Crepes might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you hear ‘Japanese food’. However, Japan has a rich tradition of devouring these sweet treats by the hundreds of thousands every year, and this is no surprise: Japanese crepes are delicious!
Japan's take on crepes are an explosion of whipped cream, fruit, and flavor. Read on to learn more about their origin, the best fillings, and how to make them for yourself!
From France to Japan: The Origin of Japanese Crepes
As you probably know, crepes are a French dessert. They were invented in the Brittany region in medieval times and quickly spread throughout Europe. However, they only arrived in Japan much later.
Crepes came to Japan in 1937, where they appeared on the restaurant menu of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. However, up until the 1970s they remained a niche dessert. Simple French crepes with jam or lemon and sugar just weren’t doing it for Japanese consumers.
We love French crepes. They're a delicious option for breakfast or brunch, but the Japanese version is a bit more portable and has a huge range of fillings. Image via Unsplash
It was only in 1976 that the Japanese-style crepe was born in the popular Harajuku District of Tokyo at the Marion crepe stand. But it was their rival, chef Mizuki Ono, who took crepes to the next level in 1977. Inspired by the ice cream monaco, his crepes featured whipped cream, fresh fruit, and of course ice cream. They were an instant hit with Japanese consumers.
These Harajuku-style crepes soon spread throughout the country and became so prevalent that now they’re simply known as Japanese crepes. The fillings expanded from just sweet to savory as well, and because each Japanese crepe shop offers an extensive menu, there are now thousands of different varieties you can try.
So which are the tastiest?
Best Japanese Crepe Flavors
If you go to a Japanese crepe shop you’ll probably be overwhelmed by the vast selection of items. Most stores have dozens of different flavors to choose from, some even having more than a hundred.
Lucky for you, we’re here to help. Here are the best kinds of Japanese crepes you have to try:
In Japan, melons are considered a great delicacy. They sell for upwards of two thousand yen at the supermarket and are a popular option for gifts to important people such as bosses, prospective in-laws, politicians and others.
As a crepe filling, melon makes for a succulently juicy experience. The soft melon flesh is sure to melt in your mouth with the whipped cream and custard for a truly delightful experience.
Chocolate banana, known as choco banana in Japan, is a Tokyo street food special, made by very simply dipping a banana into melted chocolate. Choco banana crepes include one or more of these delicacies sliced and put into the crepe alongside whipped cream, or sometimes they are just sliced banana drizzled with chocolate sauce. Others step it up by adding chocolate ice cream to the mix.
Whichever method the chef chooses, they’re a safe choice for anyone trying out a Japanese crepe for the first time.
Santa Monica Crepes, a Harajuku crepe shop, is easy to find with its giant strawberry crepe sign! Image via Unsplash
A great choice for summer, you can’t go wrong with a strawberry crepe. Whether it’s simply strawberries, whipped cream and a bit of sugar, or a more elaborate crepe that includes vanilla ice cream, cheesecake, custard or other summer fruits, a Japanese strawberry crepe is sure to satisfy.
Here’s a kind of crepe you aren’t likely to find in France! The bitter flavor of green tea offsets the sweetness of the whipped cream and ice cream filling of the crepe. Paired with sweet red azuki beans, a matcha crepe is a great option for those who want an intensely Japanese flavor from their Japanese crepe.
If you find yourself missing good ol’ American apple pie while you’re in Japan, an apple cinnamon crepe might be the perfect option for you. The sweet stickiness and firm texture of apple complements the soft yet crispy crepe excellently, and the flavor is simply to die for.
Strangest Japanese crepe flavors
If you’re feeling adventurous, Japan has some... let’s say... unique crepe fillings for you. They might not be to your liking, but we think they’re worth trying out at least once if you have the opportunity.
Not really an option for those on a budget, but if you have money to burn you might want to try this unique offering from Parla near Omotesando in Tokyo. The caviar is paired with nuts, rum, and boiled egg.
Seems like a strange combination to us, but who knows, maybe it’s delicious!
