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Japanese Dessert: The Best Types You Need to Try!

Karina IkedoKarina Ikedo
Published Time
Posted on 
December 29, 2022
An elborate bowl of green tea anmitsu, which is a traditional Japanese dessert.

The Japanese dessert has a vibrant history and variety! Adding new desserts to your repertoire indeed makes life sweeter. The regional desserts of Japan are also well-known and adored, just like its food!

Japanese desserts have it all, whether you’re looking for unusual flavors, a sweet dish with a delicious sticky consistency, or an incredible delight to savor in the summer sun. We’ve rounded up the most iconic Japanese dessert you won’t regret trying!

Mochi: The original Japanese dessert

Unexpectedly used for savory recipes, mochi is a common ingredient and a traditional dessert category. The makers pound Japanese short-grain rice into squares, cubes, and other shapes to create the rice cake known as mochi. 

A plate of brightly-colored mochi.
Mochi is one of the most classic Japanese desserts. Image via Shutterstock

The most popular mochi desserts include mochi ice cream and sakura mochi, flavored with cherry blossoms and red bean paste. Hishi mochi comes in a rhomboid shape with three different color layers: red, white, and green flavored mochi.


Dorayaki is a popular dessert among both children and adults in Japan. It consists of two small American-style pancakes combined with a sweet-salty red bean paste and either hot or cold. 

Given its round shape, the dessert’s name, “dora,” is a pun on the word “gong,” the well-known percussion instrument. 

A picture of dorayaki which is a Japanese dessert featuring castella pancake sandwiches with sweet paste inside.
Dorayaki is available at most stores. Image via Shutterstock

Dorayaki is a favorite dish of one of the cutest Japanese mascots, Doraemon. It gained even more popularity after its growing presence in anime and mangas. The fact that the sweet-filled pancakes may be somewhat satisfying also makes them a favorite snack among Japanese people. 

The filling can have many flavors like custard cream, oreo, chocolate, matcha, or fruits like strawberries and blueberries.


Manju, a beloved wagashi (or traditional dessert) in Japan, pairs perfectly with a steaming mug of green tea. The traditional manju, a circular, steamed cake filled with a sweet red bean paste, only requires five ingredients. 

A plate of manju buns, which are thick, crispy sweet puns with paste inside.
Manju is a rich Japanese dessert. Image via Shutterstock

The manju cakes have all-purpose flour for a more cake-like consistency, even though these adorable little round desserts may look like chewy mochi. Sometimes they even use karinto as a crunchier base!

Anmitsu: The Japanese dessert like a parfait

The Japanese dish anmitsu consists of kanten jelly, anko, mochi, red endo mame peas, fruits (such as peaches, pineapples, cherries, and Japanese satsuma oranges), and brown sugar syrup. 

Another bowl of animitsu with anko red bean paste, matcha ice cream, kinako powder and agar syrup.
Anmitsu is one of the most traditional Japanese desserts out there! Image via Shutterstock

The main ingredient is agar syrup. People melt it into water or fruit juice to create tiny cubes of agar-agar jelly for this traditional Japanese dessert. Anmitsu is a well-liked summer wagashi in Japan since it’s a sweet and chilled dish.

Dango: The street Japanese dessert

Dango is a typical Japanese rice dumpling. This well-liked street food combines uruchi rice (non-glutinous rice) flour with glutinous rice flour. Three to five rice dumpling balls are usually on a bamboo skewer. Seasonal versions are offered all year round on this well-known Japanese street snack.

A long plate of mitarashi dango (roasted soy sauce rice cakes) and hanami dango (pink, white and green rice cakes) on skewers.
Dango is one of the best Japanese desserts you can get on the street! Image via Shutterstock

There is a wide variety of dango available such as sanshoku (triple color) dango, kinako dango (dango coated in kinako (roasted soybean) powder), and yomogi dango (dango made with Japanese mugwort).

The most well-known version is the mitarashi dango, white dumpling balls coated in sweet soy syrup for a sweet and savory pairing.

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One of the most famous Japanese desserts is daifuku. A filled mochi, daifuku is a small mochi ball with a sweet filling, commonly anko. You’ll often find these mochi balls dusted in corn or potato starch, so they don’t stick together. 

Three spoons of daifuku with black sesame paste inside. They're green, yellow and pink respectively. There's another glass plate with the Japanese dessert as well.
Daifuku can have anything from a sweet paste to a whole fruit inside! Image via Shutterstock

This traditional Japanese dessert has many variations based on its filling. The most popular ones are mugwort (yomogi daifuku), sweetened Japanese apricot (ume daifuku), coffee, ice cream, and strawberries and anko/sweet cream (ichigo daifuku).

Japanese cheesecake: A Japanese dessert?

The Japanese cheesecake is the American cheesecake of Japan. With the international growth of Uncle Tetsu, a well-known Japanese cake shop specializing in Japanese cheesecakes, this traditional delicacy from Japan gained popularity. 

