What exactly is Anko or An?

Typically made from boiled Azuki red beans sweetened with sugar, “Anko (餡子)” paste is an indispensable part of “Wagashi (和菓子)” traditional Japanese sweets. Sometimes, Anko is simply called “An (餡)”, but until now I didn’t know what exactly An means.

The Difference between Anko and An

Tsubu An (sweet Azuki red bean paste)Tsubu An

According to Nihon Anko Association, it seems that until now the definition of Anko was vague and no one showed the border between Anko and An. Therefore, it may be no wonder I did’t clearly know how they are different from each other.

What exactly is Anko (餡子)?


The Japan Anko Association says that Anko is a paste whose ingredients are boiled down and kneaded. Using beans, sweetening the ingredient with sugar or having a sweet taste are sufficient conditions, not necessary conditions.

Hence, Anko is also available in no sugar versions, and even the traditional food eaten in the Middle East, Hummus (chickpea-based paste) can be considered a kind of Anko.

What exactly is An (餡)?

Ankake RamenAnkake Ramen

On the other hand, based on the article “餡” on Wikipedia Japan, An is broadly divided into 3 types.

  • Paste made from boiled beans, sweet potatoes, chestnuts or the like, sweetened with sugar and kneaded. The majority of Anko
  • Cooked mincemeat and finely chopped vegetables for the filling of dumplings like Manju and potstickers
  • An for Ankake dishes. The thick sauce prepared by heating water or Dashi stock with starch powder, such as Katakuriko (Japanese potato starch) or Kuzuko (kudzu flour), which usually contains some meat and vegetables


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

2 Responses

  1. I’ve eaten the sweet Anko in pastries at a Japanese restaurant in Bangkok a few years ago. Sooooo good 🙂

    • Tomo says:

      Hi Michelle san!
      Thanks for the comment! In Japan, there are many varieties of Anko sweets you will definitely love!
      I will also try more!

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