What Is Taiyaki? Taiyaki Recipes

Alice Hama

Table of Contents

    Article by Taylor Markarian
    Recipes by Alice Hama

    Taiyaki is one of Japan’s most emblematic desserts. It even makes an appearance in the extremely popular “My Hero Academia” anime, when aging superhero Gran Torino says he will train aspiring hero Izuku Midoriya if he brings him taiyaki — a perfectly reasonable demand, I say. I also love taiyaki; it’s one of my favorite foods. My monthly trip to my local Mitsuwa Marketplace would not be complete without this warm, freshly baked pastry. Why? Two reasons: First, I’m more of a savory person than a sweets person, and taiyaki’s red bean paste interior offers the perfect hint of sweetness. Second, its whimsical fish shape is just irresistible!

    Because it’s not overly sweet, this Japanese dessert would pair well with a sweet, creamy nigori sake like Kurosawa “Nigori” or Homare “Lychee” Nigori. Be sure to try it and let us know what you think!

    But there is more than one way to eat taiyaki. Let’s take a look at this Japanese street food and how it’s made.

    What is taiyaki? The Japanese fish-shaped waffle

    Vanilla soft serve ice cream served on top of taiyaki

    Vanilla soft serve ice cream served on top of taiyaki | Photo by Elodie AGODOR on Unsplash

    Taiyaki is a fish-shaped griddle cake traditionally filled with red bean paste called anko. It is a common street food in Japan, often enjoyed at festivals. Made in a similar fashion as waffles, the dough is golden brown, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The red bean paste can be smooth or it can be chunky. Some modern shops also sell taiyaki with alternative fillings, such as custard or hazelnut chocolate spread. Other purveyors, including Taiyaki NYC and SomiSomi, have gotten even more creative by filling the fish’s “mouth” with soft serve ice cream. Flavors for the ice cream can be traditional Japanese flavors, such as matcha and black sesame, or more commonplace flavors like vanilla and chocolate. You can even go the extra mile and get toppings on your taiyaki ice cream!

    The word taiyaki (pronounced “Thai-yah-kee”) is composed of two parts: “tai” (sea bream) and “yaki” (grilled). So let’s get to the most obvious question: Why is taiyaki shaped like a fish? Aside from being a clever way to draw customers, the bream shape is symbolic of good fortune. While the idea of a griddle cake stuffed with red bean paste dates back to the round imagawaki cake of the Edo period (1603-1868), the fish-shaped taiyaki finds its origins during the Meiji period (1868-1912).

    But reverence for the actual fish dates back over a thousand years. The Engi-Shiki, a set of ancient Japanese governmental regulations, states that sea bream and carp were given to shrines as offerings to the gods. People in what is today called Japan were eating sea bream well before that; bones from these fish have been found among ruins dating back 10,000 years. The red sea bream especially, which reaches a length of about 1 meter, was considered a prize fish only eaten for special occasions or at the imperial palace.

    What is taiyaki made of?

    As mentioned earlier, taiyaki batter is made much the same way as waffle batter. It can be as simple as flour, baking soda and water, but it can also include baking powder, eggs, sugar and milk. The kind of flour used can vary from rice flour to all-purpose flour to cake flour. (Using rice flour will give a more mochi-like consistency.)

    The traditional sweet red bean paste filling is also very simple: just red beans (azuki) and sugar. Despite this, it can take hours to cook the azuki beans correctly, so if you’re not a patient person, you’re better off purchasing pre-made red bean paste online or at a grocery store.

    What does taiyaki taste like?

    Chomping down on a fresh, warm taiyaki is one of the most comforting sensations. It’s a thick, pillowy pastry with an earthy, nutty-tasting center that is just sweet enough to be considered a dessert. (Of course, if you replace the red bean filling with chocolate or cream, or top it with ice cream, it may be a bit sweeter.) Taiyaki is a wonderful treat for those of us who desire something sweet, but don’t necessarily want a mouth full of sugar.

    How to make taiyaki: recipe and ingredients

    Aside from the red bean paste, you likely already have all of the ingredients for taiyaki in your kitchen. Something you’ll need to buy, however, is a taiyaki mold to get the fish shape. There are various taiyaki molds, from single-mold sticks to large plates that can produce six taiyaki at a time. For at-home purposes, a two-pastry press should be suitable. It’s similar to a waffle iron — just fill it up with your taiyaki ingredients!

    Try it at home with these recipes for taiyaki batter and two types of taiyaki filling by food and sake expert Alice Hama.

