Among all the Osaka specialty, Takoyaki (たこ焼き) and Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) are most well-known. Today I’m sharing my favorite Okonomiyaki recipe with you so you can make this popular dish at home!
As some of the readers know, I grew up in Yokohama (横浜). But did you know I was actually born in my mother’s hometown, Osaka (大阪)? Because of this, I consider Osaka my second home as I spent most of my school holidays there with my grandparents.
Osaka is known for its inexpensive and abundant food culture. Since the old days, Osaka has been called “The Country’s Kitchen” (Tenka no Daidokoro 天下の台所) and a “City Extravagant in Food” (Kuidaore no Machi 食い倒れの街).
What is Okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki is sometimes called “Japanese Pancake” or “Japanese Pizza” by non-Japanese speakers, but personally I think it’s more like a dish between pancake and frittata.
It’s made with flour, eggs, tempura scraps (tenkasu), cabbage, pork belly slices and topped with a variety of condiments like okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed, and dried bonito flakes.
If you don’t eat pork or prefer other protein choice, this dish is very adaptable. The possibility for the filling and topping choices are endless, which is why this dish in Japanese translates to “Grill As You Like” – Okonomi (as you like) Yaki (grill). I will cover this topic more later on in the post.
Eating Okonomiyaki In Japan
You can enjoy this dish at okonomiyaki restaurants (Okonomiyaki-ya お好み焼き屋) throughout Japan. There are usually 3 dining options for these restaurants:
1) You can sit at a counter in front of a huge teppan where the chefs make them right in front of you.
2) You can sit at a table which has built in teppan, you can cook your own but the staff will help you make it if you ask.
3) The okonomiyaki is prepared and made in the kitchen and they place it on a teppan in front of you to keep it warm.
Besides restaurants, you can also purchase steaming hot okonomiyaki at street vendors during festivals (matsuri).
It’s not easy to replicate teppan grilling experience at home (unless you have one built in), and okonomiyaki made on teppan simply tastes better. This is why sometimes I still choose to go a restaurant even though I can make it easily at home.
The Key Ingredients for Delicious Okonomiyaki
To make a really good okonomiyaki, there are a few ingredients that are necessary and it tastes much better compared to the ones that don’t include them.
Some of these ingredients may be difficult to get outside of Japan. Hopefully soon in the near future these unique Japanese ingredients will be more easily accessible from all corners of the world.
Nagaimo 長芋 / Yamaimo 山芋: This is a highly recommended ingredient to make the pancake fluffier. I’ve never tried it personally, but I’ve heard from my readers that grated potatoes or lotus root (grated on a fine grater) will work as well. You can also add silken tofu to create the fluffy effect. Either way, you have to include a “fluffy” agent so your okonomiyaki won’t be a doughy pancake. You can purchase nagaimo/yamaimo at most Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
Tenkasu 天かす (tempura bits/scraps): This is another ingredient to make the batter fluffier. When you see “tempura scraps” you might be thinking can I avoid it? Well, I understand it is definitely not a healthy ingredient; however, many people in Osaka claim this is one of most important ingredients, next to Nagaimo/Yamaimo.
If you can’t buy a bag of tenkasu from Amazon or Japanese grocery stores (convenient!), you can make your own tempura scraps using the leftover batter. All you need is to drop the batter in hot oil and scoop up when golden brown. Some people online suggested to use Kappa Ebisen かっぱえびせん(Asian shrimp chips) as substitute. I haven’t tried that, but maybe it might work.
Okonomiyaki Sauce: The taste of the okonomiyaki strongly relies on the sauce. I love Otafuku brand’s Okonomi Sauce; however, due to many requests from JOC readers for homemade sauce, I came up with an easy sauce made with just 4 ingredients. This sauce actually tastes really good similar to Otafuku sauce, so no worries if you can’t get Otafuku’s okonomi sauce from Amazon or Japanese grocery stores.
Japanese Mayonnaise: I understand many westerners don’t like mayonnaise and I am also not a fan of American style mayonnaise because it tastes rather bland. As some of you may know, Japanese loves (Japanese) mayonnaise and we do have quite a number of recipes that requires Japanese mayo.
Osaka’s specialty, both Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki has squirts of mayonnaise along with the sweet savory takoyaki/okonomi sauce. But this is optional even for locals. Personally I love the combination of flavors from both sweet savory okonomi sauce and creamy and tangy mayo. I am aware that the popular Kewpie mayo includes MSG, but this is one of condiments that I can’t quite replicate yet with a homemade recipe. You can purchase Japanese mayo from Amazon and Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes): Katsuobushi is shaved flakes of fermented and smoked bonito. It’s a super umami rich ingredient that we use it to make dashi (Japanese stock for miso soup and all kinds of Japanese dishes). These flakes are super paper-thin – when you sprinkle on top of the okonomiyaki, they dance along with the steam! You can buy it from Amazon and Japanese/Asian grocery stores. You can omit this ingredient if you absolutely dislike fishy smell.
Aonori (dried green seaweed): It is dried green (Ao) seaweed (Nori) flakes/powder. This umami-rich seaweed has bright intense green color and has unique fragrant. Interesting fact: in ancient Japan, Ao (pronounce as [ah-o]) means green in traditional Japanese language (there were 4 colors; white, black, red, and green. These days, Ao means blue in contemporary Japanese).
