Japan is well known for the best rice crackers. These crunchy snacks are addictively delicious, no matter what form they come in – and it turns out there are plenty of different forms! Japanese rice crackers have been firmly established in the country’s food scene for over a thousand years. You might think this stems from the fact that rice is such an integral part of the Japanese diet – and you’d be right. But the popularity of rice crackers is also thanks to their cultural and traditional role in Japanese society.
Rice has long been offered up to the gods to give thanks for a good harvest, often in the form of cooked rice cakes. After a while these rice cake offerings would be hardened enough to snap and crack – just like a rice cracker. As a result, rice crackers have naturally found their way into many different Japanese festivals and official public holidays.
Rice crackers actually vary from region to region too, with many places in Japan priding themselves on their particular style of making and baking senbei.
What Types of Japanese Rice Crackers Are There?
Despite there being a myriad of different Japanese rice crackers, they can usually be organized into a few core categories – most notably senbei, okaki, and arare.
- Senbei (煎餅) rice crackers are made from non glutinous rice flour, and are typically made in the shape of large flattened discs about the size of your palm.
- Okaki (おかき) rice crackers are made with glutinous rice flour, and require making mochi dough first which is then cut into small pieces before being flavored.
- Arare (あられ) rice crackers are also made with glutinous rice flour, but are much smaller than okaki - basically a bite-size cracker - which are usually moulded into little spheres or balls.
All three categories of rice cracker can be flavored with either sweet or savory ingredients, and you’ll normally find that there are countless additional ingredients used to lend specific flavors to these crackers – everything from seaweed and soy sauce to shrimp, scallions, curry and wasabi.
Once formed, these crackers are either baked, grilled or fried, and all three types are delicious when paired with a soothing cup of green tea or a crisp, cold beer. Equally, rice crackers are often eaten as a quick snack during the day while on the go.
They’re hugely popular across the country, and are available at all Japanese convenience stores. You might have heard of Japan’s top favorite rice cracker, Kameda Kakinotane, which is a mixture of half-moon-shaped arare rice crackers and peanuts in a spicy powder. Then there’s the Hai Hain rice crackers, which have been developed specifically so that babies and toddlers above 7 months old can eat them safely. Although there’s barely any taste to these crackers, so many people in Japan grew up eating them that now there’s a significant nostalgic connection too!
So what are the best Japanese rice crackers? While it’s pretty difficult to narrow it down, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourites, most of which are available at the Bokksu Boutique too. Fair warning: only keep reading if you’re ready to be hungry!
Uni Rice Crackers
Crackers flavored with sea urchin may not sound like the best combination, but rest assured that these uni rice crackers really do hit the spot! Lightly salted and with a soy sauce glaze, they impart a wonderful sweetness and aren’t overly fishy at all.
Okaki Lemon and Salt Rice Crackers
Airy and fresh, the lemon juice in these okaki rice crackers offers a sharp tang that’s incredibly moreish. They’re made simply enough, with salt and some added oil dusted across each cracker’s surface.
Edamame Senbei Crackers
Edamame senbei has a lovely soft taste: kind of earthy and a little nutty. That’s due to the bits of edamame soybeans embedded into the cracker during the baking process. Sprinkled with a little roasted soybean powder, which elevates the flavor even further – and they offer a satisfying snap too.
Wasabi Senbei Crackers
Fans of the peppery and pungent flavor of wasabi will utterly adore these thick cut wasabi senbei crackers. Each triangular shape in the bag – which mimics an onigiri rice ball – has been coated with lashings of soy sauce and wasabi.
Watch out though, because while one or two crackers may not taste too fiery, eating the whole bag in one sitting could well blow your head off (or at least cause your nose to burn!).
Shiro Miso Rice Crackers
Shiro Miso (white miso) is a gorgeously subtle ingredient, the taste of which pairs perfectly with this thick cut rice cracker. With scallions embedded in the cracker too, there’s a lovely balance of peppery flavor alongside the sugary sweetness of white miso.
Ebi Otsumami Crackers
Otsumami means ‘finger food’, and in Japanese it’s the word used to denote snacks that pair well with drinks. These little stick-shaped Ebi rice crackers, flavored with fried shrimp and mixed together with crunchy peanuts, create a taste explosion that’s a perfect accompaniment to a crisp beer at the end of the day.
Sesame Taiko Rice Cracker
The deliciously nutty taste of sesame seeds is a perfect flavor for rice crackers. We love these black sesame rice crackers, which are handmade in Kumamoto and studded with all sorts of different nuts and seeds that have been roasted to perfection to provide an irresistible crunching experience.
They say tonkatsu sauce can go well with anything, and it’s certainly true in the case of these adorable senbei crackers. Each has been fried and marinated in tonkatsu sauce, leaving them tasting sharp, tangy, and just a little bit sweet. Delicious!
Umeboshi Rice Cracker
Another slightly odd flavor to a non-Japanese palate is pickled plum, otherwise known as umeboshi. This is actually a classic ingredient in Japanese cuisine, so of course it’s featured in the rice cracker repertoire. These thinly baked crackers have married together the sourness of pickled plums with the umami richness of soy sauce, creating a truly unforgettable sweet and sour flavor.
Mentaiko is a type of cured cod roe that’s extremely popular in Japan, especially on pasta of all things. These perfectly sized mentaiko okaki have been flavored with a lovely mentaiko mayonnaise and are even a pinky color to mirror their primary ingredient.
Try Japanese Rice Crackers at Home
If your taste buds are going crazy right now, never fear: it’s possible to try out all of these senbei crackers (and plenty more besides) at Bokksu Boutique. What’s more, Bokksu’s snack selection pairs perfectly with a number of different Japanese teas, like this beautiful Sweet Sakura hojicha blend.
If you're a fan of Japanese rice crackers, you'll love Bokksu Japanese snack box. It's a subscription box that delivers a variety of authentic Japanese snacks and teas to your doorstep, including traditional senbei from local makers. You'll get to taste different regions and seasons of Japan with each box, and learn about the culture and history behind each snack. Plus, you'll enjoy free shipping worldwide when you order Bokksu. Don't wait, subscribe to Bokksu now and treat yourself to a delicious journey through Japan!
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