Wasabi has been a bit of a hot topic lately. Everybody seems keen to learn how to distinguish between real and fake wasabi, but there's so much more to Japan's spicy condiment. It's actually quite versatile and can spice up almost any dish, savory or sweet — yes, sweet!
Let's look at some interesting ways foodies around Japan have used wasabi, sometimes even making it the star ingredient.
New To Wasabi? Start Here!
If you've just started to learn about wasabi, check out our previous wasabi guides:
The Best Place To Try Wasabi in Japan?
But first, a special shoutout to Izu, a breezy peninsula south of Greater Tokyo home to many hot spring towns like Atami and Shuzenji and coastal beaches.
Izu is one of the best places in Japan to try wasabi because its history of cultivating the plant goes so far back. The people of Izu take great pride in their wasabi, and you can try many of the wasabi foods mentioned in this list in Izu.
9 Sweet & Savory Wasabi Foods
Admittedly, you'll need to be a little adventurous to try some of these wasabi foods. Some are tried and tested and absolutely worth the trip; others sound good in theory, though I've yet to get my hands on them.
1. Wasabi on Soft Serve Ice Cream
Spice and dairy go together like peanut butter and jam.
Outside of Shuzenji Temple, you'll find a small shop where you can order a cone of soft serve ice cream with a generous dab of freshly grated wasabi on top.
Two main factors make this combination a match made in heaven: contrasting textures and soft flavors. Fresh wasabi is harsh and grainy, which pairs surprisingly well with the smooth soft serve. Soft serve also tends to have subtle flavors, and you might think this would make the spiciness of the wasabi more pronounced. But fresh wasabi is less spicy than you think! The wasabi actually adds a much-welcomed bitterness that complements the fattiness of the soft serve perfectly.
In another shop, and some shops around Japan, you'll find simple wasabi-flavored soft serve ice cream. Just the kick of wasabi without the grittiness.
2. Wasabi Seaweed Tempura Chips
We all love to wander the snacks aisle at the supermarket in search of unique chip flavors. If you like something spicy and crunchy to munch on, try wasabi seaweed tempura chips.
There are a few brands that make these extra-salty snacks, and while they're definitely not an everyday treat, trying them once is a must.
3. Wasabi-Flavored Kitkats
Japanese KitKats need no introduction. You'll find almost as many flavors as there are Japanese prefectures. It should come as no surprise that you'll find wasabi-flavored KitKats. Are they the best wasabi food on this list? Probably not, but they make a fun snack to bring home and share with friends.
Wasabi KitKats are exclusive to Shizoka Prefecture and the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo. Don Quijote is a good place to look for these, as they hold many of the Japan-exclusive flavors, but you can also check department stores and souvenir stores around Japan.
4. Pickled Wasabi
Tsukemono (Japanese pickles) are a huge part of the standard Japanese diet. They are one of Japan's major fermented foods, alongside sake and shoyu, and they're known to help regulate gut health. The sky's the limit when it comes to pickling, so naturally, you can also find pickled wasabi.
Pickled wasabi is one way to use the parts of the root that you don't use as a condiment, like the stem and leaves. This is considered a spring delicacy, though you can find pickled wasabi in souvenir shops in Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures year-round.
5. Wasabi Shochu
Edging on the more experimental side of wasabi foods, wasabi shochu is a craft product that you'll find in select liquor stores in Izu, where it's made, and online shops.
This alcoholic drink is made with Izu-sourced mineral water and, of course, Izu-grown wasabi. The product is presented to have qualities similar to the wasabi-soft serve ice cream combo, with a sharp finish that compliments the smoothness of Izu water. Drinking in moderation, it's been said, will bring all of the same health benefits of eating wasabi as a condiment.
6. Wasabi Ramen
One novelty restaurant in Iwate Prefecture, Shiraishiya, has made it its mission to offer classic Japanese comfort foods with a strong wasabi twist. Using wasabi cultivated in Miyamoricho, one of Tohoku's biggest producers of wasabi, Shiraishiya makes noodles and gyoza wraps with a spicy kick. Wasabi dishes here include wasabi ramen, wasabi soba, and wasabi gyoza, but many claim it's worth a pit stop!
Shiraishiya is located at the intersection of routes 396 and 283, so if you're driving through the area, make sure to pop by for lunch. There are also some non-wasabi options for those who may not be good with spice.
7. Wasabi Manju
Another niche souvenir on our wasabi foods list is wasabi manju, which you'll find in Nagano Prefecture. Manju are a type of traditional Japanese confectionery usually filled with sweet red bean paste, and they're often associated with onsen towns. These Nagano manju are made with wasabi, giving something like a sweet and salty taste to what's usually a sweet treat.
8. Wasabi Nabe (Wasabi Hot Pot)
Going back to Izu, if you visit the area around Mt. Amagi in the winter, you'll find Japanese restaurants serving wasabi nabe. Wasabi nabe's defining characteristic is that a considerable amount of wasabi will be added to the hot pot. You'll find it with a soy sauce or chicken base, generally paired with duck alongside local veggies like shiitake mushrooms and burdock.
9. Wasabi Milk Coffee
In May 2023, Ueshima Coffee had a brief viral moment when it announced it would have wasabi milk coffee on its summer menu. Japanese netizens went wild and flocked to their nearest Ueshima Coffee location to try it out for themselves. The drink was as simple as it sounds: coffee, milk, a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with Izu-grown wasabi. The combination of wasabi and coffee was meant to create a pleasant, tangy aftertaste, "pushing the boundaries of coffee in a way that few coffee chains dared to," as the Asahi Shimbun reported.
Look closely enough, and you'll find plenty more wasabi foods around Japan, from wasabi cheese to wasabi spread for your morning toast.
The next step in your wasabi journey? Visiting a wasabi farm in Japan. If you can't spare a detour through the Izu Peninsula, visit a wasabi farm in Okutama, only 2 hours by train from downtown Tokyo.