Ingredient 1 Batch 1 Batch
agar powder 1½ tsp. 4g
water 2 - 2½ cups 500 - 600 ml

Kanten — better known in the West as agar — is a vegetable gelatin derived from seaweed. It is used as a base for many Japanese desserts as well as some savory dishes. Plain, it doesn’t have much flavor, but cut into small cubes adds texture and visual appeal to anmitsu and other dessert dishes. Sweeteners and flavors can also be added, depending on the recipe.


  1. Mix and heat ingredients.
    Add the agar powder to room-temperature water in a small pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to keep the powder from settling to the bottom. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 minutes, continuing to stir. After the powder has blended completely, remove from heat.

    Kanten, most of the way through the cooking process Kanten (agar agar) powder in a pan

  2. Chill.
    Solidified kanten in a pan Wet the inside of a medium-sized rectangular pan by rinsing it with water to prevent the gelatin from sticking. Pour the hot liquid into the pan. Let it cool for a while, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill completely, until you’re ready to serve it.
  3. Cube.
    Push the edges of the chilled kanten down gently to separate them from the sides of the pan, then carefully slide or turn the block out onto work surface. Cut into 1.5cm (half-inch or so) cubes.


  • Kanten is the name of both the finished, unflavored gelatin cubes and the raw, white substance used to make it. While Asian specialty stores may carry imported Japanese kanten, agar (also called agar-agar) is widely available at natural food stores and likely less expensive. Kanten is available in powder, flakes, strips and bars; the recipe above assumes powder, which is the easiest form to work with.
  • Depending on preference and what the kanten will be used for, you can adjust the firmness. Use the smaller amount of water (500ml / 2 cups) for a firmer texture, more if you want it softer.