Amazake vs. Sikhye? Uncover the Differences Here!

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You may have heard of amazake and sikhye and wondered which is which.

Amazake is a Japanese fermented rice drink made with koji and sweetened with honey or sugar. It’s traditionally served warm and has a smooth, creamy texture and tangy flavor. Korean sikhye is a sweet, clear, non-alcoholic fermented rice drink with a nutty flavor, made with malted barley, traditionally served cold.

In this article, I’ll take a closer look at both drinks and discuss their differences, similarities, and cultural significance. Plus, I’ll share some health benefits, so read on to learn more.

Amazake vs sikhye

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Amazake vs Sikhye: A Comparison of Two Traditional Rice-Based Drinks

  • Amazake is made from rice koji, which is steamed rice that has been inoculated with a mold called Aspergillus oryzae. Sikhye, on the other hand, is made from malted barley or rice.
  • Amazake is prepared by mixing rice koji with water and letting it ferment for several hours at a warm temperature. Sikhye is made by boiling grains in water, then adding malt powder and letting it ferment for several hours at room temperature.
  • Amazake is usually sweetened with sugar or honey, while sikhye is sweetened with sugar or corn syrup.
  • Amazake is traditionally served hot, while sikhye is served cold.

Flavor and Texture

  • Amazake has a smooth, creamy texture and a sweet, slightly tangy flavor.
  • Sikhye has a clear, transparent appearance with floating grains and a sweet, nutty flavor.
  • Amazake is often compared to a non-alcoholic version of sake, while sikhye is often described as a sweet tea.

Cultural Significance

  • Amazake is a traditional Japanese drink that has been consumed for centuries as a sweet and nutritious beverage.
  • Sikhye is a traditional Korean drink that is often served during special occasions and celebrations.
  • In Japan, amazake is often served as a vegetarian alternative to sake, while sikhye is often served as a refreshing drink during hot summer months.

Health Benefits

  • Both amazake and sikhye are rich in nutrients and are considered to be healthy drinks.
  • Amazake is high in protein and is a good source of vitamins and minerals, while sikhye is rich in fiber and antioxidants.
  • Both drinks are low in fat and calories and are suitable for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Overall, amazake and sikhye are two delicious and nutritious rice-based drinks that are enjoyed in different cultures around the world. Whether you prefer the sweet and creamy flavor of amazake or the nutty and refreshing taste of sikhye, both drinks offer a unique and satisfying drinking experience.

What is Amazake?

Amazake is a traditional Japanese drink that literally means “sweet sake.” It is a non-alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented rice, and it is said to have been consumed since the beginning of the Edo period in Japan. Amazake is made by adding koji (a mold that is used in the production of miso and soy sauce) to steamed rice and allowing the mixture to ferment for several hours. The result is a unique mixture that is rich in nutrients and has a sweet taste.

The Benefits and Effects of Amazake

Amazake is a great source of energy and is known to improve glucose metabolism, which can help to prevent the onset of diabetes. It is also said to improve cognitive performance and can be a great addition to lunch for those who are active throughout the day. Amazake contains approximately 10% sugar, which is significantly lower than regular sugar consumption. This makes it a safer option for those who are watching their sugar intake.

The Different Types of Amazake

There are two main types of amazake: traditional and electric. Traditional amazake is prepared by mixing koji and steamed rice and allowing the mixture to ferment naturally. Electric amazake, on the other hand, is prepared using an electric mixer, which allows for a faster and more convenient preparation process. Both types of amazake are delicious and offer unique benefits.

How to Serve and Drink Amazake

Amazake is normally served hot (here’s how to drink it), but it can also be served cold. It is a great addition to any meal and can be served as a dessert or as a refreshing drink. To serve amazake, simply pour it into a cup and stir to dissolve any remaining rice grains. It lacks the alcohol content of regular sake, so it is a great option for beginners or those who find regular sake too difficult to handle.

Creating Amazake at Home

Creating amazake at home is easy and convenient. Here is a simple recipe for beginners:

  • Soak 1 cup of rice in water for 30 minutes
  • Drain the rice and steam it for 30 minutes
  • Allow the rice to cool to approximately 140°F
  • Add 1 tablespoon of koji to the rice and mix well
  • Cover the mixture and allow it to ferment for 8-10 hours
  • Serve hot or cold

Amazake is a staple in Japanese cuisine and is a great way to improve your energy production and cognitive performance. Whether you choose to make it at home or enjoy it at a restaurant, be sure to give amazake a try and experience its unique taste and benefits.

What is Sikhye?

The preparation of sikhye is a lengthy process that takes several hours. Here are the steps to prepare sikhye:

  • Rinse the rice in a bowl until the water runs clear.
  • Add the rice to a large pot with water and let it soak for at least an hour.
  • Drain the water and add fresh water to the pot. Bring it to a boil and let it cook for 20 minutes.
  • Add sugar and malt powder to the pot and stir gently.
  • Let the mixture rest for an hour.
  • Check the mixture and break any large pieces of rice.
  • Cover the pot and let it ferment for 6-8 hours.
  • Collect the floating grains of rice with a colander and transfer them to a separate bowl.
  • Discard the remaining sediment.
  • Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer to remove any remaining lees.
  • Serve the sikhye cold in a glass or cup.