A plate of Japanese cheesecake which is baked and fluffy.
Japanese cheesecake is very fluffy and delicious! Image via Shutterstock

Because they use less sugar and cheese than traditional Western cheesecakes, these soufflé-style cheesecakes are softer, lighter, and less sweet. They also come in different flavors, such as strawberry and melon!

Taiyaki: The Japanese dessert that looks like a fish!

Due to its recognizable fish shape, taiyaki is one of the most famous Japanese desserts. The name taiyaki comes from the fish “tai” (red sea bream), molded after because it symbolizes luck and fortune in Japan. People can find this famous street food in Japan everywhere, from food stalls and the streets to festivals and grocery stores.

A plate of fish shaped pastries with red bean paste inside. This is taiyaki, a Japanese dessert.
Taiyaki can have all types of sweet fillings inside! Image via Shutterstock

The main ingredients for taiyaki are pancake batter and a sweet filling. Like most Japanese desserts, including daifuku, taiyaki comes in various fillings, including custard, chocolate, sweet potato, ice cream, and even savory kinds with sausage and cheese as fillings.


Melonpan is among our favorite fluffy Japanese bread! It’s a variety of kashi-pan, or Japanese sweet bun, that originated in Japan and is available in Taiwan, China, and Japan. The base of this traditional Japanese treat is an enriched dough, and the top is a crisp cookie dough with a grid-like design like a melon. 

A basket of melonpan sweet bread, which is round with grid pattern on it.
Melonpan is fluffy and available at most convenience stores! Image via Shutterstock

Despite being called Melonpan and having a melon-like appearance on the top, it does not often taste like a melon. Melonpan is available in various forms with various fillings, just like dorayaki and taiyaki. It’s getting increasingly common to find Melonpan variations filled with fresh melon slices or melon cream.


Japanese honey sponge cake called “castella” has been around for more than 400 years. Portuguese traders brought the cake to Nagasaki, a well-known trading port city, in the 16th century. The name comes from the Portuguese “Pó de Castela,” meaning “bread from Castile.” 

Four slices of a yellow cake more castella.
Castella originally came from Nagasaki. Image via Shutterstock

Ovens did not exist during that time in Japan, so the locals invented a coal-fired kiln called a Hikigama to make Castella. The cake batter uses four essential ingredients: flour, eggs, honey, and sugar. Castella cake is sold in long boxes and served cut into slices, often with green tea.


One of Japan’s oldest desserts, yokan, is generally made with sugar, agar jelly, and either anko (sweet red bean paste) or shiro-an (sweet white bean paste). Today, a version of yōkan made from sweet potatoes, chestnuts, and matcha has become hugely popular.

A plate of green yokan (thick jelly dessert) with kinako powder on top.
Yokan is a very thick jelly dessert. Image via Shutterstock

A rich and thick jelly-like dessert, there are two main types of yōkan. The first, neri yōkan, is the most common. Meaning “kneaded,” it has a thicker, firmer texture, is prepared as large blocks, and served and eaten as slices. Mizu yōkan, meaning “water,” on the other hand, has a far more liquid-like consistency and is often sold in cups and eaten with a spoon.

Daigaku imo: The sweet potato Japanese dessert

When sweet potatoes are in season in the fall and winter, food stalls and school festivals sometimes serve a dish called “Daigaku Imo,” made of candied sweet potatoes. The wholesome treat comes from deep-fried Japanese purple-skinned sweet potatoes cut into wedges and glazed with caramelized sugar syrup.

A blue bowl of daigaku imo, or candied sweet potatoes with black sesame seeds.
Daigaku imo uses sweet potatoes! Image via Shutterstock

It’s a simple and delicious snack that is crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Daigaku Imo means “college potato,” with its name coming from the fact sweet potatoes were a popular snack at universities in Tokyo during the early 1900s due to their nutritious value, filling nature, and abundance.


Monaka is a sandwiched wagashi (Japanese confectionery) consisting of azuki bean paste and crispy wafers. It’s very famous, and people usually enjoy it with tea! There are many stores in Japan that specialize in nothing but monaka!

A plate of monaka which is a Japanese dessert with red bean paste inside of a wafer sandwich.
Monaka uses wafers and red bean paste! Image via Shutterstock

Because it’s so famous, there’s even an ice cream version by famous confectioner Morinaga! Mocha is used to make wafers, which are crisp on the outside and taste and feel like ice cream cones.

These Japanese desserts are decadent, with melt-in-mouth textures and mind-blowing flavors that offer a delicious experience! What’s your favorite Japanese dessert? Let us know in the comments below!

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Author avatar
Karina Ikedo

1 Responses

Margie Johnson says
January 23, 2023, 1:12 AM

Thank you for this wonderful array of Japanese desserts, along with their mouthwatering descriptions!

My husband travels to Japan often, and my granddaughter & I have been there as well; beautiful, very clean, so many wonderful restaurant choices, and such lovely & gracious people!


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