    Taiyaki batter recipe

    Taiyaki homemade machine

    Photo by Alice Hama

    For this recipe, we used an electric non-stick taiyaki maker. This one had many great reviews on Amazon, but you can also find other options elsewhere online or at Japanese supermarkets. The taiyaki size you get from at-home pans like the one we used is slightly smaller than those you get at professional taiyaki stores and restaurants, so please keep in mind this recipe is for 10-12 taiyaki for this specific pan.

    Ingredients for taiyaki (12 pieces)

    Taiyaki ingredients

    Photo by Alice Hama

    • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (or cake flour)
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
    • ½ cup milk
    • ¼ cup water


    Step 1:

    In a bowl, add flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix well.

    Step 2:

    In a separate bowl, add egg and whisk well, followed by sugar, milk and water.

    Step 3:

    Combine bowls 1 and 2 and mix well until all the powders dissolve and the batter becomes smooth.

    Taiyaki flour ingredients

    Photo by Alice Hama

    Step 4:

    Grease the taiyaki pan with oil spray or simply apply oil with a brush.

    Coating oil into the taiyaki machine

    Photo by Alice Hama

    Step 5:

    On a low heat mode (the machine I got did not have the option, so if there is no temperature control, simply put on heat and wait for a few minutes), add 2 tablespoons batter to the mold pan (or fill the mold pan 70%). Pre-shape the red bean paste so it is easier to place on the pan.

    Prepare red bean paste for the taiyaki filling

    Photo by Alice Hama

    Step 6:

    Add red bean paste and cover the paste with an additional tablespoon batter (or more, if needed). Close the lid completely and wait for 1-2 minutes.

    Cover taiyaki filling with more cake base

    Photo by Alice Hama

    Step 7:

    Remove the excess dough so the taiyaki will look nice and presentable.

    Removing the excess dough

    Photo by Alice Hama

    Two taiyaki that are cooking different time lengthes

    The taiyaki on the left was baked for one minute, and the taiyaki on the right was baked for two minutes. Check your taiyaki pan manual and adjust baking time for your preferred finish | Photo by Alice Hama

    Decorate taiyaki on the plate

    Photo by Alice Hama

    Pro tip: If you would like to follow traditional Japanese etiquette, the fish’s head should be pointing left, and the stomach should be in the front. There are various theories on how this etiquette originated, but it is traditionally believed that it looks more elegant to eat a fish from the direction of head to tail . Taiyaki is not a real fish, but because it is fish-shaped, it is preferred to follow the “fish rule.

    Taiyaki batter using Japanese pancake mix

    Japanese pancake mix is used for a taiyaki batter

    Photo by Alice Hama

    If you are looking for a more convenient way to make taiyaki, Japanese pancake mix is the answer.


    • 200 grams pancake mix (usually pancake mix is packaged in 200 grams)
    • ¾ cup milk
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tablespoons sugar (or honey)


    Add all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Use this as a substitute for the classic batter.

    Taiyaki red bean filling recipe

    Red bean paste at the Japanese grocery store

    Read beans, red bean paste and other ingredients at a Japanese grocery store | Photo by Alice Hama

    There are several options when it comes to red bean filling. The most convenient way is to purchase a packaged, pre-made red bean paste. Most Asian supermarkets carry a variety of red bean pastes. For the recipe above, we used packaged Japanese style tsubuan (chunky texture) and koshian (smooth texture).

    If you opt for making your red bean paste from scratch, here is the basic recipe:


    • 10 ounces (300 grams) dried Japanese red beans
    • 10 ounces (300 grams) sugar
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 8 cups water (4 cups + 4 cups)


    Step 1:

    Thoroughly rinse the beans in cold water and drain well. In a large pot, add beans and 4 cups of water and bring it to boil. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.

    Step 2:

    Carefully drain the beans and get rid of the cooking water as the liquid contains bitterness coming from the outer skin of the beans.

    Step 3:

    Wash and clean the pot and add the beans back. Add 4 cups of water and put on medium heat. Cook for about 40 minutes. Skim the foam off the top as you cook.

    Step 4:

    Turn off the heat and check the texture of the beans. If the beans are soft and mashable, add 1/3 of the sugar at a time over a period of 10 minutes.

    Step 5:

    Cook for another 30-40 minutes on low-to-medium heat. Stir the pot occasionally to make sure the beans do not get burned. Once the beans become mushy and starting to look like a paste, add salt, blend well and turn off the heat. Let it cool.

