Kinako: What Is It And Why We Love It

by Danny Taing


If you’ve wandered through our boutique of Japanese snacks, you’ve likely seen the word kinako sprinkled through our selection. Have you found yourself wondering, “What is kinako? And should I try it?” Well, today, we’re happy to give you the rundown on kinako, why we love it, and why you will too!

What Is kinako?

Kinako (きな粉), which literally means “yellow powder,” is a fine flour made by grinding soybeans. Accordingly, it is most often translated as “soybean flour.” Yes, if you can believe it, the same soybeans that are used to make soy sauce and tofu can also be made into the golden powder pictured below! However, unlike soy sauce—a condiment for the savory side of things—kinako is most often used as a garnish for dessert!

kinako roasted soybean powder

What Does Kinako Taste Like?

Kinako has a one-of-a-kind flavor, and the easiest way to describe it would be nutty and kind of like roasted peanuts. Some people have even described it as similar to peanut butter! Texturally, kinako is finely ground and quite powder-like. Kinako has a subtle sweetness to it, so it is commonly used as a garnish on traditional Japanese sweets, though sugar is often mixed in to further enhance its flavor.

Countless Ways to Eat Kinako!

Kinako is incorporated in all kinds of Japanese snacks, both in traditional and modern culinary creations. Here are some of our favorite kinako snacks!

Kinako Mochi, where sweet glutinous mochi is simply topped with kinako powder, is one of the best ways to experience the unique, nutty flavor. Try this traditional snack at home with Kinako Dango Mochi from our Boutique. Delciously chewy mochi dumplings are rolled in kinako powder for a simple and traditional snack.

Japanese snack

Kuromitsu, a Japanese black sugar syrup, is also commonly added to snacks featuring kinako. The sweet syrup is made with brown sugar from Okinawa and, while its color may be reminiscent of molasses, it is less viscous. The addition of kuromitsu helps break up the dryness of kinako and mochi like in these Black Syrup Kinako Mochi Puffs. High-quality mochi rice is used to create these airy puffs that are then generously coated with kinako, kuromitsu, and cocoa powder. You’ll be amazed at how these airy snacks dissolve in your mouth like snow, making it a fan-favorite in our Japanese snack boxes!

Warabi mochi

Warabi mochi is one of the most common kinako snacks. Despite the name, it’s not made of glutinous rice. The name comes from how its bouncy texture is similar to mochi, but it is actually made from warabi or bracken, a vegetable starch. A bit more jelly-like, warabi mochi is traditionally served with kinako and kuromitsu, and it is especially popular in the hot summer months in Japan.

Ohagi is another traditional Japanese sweet, where sweet rice is covered with azuki red bean paste. You can kind of think of it like an inside-out red bean daifuku (the round mochi stuffed with red bean paste in the center).

There are various kinds of ohagi, including one covered in kinako to add an additional layer of flavor, as well as make it easier to handle when eating. The sweetness from red beans adds a nice little burst of flavor in contrast to kinako’s subtle notes, which you can try out for yourself in Chocolate Azuki Beans flavored with kinako and black sesame. With double the nutty notes from both kinako and black sesame, this is one addicting snack!

These days, kinako can be found in modern snack fare, including kinako-flavored ice cream and candies, and you may have even seen it in photos of the “raindrop cake” or shingen mochi that exploded in popularity a few years ago. Whether incorporated in traditional snacks or modern sweets, kinako is widely loved—and for good reason!

Kinako is one of many unique Japanese flavors you can try out in our Japanese snack subscription boxes. Don’t miss out on discovering traditional flavors and the most popular snacks in Japan!

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