Chinese Almond Jelly is a Jiggly Delight

Chinese almond jelly
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
4-6 servings

Sometimes called the Chinese panna cotta, Almond Jelly is a delicately sweet and refreshing dessert to enjoy on warm summer evenings. Better known as Almond Tofu (杏仁豆腐) in Asia, this classic dessert was named such due to its likeness (in appearance) to tofu but actually has nothing to do with tofu, and should not be conflated with “Tofu Pudding” (豆腐花) which is tofu! To further the misnomer, there are no almonds in this dessert. The original is made from apricot kernels, the seeds inside the pit of apricots that resemble small almonds and indeed have an almond-like flavour. Most contemporary versions depart from the process of extracting apricot kernel “milk” and instead, use almond extract with milk or plant-based milk to mimic the flavour and appearance (the creamier the milk, the richer the almond tofu will be). This being said, if you’re the type of person who makes nut milk at home anyway, this is a fabulous recipe to use it for.

You can serve Almond Tofu on its own but I think it is infinitely better with accompaniment. Osmanthus syrup is a classic in China. Growing up in Hong Kong, we enjoyed it with canned fruit such as mandarin oranges or mixed fruit cocktail — so retro! Seasonal fresh fruit is light and lovely, alone or mixed with canned fruit. You can have a lot of fun with the toppings. See my serving ideas in the recipe below or come up with your own to enjoy.

Related: Chewy Corn Mochi Cake

Note 1: Agar agar is the gelling agent used in traditional almond tofu. It is made from a sea algae and often described as the plant-based version of gelatin which is made of animal collagen. Agar agar must be dissolved and cooked first to activate its gelling properties whereas gelatin does not require cooking as long as it is well dissolved. When compared, a jelly made with agar agar has a slightly firmer and “crisp” mouth feel versus a jelly made with gelatin. Agar agar comes in various forms — powder, flakes and strands. I use powder or flakes. In my experience, the powder form is easiest to find online (or buy at most health food stores) so that is what I call for in this recipe. The different forms can be used interchangeably if measured by weight on a kitchen scale. Without a scale, flakes are fluffier so you must use approximately 3x the volume which, for this recipe, is 6 teaspoons of agar agar flakes.

Note 2: I have not made this recipe with gelatin, but it can be used in place of agar agar. Follow the gelatin package directions for setting. For example, a 7g pouch of Knox gelatin powder sets 2 cups of liquid. For this recipe, I suggest using two pouches for a firm, jello-like texture. For a softer texture, either reduce the amount of gelatin powder or increase the amount of milk. Make sure gelatin is dissolved properly but it does not require cooking so you can skip the 1 minute simmer in step 2.



Almond Tofu

cup cold water
cup sugar
tsp agar agar powder, see notes 1 and 2
cups unsweetened milk of choice, plus up to additional 1 cup of milk for softer texture
tsp almond extract
pinch salt

Topping suggestions

Fresh seasonal fruit: I especially love peaches, melons, mangos, cherries and passionfruit with the almond flavour
Canned fruit such as mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, lychees or mixed fruit cocktail, along with the syrup in the can
Osmanthus syrup, store bought or homemade (steep dried osmanthus petals in simple syrup of equal parts sugar and water for 15 minutes or longer for stronger flavour. Substitutions for osmanthus: elderflower, jasmine or chrysanthemum syrups)
Grass jelly, cut into cubes
Japanese sweetened adzuki red beans, store bought or homemade
Ginger-infused simple syrup



This recipe requires 3 hours chill time.

Step 1

In a medium pot, whisk water, sugar and agar agar. Bring to a simmer and cook until fully dissolved, whisking constantly. Check on the back of a metal spoon that no granules remain before proceeding.

Water, sugar and agar agar in a pot
Step 2

Add 1 cup of milk, almond extract and pinch of salt. Simmer 1 minute, whisking constantly and adjust heat to ensure mixture does not burn. The agar agar must come to a full simmer to ensure its gelling properties are activated to set the liquid. Off heat, add remaining 2 cups of cold milk for firmer texture that can be cut into cubes after setting or add 3 cups of cold milk if you want a tender, wobblier almond tofu.

Step 3

Pour into mold(s) of choice. You can either pour entire mixture into a single 8 x 8-inch dish (for cutting into cubes), individual ramekins or any combination. Let cool and set at room temperature 30 minutes. Transfer to refrigerate for 3 hours or until fully set.

Almond jelly in various molds
Step 4

To serve: For dish, run a spatula along the edges. Invert onto cutting board or score almond tofu directly in dish into 1-inch cubes. Divide cubes among serving bowls and top as desired. For individual molds, top directly to serve or invert onto a larger serving dish and add toppings

Tip for unmolding: run a small spatula or butter knife around the edge. Set dish inside a larger pan with shallow amount of hot water for 10 seconds to loosen, then invert.

Step 5

Serve with toppings of your choice.

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