Chinese Food

Chinese Apple Stick: Story, Origin, and a Sweet Recipe

apple stick chinese food

Last updated on December 30th, 2023 at 04:30 pm

Want a sweet treat with a long history? Look no further than the yummy apple stick, also called Tanghulu! It’s not your average apple – imagine a crisp bite wrapped in a shiny candy shell, like a sweet shield protecting the tangy center.

In ancient China, clever street vendors used sugar to keep hawthorns fresh, creating these “candied haws.” They became a hit with everyone, from emperors to kids! Today, Tanghulu aren’t just hawthorns anymore. They come in all kinds of fruit flavors, like grapes with sugary grins and strawberries blushing in their candy coats. Sometimes, they even have sprinkles or coconut flakes for extra fun!

apple stick chinese food


The origin of the Chinese apple stick, also known as Tanghulu, is steeped in both history and culinary ingenuity. The earliest evidence of Tanghulu dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), though scholars believe the practice of coating fruits with hardened sugar existed even earlier. Here are some interesting facts about Chinese Apple Stick: 

Humble Beginnings 

Legend has it that Tanghulu originated from street vendors who dipped hawthorns (a small, tart fruit) in hot sugar to preserve them and extend their shelf life. This simple yet clever technique created a delightful treat that became popular among all classes.

Evolution of Ingredients

While hawthorns remain a classic choice, tanghulu can now be found with a variety of fruits like grapes, strawberries, mandarins, and even kiwis. The sugar coating also evolved, featuring variations like plain white sugar, colored sugar, and even sesame seed or coconut shavings for added texture and flavor.

Symbolism and Significance

Chinese Apple Stick aka Tanghulu holds cultural significance in China. The bright red of the sugared coating is associated with good luck and happiness, making them a popular treat during festivals and celebrations. They are also often given as gifts, symbolizing sweetness and prosperity.

Chinese Apple Stick: The Recipe 

Ready to ditch boring fruit and create something truly special? Look no further than Tanghulu, the beloved Chinese apple sticks! These vibrant treats, with their crisp apple cores cloaked in shimmering candy armor, are a delightful explosion of sweet and tart. So, grab your apron and gather your ingredients:


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 firm, tart apples (Granny Smith or Fuji work well)
  • Lemon juice
  • Skewers (bamboo or lollipop sticks)


  1. In a saucepan, heat sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes until it turns golden brown and slightly thick. Be careful, it gets hot!
  2. Wash and dry your apples. Core and slice them into thick wedges (about 1/2 inch thick). Brush each slice with lemon juice to prevent browning.
  3. Dip each apple slice into the hot sugar syrup, coating it evenly. Hold it over the pan for a few seconds to let any excess drip off, then twirl it gently to create a smooth candy shell.
  4. Place the coated apples on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool and harden. The candy will turn solid in a few minutes.
  5. Once cool, enjoy your delicious tanghulu! You can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Savor the Sweet History: Enjoy your Chinese apple stick masterpieces, sharing these bites of joy with friends and family. Watch smiles bloom as you spread the tanghulu magic!

Pro Tips:

  • Use a candy thermometer to ensure the sugar reaches 300°F (150°C) for a perfect hard crack.
  • Dip apples with a steady hand to avoid drips and tears in the candy coating.
  • Get creative with toppings! Crushed nuts, dried fruit, and candy sprinkles are all fair game.

Health Benefits of Chinese Apple Stick 

Indulge guilt-free knowing they offer more than just a sugary punch! Here’s how these candy-coated bites benefit your health:

  • Vitamin C: The star apple (hawthorn) in traditional Chinese apple sticks bursts with Vitamin C, a natural immune booster and antioxidant. Other fruits like strawberries and kiwi also join the party, adding their vitamin C goodness.
  • Digestive: Hawthorn fruit has been used for centuries as a natural digestive aid. Its enzymes and acids are believed to ease indigestion and promote gut health.
  • Cholesterol: Studies suggest hawthorn may help lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, making tanghulu a delicious way to support heart health.
  • Minerals: These treats are surprisingly rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, essential for keeping your body functioning smoothly.

Remember, moderation is key. While Chinese Apple Stick offers some health benefits, the added sugar shouldn’t become a major part of your diet. Enjoy them in small amounts as a sweet and colorful treat to complement a balanced eating plan.

Variations of Chinese Apple Stick

As you already figured out you can create Tanghulu with pretty much any fruits and toppings. Here are a few other recipes to surprise your guest or your family. 

  • Caramel Crunch: Dunk apple slices in golden sugar, let them cool, then drizzle with melted caramel and sprinkle with crushed peanuts for a salty-sweet symphony.
  • Cinnamon Swirl: Coat apple wedges in cinnamon-infused sugar syrup, let them harden, then drizzle with white chocolate and sprinkle with a touch of cinnamon sugar for a warm and cozy treat.
  • Mint Chip Mania: Dip green grapes in cool mint-infused sugar, let them solidify, then roll them in crushed mints for a refreshing blast of minty delight.
  • Tropical Twist: Coat pineapple chunks in orange-infused sugar, let them set, then drizzle with melted chocolate and garnish with toasted coconut flakes for a taste of sunshine.

Bonus Tip:

Get creative with fruit shapes! Slice apples into stars, hearts, or flowers for an extra playful touch.So, next time you spot a Chinese apple stick, remember – you’re holding a piece of history, a bite-sized story of ingenuity and delight. Pop one in your mouth, and taste the sweet whispers of China’s culinary past.

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