    Note: If you would like to save some time, a pressure cooker might be a good idea.

    Taiyaki custard filling recipe

    Custard filling is a more modern take. This is an easy recipe you can even make on a busy morning.


    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ¾ cup milk
    • 1 egg


    Step 1:

    In a small blender, add flour and sugar and blend well.

    Step 2:

    Add milk to the blender, blend on low speed for 10 seconds, and then add an egg and repeat.

    Step 3:

    Transfer the mixture to a microwavable container. Put it in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Take it out of the microwave, mix well with a spoon, and put back in the microwave for another 2 minutes. Please note that the power on microwaves varies, so refer to the user manual to see if the cooking time is appropriate.

    Option: You can also make the custard using a small pot. In that case, transfer the mixture to a pot and put on low heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes until you achieve your desired thickness.

    Taiyaki is great for gift-giving!

    Taiyaki is great for gift-giving! | Photo by Alice Hama

    Frequently asked questions about taiyaki

    Taiyaki is a relatively simple Japanese dessert that can be made in many different ways. If you have certain dietary restrictions, you may still be wondering if you can safely indulge in this scrumptious fish-shaped pastry. And if you’re yearning for some taiyaki right about now, you’re probably also wondering where to buy it.

    Is taiyaki gluten free?

    Most taiyaki recipes are not gluten free because of the wheat flour used in the dough. But as we mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of flour that can be used in taiyaki recipes. Some recipes call for a combination of wheat flour and rice flour to achieve a desired chewiness in the texture of the taiyaki dough. If you abide by a gluten-free diet, you can try a recipe that only uses rice flour. Just be aware that you may have to alter the ratios of the other ingredients as well to make it work.

    Is taiyaki vegan?

    Not all taiyaki is vegan because eggs and milk may be used in the batter, as well as in non-red bean fillings like custard. But while you can’t always be sure if the taiyaki you get from a street vendor is vegan friendly, you can certainly make your own! While many taiyaki recipes call for eggs, you can omit them, and in place of regular milk you can use soy milk, as in this recipe from Okonomi Kitchen. In fact, the shop Taiyaki Sharaku in Tokyo only uses flour and baking soda for their taiyaki dough! Just remember that omitting or substituting an ingredient in a recipe may change your ratios.

    Where to buy taiyaki

    If you are lucky enough to travel to Japan, it won’t be too difficult to find some freshly baked taiyaki. Like funnel cake in the U.S., taiyaki are particularly ubiquitous at Japanese festivals. If you live somewhere other than Japan, you can buy taiyaki at specialty Japanese markets and bakeries. Taiyaki NYC, for instance, has multiple locations in New York and Massachusetts. As a resident of New Jersey, my go-to is Oishinbo at Mitsuwa Marketplace.

    Fortunately, even if you can’t find a taiyaki shop near you, most of the ingredients can be found at regular supermarkets. The only supplies you may need to special order are red bean paste and a taiyaki maker, both of which can easily be found on Amazon or other online kitchen supply stores.

    Taiyaki is a must-eat Japanese dessert

    This charming, fish-shaped street food is enjoyable on all levels, from appearance to taste. It has been delighting people in Japan for centuries, and in today’s world, taiyaki is more accessible than ever. With its simple, everyday ingredients and the ease of online ordering, there’s no reason you should miss out on making this marvelous treat at home! Make a fun night out of it with some delicious sake, and take a bite out of pure joy.

    Need help finding the right sake? Read our “Best Bottles and Brands for Beginners” guide, or take our fun taste quiz for personal sake recommendations from a sommelier.


    “How Taiyaki, One Of Tokyo’s Favorite Street Foods, Is Made — The Experts.” Eater. Jan. 9, 2020.

    Hirasawa Chen, N. “Taiyaki (Video) 鯛焼き.” Just One Cookbook. September 7, 2023.

    Owens, A. “How to Make Taiyaki at Home, According to Two Japanese Dessert Experts.” Food Network. May 21, 2021.​​https://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/food-network-essentials/how-to-make-taiyaki-at-home

    Taiyaki NYC

    Dr. Yoshida Munehiro. “Sea Bream—A Special Fish for the Japanese People.” Highlighting Japan, Vol.180. May 2023.

    Alice Hama

    Alice Hama

    Certified Sommelier in wine and sake with more than 15 beverage and food-related certifications around the world, including Court of Master and WSET Sommeliers. Alice’s passion for wine and sake has taken her on many gastronomic adventures! She currently consults and writes for several importers, restaurants, and media outlets.


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