Japanese Deserts and Sweets

May 2, 2022

Aesthetic appeal and nuanced flavors are two hallmarks of Japanese cuisine. Whether stopping for a snack on the street or heading out for a fine dining experience, the presentation and ingredients of Japanese baking can stop you in your tracks and deliver an experience worth savoring.


If you’re familiar with traditional Japanese meals, you won’t be at all surprised to learn that the creativity of Japanese chefs can also be found in their completely unique Japanese desserts and sweets. Unlike our often oversized, too-sweet American desserts that leave you ready for a nap, Japanese sweets are more likely to leave you refreshed and ready for what’s next.


Wagashi- confections often served with green tea - actually predate the sugar trade with China. Made with plant-based ingredients like nuts, fruits or azuki bean paste called anko, they are naturally lighter and less indulgent. That just means you can enjoy more wagashi without feeling sluggish. Get ready to experiment to find your favorites, keeping in mind that some of these sweets might require some getting used to!


If you decorate with a maximalist vibe or like to put together layered, amazing outfits, anmitsuis for you. This parfait-style dessert starts with agar-agar jelly, which is melted with water or fruit juice to create a gelatin. It is then cut into cubes and served in a bowl with anko bean paste and fruits like cherries, pineapple or Satsuma Orange. Modern versions might include mochi, ice cream or strawberries. The play of flavors and textures makes anmitsu a special treat, one that is as beautiful as it is delicious. Anmitsu is endlessly customizable, so if you are throwing a themed dinner party, you can color coordinate the fruits to vibe with your vision.


Perfect for those who like a petite sweet, these are bite-sized, stuffed mochi about the size of a person’s palm. Traditional mochi are round buns made from soft and chewy rice coated with a light dusting of starch to keep them from sticking together. In the past, daifuku come stuffed with anko, but these days you can also find them filled with strawberries, apricot jam and even crème caramel. Because daifuku are small, it’s easy to try a traditional anko alongside one of the newer flavors for the full daifuku experience.


Are you always on the hunt for Instagrammable moments? Or on a quest to use every emoji? Dangois for you. This trio or quartet of sweet mochiko dumplings on a skewer has its very own emoji. When you enjoy dango, you not only get a lovely sweet, but also a post-worthy moment and the chance to use the corresponding emoji in your caption.  Dango is eaten all year, and the flavors shift by the season.


Street vendors have filled these tender fish-shaped pancakes with anko, chocolate, sweet potato or custard for many years. More recently, you might find ice cream or fruit tucked inside.  Taiyaki are not only delicious, they brings with them a sense of childhood nostalgia, even if you’re already an adult the first time you try them!


While it might not date back centuries like the other sweets on this list, Japanese cheesecake is a unique dessert not to be missed. Fluffy, jiggly and soft, this style of cheesecake is made with several whipped egg whites. It’s an airy, not-too-sweet delight that almost everyone loves. Recipes abound for this treat. We can’t help but wonder if a drizzle of sweet sauce, perhaps enhanced with a splash of Yamasa shoyu might enhance the entire experience even more.


No matter which ones you try, these Japanese desserts and sweets can serve as the perfect ending to a beautiful dinner or a pleasant pick-me-up during a busy afternoon.

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