5 Japanese Wintertime Desserts You Need To Try | CoolJapan

If you’re a fan of Japanese food, you probably know that “shun” or the seasonality of ingredients play an important role in Japanese cuisine and culture. Shun refers to not just seasonal ingredients as a whole, but also the time of the year where a particular ingredient is at its freshest and most flavourful. 

But did you know that “shun” can extend to desserts too? 

Here is a round-up of some of the sweet treats that the Japanese enjoy in the winter months. 

Oshiruko (Zenzai)

Oshiruko (Zenzai) lifestyle shot

Zenzai with a grilled mochi. (Photo from: チリーズ)

When it’s frosty outside, nothing warms the belly and soul quite like a piping hot bowl of zenzai. This traditional Japanese dessert soup is made with azuki beans and served hot with mochi (rice cake) or shiratama dango (glutinous rice flour dumplings) added into the soup. The combination of the toasty, chewy rice cakes with the subtly sweet, aromatic red beans makes this a winning combination. 


Manjyu is a classic wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionery) with a soft, sticky exterior made with flour, rice powder, buckwheat and kudzu (Japanese arrowroot) and a filling that changes depending on the season. In the winter, manjyu is usually stuffed with chestnuts but in certain parts of Kyoto, they also sell sake manjyu where the dough is made of sake and stuffed with a sweet bean paste filling.

Matcha chocolate fondue

This is a modern fusion creation but has been gaining popularity in Japan in the last few years. Chocolate fondue, which is said to have been created in New York City by a Swiss restaurateur, is given a Japanese update with the addition of matcha green tea powder. The earthy flavours of matcha offset the sweetness of white chocolate, so you get a dessert that’s not too cloying. Whether you choose to dip cut fruits or biscuit chunks in the sauce, every bite will be oh-so-satisfying.



Yaki-imo, roasted sweet potato. (Photo from: pyonsu)

Imo, or Japanese purple sweet potatoes, are renowned for their extraordinarily sweet flavour. They are so naturally sweet and flavourful that most people simply enjoy them roasted. In wintertime, however, several restaurants take it up a notch and serve creative renditions of this delicious ingredient — from baked sweet potato soft serve ice cream to sweet potato custard pudding. 

Uguisu mochi

With a history that dates back to the Edo Period (1603 to 1867), this dessert is typically eaten at the tail-end of winter, right before the arrival of Spring. Shaped to look like the Japanese bush warbler, which is a symbol of the start of Spring, this mochi is stuffed with azuki beans and flecked with green soybean powder. Soft, chewy and delicate — this has all the hallmarks of a beautifully made wagashi.

(Cover photo from: チリーズ)