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Fried Sticky Rice Balls

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These Fried Sticky Rice Balls, or Carioca, are dough balls loaded with coconut, fried in oil, then drizzled with caramel sauce. Dense, decadent and packed with coconut flavor, this Filipino snack was incredibly delicious!

When my friend, Abigail Raines, asked me to review her new cookbook, Rice.Noodles.Yum, Everyone’s Favorite Southeast Asian Dishes, I jumped at the chance. This was an unfamiliar new cuisine to conquer. Of course, I zeroed in on a dessert, these yummy Fried Coconut Balls.

Fried Sticky Rice Balls in a white serving bowl

Fried Sticky Rice Balls

Abby found that noodles and rice are the “perfect canvas for the sweet, salty and spicy flavors of Asian cuisine.” These carioca or fried sticky rice balls are made with sticky or glutinous rice flour then drizzled with a coconut cream based caramel sauce. Served as tasty snack or fun dessert, they’re also gluten free!

They’re like dense, coconut laden doughnut holes doused with caramel sauce instead of a glaze. From my first nibble, I was smitten. If you love coconut, you’ll go nuts fore these amazing coconut balls!


Growing up in Southeast Asia, Abby found rice and noodle dishes were plentiful. Americans are most familiar with pad thai, pho and nasi goreng, but there is so much more. Besides these delicious fried coconut balls, Abby’s Moo Sarong caught my eye. Made of fried pork meatballs wrapped in noodles, these make a visually impressive presentation and are a tasty appetizer! She also shares a tempting recipe for Beringhe, a Filipino paella-like dish with turmeric, coconut milk, fish sauce, chorizo and raisins.

In total there are 75 wonderful recipes for those who’d love to explore this cuisine with an expert. Nothing too complicated, just delicious! Abby also blogs at Manila Spoon, where she shares tried and true recipes from around the world.

Carioca or Fried Sticky Rice Balls on wooden skewers on a square white plate

How to Make Fried Coconut Balls

Made with just a handful of ingredients, the most difficult part of this tasty recipe is rolling the dough into balls. As a certified coconut fan, I can vouch for these fried sticky rice balls. With my first nibble, I was tempted to skip lunch and feast on these carioca.  They were Abby’s favorite after school snack in elementary school, and I can see why!

  • The dough is a simple mixture of sticky rice flour, shredded coconut and coconut milk. It takes some time stir the ingredients into a cohesive dough, and I finally used my hands to finish off the process.
  • Use a cookie disher or scoop to measure out tablespoons of dough. A medium cookie disher holds more like 1 1/2 tablespoons, but that size worked well, too.
  • Roll each scoop of dough between your palms to form nice round balls.
  • Once all the coconut dough balls are formed, heat the cooking oil (I used canola oil) to 350º and fry in batches for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Roll the balls around in the hot oil so all sides get evenly browned.
  • Line a colander or strainer with paper towels to absorb any excess oil after the coconut balls are fried. Remove the carioca into the strainer, then place on a paper towel lined baking sheet until ready to glaze.
  • The caramel sauce is simple. Mix the ingredients, bring to a boil and time for 5-8 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  • To glaze, dip each fried sticky rice ball into the caramel, then set on a platter. Alternatively, thread a few onto a skewer and drizzle with the caramel sauce.

Add to Your Shopping List:

  • Sticky or Glutinous Rice Flour, I used Bob’s Redmill Sweet White Rice Flour.
  • Shredded, Sweetened Coconut
  • Coconut Milk
  • Coconut Cream
  • Cooking Oil
Carioca or Fried Sticky Rice Balls in a white ceramic bowl on top of a cookbook

More Coconut Recipes:

Coconut White Chocolate Truffles

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Granola

Coconut Zucchini Bread

Coconut Apricot Bars

More Dessert Recipes


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Carioca or Fried Sticky Rice Balls featured image

Fried Sticky Rice Balls

A sweet, coconut Filipino after school snack or dessert!

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 32 minutes
  • Yield: 24 rice balls
  • Category: Dessert, Snack
  • Method: Mixing, Frying, Boiling
  • Cuisine: Filipino



In a bowl, mix the sticky rice flour, sweetened shredded coconut and coconut milk until a dough forms.

Scoop out about a tablespoon (15 g) of dough and shape into a ball. Repeat until all the dough is used up. A cookie dough scooper is helpful for this.

Heat the cooking oil in a saucepan over medium heat to about 350°F(175°C). To test if the oil is hot, dip a skewer into it. When bubbles form around the skewer, the oil is ready.

Fry the dough balls in batches for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned all over. Scoop onto a strainer lined with paper towels to remove any excess oil. Repeat until all the balls are cooked. Set aside.

In a saucepan, stir together the coconut cream, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When it starts to boil, lower the heat slightly, stir and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.

Dip the balls into the sauce, or to avoid sticky fingers, thread about four balls onto a wooden skewer and pour the caramel sauce over. Serve individually or on skewers.

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11 comments on “Fried Sticky Rice Balls”

  1. They must be super yummy made with coconut and coated with caramel sauce!

  2. No doubt they are amazing! Happy 4th of July Liz-enjoy:@)

  3. What a delicious and unique combination of ingredients! Scott would love them, being a true coconut aficionado! 

  4. Oh, yum! Neat recipe. I’ve had these — maybe twice in my life — and they’re so good. Glad to have a recipe for them! Thanks.

  5. Very exotic, they look absolutely awesome. I love coconut too. I’ll have to try these soon. Sounds like a great cookbook.

  6. Sounds like a great cookbook. I would have jumped to the desserts, too. 🙂 Love the sound of these!

  7. Liz, these sound intriguing and very delicious! I love coconut and can’t wait to try them!

  8. This is an amazing rice balls…and i always reads your post but this is one of my favorite recipe till now. It looks sooo yummy & sound more delicious, i will trying it tonight…Thanks for sharing….!

  9. Well, this will certainly be a winner in my home! I love Asian food, just love coconut ‘anything’, and know this would be a great ending to a Thai dinner. Thank you for finding the recipe in your friend’s cookbook and for sharing it, Liz! Glad you had a great time at your reunion!!!

  10. I love trying new recipes – especially from different cultures. I’ve been smitten with mango stick rice but would love to make something new. I’ll definitely have to give these a try!

  11. These are so different and I will definitely have to share.

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