30 Delicious Japanese Recipes

Traditional Japanese cuisine makes use of nature's bounty to showcase simple flavors with gorgeous, almost artistic presentations. However, the foods of Japan are more diverse than you may think. As Japan opened itself up to foregin influences, cooks started incorporating international ingredients and techniques into their cuisine. As a result, contemporary Japanese cooking features everything from ancient rice and fish dishes to unique takes on European-style pastries and even a delicious interpretation of curry. These recipes (from traditional to innovative) reflect the Japanese approach to food and cooking.

June 28, 2021
By: Carlos Olaechea

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Chicken Katsu

Chicken katsu belongs to a class of Japanese cuisine called yoshoku, which refers to Japanese-style Western dishes. This crispy chicken cutlet was inspired by schnitzel but uses panko breadcrumbs and is fried in oil instead of butter. Katsu is short for katsuretsu, which is the Japanese pronunciation of cutlet.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Katsu

Spicy Steamed Baby Bok Choy

Baby bok choy is popular in many East Asian cuisines because of its striking appearance, mild flavor and crisp texture. This is a simple recipe that combines soy sauce and spicy sesame oil for a full-flavored side or vegetarian main course.

Get the Recipe: Healthy Spicy Steamed Baby Bok Choy

Tamagoyaki

There are two basic styles of this Japanese rolled omelet: a dashi version and a slightly sweet version made with a little sugar. The former is fluffier and moister, but the latter is simpler to prepare because you don’t need to make dashi and the egg isn’t as wet, so it rolls up more easily. The omelets are traditionally cooked in special square or rectangular tamagoyaki pans, but a round skillet, preferably nonstick, is possible (although a little trickier). Serve tamagoyaki hot, at room temperature or cold, for breakfast or as a side dish, snack or part of a bento box.

Get the Recipe: Tamagoyaki

Homemade Japanese Curry

Curry was brought to Japan by the British in the 18th century and has since become one of the nation’s most popular dishes. Unlike typical Asian curries, the Japanese sauce is thick and subtly sweet. As for the spice level, that can vary from mild to hot. Kare raisu is commonly made using store-bought curry roux blocks. They are really good and convenient, especially in a pinch. But a from-scratch version doesn’t take that much more time or effort and tastes a bit fresher and more nuanced. You can also play with the flavorings to suit your taste. Onions, carrots and potato are classic kare raisu ingredients, along with some kind of protein. This recipe uses beef, but you could try chicken, seafood or tofu, which can be cooked right in the sauce with the vegetables.

Get the Recipe: Homemade Japanese Curry

Spiced Edamame

Edamame is the term for soybeans when they're at their tender young phase. About the size of small lima beans, these legumes have a rich, creamy mouthfeel and fresh, almost grassy flavor. These qualities make them the ideal vehicle for a myriad of seasonings.

Get the Recipe: Spiced Edamame

Fluffy Japanese Pancakes

Japanese cooks are masters at taking international recipes and transforming them to make them uniquely Japanese foods. These pancakes are a perfect example. Inspired by American pancakes, they are thicker and fluffier than the flapjacks you may be used to. Serve them with butter and maple syrup, just as you would at an old-fashioned diner or a Japanese pancake shop, for that matter.

Get the Recipe: Fluffy Japanese Pancakes

Salmon Kushiyaki

Kushiyaki is a style of Japanese cooking that involves grilling skewered meats and veggies over a a charcoal grill. Rich salmon pieces and meaty shiitake mushrooms are licked by the flames while a sweet soy marinade caramelizes on the surface. A finish of schichimi togarashi (a spicy Japanese seasoning blend) gives these skewers just the right amount of heat.

Get the Recipe: Salmon Kushiyaki

Katsudon

Katsudon, the beloved Japanese fried pork cutlet rice bowl, is the ideal all-in-one dish if you have leftover tonkatsu in the fridge and want a quick and filling meal or snack. People generally don't make tonkatsu specifically for katsudon (relying instead on leftovers or store-bought versions)--but you certainly can. Traditionally, each serving is cooked separately, though two servings can be cooked in a larger skillet. If you’re hungry for more eggs, feel free to use two per person, keeping in mind it may increase the cooking time.

Get the Recipe: Katsudon

Chico Ramen with Roasted Chicken Dashi and Shoyu Chicken

While pork-based ramen broth is extremely popular, it's not the only type of ramen that exists in Japan. This chicken-based one is a much lighter alternative that still delivers on richness and flavor. You can also make the shoyu (soy sauce) chicken component separately to have on its own!

Get the Recipe: Chico Ramen with Roasted Chicken Dashi and Shoyu Chicken

Gyudon

These beef rice bowls are the epitome of comfort food in Japan. Usually prepared at home, they are also ubiquitous at fast-food restaurants across the country. Gyudon is made from thinly sliced beef and onions coated in a slightly sweet soy sauce-based sauce. Some people prefer a raw or poached egg on top while others sprinkle sesame seeds instead. Feel free to play around with the recipe to create your favorite version of this fast, filling and inexpensive meal.

