Katsudon is a Japanese pork cutlet rice bowl made with Tonkatsu, eggs, and sauteed onions simmered in a sweet and savory sauce. It’s a one-bowl wonder and true comfort food!
Donburi (or rice bowls) are one of the giants of Japanese cuisine. They are the mainstay of teishoku-ya (Japanese diners) and staples in many family dinners. They are also the weeknight heroes that I count on for meal rotation.
Today’s recipe is one of the most popular and classic types of donburi – Katsudon (かつ丼). You have soft and sticky Japanese rice topped with pork cutlet nestled in pillowy eggs and onions simmered in a sweet-savory sauce. It’s the best kind of comfort food everyone loves! Now let’s make this at home.
What is Katsudon
The word “katsudon” is a portmanteau, or a blending of two separate Japanese words. “Katsu” comes from “tonkatsu,” or breaded, fried cutlet, and “don (丼)” comes from “donburi” (丼ぶり), which translates to “large bowl.”
This dish is primarily made up of layers of steamed rice, breaded pork cutlet, and an umami-rich sauce. There are many versions of katsudon based on the region, but everyone seems to love the addition of simmered onions and egg poured on top.
How this winning combination of pork cutlet, rice, and sauce came to be is up for debate? I have read a few fascinating theories. The dish has even become a kind of good luck charm for Japanese students! More on this below.
Brief History of Katsudon
Deep-fried, breaded cutlet (tonkatsu) goes all the way back to Japan’s Meiji period (1868-1912). However, one theory on the birth of katsudon is said to have taken place in 1921, when a high school student at Waseda University was looking for an alternative to katsu curry at the café he frequented.
The student, Keiniro Nakanishi, is said to have gone into the kitchen and layered the fried pork cutlet over a bowl of rice and then simmered in tonkatsu sauce together before pouring it over the tonkatsu. He convinced the restaurant owner to sell the dish, and it wasn’t long before it became a local favorite among students.
Another interesting association katsudon has is with police interrogations, thanks to one fictional story. In post-War Japan, katsudon was a rare treat among the working class, and a popular detective story written around that time featured the dish when a detective ordered it for a suspect during interrogation because he knew the food in jail would not be nearly as delicious. The suspect was moved by his kindness and confessed to the crime. I guess even in fiction, katsudon is quite powerful!
How to Make Katsudon
Ingredients You’ll Need
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Tonkatsu – regular deep-fried version or baked version
- Broth – dashi (Japanese soup stock), sugar, mirin, and soy sauce
- Green onion
- Freshly steamed, Japanese short-grain rice
Overview: Quick Steps
- Make Tonkatsu (I have a very detailed recipe here) if you haven’t made yet.
- Cook the onion in the savory broth till tender.
- Place Tonkatsu on top to let it absorb the flavors of the broth.
- Add the beaten egg mixture and cook till just set.
- Serve over steamed rice and enjoy!
Helpful Tips to Make Katsudon
- Make sure to use a tight-fitting lid so the broth doesn’t evaporate too fast!
- The onion should be translucent and tender so they give sweet flavors to the dish.
- Tonkatsu should be cripsy? No, the bottom of the tonkatsu is supposed to absorb all the delicious broth flavor, and the top of the tonkatsu should be coated with creamy egg!
- Do not overcook the egg. Usually it takes between 30-60 seconds for the egg to set. I make sure to buy fresh eggs for this kind of dish so we can enjoy its runny texture.
No Deep-Frying? Try My Baked Katsudon!
For those of you who still prefer a lighter version of tonkatsu and don’t want to deep-fry in your kitchen, you can check out my Baked Katsudon recipe. It’s wildly popular, and JOC fans simply love it!
Eat Katsudon for Luck!
Because “katsu” is also a Japanese word meaning “to win (勝つ),” katsudon is a dish that students and athletes eat on the day of, or the day before, big exams or games. So, the next time you have a test or competition where you need a good luck charm, consider this recipe!
Love Donburi? Check out these 12 popular rice bowl recipes!
- Gather all the ingredients. I use a dashi packet method to make dashi (Japanese soup stock) today. Other choices are to make dashi from scratch using kombu and katsuobushi, or to use a convenient dashi powder. Please read my ultimate dashi guide if you're new.
To Make Dashi
- In a small pot, add water and a dashi packet. Start cooking over medium heat.
- After boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Shake the bag a few times to get more flavors out. Discard the packet and dashi is ready to use.
To Prepare Ingredients
- Thinly slice the onion and green onion. I highly recommend cutting the onion thin to reduce the cooking time.
- Beat the eggs in a medium bowl.
- Cut the tonkatsu into 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick pieces.
To cook Katsudon
- In a large frying pan that can fit 2 tonkatsu pieces, place the onion slices in a single layer and add dashi.
- Cover the frying pan with a tight-fitting lid (so the broth does not evaporate too quickly). Start cooking on medium heat until the onion is tender and almost translucent.
- Add the sugar and mirin.
- Add soy sauce and mix together.
- Place tonkatsu over the onion and cover with the lid to reheat the tonkatsu, about 2 minutes. The bottom of the tonkatsu will absorb the broth.
- Once tonkatsu is reheated, slowly drizzle the eggs over the tonkatsu and broth. If you don't like the raw green onion taste, you can add it over the egg mixture now. Cover with the lid for 1 minute, or until the egg is just set.
- Serve steamed rice in large donburi bowls and place the tonkatsu, onion, and egg mixture on top. Drizzle extra broth if you like. Garnish with green onion and serve immediately.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.