Top Japanese Desserts

Worldwide, desserts are a common thread that unites cultures. Almost everyone enjoys sampling different treats from various parts of the world. Japan boasts a fair share of the top confectionaries popularly recognized around the globe, and continue to amaze people with their refreshing and cute designs.

Most of them look so beautiful that they might make you dare not to eat them. Both traditional (wagashi) and modern Japanese sweets can be found across cities in the country. Below are some of the top Japanese desserts which you might not have known about but should definitely try.

1. Japanese Cheesecake

japanese cheesecake

Photo by Geoff Peters

Although this might sound not a very Japanese choice to consider, it’s a totally different kind of cheesecake. The Japanese cheesecake is fluffy, smooth and quite light. It’s less sweet and rich than most European and American cheesecakes. However, you’ll certainly fall in love with it with just the first very bite. Its velvety smooth and fluffy texture makes it outstanding.

This cheesecake is quite a hit outside of Japan including in most parts of Hong Kong and several other Asian countries. It’s prepared using simple ingredients such as milk, cream cheese, butter, cake and corn flours, egg yolks, lemon zest and caster sugar. It is an absolutely perfect dessert to have, especially if you feel like taking a break from the regular American and European cheesecakes.

2. Edamame Mochi

edamame mochi

Photo by Naotake Murayama

This Japanese dish originates from Tohoku’s principal city- Sendai. Tohoku is Japan’s main island. Mochi is simply cake that is made from powdered rice (rice flour/rice starch) which cooks to a soft, gummy consistency. In most cases, it’s stuffed with filling during its preparation, such as bean paste. Bits of mocha may be mixed into ice cream or soup.

Edamame, locally known as zunda, refers to immature soybeans. Unlike mature soybeans, Edamame makes an excellent paste. Edamame paste can be used for desserts or meals. These immature soybeans are usually eaten on their own, and in some cases, as an appetizer. In the case of Edamame Mochi, the paste is placed on top or served with a side of mochi to provide a sweet and nutty treat.

3. Sweet Potato

japanese sweet potatoes

Photo by t-mizo

Japanese sweet potatoes tend to have a dry consistency and chestnut-like flavor. They can be enjoyed fried or baked, alone or even as part of larger dishes such as salads and stews. You’re obviously wondering how the sweet potato fits in dessert-wise. There’s a popular dish known as ikinari dango, primarily associated with Kumamoto Prefecture’s capital city.

Ikinari dango are typically dumplings, which contain a chunk of sweet potato each and covered in azuki (or red bean) paste. These chunks of sweet potatoes can also be coated in sugar or honey before being deep fried. This scrumptious dish is known as daigaku imo.

4. Maple Leaf Manju

maple leaf manju

Photo by Ruth Hartnup

Chugoku is the southern-most region of Honshu. This region is widely famous for its amazing autumn leaves. Chugoku inspired the creation of a local dessert known as momiji manju (maple leaf-shaped manju cakes). Manju is basically just a minor variation of mochi, where the dough is properly kneaded before cooking. Momiji manju are occasionally fried to form what’s known as age momiji.

This dessert was traditionally filled with red bean paste. Today, it features a wide, diverse range of fillings such as chocolate, fruit and custard. The momiji manju cakes date back to the early 20th century, when they were initially created in Miyajima.

5. Uiro

uiro mochi

Photo by t-mizo

This is yet another derivative of mochi. Made from rice flour, this is a mildly sweet cake. The only difference is that mochi makes use of glutinous (sticky) rice while Uiro uses the non-glutinous one, explaining why the latter results in a chewier texture.

It is traditionally flavored with green tea or azuki bean. Uiro are usually brightly colored in various hues such as brown, green, pink and orange. Uiro is particularly associated with the largest city in Chubu region--Nagoya.

6. Dorayaki


Photo by Emran Kassim

Dorayaki is quite similar to pancakes. This is a red-bean pancake comprising two small pancake-like patties which have been made from castella, then wrapped around a filling of azuki. The original Dorayaki comprised just a single layer. The current shape was invented by Usagiya in 1914. Dora means 'gong’ in Japanese; this could probably be its name’s origin due to the similarity in shapes.

7. Daifuku Mochi

strawberry daifuku mochi

Photo by Leo

Daifuku is an exclusive Japanese confection, combining a piece of the glutinous rice cake with various other sweet stuffs such as sweetened red-bean paste. It was originally referred to as Habutai mochi. Once its name was changed to daifuku mochi (literally “great luck”), it started gaining popularity as people began eating it toasted.

It was also used as a gift in ceremonial occasions. It comes in different flavors, shapes and sizes. Almost all daifuku are covered in a corn or potato starch fine layer to prevent them from sticking to each other. It features among the most favorite traditional Japanese sweets (mochigashi) for many locals, as well as foreigners.

8. Sudachi


Photo by Takashi Nishimura

Sudachi is a citrus fruit, closely similar to lime or lemon. It is mainly produced in Shikoku, a small Japan island. It can be enjoyed alone, but this fruit’s sour juice is used as a nice condiment with many meals, including vegetables, fish and noodles. It also serves as a standard flavoring in various mass-produced foods such as soda and alcohol. Similar to lime and lemon, sudachi is an extremely versatile dessert flavor. You can find sudachi-flavored mochi, gelatin, bean and ice cream.

9. Ice Hot Dog

japanese ice hot dog

Photo by My Great Sensei

This has been widely dubbed a glorious union of American and Japanese cultures. The ice hot dog is commonly found within Amerikamura (American Village), an American-style district within Osaka. Instead of the regular hot dog bun, you get a sweetened candy-bun. Instead of the regular hot dog, you get ice cream made from natch (Hokkaido milk). And this is actually deep fried. This great dessert goes a long way into proving the importance of cross-cultural experiences.

10. Coffee Jelly

coffee jelly

Photo by cylonfingers

This might sound like a weird dessert. Coffee jelly was invented in Kanto, the eastern-most region of Honshu, during the 19th century. In a stroke of Japanese genius, molded jelly dishes were mixed with coffee under the influence of the European cafe culture and culinary traditions.

This isn’t a niche product as most people would presume. It’s commonly available in numerous restaurants and convenience stores across the whole of Japan. The jelly can be eaten on its own, or even added to milkshakes, tea or ice cream. When taken alone, it may be garnished with whipped cream, condensed milk or bean paste.

As you can see, Japanese desserts are a combination of more traditional and modern flavors, of old and new preparation styles. As they strive to staunchly maintain their traditions, Japanese chefs still enjoy creating novel recipes. All in all, the top Japanese sweets are certainly a treat to be experienced.

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