Get the Recipe: Gyudon

Taiyaki

Taiyaki are filled waffle-like Japanese snacks cooked in fish-shaped molds over a burner. They date back to the Edo era, when vendors morphed a similar round treat into the shape of a sea bream, a prized fish in Japan. Taiyaki (which literally means grilled sea bream) became very popular and are now a staple at outdoor markets, food halls and street festivals. Somewhat cakey on the inside, they vary from crispy to soft on the outside. This version falls in between. Taiyaki are traditionally filled with anko (sweet red bean paste), but Nutella, custard, matcha cream, chocolate, jam and ham and cheese are other options. Taiyaki pan sizes can vary, so the first time you make the recipe, you might need to play around with the amount of batter and anko per mold. You may need to adjust the heat level and/or cooking time, too. Use the first batch as a gauge.

Get the Recipe: Taiyaki

Mille-Feuille Nabe

This clever dish takes a traditional pork and cabbage Japanese hot pot or nabe, which also refers to the pot. Mille-feuille means “a thousand leaves” or sheets in French. The origin of mille-feuille nabe is unclear but it is one of the most popular hot pots in Japan and for good reason. The dish is simple to prepare and requires a few ingredients, rendering soulful flavors in a striking floral appearance. Serve the nabe with steamed rice or add cooked udon noodles to the bowls with the nabe.

Get the Recipe: Mille-Feuille Nabe

Tonkatsu with Homemade Sauce

Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets) is one of the most popular dishes in Japan. It's commonly served with a bottled sauce (Bull Dog is a beloved brand), but making a homemade version is simple and quick. Slice the cabbage that accompanies the pork as thinly as possible and keep it cold until ready to serve for the best contrast in taste and texture.

Get the Recipe: Tonkatsu with Homemade Sauce

Grilled Rice Balls

Onigiri are Japan's most quintessential comfort food, and while they often include rice and nori (seaweed), they are much easier a lot more affordable to make. This recipe is a popular variation on the traditional favorite coated in which triangles of short-grain Japanese rice are coated in a buttery sweet soy sauce reduction before getting caramelized on a hot grill.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Rice Balls

Mochi Ice Cream

Mochi is a traditional Japanese food made from a variety of rice often referred to as glutinous rice in English (even though it contains no gluten). It is often eaten on its own, especially during New Year celebrations. However, it's most popularly filled with sweet fillings, including ice cream. Learn how to make your own with this recipe.

Get the Recipe: Mochi Ice Cream

Yakitori Negima

Yakitori is perhaps one of the most popular types of grilled foods in Japan and is a favorite street food and bar snack. While traditionally grilled on an open flame, this recipe calls for using a grill pan, which still beautifully caramelizes the sweet soy glaze and scallions.

Get the Recipe: Negima Yakitori

Katsu Curry Ramen

This recipe combines three Japanese favorites: katsu (breaded fried pork cutlet), curry and ramen. Japanese curry is one of the most popular foods in Japan and is inspired by British-style curry. It is mild, velvety and slightly sweet. For ramen, the curry sauce is thinned out with a rich pork broth. All together, the elements of this dish give you a taste of Japanese comfort food.

Get the Recipe: Katsu Curry Ramen

Miso Soup

This soup is a standard at many Japanese meals and a necessary component of traditional Japanese breakfasts. Fortunately, it is very easy to put together. This particular recipe combines two types of miso paste — white and brown — for a complex, deeply umami taste.

Get the Recipe: Miso Soup

Japanese Cheesecake

Japanese-style cheesecake is like the happy love child of a New York cheesecake and an angle food cake. It's lighter, flufflier and jigglier than your typical Wester cheesecake but still has the pleasant tang and creaminess that cheesecake fanatics love. It's also not as sweet or fatty while still being incredibly indulgent.

Get the Recipe: Japanese Cheesecake

Nabe Yaki Udon

Nabe is a type of hearty Japanese stew that is a real comfort during the bitterly cold Japanese winters. The soup features udon, a traditional variety of thick, chewy noodles that makes this a filling main dish for any time of year.

Get the Recipe: Nabe Yaki Udon

Edamame Tofu Mushimono

This is a modern interpretation of classic Japanese flavors. Tofu is not terribly difficult to make at home. However, it does require special ingredients. This recipe calls for easier-to-find ingredients to give home cooks the effects of homemade tofu without all the fuss. Edamame makes for a beautiful pale green tofu that has a fresher, more summery taste than traditional tofu. The addition of fresh tomatoes makes this a perfect warm-weather dish.

Get the Recipe: Edamame Tofu Mushimono

Miso-Sesame Dressing

This dressing has a practically legendary status at Japanese restaurants in the U.S. It utilizes miso, a salty fermented soybean paste, as its main flavor component. Toasted sesame oil gives the dressing a satisfying nuttiness.

