnut, and jujube flesh to the stock and mix well. Close the lid and set the instant pot to a rice setting (or 12 minutes on manual setting). Make sure to seal the vent.
  • When cooking is done, move the vent to quick release and let the steam escape. Open the lid and add the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds (or other nuts and seeds of your choice). Drizzle sesame oil and gently toss everything well.
  • Grease a 9-inch squire pan (or similar in size) with sesame oil. Put the rice mixture into the pan and press down with spatula or rice scoop. Let it sit on a wired rack to cool.
  • When fully cooled, turn out the rice on a cutting board and cut into desired size bars. You can garnish with jujube flowers and more seeds as you wish.

Notes

If you don’t have an instant pot, you can use an electric rice cooker to achieve a similar result, or try with the traditional steaming method. You will have to soak the rice for 6-8 hours beforehand, though, since both method have no pressure to speed up the cooking.
  1. Rice cooker method – Combine soaked rice with caramel sauce mixture, jujube and chestnut. Cook with your regular rice setting, about 25-30 minutes. Add nuts, seeds, sesame oil and toss. Proceed to cooling.
  2. Steaming method – Steam soaked rice in the steamer for 40 minutes. Mix steamed rice with sauce mixture, jujube, and chestnut. Steam again for 30 minutes. Mix in the nuts, seeds, sesame oil and toss. Proceed to cooling.
If using roasted chestnut in the package, add them in the last step of cooking together with nuts and seeds.
Calories: 139kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 246mg, Potassium: 113mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 4IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 16mg, Iron: 1mg
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