Taiyaki (Japanese Fish Dessert)

By: takestwoeggsPosted: 04/10/2023 Updated: 28/11/2023
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 25 minutes
Total 1 hour 30 minutes
A popular and iconic Japanese street food, Taiyaki is a warm fish shaped cake with a sweet filling. Learn how to make these Japanese fish pastry at home with this taiyaki recipe.
Taiyaki (Japanese Fish Dessert)

A popular and iconic Japanese street food, Taiyaki is a warm fish-shaped cake with a sweet filling. Learn how to make these Japanese fish pastry at home with this taiyaki recipe.

Looking down at a plate of Japanese taiyaki on a plate.

Warm, freshly made taiyaki has a crispy exterior and a soft, tender interior with a sweet filling stuffed inside. This taiyaki recipe will show you step-by-step how to create the most delicious and addicting Japanese fish dessert at home.

This Japanese fish waffle is one of my favorite recipes to make because the filings are so versatile and easily customizable! If you are looking for more Japanese cuisine inspiration, check out our ebi tempura (shrimp tempura), tekka maki (tuna sushi roll), or yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls).

Up close with Japanese fish dessert sitting on a plate.

What is taiyaki?

Taiyaki (鯛焼き) pronounced “tie-yah-kee,” is a Japanese fish-shaped cake that is crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and filled with a wide array of mouthwatering fillings such as red bean paste, custard, chocolate, cheese, etc. The name translates to “baked sea bream” because it imitates the shape of a red sea bream. There are no actual fish ingredients inside this Japanese fish-shaped cake.

Taiyaki was first sold in Japan in 1909 during the Meiji period. The fish is a symbol of good luck and abundance. Today, it is a quintessential street food in Japan. It is made with a pancake or waffle batter that is poured into a fish-shaped taiyaki mold and cooked until both sides are slightly crispy and golden brown.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

There are countless reasons why you’ll love this Japanese fish waffle, but here are the top three reasons:

  1. Delicious and fun: Japanese taiyaki is a fun fish-shaped pastry that has just the right amount of sweetness and is slightly crisp on the outside and soft and tender inside.
  2. Easy to make: This taiyaki recipe only requires a few pantry staple ingredients and easy-to-follow steps!
  3. Versatile and customizable: you can make this Japanese fish pastry with any filling that you prefer like red bean paste, custard, Nutella, cheese, etc.

Kitchen Equipment

You will need the following items of kitchen equipment to make this taiyaki recipe. I’ve linked everything that I used below.

  • Taiyaki Pan: for the signature Japanese taiyaki fish shape, you will need a taiyaki pan. I found mine on Amazon!
  • Kitchen Scale: for the most foolproof results, I recommend measuring all of the ingredients with a kitchen scale.
  • Mixing Bowls: you will need a couple of mixing bowls to make the taiyaki batter.
  • Pastry brush: you will need a pastry brush to lightly grease your taiyaki pan.
  • Measuring cup with spout: for ease and precision of pouring the batter, I recommend using a measuring cup with a spout.
  • Piping bag: for easy filling, I recommend using a piping bag to add the filling to your batter.

Ingredients

You can find all of the ingredients for this taiyaki recipe at your local grocery store. I’ve linked all the Japanese fish dessert ingredients below.

  • Cake Flour: cake flour creates a soft and tender structure for the fish-shaped pastry.
  • Granulated Sugar: granulated sugar sweetens the batter.
  • Baking Powder: baking powder is a leavening agent that helps the Japanese fish pastry light and fluffy.
  • Baking Soda: baking soda is another leavening agent that makes the batter lighter.
  • Salt: a touch of salt seasons the batter.
  • Egg: the egg binds all of the ingredients together.
  • Whole Milk: whole milk will make the Japanese fish waffle more decadent and more moist.
  • Vegetable Oil: a touch of vegetable oil instead of butter makes the Japanese fish-shaped cake lighter and fluffier.
  • Vanilla Extract: a touch of vanilla extract adds a hint of warmth to the batter.
  • Filling: for this taiyaki recipe, I made nutella taiyaki and vanilla custard taiyaki.
All the ingredients for making taiyaki organized and labeled.

Substitutions and Additions

This Japanese fish-shaped cake can easily be customized with the following substitutions or additions that I’ve listed below.

Substitutions

  • All-purpose flour: instead of cake flour, you can alternatively use all-purpose flour for a stronger structure and crumb.
  • Just baking powder: if you don’t have baking soda, you can substitute it with just baking powder.
  • Buttermilk: instead of milk, you can use buttermilk for an even richer flavor.
  • Butter: butter is a good substitute for vegetable oil.

Additions

  • Flavor extracts: if you’d like to flavor your Japanese fish waffle with different flavors, you can always use matcha powder, ube extract, pandan extract, etc. instead of vanilla extract.
  • Fillings: traditional taiyaki filling calls for red bean paste or custard cream but you can also use Nutella, jams, chocolate ganache, or even cheese!

How to Make Taiyaki

Here are the steps for how to make taiyaki. It may take a few rounds of practice to get the right temperature/amount of batter for the fish-shaped pastry, but practice makes progress!

Taiyaki Batter

  1. Sift dry ingredients. Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.
Sifting together the dry ingredients for Japanese taiyaki.
  1. Combine wet ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, add the egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Mix to combine.
Taiyaki batter whisked together in a bowl.
  1. Combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient mixture. Whisk until just combined leaving a few clumps. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Whisking together the wet ingredients for making taiyaki.

