15 Recipes for Chinese New Year to Bring You Luck, Prosperity and Longevity

Spicy Pork Lo Mein Longevity Noodles
Photo: Christine Han

Lunar New Year is a festival celebrated all over China and by overseas Chinese communities around the world, as well as by many other Asian nations and their diaspora. This collection of recipes focuses on how many Chinese families celebrate. Lasting two weeks, the Lunar New Year marks the end of winter and the beginning of the lunar calendar and spring, which is why it is also widely called Spring Festival in China. In a country of 1.4 billion people, spanning 31 provinces, traditions vary from region to region, but one commonality is gathering with family and friends over the two-week period for many celebratory meals.

Some Chinese people adhere to a strict vegetarian diet on Day 1 of Lunar New Year, following a Buddhist tradition to not slaughter animals on the first day of the year. To symbolize the purification of the body and soul for the coming year, others may feast on mostly vegetarian meals. During the next 15 days, celebrants will eat many traditional foods and dishes that represent prosperity, longevity, happiness and many other good wishes for the year ahead. Every Chinese meal should have a protein, vegetable and starch, so feel free to mix and match these recipes. And always make sure to have at least one more dish than the number of people sitting at the table.

01 of 15

Pork Potstickers


In China, families usually gather together to make many dumplings for the new year. The wrappers' round shape symbolizes unity and togetherness. The crescent shape of the finished dumpling resembles the shape of the ingot, China's old currency, so the dumpling also symbolizes prosperity. In parts of northern China, it is common for families and friends to have dumpling-eating contests. As the superstition goes, whoever eats the most dumplings on New Year's Eve will be the most prosperous in the coming year.

02 of 15

Longevity Noodles with Spicy Pork & Vegetables

Spicy Pork Lo Mein Longevity Noodles
Christine Han

No Chinese New Year meal would be complete without noodles, which symbolize longevity. These slightly thick noodles have the springy firmness that is ideal for eating on their own or as part of a multicourse meal to soak up extra sauce from the other dishes. Cutting the noodles while cooking or serving is considered bad luck, so make sure they are served as long as possible.

03 of 15

Red-Cooked Tofu with Mushrooms


On the first day of Lunar New Year, it is common for many families to eat an all-vegetarian meal, in keeping with Buddhist traditions of purifying the body and spirit for the new year and not killing animals on the first day of the year. Make this braised tofu with mushroom dish for the main course. The red-braising technique yields a complex savory, sweet and earthy flavor that will make you go back for seconds and thirds.

04 of 15

Lion's Head Meatballs


In this dish, the giant meatballs and vegetables represent the heads of lions and their manes. Lions symbolize power and strength in Chinese culture, making them perfect for a centerpiece dish. Make sure to have plenty of rice or noodles to soak up the delicious braising liquid.

05 of 15

Black Bean-Garlic Catfish


At Chinese New Year celebrations, there is almost always fish on the table. The Chinese word for fish (yu) is a homonym of the word for "surplus," so eating fish symbolizes abundance in the new year. Catfish, or nian yu, which literally translates to "year surplus," is especially prized for Chinese New Year meals.

06 of 15

Chinese Barbecue Pork with Bok Choy


Having red-hued foods on the table is especially auspicious, given that red is the luckiest color in Chinese culture. Chinese barbecued pork's rouge hue traditionally comes from the soy sauce and hoisin sauce in the marinade. Nowadays, cooks sometimes add food coloring for extra oomph. The lacquered look, from the honey in the marinade, makes this dish stand out in any celebratory spread.

07 of 15

Chongqing Chicken

Chongqing Chicken

This dish of spicy diced chicken with smoked chiles is popular at home celebrations in Sichuan province. The bright red color of the chiles reflects the lucky color for New Year celebrations, when homes should be adorned with red decorations and tables with red-hued foods. The Sichuan peppercorns in this dish provide the tingly numbingness that is the signature of Sichuan cooking.

08 of 15

Sautéed Pea Shoots with Garlic

Sautéed Pea Shoots with Garlic.

Pea shoots are in-season in the winter, mainly December through March, which means you'll find them at many Chinese New Year dinners. Lightly stir-frying them in simple aromatics such as garlic and sesame oil results in a fragrant, mouthwatering side dish.

09 of 15

Five-Spice Duck Breasts

Five-Spice Duck Breasts
Eric Wolfinger

Condensing the traditional multiday process, this easier take on Peking duck is the perfect centerpiece for your Chinese New Year meal. Ducks symbolize unity and loyalty in many parts of China. The red color comes from being cooked in soy sauce and is a nod to the luckiest color in Chinese culture.

10 of 15

Soy Sauce Eggs


During the Lunar New Year, it's common for families to make a big pot of soy sauce eggs. The eggs symbolize fertility, and the round shape represents togetherness and unity. In some regions, it is common for children to receive an egg on the first day of the new year.

11 of 15

Air-Fryer Egg Rolls

Air-Fryer Egg Rolls

Spring rolls and their thicker-skinned cousins, egg rolls, symbolize wealth because their shape and color are reminiscent of gold bars. They are usually deep-fried, but this healthier take using an air fryer achieves the same crispy texture while using a lot less oil.

12 of 15

Sweet-and-Sour Pork


Sweet-and-sour pork originated in southern China in the 1800s, but now is popular in the north too, and in Chinese communities abroad. The word for sour ("suan") sounds like the word for "grandchild," making this a popular dish to have at Chinese New Year dinners when multiple generations eat together, as well as for families hoping for grandchildren in the coming year.

13 of 15

Quick Shrimp Fried Rice


Chinese New Year meals wouldn't be complete without rice to soak up all the delicious sauces. The shrimp in this quick fried rice symbolize laughter and happiness. Be sure to use chilled leftover rice for stir-frying, otherwise the rice will be too sticky and not crisp up.

14 of 15

Scallion Pancakes


Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival, so spring onions (scallions) are auspicious to have during the two-week celebration because they symbolize the new season. The trick to achieving the signature flaky layers of scallion pancakes is all in the folding, which is easy if you follow a few simple steps outlined in this recipe.

15 of 15

Mango Pudding


Mangoes are abundant in Hong Kong and in Guangdong province in Southern China, where dim sum originated. Nowadays, mango pudding is a popular dessert to have during Chinese New Year celebrations, whether it is at dim sum brunch or a more formal banquet dinner at night. The texture is similar to panna cotta and is the perfect ending to a sumptuous, celebratory meal.

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