Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes) is a special dish of Osechi Ryori, or traditional Japanese New Year foods. It’s smooth and creamy, with a sweet and slightly nutty flavor. This dish symbolizes economic fortune and wealth. Let’s make this for a prosperous year ahead!
As part of my Osechi Ryori Recipe Series (traditional Japanese New Year Food), I am bringing you a popular dish called Kuri Kinton or Candied Chestnuts with Sweet Potatoes. This auspicious item is smooth, creamy, slightly nutty with a bright, golden yellow color. It certainly adds a touch of elegance to the New Year’s feast.
What is Kuri Kinton
Kurikinton (栗金団), literary “chestnut gold mash,” symbolizes economic fortune and wealth. Made of mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts in syrup, kuri kinton is an important dish to bring good luck and prosperity for the new year.
Kuri kinton is on the sweet side, but it is not considered a dessert in Japanese cuisine. You’ll find most traditional osechi ryori dishes are seasoned more heavily with vinegar and sugar so the food are preserved and store well for several days for the New Year. That said, you can always adjust the sweetness to your liking.
Traditionally we put dried gardenia pods (kuchinashi no mi, くちなしの実) while simmering the sweet potatoes. The gardenia pods give a bright yellow color and they are used to naturally color other food such as “takuan” radish pickles and noodles. Unfortunately, I could not find these pods in the US so I couldn’t add them while cooking (Update: you can now find it on Amazon). The yellow color in the photos is purely from the Japanese sweet potatoes.
2 Important Ingredients to Make Kuri Kinton
1. Candied Chestnuts
You can make candied chestnuts from scratch by peeling the chestnuts (this alone takes hours!), cooking them till tender, and preserving them in syrup. But that’s not something most of us have the time to do. So I use this jar of chestnuts in heavy syrup called kuri kanroni (栗甘露煮) for my Kuri Kinton recipe. Kuri kanroni is commonly used in making wagashi, Japanese sweets, such as yokan or manju.
2. Japanese Sweet Potatoes
For kuri kinton, please use only Japanese sweet potatoes called satsumaimo (さつまいも), and not any other types of sweet potatoes. Japanese sweet potatoes are known for its starchy texture and intensely sweet flavor, which makes them an ideal choice for desserts such as Japanese Sweet Potato, Daigaku Imo, and Sweet Potato Pie.
You can easily find them at mainstream grocery stores or local farmers in the US these days.
Learn more about Japanese sweet potatoes on my pantry page.
Both chestnuts and sweet potatoes are signature winter harvests and the epitome of Japanese New Year festivities. You cannot miss it when making osechi for the family!
More Osechi Ryori Dishes
- 7 Popular Side Dishes & Desserts to Serve with Osechi Ryori
- Kuromame (Sweet Black Soybeans)
- Chikuzenni (Simmered Chicken and Vegetables)
- Tataki Gobo (Pounded Burdock Root with Sesame Sauce)
Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes)
For the Coloring
- 2 kuchinashi no mi (dried gardenia pods) (optional; these pods give a bright yellow tint when simmered with the sweet potatoes; if you can find them, crack the pods in half and wrap in cheesecloth)
- Before You Start: If you will include this dish in your Osechi meal, I recommend cooking it 2 days before you plan to serve. For more helpful tips on planning your Japanese New Year feast, please read my A 5-Day Osechi Cooking Timeline blog post.
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into ½-inch (1.3-cm) pieces so that they will cook evenly.
- Soak the sweet potatoes in water for 15 minutes to remove the starch. Then, drain and put them in a large pot. Add just enough water to cover them.
- Bring the water to a boil on medium heat. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium low and cook for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer pierces the sweet potatoes smoothly. Then, reserve about ¼ to ½ cup of the cooking water. Drain the sweet potatoes completely.
- Using a wooden spatula, mash the boiled sweet potatoes through a fine-mesh strainer or sieve to purée them. You can also use a food processor, adding a tiny bit of the reserved cooking liquid if required.
- The finished puréed sweet potato is pictured in the image to the left. Next, remove the chestnuts and syrup for the recipe from the jar of kuri kanroni.
- To the same pot, add the puréed sweet potato, sugar, salt, mirin, and the chestnut syrup. If you are using the optional kuchinashi no mi (dried gardenia pods), crack them in half and wrap in cheesecloth; then, add to the pot.
- Set the pot on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved completely. If needed, add the reserved cooking liquid to loosen up the paste (I did not add). Adjust the sweetness with the syrup and mirin.
- Add the chestnuts to the pot and cook until heated through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely.
- Serve the Kuri Kinton at room temperature.
- Transfer the Kuri Kinton to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 28, 2012. The post has been updated with new images in December 2019 and republished in December 2021.