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What is Amazake?

Amazake is a traditional Japanese sweet, low-alcohol drink made from fermented rice. Rich in enzymes and probiotics, it's celebrated for its health benefits and natural sweetness. Often enjoyed warm, it's a comforting, nourishing beverage with a history spanning centuries. Intrigued by how this ancient elixir can contribute to modern wellness? Join us as we uncover the secrets of Amazake.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Amazake is a traditional Japanese beverage made by fermenting rice to yield a sweet and nutritious drink. The fermented beverage is available in many specialty stores and can be found in health food stores because it has high nutritional value. For people who suffer from lactose intolerance, amazake is an excellent milk alternative, and it can be used in a variety of dishes in addition to being consumed plain.

Making Amazake

White rice is fermented to make amazake.
White rice is fermented to make amazake.

To make amazake, rice is saturated in Aspergillus oryzae, a type of fungus. The fungus is also known as koji, and it is a crucial ingredient in Japanese fermented foods such as sake, soy sauce and mirin. After the fungus has taken, the rice is mixed with freshly cooked rice and allowed to incubate at a temperature of about 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) for about 14 hours. The koji breaks the starches in the rice into sugars, and the incubation is halted before the sugars can convert into alcohol. The mixture resembles porridge at this point, and it usually is puréed before sale.

Amazake is an alternative to dairy milk for people with lactose intolerance.
Amazake is an alternative to dairy milk for people with lactose intolerance.

After being puréed, amazake is extremely thick and resembles pudding. It sometimes is available in this form, and it also is sold diluted as a fermented liquid. Some companies add flavorings such as vanilla or chocolate, especially for markets outside of Japan. Without stabilizers, amazake is very perishable, so it should be kept under refrigeration and used quickly.

Slightly Fermented Flavor

A lactose-free green smoothie can be made with amazake and nutritious green vegetables.
A lactose-free green smoothie can be made with amazake and nutritious green vegetables.

In Japan, amazake is often served warm with a pinch of grated ginger. It also can be used in desserts, added to smoothies or used as a milk alternative in other dishes. The beverage has a sweet, slightly fermented flavor that reminds many people of sake. The similarity in flavor is not surprising, because amazake is closely related to sake. In fact, some sake companies distill leftovers from their brewing process to make a type of amazake, which is an efficient use of all of their ingredients.

People sometimes compare amazake to rice milk or other grain milks. The process for making grain milks is similar, but as a general rule, amazake is fermented and grain milks are not. Both can be made at home, although making amazake is somewhat trickier because cooks should avoid the promotion of unwanted bacteria. Koji is available from several companies, often in the form of rice flour inoculated with the fungus. Either brown or white rice can be used to make amazake, and cooks should wash the rice scrupulously first.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon239112

You've confused me. Aspergillus oryzae is classified as a mold, not a fungus. And how can koji be a fungus if it's a rice substrate inoculated with a mold?

JessicaLynn

@strawCake - I've never seen or heard of amazake but I'm going to have to check into it. My boyfriend is lactose intolerant and I think he'd really like this non-dairy beverage. I think I may try a few of the international food markets that are near where I live and see if I can find this!

strawCake

I've never heard of this, which is actually kind of surprising. When I was younger my mom went through this phase where she decided all dairy was bad and we used rice or soy milk and at a rice-based ice cream substitute. I think in those days I might have enjoyed something like amazake.

But, lucky me, my mom's dairy hating phase only lasted a few years so eventually I got to return to the wonders of cheese and ice cream!

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    • White rice is fermented to make amazake.
      By: Vadim Balantsev
      White rice is fermented to make amazake.
    • Amazake is an alternative to dairy milk for people with lactose intolerance.
      By: SunnyS
      Amazake is an alternative to dairy milk for people with lactose intolerance.
    • A lactose-free green smoothie can be made with amazake and nutritious green vegetables.
      By: Johan Larson
      A lactose-free green smoothie can be made with amazake and nutritious green vegetables.