Get the Recipe: Miso-Sesame Dressing

Masaba Oshizushi

The original sushi actually featured pickled fish rather than raw fish as it does today. This pickled makerel sushi is very close to what Japanese people enjoyed several hundred years ago. On top of learning how to pickle mackerel, this recipe also teaches you how to make a proper pot of sushi rice.

Get the Recipe: Masaba Oshizushi

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu ramen is perhaps the most popular style of ramen in the West due to its rich, milky white pork broth. This recipe comes from a popiular Japanese restaurant in the U.S. It's a perfect recipe for those who want to make a satisfying bowl of ramen without compromising on traditional ingredients and techniques. You can make all the elements ahead of time and have them ready to assemble for a quick weeknight dinner.

Get the Recipe: Kaedama Tonkotsu

Chirashizushi

Chirashizushi, or chirashi sushi, is essentially free-form sushi served in a bowl or shallow vessel. The ingredients cover a bed of seasoned rice and are either neatly grouped together, which is typ-ical at restaurants, or cut into smaller pieces and “scattered” (the meaning of chirashi), giving you a variety of flavors, textures and colors in each bite. This is a common way to eat raw fish at home since it requires a lot less skill and time to make than conventional sushi. But another big part of the appeal for home cooks is that you can top it with pretty much whatever you like or have on hand, including only cooked toppings, such as grilled eel, shrimp, sliced shiitake sim-mered in a dashi-soy mixture, kinshi tamago (shredded egg crepe) or sliced tamagoyaki (rolled omelet), edamame or steamed sliced snow peas. You can also mix raw and cooked ingredients. There are really no rules, although you should aim for a balanced, visually pleasing arrangement.

Get the Recipe: Chirashizushi

Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles (also known as konjac) are gluten-free noodle alternatives that are neutral in flavor, slightly chewy and come in different styles of thickness, such as spaghetti and fettucine. Though they are typically packaged as ready to eat, I prefer to cook them in a sweet and savory broth, since the noodles absorb flavor well. This recipe is no-fuss: put everything in a pot and cook them on the stovetop for about ten minutes. I’ve included vegetables I feel are complementary to the noodles and broth, but feel free to use whatever combination you like.

Get the Recipe: Shirataki Noodles

Negimaki

Negimaki is a popular Japanese dish of thinly sliced beef that is wrapped around scallions, then grilled or sautéed and served with a teriyaki-style sauce that doubles as a marinade. (Negi means “scallion” and maki means “roll.”) It’s quick and easy to make--aside from pounding and rolling the beef--and you can form the rolls up to twelve hours ahead of time and refrigerate them, covered, until you’re ready to finish the recipe. Serve as an appetizer or a main course with steamed rice and a green vegetable or salad.

Get the Recipe: Negimaki

Donabe Seafood Soup with Udon Noodles

I grew up eating one-pot donabe meals during cold winter months, whether it was a hearty meat stew or simple fish soup. There was an extra layer of comfort as my family gathered around the clay pot at the table and enjoyed our shared meal. This seafood soup highlights what we found to be the freshest catch of the day from our local fish market. The simmered vegetables and aromatics mimic a slow and simmered dashi-based broth, even though the cooking time is much less. Finally, the udon noodles soak in all the flavors and make it a satisfying meal that fills your belly right up.

Get the Recipe: Donabe Seafood Soup with Udon Noodles

Japanese Potato Salad

Potato salad is said to have been introduced to Japan more than 125 years ago. Today, it’s as ubiquitous there as it is in the States, but the Japanese version is quite different from what we’re accustomed to here. It always contains mayonnaise, and Japanese mayonnaise, which is richer and tangier than American mayo, is key. There’s also not as much vinegar, so the flavor is sweeter and less acidic. That sweetness is amplified by the addition of various vegetables, such as corn, carrots, peas and cucumber, which also lend texture. Ham, onions, scallions and hard-boiled egg are also common mix-ins, but there are no rules, so use what you have and like. Lastly, the consistency is closer to that of mashed potatoes--creamy, not chunky. Serve it as you would any potato salad. It’s a staple in bento boxes, too.

Get the Recipe: Japanese Potato Salad

Takoyaki

Takoyaki, which literally means “grilled octopus” in Japanese, are slightly crispy balls of pan-fried savory batter filled with diced cooked octopus and other flavorings. They are typically garnished with tangy takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, ground dried seaweed and dried bonito flakes, and the combination is super tasty. (You can find these items at specialty grocers or online.) One of Japan’s most popular street snacks, takoyaki originated in Osaka in the 1930s and can now be found across the country, and abroad. Although people generally buy takoyaki, you can also make them at home. The process of forming the balls takes some practice, but it isn’t difficult. You will need a special molded pan, though. And if you don’t like octopus, no problem! You can substitute other ingredients, such as cooked shrimp, chicken, bacon or sausage, tofu, vegetables, even cheese. Just be sure to eat the takoyaki right away — they are best piping hot.

Get the Recipe: Takoyaki