Amazake vs Sikhye

Sikhye and amazake are both traditional rice drinks, but they have some differences:

  • Amazake is a sweet, thick, and creamy drink made from koji, a type of malted grain, and rice. It is often used as a sweetener in cooking and is also a popular drink in Japan.
  • Sikhye is a clear and transparent drink made from rice, water, sugar, and malt powder. It is usually served cold and is a popular summer drink in Korea.

Other Korean Rice Drinks

Korea has a variety of rice drinks, including:

  • Dansul: a traditional Korean alcoholic drink made from rice and nuruk, a type of fermentation starter.
  • Gamju: a traditional Korean drink made from sweet potato and nuruk.
  • Shikhye: a variation of sikhye that is made with barley instead of rice.

The History of Amazake

Amazake has played an important role in Japanese culture throughout history. It was often served at religious ceremonies and festivals, and was believed to have healing properties. In fact, the enzyme found in amazake, koji, is still used in traditional Japanese medicine to this day.

How to Make Amazake

Making amazake at home is relatively easy. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:

  • Measure out 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of water and add to a large bowl.
  • Stir the mixture and let it stand for 30 minutes.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the rice mixture.
  • Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of koji and stir well.
  • Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it sit for 8-10 hours.
  • Once the mixture has fully fermented, stir it well and pour it into a mold.
  • Allow the amazake to set for a few hours before serving.

Amazake as a Substitute for Sake

Despite its low alcohol content, amazake can be used as a substitute for sake in cooking. It adds a sweet, rich flavor to dishes and is a good option for those who want to avoid alcohol. Amazake can also be used to make porridge or as a base for smoothies.

Where to Buy Amazake

If you’re not up for making amazake at home, you can find it at Japanese specialty shops or online. Some supermarkets also offer instant versions of amazake that are easy to prepare and serve.

The History of Sikhye

Sikhye, a traditional sweet rice drink, has been enjoyed in Korea for centuries. Its origins can be traced back to ancient times when rice was a staple grain in the Korean diet. The drink was said to have been a favorite of the royal court and was served at banquets and celebrations.

Traditional Preparation

The preparation of sikhye is a labor-intensive process that involves several steps. Here’s how it’s traditionally made:

  • Rinse short-grain rice and let it soak in water for a few hours.
  • Drain the rice and break it into small pieces.
  • Cook the rice in a large pot with water until it becomes soft.
  • Add sugar and malt powder to the pot and stir gently.
  • Let the mixture rest for several hours to allow fermentation to occur.
  • Pour the mixture through a coarse sieve to collect the floating grains.
  • Transfer the liquid to a transparent bowl or glass and let it cool.
  • Serve the sikhye cold and garnish with pine nuts and dried, pitted jujubes.

Regional Variations

Sikhye is not only popular in Korea but also in other East Asian countries such as China and Japan. In China, it’s called “jiuniang” or “酒酿,” and in Japan, it’s known as “amazake.” Each country has its own unique way of preparing the drink, but the basic ingredients remain the same.

Modern Adaptations

In modern times, sikhye is still a beloved drink in Korea, but it’s also gaining popularity in Western countries. It’s now easier to find pre-made sikhye in Korean grocery stores or online. Some people even make it in a rice cooker or use sikhye powder to prepare it quickly.

How to Serve Sikhye

Sikhye can be served hot or cold, depending on your preference. Here are some tips on how to serve sikhye:

  • Cold: Serve sikhye chilled with ice cubes. Garnish with pine nuts or jujubes for added flavor and texture.
  • Hot: Heat sikhye in a pot until it reaches your desired temperature. Serve in a mug or teacup.
  • Ultra-Cold: Freeze sikhye in an ice cube tray and use it to chill your favorite alcoholic beverages like sake or rượu.

What are the Different Types of Sikhye?

There are several types of sikhye available in the market, each with its unique taste and history. Here’s a list of some of the commonly sold sikhye types:

  • Traditional Sikhye: This is the most commonly sold sikhye in Korea. It is made from boiled rice, water, and sugar.
  • Black Rice Sikhye: This type of sikhye is made from black rice, which gives it a unique color and taste.
  • Barley Sikhye: Barley sikhye is made from ground barley and filtered water. It has a nutty flavor and is less sweet than traditional sikhye.
  • Horchata Sikhye: This type of sikhye is made from ground rice, milk, and sugar. It is a popular drink in Latin America and Spain.
  • Kokkoh Sikhye: Kokkoh sikhye is made from ground roasted barley, water, and sugar. It is a popular drink in Japan.
  • Beopju Sikhye: Beopju sikhye is made from rice wine lees, water, and sugar. It has a slightly alcoholic taste and is a popular drink in Korea.


It’s not so hard to tell them apart now that you know the differences between amazake and sikhye, and you can make the right choice when it comes to choosing a drink. 

Both are delicious and nutritious, but amazake is a traditional Japanese drink and sikhye is a traditional Korean drink.

More differences: Amazake vs sake

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.