Japanese sweet potatoes and candied chestnuts come together with a punch of umami in kuri kinton, a traditional New Year’s recipe that signifies wealth and prosperity in the future and can be prepared for many different occasions.

Getting ready for New Year and want to add a traditional Japanese recipe to the table? Check out kuri kinton — mashed sweet potatoes with candied chestnuts. It has a sweet rich flavor and a nice golden color that symbolizes wealth and good fortune. A very popular osechi ryori (New Year’s dish) in Japan, this sweet but healthy plate will have your guests impressed and asking for seconds.

What Is Kuri Kinton?

“Kinton” literally means “golden ball” and is a traditional sweet dish in Japanese food culture. Made with satsumaimo, the Japanese sweet potato, and mixed with candied chestnuts or green peas, it is natural and healthy though it is sweet like a dessert dish. Kuri kinton refers specifically to the chestnut version of it. The Japanese sweet potato is less moist and denser than the American one or the popular yam. That’s the secret of making this dish filling and hearty, and perfect for a side plate for your dinner party.

About the Gardenia Fruit

A key ingredient of kuri kinton is gardenia fruit (kuchinashi-no-mi). Without gardenia fruit, kuri kinton won’t turn that bright golden color that signifies wealth and good fortune for the New Year.

Gardenia fruit has a long history of use in Chinese medicine and cooking in Asia, and it is known for its medicinal properties like wound healing and anti-inflammation. When used as a cooking ingredient, gardenia fruit also acts as a natural dye. It adds a vibrant yellow color to the food. You can substitute this with a few drops of yellow food color if you cannot find gardenia fruit in your area.

How to Use Mirin

Mirin is an essential ingredient in the Japanese kitchen. In this recipe, in particular, the final candied chestnut product has beautiful glaze because of mirin. A kind of sweet and tangy rice wine that is used in cooking to impart its distinct flavor, mirin is umami at its best. It’s easy to find in Asian supermarkets and online.  So don’t skip using mirin in this dish or you will lose out on the real authentic Japanese experience.

Kuri kinton

Course Dessert
Cuisine Japanese


  • 1 lb Japanese Sweet Potatoes (Satsumaimo)
  • 15 Candied Chestnuts
  • 1 Gardenia Fruit (or 1 drop of Yellow Food Color)

Candied Chestnuts

  • 15 Whole Chestnuts, peeled
  • 1.5 cup Water
  • 1 ¼ cup Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 Gardenia Fruit (or 1 drop of Yellow Food Color)


  • cup Mirin
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp Chestnut Syrup (from candied chestnut)
  • Salt


  1. Crush gardenia fruit and wrap them in gauze or tea bag. Set it aside.
  2. In a large pot, combine water and sugar for the candied chestnuts and bring to boil.
  3. Add whole chestnuts, mirin, salt, and crushed gardenia fruit in tea bag (or a drop of yellow food color) to the pot. Bring the heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes. Skim foam off the surface if necessary.
  4. Keep 4 tablespoons of the syrup from the pot and drain. Set them aside.
  5. Peel the skin of the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Leave in water for about 5 minutes.
  6. In a large pot add plenty of water, sweet potatoes, and crushed gardenia fruit in tea bag (or 1-2 drops of yellow food coloring). Boil until potatoes are soft.
  7. Strain the potatoes while they’re still hot and put it back in the pot.
  8. Add all of the ingredients of the seasoning and cook over medium heat. Stir with wooden spoon and cook until potatoes turn into a thick paste.
  9. Stop the heat, and spread the mixture on a tray to cool down.
  10. Place the potato mixtures back into the bowl. Cut the chestnuts into halves, and gently mix into the potato mixtures. Serve.

Mirin is the fundamentals of Japanese food. Find out more