Coffee jelly (コーヒーゼリー, kohii zerii) is a jiggly caffeinated gelatin dessert. One mouthful of this blissful Japanese treat and you’ll go crazy for its refreshing taste. Once it blooms into a pool of sweetness in your mouth, the intense aftertaste of caffeine will coat your tongue with an extra bit of flavour!
This jelly dessert has been gaining traction lately because of a hit comedy anime: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. In the show, it’s become a running gag for the titular protagonist Saiki to be obsessed with the cup of cold goodness.
Below, we’ve included a recipe for some coffee jelly Saiki would die for! If you’d like to join in on the kohii zerii craze that has swept across the world, read on.
What is it made of?
This Japanese dessert consists of caffeine-infused cubes doused in milky goodness. The best thing about it? It’s a vegan-friendly dish! The jelly itself is vegan since it only consists of coffee, kanten (agar-agar), and raw organic cane sugar.
All you need to do is to serve it with dairy-free condensed milk for a perfect vegan delight.
If you’re wondering “is coffee jelly good?”, the simple answer is this: absolutely. There’s no limit to the heavenly flavour of this tasty dessert. The intense bitterness of caffeine works perfectly in tandem with the delicate sweetness of sugar!
With a bit of condensed milk, it becomes a truly magical elixir that any person would enjoy.
The history behind this dish
Coffee was first introduced to Japan in the year 1700 and from there, this decadent Asian delicacy was born! During the Taisho Period, this cube dessert was created to satiate the cravings of Japanese people when imitating Western culture became a fad.
However, the ubiquitous taste of coffee jelly that we know and love today is an authentic Japanese invention. Even though it took inspiration from the West, its core ingredient is kanten – red algae-based gelatin first created in Japan.
Now, this gelatinous treat is a beloved dessert that has caffeine aficionados around the world swooning.
Non-Japanese Coffee Jelly Variations
Although this vegan jelly first gained its rapid popularity in Japan, the basis for this dessert actually originated from England. During the peak of coffeehouse culture in Britain, this dessert was created to make use of leftover cups of joe. This English coffee-flavoured dessert is special because it uses gelatin, spices, and most notably, isinglass.
The climax of coffee culture in America was brought about by the Boston Tea Party in 1773. As cafes became more mainstream, this cafe delicacy became a hit.
Much like the British, the American variation of this treat consists of collagen-based gelatin. If you’re a fan of softer types of coffee jelly, you should try it the American way.
The Phillippines has a very complex and unique way of making this treat. Inspired both by Western and Japanese recipes, they combine gelatin and instant coffee with creamy condensed milk.
How to Enjoy
This Japanese vegan jelly is a very flexible treat since it can be served in a great variety of ways. Some of the best ways to enjoy it are as follows:
Use whipped cream (classic)
The most popular way to serve this easy Asian dessert is to top it with a dollop of rich crème Chantilly. The complex taste of coffee jelly pairs perfectly with its velvety consistency. Fun fact: this style of serving is typically used in a kissaten (a traditional Japanese coffee shop).
Serve it with ice cream
If you have a sweet tooth, serve this cubed dessert with a scoop of your favourite sundaes. Vanilla, chocolate, mint – the choices are endless! It amplifies the sweetness of this treat and envelopes the flavoured cubes with a soft creamy taste.
Serve it as a drink
This jello treat is the perfect garnish for a multitude of drinks because of its tiny cube shape. We suggest dropping a few cubes of coffee jelly into a cup of iced latte. Double the caffeine, double the joy!
However, if you’d like a more relaxing beverage instead of an energy-packed refreshment, try iced chocolate! The caffeinated cubes do an excellent job at bringing out its chocolatey mouthfeel.
Another delicious way to enjoy this vegan dessert is to use it as a bubble tea topping! Instead of cutting it into cubes, cut it into short matchsticks. It makes a great addition or substitute to your regular tapioca pearls!
This Japanese dessert is effortlessly versatile so go wild! Drizzle in some caramel for a richer deeper flavour. Pour in some hot fudge for a wholly satisfying taste. You can even throw in some sprinkles, crumbled Oreos, or even pieces of fruit for the ultimate dessert experience.
Make the dish yours – there are about a hundred different ways to serve coffee jelly!
Vegan Jelly Dessert
We’ve mentioned before that this easy Asian snack is a great treat for vegans worldwide. It’s because the agar agar powder used is kanten which is a type of plant-based gelatine. This is similar to another agar-based Japanese dessert called mizu shingen mochi.
This sweet delicacy also features animal-free ingredients like regular caffeine and dairy-free condensed milk. You can use coconut cream, evaporated nut milk, or any other vegan-friendly alternative for the creamer. To serve this vegetarian dessert, we recommend using a touch of coconut for a more nuanced taste.
Here’s our timeless and true recipe for caffeinated vegetarian jelly:
To make the coffee jelly
Pour some water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Then, turn the heat to low. Next, add in the agar powder, coffee, and sugar. Stir until the ingredients have dissolved. Pour the mix into a container and refrigerate until the jello becomes firm.
To make the sweetened cream
Blend dairy-free condensed milk and coconut milk, plant-based creamer, or any other vegan-friendly substitutes. Whisk the mixture until it is even.
To complete the dish
Cut the jello into small squares. Add it into serving cups and pour in the sweetened cream. This tasty dish is now complete!
