matcha shaved ice ujikintoki illustration

Flavors and How to Describe Food in Japanese

Flavors and How to Describe Food in Japanese

If you’ve started learning Japanese, you may already know that おいしい (oishii) means good or delicious. When in doubt, おいしい works for everything. However, if you know some flavors and adjectives to describe the food, you’ll be able to take the conversation a step further.

Note that Japanese people love talking about food, which is why there are many words to describe the subtle flavors and textures.

Talking about food is part of enjoying the food.

Below are the flavors and adjectives you’ll learn in the video. Can you think of a food or drink for each? We’ve included some examples for each in the video.


(あま) sweet

ほの(あま)い slightly sweet, semi-sweet

すっぱい sour, tangy

あまずっぱい tart, sweet-and-sour

(から)い hot, spicy

甘辛あまからい sweet and salty

塩辛(しおから)い salty

(にが)い bitter

Describing the Flavor:

さっぱり refreshing

こってり heavy, oily

あっさり light

*「さっぱり」is also an adjective for someone with a straightforward, frank personality.  

*「あっさり」also means simple, plain.

Describing Texture:

みずみずしい fresh and juicy

(かた)い hard

やわらかい soft

もちもち springy, moist, plump texture

Describing the Temperature:

(つめ)たい cold

(あたた)かい warm

(あつ)い hot

Check out the food オノマトペ (onomatopoeia) video as well, here.

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