Popular street food from Osaka, Japan, Okonomiyaki is a savory version of Japanese pancake, made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, and your choice of protein, and topped with a variety of condiments.
Among all the Osaka specialties, 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 street food at home!
What is Okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is sometimes called “Japanese savory pancake” or “Japanese pizza”, but personally, I think it’s more like a dish between savory pancake and frittata.
It’s made with flour, eggs, tempura scraps (tenkasu), cabbage, and 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 another 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 “grilled as you like it” – Okonomi (as you like it) Yaki (grill).
6 Key Ingredients to Make Okonomiyaki
To make 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.
1. Nagaimo (Yamaimo)
It’s a Japanese long yam (nagaimo) or mountain yam (yamaimo) and I think it’s the most important ingredient so your okonomiyaki won’t be a doughy pancake. You will need to grate the yam. I’m okay but some people may get an allergic reaction (like itching), so you can wear a kitchen glove to grate or wash your hands quickly. The raw grated yam is very gooey and slimy, but when it’s cooked, it adds fluffy volume to the savory pancake! You can purchase nagaimo/yamaimo at Japanese and most Asian grocery stores.
So, I’ve tried a few substitute options I found on the internet.
- Baking powder — It’s a good substitute. We already add baking powder to this recipe, so you’re basically increasing a little. I would double the amount of the recipe.
- Beaten egg whites — It’s a good subsitute. Fluffy egg whites would definitely add volume to the savory pancake. Beat 2 egg whites for this recipe.
- Well-drained tofu — I don’t think it will work as well, but tofu gives texture that is not densed. It might be an okay substitute, but be careful with moisture released by the tofu. It dilutes the batter.
- Grated potatoes — NEVER use this as a substitute! Grainy texture of grated potatoes do not have any effect to the okonomiyaki except for adding cooked potato texture.
- Grated lotus root — I haven’t done this, but I assume it’s similar texture as grated potatoe, and I believe this won’t add fluffines to the pancake.
- Grated taro — I haven’t tried this, but it’s another “slimy and gooey” texture slightly similar to nagaimo. I will need to try this one day.
I love the combination of baking powder and beaten egg whites.
You got big nagaimo and what to do with the leftover? Try this quick and easy Sauteed Yam! So delicious!
2. Tenkasu (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 the 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 using Kappa Ebisen かっぱえびせん(Asian shrimp chips) as a substitute. I haven’t tried that, but maybe it might work.
3. Okonomiyaki Sauce
The taste of the okonomiyaki strongly relies on the sauce. I love the 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.
4. 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. You can purchase Japanese mayo from Amazon and Japanese/Asian grocery stores or you can make Homemade Japanese Mayonnaise.
5. 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 the fishy smell.
6. Aonori (Dried Green Seaweed)
It is dried green (Ao) seaweed (Nori) flakes/powder. This umami-rich seaweed has a bright intense green color and has a unique fragrance. 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 types 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.
Watch How To Make Okonomiyaki
Other Ingredients You Can Add to Okonomiyaki
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!
- Dried small shrimp (Sakura Ebi)
- Mochi/rice cakes – My favorite! Put small cubes on the pan first before pouring the batter.
- Green onions
- Pickled red ginger – It’s a must!
- Shiso leaves (Ooba) – My favorite after our recent trip to Okayama.
- Yakisoba noodles
Ingredients I haven’t tried in my okonomiyaki batter but heard it’s good:
- Mentaiko (spicy cod/pollack roe)
- Chikuwa (fish cakes),
- Garlic chives/Asian chives
- Blanched potatoes
- Bean sprout
- Garlic slices
- Potato chips, and more
Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki uses almost the same ingredients, but they are layered rather than mixed in with the batter like Osaka-style. Not only that, fried egg and yakisoba noodles (or sometimes udon noodles) are used as toppings.
If you prefer the Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki recipe, click here.
Okonomiyaki Flour (Mix)
You can find a bag of Onkonomiyaki Flour (Mix) at Japanese/Asian grocery stores. Just like pancake mix, all you need to do is to add the egg(s) and water to the flour and you can make okonomiyaki batter instantly! You still need to prepare and add shredded cabbage and other ingredients (if you like).
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:
- At a counter in front of a huge teppan (iron griddle) where the chefs make them right in front of you.
- At a table which has built-in teppan (iron griddle), you can cook your own but the staff will help you make it if you ask.
