As summer transitions into autumn, so do the different flavors at cafes and convenience stores in Japan. Japanese culture loves to celebrate each passing season by creating dishes surrounding abundant crops during that period. In summer, it’s all about watermelons and peaches, while in autumn, crops like chestnuts, sweet potatoes, and persimmons take center stage.
Sweet potatoes in Japan are candy-sweet, high in fiber and other nutrients. So it’s no wonder that in grocery stores, it’s often sold on its own.
Let’s narrow down some sweet potato treats that caught our eye this fall.
1. Starbucks’ Sweet Baked Potato Frappuccino
While the Pumpkin Spice Latte has made a comeback after 15 years, Starbucks Japan has made sure to stay in tune with the local flavor of the season. Having seen advertisements placed in front of my local Starbucks about the Sweet Baked Potato Frappuccino, I was hesitant to try it only because it looked way too sweet, but my curiosity got the best of me.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the mellow sweet potato flavor. I had this expectation to taste overwhelmingly artificial, but this drink threw me for a curve. It was light, smooth and the added bits of candied sweet potato was an excellent balance to the drink. If you ever tried Nesvita, the cereal drink, this tastes uncannily similar.
Will I try this again? Probably next year.
2. Mister Donut’ Satsumaimo-de’ Sweet Potato Donuts
Mister Donut in Japan has also released its lineup of sweet potato flavored donuts. The limited-time collection will sell throughout the fall season well into November. All in all, the selection includes five different varieties like plain sweet potato, purple sweet potato (beni imo), honey-butter-glazed sweet potato, sweet potato cream and even a donut with a candied-sweet potato topping.
Out of the five, I was most excited to try the beni imo because it looked. The donut had a vibrant purple-pink glaze dotted with black sesame seeds on top. It looked like something I could easily see appearing in a cartoon. After the first bite, I could see why there were only a few pieces left on display. It was moist, chewy and had just enough sweetness. The actual sweet potato flavor was subtle and wasn’t overpowering.
3. The ‘Hokkaido Milk Bread Sweet Potato Cupcake
For something a little classier, the Mont-Thabor Bakery in Azabu-Juban adds its twist to the sweet potato craze by offering Hokkaido Milk Bread Sweet Potato mini cupcakes. These special-limited cupcakes are only ¥269 each but tasted like they cost way more than that.
After biting into the cupcake, the first thing I noticed was what I can only describe as high-quality ingredients. This isn’t something you’re going to find in Seven-Eleven. Since Hokkaido is known for its tasty dairy products, it was interesting to taste the combination of both the creaminess of the milk bread and the sweet potato in one.
4. Convenience Store Buns
You know sweet potatoes are in season after a quick visit to any konbini (convenience store) in Japan. Lawson recently released their seasonal roasted sweet potato bun. The dough of the outer layer of the bun is dyed in a light purple color (like beni imo) while the inside is filled with lightly sweetened, moist chunks of crushed roasted sweet potatoes from Kumamoto Prefecture.
It didn’t feel heavy, and I think I could have eaten one more. But, it’s something to try if you want to switch things up a bit the next time you head to a nearby convenience store this season.
On the other hand, Family Mart took a more dessert-centric approach with their sweet potato tart and sweet potato crepe. The tart’s sweet potato filling paired unexpectedly well with the crust. Not to mention it smelled great. The crepe, meanwhile, sandwiched thin layers of sweet potato filling with whipped cream and can be easily shared by two people.
5. Baskin Robbins’ Maple Sweet Potato’ Ice cream
It’s not all baked goods when it comes to sweet potato treats. For example, this maple sweet potato ice cream flavor from Baskin Robbins, or “31,” as they call it in Japan.
The maple syrup brought out the richness of the sweet potato, which made it even creamier. Overall, the ingredients’ pairing alone seems like a quintessential fall flavor that I’ll probably eat once every season.
What do you think of Japan’s seasonal treats? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments down below!