Is coffee jelly healthy?
Yes, it is! This cube dessert includes caffeine – a substance that provides numerous health benefits. It improves your energy levels, helps you burn fat, and even protects your liver.
Traditional vs Modern Recipe
In 1963, Tokyo’s Mikado Coffee introduced the caffeine-packed invention which ended up becoming a booming success. Traditionally, they made the delicacy with kanten to make the dessert fluffy and bouncy.
However, one thing to note is that the infamous Tokyo cafe serves the dish on a singular platter without any extra toppings or cream. It is eaten plain and instead of the cute small cubes we’re accustomed to, they are dome-shaped.
Nowadays, its become a norm to douse the jelly dessert in sweetened creamer to elevate the dish’s complexity. Furthermore, ever since Starbucks Japan’s Coffee Jelly Frappuccino launch in 2016, cubed jelly became all the rage.
The core ingredients of this Japanese confectionery include kanten, coffee, sugar, condensed milk, and cream.
If you’d like to try this Japanese treat the traditional way, go for agar-agar powder! You can get it from your local Asian grocery stores but you can also buy it online at stores like Mitsuwa or Marukai. If you prefer a smoother texture, use gelatin as a substitute.
This Japan-based treat derives its smoky tang and malty aroma from caffeine. For a heavenly balance between bitterness and sweetness, be sure to brew strong coffee. If not, the bitter taste of the coffee jelly would be completely overshadowed by the sweetened cream.
However, if you’re using instant powder, don’t add more crystals than the recommended amount. Sadly, it might turn out too bitter to eat.
Sugar is important to ensure that the vegetarian jelly attains the quintessential sweetness often found in desserts. You may even an extra tablespoon of sugar to increase the candied taste of this Japanese dessert.
For a healthier sugar-free version of this recipe, you can also use vanilla extract and liquid stevia instead.
The velvety feel of condensed milk does wonders to make coffee jelly the ultimate year-round dessert. Run out of condensed milk? Use crème of coconut or coconut milk.
Alternatively, you could also eat this Asian snack without serving it in sweetened creamer as it will still taste great!
Whisk all-purpose cream with condensed milk to achieve a creamer that is rich, luscious, and smooth. You can adjust the amount you use because the sweet-bitter balance is a personal choice.
GOLDEN COINS Coffee Agar Mix - 5.8oz (Pack of 1)
Don’t have the ingredients? Use can also use a pre-mixed package. We recommend the GOLDEN COINS coffee agar mix to obtain that classic feel-good flavour of authentic Japanese jello. You can buy it online on Amazon.
How to make coffee jelly
There are two components in this cube dessert: the jello cubes and the sweetened cream.
To make the jello cubes, simply mix kanten powder, brewed or instant coffee, and sugar in a pot. Then, it should be refrigerated until it is firm before being sliced up into tiny cubes. For the sweetened cream, simply mix condensed milk and cream.
Once these two components are done, pour the cream mixture over a bed of caffeinated jello and you’re done!
- If your jello gets stuck to its mould or container, load a bowl with hot water. Dip the outside of the mould in the water for about 30 seconds. You should be able to get the coffee jelly out of its mould or container with ease.
- For a full-flavoured dessert, use espresso as it heightens the earthy roasted taste of the jello cubes. However, the instant powder can also be used for convenience.
- It is not recommended to use a french press or drip coffee for this recipe. The weak taste of caffeine would be overpowered by the sugary components of the dish.
- When preparing the dessert solution, ensure that the solution is brought to a boil to fully jellify the liquid.
- Ensure that the agar-agar, caffeine, and sugar mixture has completely dissolved before refrigerating it. This is to ensure that there is no clumpiness in the end product.
Coffee Jelly | Japanese Vegan Dessert
- 1 tbsp kanten (agar agar powder)
- 2 cups freshly brewed coffee
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ cup all-purpose cream (optional)
- 2 tbsp condensed milk (optional)
- First, boil ¼ a cup of water into a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour in kanten powder, brewed coffee, and sugar into the pot and stir until the mixture is even.
- Then, add the coffee jelly mixture into cups or a large container and refrigerate it for 3 to 4 hours.
- Take out the refrigerated coffee mixture, which should be firm by now. Cut it horizontally and then vertically using a knife to make it cube-shaped. The size of the jello cubes is up to your personal preference.
- Next, whisk together condensed milk and all purpose cream until the mixture is evenly mixed.
- Add the cubes into a glass or transparent container. Add a dollop of the sweetened cream mixture or other toppings to decorate the coffee jelly and add to its flavour. Serve and enjoy!
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Ninja Recipe has an excellent video recipe showing the whole process from start to finish. They use fresh cream as a topping for the dessert, creating a beautiful aesthetic contrast!
How to Store
The best way to store this easy Asian snack is to keep it in the refrigerator. Be sure to use an airtight container to make sure it doesn’t get affected by air, moisture, and heat.
However, since gelatin substances tend to deteriorate very fast, it’s best to consume the dish within two days. We would suggest you eat this dessert right away while it’s still cold and fresh for maximum satisfaction.
We’re excited to see all the ideas you can come up with. Enjoy your summertime treat!
Looking for other Japanese anime-inspired recipes? Check out our Chaliapin steak don recipe that was from Shokugeki No Soma: Food Wars!