15 Easy Japanese Side Dishes For Your Weeknight Dinner

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  • Looking for reliable side dishes to round up your weeknight dinner? From teriyaki tofu to salted chicken wings, we’ve put together a collection of easy Japanese side dishes that your family will love and work well on many occasions.

    easy japanese side dishes

    In a Japanese household, you’ll often find colorful side dishes being served in small plates at the family dinner. These side dishes play an equal role as the main dish in providing sustenance and making the meal more appetizing. In addition, they also refresh the palate to counter heavier or greasy food on the table.

    What do you look for when choosing a side dish?  I follow these simple rules: consider varying colors, textures, flavors and nutrients that round up a meal. Here you’ll find 15 easy Japanese side dishes that go well with a wide variety of Japanese meals. From the tried-and-true classics to western-inspired dishes, each of them is easy to prepare and can be enjoyed on their own. You can even use the leftovers for your bento lunch the next day!

    15 Easy Japanese Side Dishes For Your Weeknight Dinner

    Spinach ohitashi in white ceramic plates.

    1. Spinach Ohitashi (Japanese Spinach Salad)

    This Japanese Spinach Salad applies a simple method called the Ohitashi to infuse vegetables with umami and subtle flavor. It’s one of the common techniques Japanese use to prepare vegetable dishes. I love that it helps preserve the nutrients of vegetables at its best. And double yes when you can pair this salad with everything you cook!

    Teriyaki tofu on a Japanese plates.

    2. Teriyaki Tofu

    Crispy on the bite, yet delicately soft, this pan-fried Teriyaki Tofu can turn any tofu skeptics into a convert. It’s a dynamic recipe for anyone to try, with easy options to turn the dish into vegan or gluten-free!

    A black ceramic bowl containing Cucumber and Chicken Marinated in Chili Oil.

    3. Cucumber and Chicken Marinated in Chili Oil 

    Easy steamed chicken mixed with cucumber and dressed in a chili oil (La-yu) marinade. The contrasting texture makes it a perfect way to start a meal.

    A white plate containing blanched broccoli tossed with sesame seeds.

    4. Broccoli Blanched with Sesame Oil

    Broccoli is probably the most universal vegetable side dish anyone can count on! To keep it fresh and tasty, the trick is to blanch the broccoli with salt and sesame oil. It’s easy, healthy and so versatile! You could also change up the flavor by drizzling in some hot sesame oil or top it with some of your favorite sauce the next day.

    Ramen Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago) #ramen | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    5. Ramen Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago)

    Trust me, this dreamiest Ramen egg (Ajitsuke Tamago) is not just for ramen!! It is absolutely delicious as a side for your braised pork belly (kakuni) or bento lunch box. I love preparing the eggs in advance, so my family gets to enjoy the egg dish for extra protein in their meal any day of the week.

    Hiyayakko (Japanese Chilled Tofu) on a blue plate.

    6. Japanese Chilled Tofu (Hiyayakko)

    This Japanese Chilled Tofu (Hiyayakko) is usually topped with katsuobushi, green onions, grated ginger and season with a little bit of soy sauce. But feel free to change up the toppings and seasonings. Omit katsuobushi and use sweet corn, wakame, chopped tomatoes, green onions or wakame for the vegetarian or vegan option. It makes a nutritious side dish anytime!

    Japanese Salted Chicken Wings (Teba Shio) on the Japanese plate, along with a small plate of Shichimi Togarashi.

    7. Japanese Salted Chicken Wings (Teba Shio)

    3 Ingredients – that’s what you need to make some of the best chicken wings! The key is to soak the chicken wings in sake for 15 minutes. If you like it spicy, sprinkle Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven spice).  After broiling the chicken, the skin gets so crispy and they are addicting and simply amazing! Wings as a side dish make your weeknight dinner extra special.

    Japanese potato salad in a Japanese black ceramic bowl.

    8. Japanese Potato Salad

    Made with mashed potato and colorful vegetables,  Japanese potato salad is creamy yet full of textural crunch. If you’re a potato salad lover, you will be happy to add this delicious side into your repertoire. Summer potluck? Holiday get-together? Chicken dinner? It would work on any occasion. We have an Instant Pot version for you too.

    Tamagoyaki and grated daikon on a white plate.

    9. Tamagoyaki (Japanese Rolled Omelette)

    Sweet yet savory, Tamagoyaki makes a delightful Japanese breakfast or side dish for your bento lunches. Because it’s a favorite among the kids and adults alike, Japanese home cooks make tamagoyaki regularly. The more you make it, the more you’ll get better at it.  For anyone looking for a short cut, you can definitely make my Quick & Easy Tamagoyaki recipe.

    Ham Katsu served with Japanese potato salad and shredded cabbage.

    10. Ham Katsu

    Crispy panko on the outside and delicious black forest ham on the inside, Ham Katsu is the simplest cutlet you can make with easy-to-get ingredients. Inspired by the Japanese drama – Midnight Diner.

    Simmered Kabocha Squash in a Japanese square bowl.

    11. Simmered Kabocha Squash 

    When kabocha is in season, this recipe is one you would want to enjoy regularly. Here, kabocha squash is simmered in savory dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce and sake to absorb all the delicious flavor. It’s chock-full of nutrients and absolutely comforting!

    Spicy Bean Sprout Salad | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    12. Spicy Bean Sprout Salad

    Dressed in spicy sesame oil-based sauce, this Spicy Bean Sprout Salad provides extra punch and kick to your meal. It’s fantastic with rice bowl or noodles.

    Eggplant dengaku on a white plate.

    13. Eggplant Dengaku 

    Tender eggplant glazed in a sweet miso sauce, this Eggplant Dengaku is a classic Japanese home cook dish. To save time, you can prepare the sauce the night before. When ready to cook, warm the sauce up and slather it over the eggplants and pop straight into the oven until the eggplants are nicely caramelized.

    Crab Salad with Ponzu-Mayonnaise Dressing | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    14. Crab Salad with Ponzu Mayonnaise Dressing

    Cooling cucumber, sweet corn, imitation crab and lettuce in a creamy Japanese mayo and ponzu dressing, what’s not to love? Thanks to its complementing flavor, the crab salad not only goes well with Japanese or Asian meal but also delicious with a Western-style meal.

    Green Bean Shiraae | www.justonecookbook.com

    15. Green Bean Shiraae

    Shiraae (白和え) is a way of cooking by mixing lightly-cooked vegetables with crumbled tofu, miso, and sesame seeds.  You get all the nutrients in one simple side dish. Besides green bean, you can also use spinach or asparagus. You’ll love that it delivers the unmistakable taste of home. A recipe to keep in your rotation.

    We hope you and your family enjoy these Japanese side dishes! 

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