What exactly is Anko or An in Japanese food culture?

Typically made from boiled Azuki red beans sweetened with sugar, the paste “Anko (餡子)” 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 didn’t clearly know how they differ 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 varieties, and even Hummus, a chickpea-based paste that is eaten in the Middle East, can be regarded as a kind of Anko.

What exactly is An (餡)?

Ankake RamenAnkake Ramen

Meanwhile, based on the article “餡” on Japanese Wikipedia, An can be divided into 3 types.

  • A paste made from boiled beans, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, or the like, sweetened with sugar and kneaded. The majority of Anko
  • A salted mixture of mincemeat and finely chopped vegetables typically used as a filling for dumplings like Manju and Gyoza (potstickers)
  • An meant for An-Kake dishes. The thick sauce prepared by heating water or dashi stock mixed with starch such as Katakuriko (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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