Useful Words to Describe Food in Japanese – Illustrated Guide

Looking for Japanese words to describe that great lunch or dinner you just had? In this blog, we will be taking a look at some useful and basic vocabulary words you can learn to describe food in Japanese!
In Japanese, just like English, there are basic adjectives used to describe the tastes and texture of foods that you eat. Picture yourself right now eating ice cream in the streets of Japan, it’s sweet, soft, cold and super yummy! You would really love to compliment it and describe its flavor, but, how do you say it all in Japanese?
Fret not! Because we have included a few lists of vocabulary words and info-graphics that will guide you in using the appropriate and correct Japanese words to describe food.

Adjectives to Describe Food Tastes in Japanese

infographic of food tastes in japanese (sweet spicy bitter sour salty)

Food Tastes in Japanese

In English, the 5 basic tastes we have in our taste palette are – Sweet, Spicy, Bitter, Sour and Salty.
Let’s learn how to say and use them in Japanese!

1. 甘い Amai

甘い (Amai) is the Japanese word used to describe something that is “sweet”. You can use this word to describe sweet foods such as fruits or desserts like cake or pudding.
Sentence Example:
りんごは 甘いですね! Ringo wa amai desune!
(The apple is sweet!)

2. 辛い Karai

辛い (Karai) is the Japanese word used to describe something that is “spicy”. Anything from chili to curry, karai is the perfect word to use for foods that have a spicy kick to them.
Sentence Example:
わたしは 辛いものは 食べられません。Watashi wa karaimono wa taberaremasen.
(I cannot take spicy food.)

3. 苦い Nigai

苦い (Nigai) means “bitter” in Japanese. Use this word to describe bitter foods such as medicine.
Sentence Example:
私は 苦い食べ物が 好きじゃないです。 Watashi wa nigai tabemono ga suki janaidesu.
(I do not like bitter food.)

4. Sour ― 酸っぱい Suppai

酸っぱい Suppai is the Japanese word for “sour” or “tangy”. You can pair this word with anything with a sour note such as umeboshi (dried plum) or citrus fruits!
Sentence Example:
梅干しは 酸っぱいです。 でも、おいしいです。 Umeboshi wa suppai desu. Demo, oishii desu.
(Umeboshi is sour. But, it is delicious.)

5. Salty ― しょっぱい Shoppai

Sentence Example:
この ラーメンは しょっぱい です。 Kono ra-men wa shoppai desu.
(This ramen tastes salty.)

Adjectives to Describe Food Textures in Japanese

Infographic of Food Textures in Japanese (soft hard moist crispy smooth gooey)

Food Textures in Japanese

The food that we eat in every meal not only comes with different kinds of tastes, but also in different textures. Here we have Japanese words you can learn to describe 6 common food textures!

1. 柔らかい Yawarakai

柔らかい (Yawarakai) means “soft” in Japanese. You can use this to describe any food that has a soft texture like pudding or soft serve ice cream!
Sentence Example:
パンは 柔らかいです。 Pan wa yawarakai desu.
(The bread is soft.)

2. 硬い Katai

硬い (Katai) can be used to describe food that is “hard” to bite or chew. Ice and nuts are some foods which 硬い(katai) goes with.
Sentence Example:
アーモンドは 硬いです。 A-mondo wa katai desu.
(The almonds are hard.)

3. しっとり Shittori

しっとり Shittori is the Japanese word for “moist”. This word is best paired with foods like cakes and bread.
Sentence Example:
ケーキは しっとりしていて ふわふわです! Ke-ki wa shittorishiteite fuwafuwa desu.
(The cake is moist and fluffy!)

4. Crispy ― カリカリ Karikari

カリカリ (Karikari) is the Japanese onomatopoeia to describe foods that are “crispy”. Anything from fried chicken to tempura is definitely カリカリ (Karikari)!
Sentence Example:
このからあげは とても カリカリですよ! Kono karaage wa totemo karikari desuyo!
(The Karaage is super crispy!)

5. 滑らか Nameraka

滑らか (Nameraka) means “smooth” in Japanese. Use this word to describe foods with a smooth texture like yogurt, whipped cream or even ice cream!
Sentence Example:
プリンは 滑らかです。 Purin wa nameraka desu.
(The pudding is smooth.)

6. とろり Torori

とろり (Torori) is the Japanese word to describe anything “gooey”. Melting cheese is one great example of gooey food.
ピザの チーズは とろりとしています。 Piza no chi-zu wa torori toshiteimasu.
(The cheese in the pizza is gooey.)

Other Useful Adjectives to Describe Food in Japanese

We have included a table of bonus adjectives you can learn to describe your food’s tastiness, smell, temperature and more!

Hiragana Romaji English
おいしい Oishii Delicious
味がない Ajiganai Tasteless
かおりがいい Kaori ga ii Fragrant
くさい Kusai Smelly
こおっている Kootteiru Frozen
しんせん Shinsen Fresh
あつい Atsui Hot
つめたい Tsumetai Cold
かんそうしている Kansouhshiteiru Dry
あぶらっこい Aburakkoi Greasy
みずみずしい Mizumizushii Juicy

With these new words and phrases, you can now describe any food you eat!
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