Japan has many types of seaweed from wakame, nori, to kombu. We use the specific name for each type of seaweed instead of just calling them “seaweed”. It helps identify which is the correct seaweed for different type of dishes.
You can buy Aonori from Amazon and Japanese/Asian grocery stores. Or you can substitute with regular nori if you can’t find it.
Ideas for Okonomiyaki Fillings
Besides the key ingredients above, there are other ingredients that you can add in the batter.
Ingredients I’ve tried in my okonomiyaki batter:
Calamari (my favorite!), Shrimp, Scallops, Dried small shrimp (Sakura Ebi), Mochi/rice cakes (my favorite!), Cheese, Green onions (it’s a must!), Pickled red ginger (it’s a must!), Noodles (same noodles used in Yakisoba).
Ingredients I haven’t tried in my okonomiyaki batter but heard it’s good:
Octopus, Scallops, Mentaiko (spicy cod/pollack roe), Chikuwa (fish cakes), Dried hijiki, Kiriboshi (dried) daikon, Shiso leaves, Garlic chives/Asian chives, Blanched potatoes, Iceberg lettuce, Corn, Napa cabbage, Bean sprout, Tomatoes, Minced or sliced onion, Daikon, Mushrooms, Enoki, Garlic slices, Konnyaku, Natto, Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum), Pickles, Kintoki mame (金時豆), Kimchi, Potato chips, Pickles, and more.
The Challenge of Capturing Delicious Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is incredibly delicious. It’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside… However, it’s hard to convince people how delicious it is.
This dish with dominant brown color is quite messy looking. Also most people stay away from mayonnaise. It’s been a huge challenge for me to take pictures of them that shows its deliciousness.
For fun, I’ve included photographs from all 3 of my attempts to shoot okonomiyaki (2011, 2014, and 2016), and I’m still not very satisfied. One day I hope I can convince you with ONE picture!
If you prefer Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki recipe, click here.
This Okonomiyaki recipe is from my friend Hiroko who’s originally from Hiroshima. She cooked this delicious okonomiyaki years ago when she visited us from Los Angeles and we were really impressed and asked her for the recipe. Thanks Hiroko!
I hope you will enjoy making this recipe! If you try it, don’t forget to share your picture on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with #JustOneCookbook. Thank you so much for reading, and till next time!
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- 1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. sugar
- ¼ tsp. baking powder
- 2-3 inch (5-8 cm) Nagaimo/Yamaimo
- ¾ cup (180 ml) dashi, or ¾ cup water with 1 tsp. dashi powder
- 1 large cabbage head (8-9 cups, 1.6 lb., 740 g)
- ½ lb. (227 g) sliced pork belly
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup (8 Tbsp.) tempura scraps (Tenkasu/Agedama)
- ¼ cup (4 Tbsp.) pickled red ginger (Kizami Beni Shoga)
- Vegetable oil
- 1 ½ Tbsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
- 4 Tbsp. ketchup
- 3 ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- In a large bowl, combine 1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. sugar, and ¼ tsp. baking powder and mix all together.
- Peel and grate nagaimo in a small bowl.
- Add the grated nagaimo and dashi in the bowl.
- Mix all together till combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- To make homemade Okonomiyaki Sauce, combine 1 ½ Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce, 4 Tbsp. ketchup, and 3 ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Mix all together until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Remove the core of the cabbage and mince it. Set aside to let the moisture evaporate so it won’t dilute the batter.
- Cut the pork belly slices in half and set aside.
- Take out the batter from the refrigerator and add 4 large eggs, ½ cup (8 Tbsp.) tempura scraps (Tenkasu/Agedama), and ¼ cup (4 Tbsp.) pickled red ginger (Kizami Beni Shoga) in the bowl. Mix well until well-combined.
- Add chopped cabbage to the batter ⅓ at a time. Mix well before adding the rest.
- In a large pan, heat vegetable oil on medium heat. When the frying pan is hot (400F/200C), spread the batter in a circle on the pan. We like thicker okonomiyaki (final thickness is ¾ inches (2 cm)). If you’re new to making okonomiyaki, make a smaller and thinner size so it’s easier to flip.
- Place 2-3 sliced pork belly on top of Okonomiyaki and cook covered for 5 minutes.
- When the bottom side is nicely browned, flip over.
- Gently press the okonomiyaki to fix the shape and keep it together. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Flip over one last time and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. If you’re going to cook next batch, transfer to a plate.
- Apply okonomiyaki sauce with brush, add Japanese mayonnaise in zigzagging lines (optional), and sprinkle dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi). You can also put dried green seaweed (aonori), chopped green onions, and pickled red ginger on top for garnish. Please see the video for this step.
- If you have a Japanese griddle with a lid (We call it “Hot Plate”), you can cook several okonomiyaki at once! Otherwise, I recommend cooking two okonomiyaki (each in one frying pan) at a time.
- Okonomiyaki freezes well. Once it cools down (no sauce or toppings), wrap each okonomiyaki in aluminum foil and put it in a freezer bag. When you want to eat it, defrost first and put it in a toaster oven or oven to heat it up. It's a great quick meal!
Sliced Pork Belly: You can use shrimp, squid, or other ingredients instead.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: Original post was created on Mar 2, 2011. Pictures were updated in March 2014 and July 2016. The video and more detailed content were added in July 2016.