- The okonomiyaki is prepared and made in the kitchen and they place it on a teppan (iron griddle) 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 the food made on a hot iron griddle at home, and okonomiyaki made on the iron griddle simply tastes better. This is why sometimes I still choose to go to a restaurant even though I can make it easily at home.
More Popular Japanese Street Food Recipes:
- Homemade Okonomiyaki Sauce (only 4 ingredients)
- Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)
- Taiyaki (fish-shape cake with red bean filling)
- Yakisoba (Japanese Stir-Fried Noodles)
For the Okonomiyaki Batter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour) (If you use a measuring cup, follow this method: Fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your measuring cup, and use a knife to level it off)
- ¼ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- ¼ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 5.6 oz nagaimo/yamaimo (mountain yam) (2-3 inches, 5-8 cm)
- ¾ cup dashi (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more) (You can make the standard kombu + katsuobushi awase dashi or use ¾ cup water + 1 tsp dashi powder. For a vegetarian version, use kombu dashi.)
- 4 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- ½ cup tenkasu/agedama (tempura scraps) (24 g)
- ¼ cup pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga)
For the Other Ingredients
- 1 head cabbage (large; 1.6 lb, 740 g)
- ½ lb sliced pork belly (You can thinly slice the pork belly if your pork belly is a slab. You can substitute with shrimp or squid. For a vegetarian version, skip the pork and use various mushrooms.)
- neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) (for cooking the okonomiyaki)
For the Quick Okonomiyaki Sauce
- 1½ Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 4 Tbsp ketchup
- 3½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
For the Toppings
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Prepare the Okonomiyaki Batter
- In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder and mix all together.
- Peel and grate the nagaimo in a small bowl (I use this grater that I love). Note: I don't have any issues, but the nagaimo may irritate your skin and cause itchiness. Work quickly and rinse your hands immediately after touching the nagaimo. Nagaimo is very slimy and slippery, so make sure you have a good grip on the nagaimo if you wear kitchen gloves.
- Add the grated the nagaimo and dashi to the bowl.
- Mix it all together until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Tip: Resting the batter relaxes the gluten in the batter, improves the flavor, and makes the okonomiyaki fluffier. Some okonomiyaki shops refrigerate the batter overnight. Meanwhile, you can prepare the okonomiyaki sauce and other ingredients.
To Make the Okonomiyaki Sauce
- Meanwhile, gather all the ingredients for the okonomiyaki sauce.
- Combine sugar, oyster sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Mix all together until the sugar is completely dissolved.
To Prepare the Other Ingredients
- Discard the core of the cabbage and then mince the cabbage leaves.
- Cut the pork belly slices in half and set aside.
To Cook the Okonomiyaki
- After one hour, take out the batter from the refrigerator. Add eggs, tempura scraps (tenkasu/agedama), and pickled red ginger (kizami beni shoga) to the bowl. Mix until combined.
- Add the minced cabbage to the batter, one-third of it at a time. Mix well before adding the rest.
- In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil on medium heat. When the frying pan is hot (400ºF or 200ºC), spread the batter in a circle on the pan. We like thicker okonomiyaki (the final thickness is ¾ inches or 2 cm). If you’re new to making okonomiyaki, make it smaller and thinner so it’s easier to flip.
- Place 2-3 slices of pork belly on top of the okonomiyaki and cook covered for 5 minutes.
- When the bottom side is nicely browned, flip it over.
- Gently press the okonomiyaki to fix its shape and keep it together. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Flip it over one last time and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. If you’re going to cook the next batch, transfer the cooked okonomiyaki to a plate.
- Here are the ingredients for toppings: Spread the okonomi sauce on top with a brush or spoon, drizzle with Japanese mayonnaise in a zigzag pattern (optional), and sprinkle with dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi). You can also top with dried green seaweed (aonori), chopped green onions, and pickled red ginger for garnish. Please see the video for this step.
- Wrap each okonomiyaki (no sauce or toppings) in aluminum foil and then put it in a freezer bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for a month. When you serve, defrost it first and heat it up in a toaster oven or oven. It's a great quick meal!
To Cook Several Okonomiyaki at Once
- If you have a Japanese griddle with a lid (we call it a hot plate), you can cook several pieces of okonomiyaki at once. Otherwise, I recommend cooking one okonomiyaki at a time in a frying pan.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Mar 2, 2011. Images were updated in March 2014 and July 2016. The video and more detailed content were added in July 2016.