Summer style anmitsu, a traditional Japanese dessert

Our Favorite Traditional Japanese Desserts

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Contrary to what you would think if you see the average Japanese waistline, Japanese people actually love sweets. They even say that they seem to have a second stomach that always has space for dessert, even after a satisfying meal. People from outside of Japan sometimes have to get used to the taste of typical Japanese sweets. But once they tasted them a few times, many people can’t resist a dessert in Japan. Let us share our favorite traditional Japanese desserts and their recipes with you!

Anmitsu flavored kakigori, a traditional Japanese dessert

Anmitsu’s Traditional Japanese Desserts Flavors

Anmitsu has all the typical flavors of Japanese desserts; green tea, red beans, and rice cake (mochi).  It has a pretty long history dating back to the Meiji era. The exact ingredients can vary slightly as there are different variations. But in general, the main ingredients for this dessert are agar jelly, red beans, soft mochi balls, peas, and fruits. Fruits that are often used are peach, mandarins, pineapple, and cherries. To add more sweetness to the dish, syrup is served on the side to pour over the dessert to taste.

You can find a recipe for anmitsu here.

Funky Combination: Fruit Sandwich

Being from a bread-loving country, it was a bit hard to wrap my head around this one the first time I saw it. In Japan, bread is not a native staple food. It only became widely popular after WW2, and so it is maybe not so strange that they came up with some funky combinations. The fruit sandwich or fruit sando is pretty much what it sounds like, with an added layer of whipped cream.

If you want to try your hand at making them yourself, here is a recipe for fruit sandos.

Refreshing Mizu Manju

Especially popular in summer, mizu manju are a refreshing snack on the warmer days of the year. Mizu means water, and this name was chosen because of the confectionary’s appearance. The jelly on the outside is transparent, so you can see the red bean filling through the jelly. It looks a bit like a large water drop with a filling. The jelly is made with kuzu starch and sugar that is dissolved in water.

These sweets are not easy to find outside of Japan, so if you want to make your own you can use this recipe for mizu manju.

Everybody Loves Goma Dango

Just like dishes like chahan (fried rice), ramen noodles, and gyoza, goma dango have their roots in Chinese cuisine. These delectable deep-fried sesame balls are based on rice flour and filled with, you guessed it, red bean paste. They are best enjoyed fresh from the fryer, but be careful, as the balls can be very hot on the inside. In Japan, you can buy goma dango in Chinatowns, at some Chinese restaurants, and during some festivals.

Want to make these delicious sesame balls for yourself? Here is a recipe for goma dango.

Super Traditional Japanese Desserts: Amanatto

Let’s finish with a very traditional Japanese sweet; amanatto. ‘Amai’ means ‘sweet’, and you might be familiar with natto, which is fermented soybean paste. Natto in its purest form is enjoyed by many but definitely not loved by everyone. It has quite a pungent smell and the flavor also falls under ‘acquired taste’. It is, however, very healthy as it can help in lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. If you can’t like it even after trying it a few times, you can try amanatto, as the taste is very different from the regular form.

Amanatto is usually made with milder-tasting adzuki beans, but you can also make it with easily available black beans. Here is a recipe for amanatto based on black beans.

Your Japan Tour

As seasoned Japan experts, we create perfect Japan package tours including carefully selected local restaurants. You will definitely get to taste some delicious traditional desserts as well. Other food experiences such as cooking workshops are also possible. Check out our group tours and private tours, or contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country. Japan is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!

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