If you are wondering how to say Japanese pudding (purin), think pooh and rin (like the old Japanese coin). It’s speculated that purin was introduced during the Meiji period as an adaptation of Western flan pudding. The silky, delicate Japanese dessert, with its smoky caramel topping—has been revitalized in recent months and has been trending on social media.
Fresh and unusual flavors have been introduced, from matcha-flavored custard to cookie-crumble toppings, proving that the versatile purin is limited only by one’s imagination. Here's what you need to know about Japanese pudding—including popular types, where to try it, and how to make purin yourself.
What Is Japanese Pudding (Purin)?
Purin is a Japanese take on what you might know as a creme-caramel dessert or a flan pudding. In essence, Japanese purin is a custard-based dessert with a caramel sauce. The custard is steamed or baked, or sometimes set with gelatin, and this process allows the dessert to set in a ramekin or even a loaf tin.
Originally, this dish was considered a rare and expensive dessert. Over the years, as dairy products became more popular in Japan, Japanese pudding became commercially available, and these days purin is known and loved by young and old alike.
Types of Japanese Pudding
Three of the most popular types of Japanese pudding include:
Japanese custard pudding
This is the dessert that we are making today, and it consists of an egg-based custard mixture. The pudding is traditionally cooked on either a stovetop water bath or an oven bain-marie.
Japanese milk pudding
This often contains gelatin and can be set without having to cook the dessert. The milk base makes it ideal for modern flavors.
Japanese pumpkin pudding
This is essentially a variation on the custard pudding, but the added pumpkin adds a new dimension to the flavor profile. This is a great addition to your fall (and Halloween) dessert choices!
Where To Try Japanese Pudding (In Japan)
If you have been exploring social media for Japanese desserts, you will have come across a magnitude of Japanese custard pudding and Japanese milk pudding varieties.
Convenience stores and supermarkets
You will not have to look far to find purin in Tokyo; your nearest konbini, as well as local supermarket, will very likely have some in stock right now.
Cafes and restaurants
If you are looking for a sit-down venue to try out traditional Japanese pudding, Hekkelun is the place to go. This well-established cafe, which recently broke Instagram, has been serving Japanese pudding for over 50 years, so you know you are in for a treat.
How To Eat Japanese Pudding
Japanese pudding is generally served upside down. The caramel is the first layer added to the ramekin, and once this part sets the hot custard mixture is added. The heat from the custard keeps the caramel as syrup and when you are ready to serve it you place your serving plate over the ramekin and turn both over.
The fascinating thing about this dish in Japan is that the serving style has been preserved for the variety of purin puddings available at convenience stores and supermarkets. If you look under the container, you should notice a small plastic protrusion. This ingenious feature, when pressed, releases an airlock and allows the purin to be easily plated.
How To Make Japanese Pudding: Recipe
This versatile Japanese dessert is remarkably simple to make and requires only a few ingredients for the basic recipe. You probably have everything you need in your kitchen right now.
For the caramel:
- 60g white granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to add at the end
For the custard pudding:
- 400ml full-cream milk
- 80ml cream
- 2 extra-large eggs and 1 extra egg yolk
- Vanilla (I used ⅓ teaspoon vanilla-pod powder)
Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius or 300 Fahrenheit. I divided the mixture into six ramekins, and that seemed to be just the right amount for an individual serving. Some people insist that the right amount for an individual serving is a loaf tin so that you get a giant purin (you can actually use any other deep baking dish too).
The recipe is quite forgiving and separates from the dish remarkably easily, given the sticky nature of caramel.
Start with the caramel. You are trying to achieve a slightly smoky flavor and a deep amber color. This is probably the trickiest part of the dessert, as the caramel needs to be supervised or it might burn. I found that if I cooked it on too low of a heat the water dehydrated and sugar crystals formed, so medium heat seems to be the way to go. Be careful when handling melted sugar as it gets notoriously hot.
Pro tip 1: To avoid the sugar crystalizing, avoid stirring with a utensil, you can give the pan a gentle swirl if needed.
Keep some hot water on hand, as you will need to add some at the end to finish the sauce. Once the caramel is done, pour it into your ramekins and allow to set. You will want to do this quite quickly as the caramel sets within moments. I had to reheat mine halfway through filling the ramekins.
For the custard: Heat the milk, cream, and vanilla on the stove. You want to get the milk mixture hot but not quite bubbling.
Pro tip 2: Whisk together your eggs and sugar. This raises the coagulation point of the eggs and allows you to make custard instead of scrambled eggs.
Slowly add your milk mixture to your egg mixture.
Once everything has been incorporated, add the custard to the ramekins and cover with foil. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the foil. This allows excess steam to escape. You'll be baking your purin with the foil on.
Pro tip 3: Run the Japanese pudding mixture through a sieve to get a smooth, even texture.
Pro tip 4: Once the ramekins are filled, prior to covering with foil, you can use a toothpick to remove any bubbles from the mixture. This will ensure you get a smooth silky dessert instead of an unsightly grainy one. Some people find it faster to run a lighter flame over the surface to remove any air pockets quickly.
Place your filled, foiled ramekins on a deep baking tray and add water (I used cold water without any issue). Bake for 40-45 minutes, the size of the dish will make a difference and so will the material of the cookware. Aluminum will heat faster than stoneware, so check on it around 35 minutes into the baking process. Once the pudding has firmed, it is ready to be removed from the heat. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for a couple of hours.
To serve: Run a knife around the edge of the ramekin and then place a saucer over it. Turn it over and with a gentle tap or two, the purin should plate itself with the iconic cascade of caramel. This part is truly satisfying to witness.
Other Japanese Sweets to Try
Mastered Japanese pudding? Move on to other popular Japanese sweets, with these hands-on cooking classes in Tokyo:
If you are looking for more traditional Japanese desserts, check out our guide to wagashi.