Takoyaki, or Octopus Balls is one of Japan’s best-known street food originated in Osaka. Whether you make traditional style with bits of octopus or other alternatives, these ball-shape dumplings are fun to make with your friends and family!
Takoyaki (たこ焼き) is a Japanese snack in the shape of little round balls containing pieces of octopus. Tako-yaki literally translates to “octopus-grilled/fried” and some people may call it “Octopus Balls” or “Octopus Dumplings”.
Watch How To Make Takoyaki たこ焼きの作り方
Here are some facts about takoyaki.
- It originated and became popular in Osaka around 1935 (according to wiki) and then spread to greater south-central Japan and beyond.
- It’s one of most popular Japanese street foods along with Okonomiyaki.
- Takoyaki is usually sold by street vendors, convenience stores, supermarkets, food courts, and of course specialty restaurants. In Osaka, takoyaki stands can be easily found throughout the city.
- It is usually served with slightly salty takoyaki sauce, which goes well with beer and other alcoholic drinks. Therefore, many Izakaya restaurants serve takoyaki on the menu.
5 Ingredients for Authentic Takoyaki
There are so many variations of takoyaki throughout Japan. For example, the original Osaka-style does not include any cabbage, but many regional variations (Kyoto, Kobe, Nagoya, Tokyo areas) do. Even though I lived in Tokyo area, I actually didn’t know they sometimes contain cabbage till now.
Here are ingredients for classic takoyaki recipe.
1. Dashi-flavored batter
Very simple. It’s a mixture of Japanese stock Dashi, all-purpose flour, baking powder, eggs, salt, and soy sauce. If you don’t want to make the batter from scratch, you can find takoyaki mix in Japanese grocery stores or Amazon.
You can purchased cooked (boiled) octopus/tako in Japanese grocery stores. If you are going to make this snack for a big party, you can purchase a whole cooked octopus at online sashimi store, FishforSushi.com. We used the whole octopus for different dishes, including sashimi, carpaccio, octopus salad (takosu), and of course takoyaki.
3. Beni shoga (pickled red ginger)
Small bits of beni shoga, or red pickled ginger, give a nice pop on the color of takoyaki and a little spicy, pungent kick to dish.
4. Green onion
The batter is yellow, octopus and beni shoga are red… and now you need green color to make the dish look more appetizing (and delicious)!
5. Tenkasu (Tempura scraps)
I often get questions what Tenkasu do for the dish. We use tempura scraps for hot or cold Tanuki Udon Noodles and Okonomiyaki (even Hiroshima-style). Tenkasu adds more rich and umami flavors, crispness (from extra oil from tempura scraps), creaminess inside takoyaki balls.
How about Sauce?
This dish is usually served with Worcestershire sauce-like “takoyaki sauce” (store-bought package or homemade recipe) and some squirt of Japanese mayo. Then it’s topped with sprinkle of Aonori (dried green seaweed) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).
3 Tips to Make Perfect Takoyaki
I received many requests for this recipe from JOC Readers (thank you!). To make the recipe as authentic as possible, I asked my best friend Yukako who lives in Osaka. She makes delicious takoyaki at home and she and her husband shared their own recipe with me and JOC readers. Yay! I adapted the recipe a little bit so that some ingredients will be easier to measure.
Tip 1: Use LOTS of oil.
Apply generous oil everywhere (each hole in the takoyaki pan and surrounding flat area). How generous? You should see 1/4 inch (5 mm) oil in each hole. The oil helps takoyaki to have crispy skin and it’ll be easier for you to flip without the batter being stuck.
Tip 2: Generously pour the batter.
When you see smoke coming out of the grill/plate, fill the hole with the batter. If it overflows, that’s okay. Because the entire grill top should be covered with the batter after adding octopus and other ingredients in the hole. If you use a bigger chunk of octopus pieces, you might want to pour just enough to the top of the holes. As soon as octopus goes in, it overflow naturally.
Tip 3: Flip 90 degree and stuff in extra batter.
Break the extra batter around the hole with skewers. Once the bottom of takoyaki balls are crispy, rotate 90 degree to let the uncooked batter pour out into the hole. Stuff and push in the extra surrounding dough inside the balls. This will help make a perfect round shape.
For home takoyaki grill, each hole doesn’t provide same amount of heat. Therefore, it’s important to switch around the balls once they are in ball shape so they’re browned evenly.
Don’t Like Octopus?
No problem! A lot of Japanese children enjoys different fillings besides pieces of octopus. Here are my suggestions for other fillings.
- Sausages / Bacon
- Canned tuna / Mentaiko (Spicy cod/pollock roe)
- Shrimp / Squid
- Mochi (rice cakes)
- Fish cake (chikuwa/crab sticks)
- Green peas
Where To Find Takoyaki Pan?
Many JOC readers told me they successfully made takoyaki with an ebelskiver (Danish pancake) pan as well.
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- 2 green onions/scallions
- 1 Tbsp pickled red ginger
- 4.2 oz cooked octopus (4.2 oz = 120 g) (See note)
- 1/4 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (1/4 cup = 4g)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (1 cup = 4.2 oz = 120 g)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 cup dashi (1 1/2 cup = 360 ml)
- 2 Tbsp neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
- 1/3 cup tenkasu (tempura scraps) (1/3 cup = 15 g)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Cut green onions into fine slices and mince 1 Tbsp. red pickled ginger.
- Cut octopus into ½ inch (1.5 cm) bite size pieces (cut into smaller pieces for kids so they can chew easily). I use “rangiri” cutting technique.
- Grind ¼ cup (4g) katsuobushi (bonito flakes) into fine powder.
- Add 1 cup (4.2 oz/120 g) all-purpose flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. kosher salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine all together.
- Add 2 large eggs, 1 tsp. soy sauce, and 1 ½ cup (360 ml) dashi.
- Whisk all together until well-blended and transfer the batter to a 2-cup measuring cup with a handle (or any other pitcher with a spout for easy pouring).
- Heat the takoyaki pan to 400F (200C) over medium heat. Using a brush, generously oil the takoyaki pan (both the holes and connecting flat areas). When you see smoke coming from the pan, pour the batter to fill the holes. It’s okay for the batter to slightly overflow the holes. Usually as you add ingredients to the batter it will overflow.
- Add 1-3 octopus pieces in each hole depending on its size and sprinkle katsuobushi powder on top.
- Then sprinkle tenkasu, green onion, and pickled red ginger.
- After 3 minutes or so, when the bottom of the balls has hardened slightly, break the connected batter between each ball with skewers. Then turn each piece a 90 degree, stuffing in the edges as you are turning. The batter will flow out from the inside of each takoyaki ball and creates the other side of the takoyaki ball. After you finish flipping, set timer for 4 minutes. Keep turning constantly so each piece will have nice round shape. Home takoyaki grill doesn’t equally distribute heat so it’s good idea to swap takoyaki balls around to get even brown color. Transfer takoyaki balls onto a plate and pour takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise. Finish off with sprinkling katsuobushi and dried green seaweed. Serve immediately (but be careful – inside is VERY hot!).
Octopus: Cooked octopus can be purchased in Japanese grocery stores. Not a fan of octopus? You can include veggies (my kids love corn), cheese, small mochi pieces... choices are endless!
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 in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Oct 20, 2013.