If you're looking for a treat that's luxurious but not as polarizing, some high-end crepe shops feature creme brulee crepes or high-quality chocolate. Image via Instagram (@fukuoka_naru)
This filling is popular in onigiri rice balls, but some people think it goes equally well in crepes. If you want a savory, protein-rich snack, this variety of Japanese crepe might be the right choice for you.
Just don’t blame us if it turns out not to be your thing.
Ah, natto. The fermented soya beans are possibly the most controversial Japanese food out there – people either love them or hate them for their strong smell and stickiness.
As a crepe filling... We can’t say we’re convinced, but if you’re a die-hard natto fan then you’ll probably love it! And even if you aren’t, it’s an experience you’re only able to have in Japan so you might want to give it a try anyway.
Where Can I Eat Japanese Crepes?
Japan has literally thousands of crepe stalls across the country, so knowing which to go to is quite the challenge! Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best Japanese crepe shops and chains for you to visit.
First on our list is Parla in Omotesando in Tokyo. It’s ranked the number one crepe store in Japan online! We mentioned before that it’s the inventor of the caviar crepe, and as this fact suggests, they tend toward the more luxury side of things.
Some of their other creations include flan pudding crepes, cheesecake crepes, and even crepes with truffles. If you want to experience Tokyo luxury, Parla is a good place to start.
Café Crepe at Laforet Harajuku
As the birthplace of Japanese crepes, Harajuku has many great crepe stores. In fact, Japanese style crepes were originally known as Harajuku-style crepes!
Café Crepe is located in front of Laforet Harajuku near Meiji Jingu Shrine and is known for the copious amounts of whipped cream they pack into each sweet crepe. They also offer a number of savory options, including salad and sushi.
Its bright pink color scheme also fits well with Harajuku’s kawaii aesthetic!
Marion Crepes is not only delicious, but they're known to do amazing collabs, like these crepes featuring the iconic Gloomy Bear! Image via Instagram (@marionjapan)
One of the first ever crepe stores, Marion Crepes is a Harajuku classic. It’s now spread from its home in Takeshita Street to become a franchise with over 82 locations across Japan!
Wherever you travel you’re sure to find a Marion Crepes store somewhere. They sell seasonal specialties, like Honey Nut Lemon in summer, and also make some luxury crepes like the incredible matcha and kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) crepe.
With over 145 stores across Japan, Dipper Dan is a budget-friendly option for those hungry for a sweet crepe. Their menu is truly vast with more than fifty different options for you to try.
Not only do they serve sweet flavors, but they have a selection of savory ‘meal crepes’, for example three different hot dog crepes, avocado shrimp, and cheesy chicken crepes!
How to Make Japanese Crepes: An Easy Recipe for You to Try!
Here’s how to make a delicious Japanese fruit crepe at home. It’s a super simple recipe that anyone can make!
First make the batter. Put one whole egg, 125 grams of white flour and 250 milliliters of milk into a food processor and blend together thoroughly. Let stand for twenty minutes.
Put a drop of olive oil onto a large frying pan and heat until sizzling over medium heat. Pour on a five-inch circle of batter and tilt the pan in a circular motion to spread it evenly over the hot surface.
Most shops will have plenty of topping combinations, so be sure to prepare plenty of toppings for your homemade crepe. Image via Unsplash
Wait until the surface of the crepe stops glistening then flip using a spatula. Cook for another minute then move it to a cool plate.
Now for the fun part. Mark out one fifth of your crepe – this is where you’ll put the toppings. Apply masses of whipped cream, plenty of your choice of sliced fresh fruit, and finish with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Fold the crepe in half over the toppings, then fold over the empty parts to make a cone shape. Then, pick it up and eat!
Conclusion: Japanese Crepes are Great!
Although they might not seem Japanese, Japanese crepes are an authentic Japanese tradition and some of the best street food you can find in the country. Sweet or savory, they’re the perfect meal for the hungry adventurer.