Assembly

  1. Prepare the taiyaki pan. Preheat the taiyaki pan over medium-low heat. Brush both sides of the mold with neutral oil and gently wipe away excess with a paper towel.
  2. Fill the pan. Give your batter one quick mix and transfer the batter into a measuring cup with a spout. Then pour the batter into the taiyaki mold about 60% full leaving the fishtail empty.
Filling a taiyaki pan with a little bit of batter.
  1. Add filling. Add about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the fish. For easy filling, place the filling in a piping bag and pipe the filling into the batter.
Nutella filling piped into taiyaki pan with taiyaki batter.
  1. Cover the filling. Cover the filling with batter until it fills the fishtail. Close the mold and immediately flip it so the batter spreads evenly.
  1. Cook and cool. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Then transfer to a rack to cool slightly before serving. Cut any excess batter with scissors. Repeat with the remaining batter. Enjoy immediately when warm.

Tips for the Best Taiyaki

  • Do not over-mix! You want the batter to have a few clumps of batter for that fluffy and soft interior. Over-mixing may yield a more dense and flat fish-shaped pastry.
  • Rest the batter: taiyaki batter benefits from the resting time which allows the gluten to relax yielding a softer finished product.
  • Transfer the batter and filling: For easy pouring and filling, I recommend transferring the batter into a measuring cup with a spout and transferring your filling of choice into a piping bag.
  • Preheat the taiyaki pan: before cooking, make sure to preheat the taiyaki pan this will help create the signature crispy exterior. You may need to adjust the heat based on the strength of your stove.
  • Use just enough batter: be careful to not overfill the mold. The spongy batter will spread and puff up as it cooks. If you overfill, you can easily cut off the excess with scissors.
  • Wipe away excess oil for an even color: you want to grease the taiyaki pan so that the Japanese taiyaki won’t stick to it, but if you want an even brown color, wipe away any excess oil with a paper towel.
  • Practice! If this is your first time making this taiyaki recipe, it may take a few rounds of practice to get the right temperature, timing, and amount of batter.

Storage Instructions

Taiyaki is best served immediately. If you have any leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Reheat: to warm up your Japanese fish waffle, simply pop it in the oven or toaster oven until warm.

Freeze: You can alternatively wrap each fish pastry individually in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it.

Frequently Asked Q’s & A’s

What does taiyaki taste like?

Taiyaki is a sweet pastry that tastes similar to a cake and a waffle. It has a crisp exterior with a soft cake-like interior and is filled with a sweet filling.

What is taiyaki batter made of?

This taiyaki recipe is made with cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, egg, whole milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.

Taiyaki is traditionally filled with red bean paste and custard. However, you can easily fill it with Nutella, matcha, cheese, chocolate ganache, sweet potato, etc.

How do I keep Taiyaki crispy after cooking?

This Japanese fish dessert is crispy immediately after it is made. If you’d like to maintain the crispiness, you can heat it in the oven for a few minutes to maintain its texture.

Is taiyaki eaten hot or cold?

This Japanese fish-shaped cake is best served warm for the best texture contrast.

Did you make this Taiyaki recipe?

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Taiyaki (Japanese Fish Dessert)

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Resting Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
A popular and iconic Japanese street food, Taiyaki is a warm fish shaped cake with a sweet filling. Learn how to make these Japanese fish pastry at home with this taiyaki recipe.
Servings: 8 servings
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup (150 g) cake flour
  • ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup filling red bean paste, nutella, custard, cheese etc.

Instructions

Taiyaki Batter

  • Sift dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
  • Combine wet ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, add the egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Mix to combine.
  • Combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient mixture. Whisk until just combined leaving a few clumps. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Assembly

  • Prepare the taiyaki pan. Preheat the taiyaki pan over medium low heat. Brush both sides of the mold with neutral oil and gently wipe away excess with a paper towel.
  • Fill the pan. Give your batter one quick mix and transfer the batter into a measuring cup with a spout. Then pour the batter into the taiyaki mold about 60% full leaving the fishtail empty.
  • Add filling. Add about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the fish. For easy filling, place the filling in a piping bag and pipe the filling into the batter.
  • Cover the filling. Cover the filling with batter until it fills the fishtail. Close the mold and immediately flip so the batter spreads evenly.
  • Cook and cool. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Then transfer to a rack to cool slightly before serving. Cut any excess batter with scissors. Repeat with the remaining batter. Enjoy immediately when warm.

Notes

  • Do not over mix! You want the batter to have a few clumps of batter for that fluffy and soft interior. Over mixing may yield a more dense and flat fish shaped pastry.
  • Rest the batter: taiyaki batter benefits from the resting time which allows the gluten to relax yielding a softer finished product.
  • Transfer the batter and filling: For easy pouring and filling, I recommend transferring the batter into a measuring cup with a spout and piping your filling with a piping bag.
  • Preheat the taiyaki pan: before cooking, make sure to preheat the taiyaki pan this will help create the signature crispy exterior. You may need to adjust the heat based on the strength of your stove.
  • Use just enough batter: be careful to not overfill the mold. The spongy batter will spread and puff up as it cooks. If you overfill, you can easily cut off the excess with scissors.
  • Wipe away excess oil for even color: you want to grease the pan so the taiyaki won’t stick to it, but if you want an even brown color, wipe away any excess oil with a paper towel.
  • Practice! If this is your first time making this taiyaki recipe, it may take a few rounds of practice to get the right temperature, timing and amount of batter.
  • Storage Instructions: Taiyaki is best served immediately. If you have any leftovers, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Nutrition:

Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 295mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 75IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 0.4mg

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