Super easy, copycat recipe for Trader Joe’s popular Japanese Fried Rice with Edamame, Tofu, and Hijiki Seaweed! Keep the ingredients stocked in your kitchen, and you can make this delicious fried rice any time, any day. It’s gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan!
Back in November 2017, when I shared a picture of Trader Joe’s popular Japanese Fried Rice, many of you said how much you would love to get a recipe to make it from scratch with fresh ingredients. Your enthusiasm about the flavor combination inspired me to create my own version to share with you. So I picked up a few bags from Trader Joe’s, cooked up the Japanese Fried Rice, and got to work replicating the dish for you.
Is Japanese Fried Rice Sweet?
When you first taste Trader Joe’s fried rice, the first thing you may notice is the sweetness. For many of you who eat fried rice often, this could be the strangest fried rice you encounter. Why does the Japanese fried rice taste so sweet?
Well, Trader Joe’s Japanese Fried Rice is seasoned with mirin, sugar, soy sauce, sake, and sesame oil. I’m pretty sure this product was created simply by combining steamed rice with Japanese Hijiki Seaweed Salad (or Simmered Hijiki) (ひじきの煮物).
The classic Hijiki Seaweed Salad is seasoned with mirin, sugar, soy sauce, sake, and sesame oil. The taste can be on the sweeter side especially when it’s meant to be served at room temperature or chilled. So when the steamed rice is mixed with Hijiki Salad, you end up with sweet Japanese fried rice!
One thing to note: Trader Joe’s Japanese Fried Rice is much sweeter than my copycat recipe. In keeping with authentic home-style Japanese cooking, it’s elemental for me to balance the sweet and savory without overpowering one another. You will find my version less sweet than Trader Joe’s original. However, if you prefer a sweeter taste, please feel free to adjust the amount of mirin or sugar.
Gluten-Free & Vegetarian/Vegan Japanese Fried Rice
Because the Japanese consume rice and rice products in our diet, you can easily adapt many Japanese foods into gluten-free. For recipes with simple seasonings, you just need to replace regular soy sauce with either one of the Kikkoman’s Gluten-Free Soy Sauce.
To make this Japanese fried rice, I used Kikkoman’s Gluten Free Tamari Soy Sauce. If you do not have to make this recipe gluten-free, feel free to use regular soy sauce. The flavor is pretty much the same, so there is no need to adjust the amount.
Besides rice, the other main ingredients include a simple combination of edamame, tofu, and hijiki seaweed. It makes a wholesome meatless meal, perfect for those who are vegetarian and vegan.
Of course, you can always toss in some chicken or shrimp too if you wish to add in different proteins to bulk things up.
Substitutes for Japanese Fried Rice
1. Japanese Rice
I suspect this would be the first question I’ll get, so let me clarify this in advance. When you make fried rice with Japanese short-grain rice, the rice tends to stick to each other instead of separating like Chinese-style or Southeast Asian-style fried rice. Japanese short-grain rice (sometimes labeled as Japanese sushi rice) is stickier than other types of steamed rice, however, it is not sticky rice (or glutinous rice or sweet rice).
To achieve the right texture and flavor, Japanese short-grain rice is the way to go. The good news is Japanese rice is widely accessible these days even at major grocery stores. So, why not just grab a bag and get cooking!
2. Hijiki Seaweed
I know, we have many types of seaweed in Japan. You are most likely familiar with nori seaweed for sushi and maybe wakame seaweed in miso soup. Today we’re using hijiki seaweed, which is the main ingredient that gives the fried rice its unique character, texture, and flavor.
Hijiki seaweed is a brown variety of seaweed that resembles dried black tea leaves. It may not be as recognizable as nori, but the seaweed is one of the favorite sea vegetables used in Japanese cooking. You can find Hijiki seaweed being sold in dried form in a bag in Japanese/Asian grocery stores or Amazon. To replicate the exact flavor of this fried rice recipe, you do need to get hijiki seaweeds.
Have a read of this article to learn more about different types of seaweeds used in Japanese cuisine and their health benefits.
3. Edamame (Soybeans)
These days you can find edamame in pods or without pods in the freezer section of America or Asian grocery stores. Trader Joe’s carries ready-to-use or frozen edamame too. Defrost them prior to cook, but to keep the nice green color, don’t add the edamame to the sauce too early otherwise they will end up darker green. If you’re not a fan of the soybeans, you can skip them.
4. Aburaage (Deep-Fried Tofu Pouch)
I learned from my readers that it’s actually a lot easier to find Inariage (Seasoned Deep-Fried Tofu Pouch shown below) in Asian grocery stores than Aburaage (shown above). If you use inariage instead of aburaage, remember to adjust the amount of seasonings since inariage is already well-seasoned (sweet and salty).
5. Sake and Mirin
Sake and Mirin are very important ingredients in Japanese cooking. If you plan to cook more Japanese dishes, don’t use substitutions and get them in Japanese/Asian grocery stores. Along with soy sauce, they are the primary condiments used in flavoring this fried rice too.
If you are new to the blog, I encourage you to read this post where we talked about mirin and sake in detail. You will learn about the differences, their uses, substitutions, and our recommended brands, etc.
Minimalist at its best, this copycat version of Trader Joe’s Japanese Fried Rice is truly one of the easiest meals you can whip up any time of the week. Because the fried rice is made from scratch, at home, it also means it is fresher tasting, better seasoned, and healthier for you.
How to Make Japanese Fried Rice with Edamame, Tofu and Hijiki Seaweed
A super easy, copycat recipe for Trader Joe’s popular Japanese Fried Rice with Edamame, Tofu, and Hijiki Seaweed!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
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Japanese Fried Rice with Edamame, Tofu and Hijiki Seaweed
- 2-3 servings cooked Japanese short-grain rice (2 rice-cooker-cups (180 ml x 2 = 360 ml) yields roughly 4 rice bowls (3 ⅓ US cups); for fried rice as a main dish, you may need to use most of the rice for 2 servings; see how to cook short-grain rice with a rice cooker, a pot over the stove, an instant pot, or a donabe)
- 1 Tbsp dried hijiki seaweed
- 1 piece aburaage (deep-fried tofu pouch) (.7 oz, 20 g; you can substitute it with inariage/seasoned fried tofu pouch; but it's very sweet, so reduce the amount of sugar/mirin)
- 1 carrot (2.8 oz, 78 g)
- ½ cup edamame (2.4 oz; defrosted, pod discarded)
- 1 Tbsp roasted sesame oil
- Gather all the ingredients first. If you just made your steamed rice, transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to let cool and let moisture evaporate.
- Re-hydrate hijiki seaweed in 1 cup water for 20 minutes.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the aburaage in the boiling water and flip once. This step is optional, but it’s best to remove the oil from the aburaage. Transfer to a plate to let cool. Cut into thin strips and squeeze out water.
- Slice the carrot into slabs and then julienne.
- Heat sesame oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. When it’s hot, add the hijiki seaweed, aburaage, and carrot. Sauté to coat with the oil.
- Add 1 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, and 3 Tbsp mirin.
- Add 3-4 Tbsp gluten free soy sauce and mix all together.
- Add the edamame and steamed rice. Break the rice into smaller pieces (as Japanese rice tends to stick together).
- Once the rice is no longer clump together, each grain is well coated with the seasonings and heated through, serve and enjoy immediately.