Best Japanese New Year's Dishes (Osechi Ryori)

Japanese New Year, or “oshogatsu”, is one of the biggest holidays in Japanese culture and is celebrated on the first day of the new year on January 1st. Oshogatsu is honored with visits to local shrines to wish for good fortune and health in the upcoming year, and of course, celebrated with family and many delicious, traditional foods known as “osechi ryori”.

Traditional osechi ryori dishes are served in beautifully ornate “jubako” or multi-tiered lacquered serving boxes, similar to a bento, yet much fancier. Along with these dishes, a traditional soup is served, known as ozoni.

The following is a list of some of the best dishes to serve at your Japanese New Year’s celebration on January 1st. Some of the traditional dishes represent good tidings for the year to come, while other dishes are not necessarily traditional osechi ryori, but Japanese favorites that are popular dishes often served during the holiday.

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  • 01 of 09

    Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes) - Osechi Ryori

    Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts with Sweet Potatoes)
    AuiLie/Moment Open/Getty Images

    Kuri Kinton, is a comfort dish of candied chestnuts and gold sweet potatoes which are mashed together with the syrup of the candied chestnuts to make a sweet, creamy unforgettable treat. It is unique to Japanese New Year and typically served only once per year. The golden yellow color of this dish symbolizes a wish for prosperity in the new year.

  • 02 of 09

    Kazunoko (Herring Roe) - Osechi Ryori

    Japanese Herring Roe (Kazunoko) for Japanese New Year (Osechi Ryori)

    Hideki Ueha

    Kazunoko, is a delicacy of seasoned herring roe. The caviar is steeped in a light dashi broth of bonito and kelp and lightly seasoned with soy sauce. The significance of the caviar is to wish for children or grandchildren in one’s family.

  • 03 of 09

    Namasu (Vinegar Salad) - Osechi Ryori

    Namasu (Vinegar Salad)

    Hideki Ueha

    Namasu, which is sometimes also referred to as “sunomono”, is a salad of raw vegetables, in a sweet vinegar and citrus dressing. For osechi ryori, namasu is made with raw carrot and kabu, which is a Japanese white turnip or radish. There are many variations of this dish, however, it is common for osechi ryori to include at least one vinegar salad. The bright orange color of the carrots in this dish symbolizes celebration.

  • 04 of 09

    Konbumaki (Simmered Kelp) - Osechi Ryori

    Konbumaki (Simmered Kelp)

    Judy Ung

    Konbumaki, also referred to as “kobumaki”, is large pieces of simmered kelp or “konbu” that is ornately tied in a bow. It can also be tied using a piece of dried daikon radish known as “hoshi daikon”. In other variations of konbumaki, the kelp is wrapped around cooked fish such as salmon or white fish, or with a meat filling such as chicken or pork. The significance of the bow-shaped kelp, is that in Japanese, kelp, or “konbu” means “joy” and signifies the joy celebrated on new year’s day.

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  • 05 of 09

    Onishime (Simmered Vegetables) - Osechi Ryori

    Onishime (Simmered Vegetables)

    Judy Ung

    Onishime, also known as nimono or sometimes chikuzeni, is a dish of simmered vegetables that is ordinarily served throughout the year and is a popular Japanese dish. It is also served on Japanese New Year and is considered a part of traditional osechi ryori. Simmered vegetables include shiitake mushrooms, burdock root (gobo), lotus root (renkon), taro root (sato imo), devil’s tongue (konnyaku), carrots, and snow peas.

  • 06 of 09

    Kinpira Gobo (Braised Burdock Root and Carrots) - Osechi Ryori

    Kinpira Gobo (Braised Burdock Root and Carrots)

    Judy Ung

    Kinpira Gobo is julienned carrots and burdock root (gobo) that is sauteed in a seasoning of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. It is a classic Japanese side dish or “okazu” that is often served in Japanese cuisine, but it is also served as part of osechi ryori. The vegetables are typically sautéed in oil, but for a lighter version, try this recipe that is braised in dashi broth without the oil.

  • 07 of 09

    Sushi

    Sushi
    Pamela Low/Moment/Getty Images

    Sushi, in Japanese cuisine, is considered a celebratory food and most holidays include one variation of sushi or another. While it's not considered osechi ryori, during Japanese New Year, it is common to serve “nigiri sushi” or small hand-pressed pieces of sushi rice topped with raw fish. 

  • 08 of 09

    Vegan Ozoni (New Year's Soup with Rice Cakes)

    Vegan Ozoni (New Year's Soup with Rice Cake)
    Jupiterimages/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Ozoni is a traditional soup with a piece of rice cake (mochi) that is enjoyed on New Years. There are many variations of ozoni, depending on the region of Japan where the soup is made. For example, some soups have a clear dashi broth while others are made of miso (fermented soybean) or chicken broth. Try this vegan ozoni recipe to ring in the new year.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Zenzai with Toasted Rice Cakes (Sweet Red Bean Soup)

    apanese Sweet Red Bean Soup (Zenzai) with Toasted Rice Cakes (Mochi)
    Koki Iino / Getty Images

    Zenzai, is a hot dessert soup made of sweet red beans and often served with toasted rice cakes (mochi) or smaller shiratama dango (mini rice cakes). This is not necessarily considered part of osechi ryori, but it’s a great dessert for the cold winter month and a nice treat for a special occasion.