Okonomiyaki (literally means ‘grilled as you like it’) is a savory version of Japanese pancake, made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, meat/ protein and topped with a variety of condiments. Better known as ‘Japanese pizza’ in the US, you can definitely prepare the filling and toppings however you like it. A wonderful way to use up your leftovers!
Among all the Osaka specialty, 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 dish at home!
Watch How To Make Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake)
As some of the readers know, I grew up in Yokohama (横浜). But did you know I was actually born in my mother’s hometown, Osaka (大阪)? Because of this, I consider Osaka my second home as I spent most of my school holidays there with my grandparents.
Osaka is known for its inexpensive and abundant food culture. Since the old days, Osaka has been called “The Country’s Kitchen” (Tenka no Daidokoro 天下の台所) and a “City Extravagant in Food” (Kuidaore no Machi 食い倒れの街).
What is Okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki is sometimes called “Japanese savory pancake” or “Japanese pizza” by non-Japanese speakers, but personally, I think it’s more like a dish between pancake and frittata.
It’s made with flour, eggs, tempura scraps (tenkasu), cabbage, 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 “Grill As You Like” – Okonomi (as you like) Yaki (grill). I will cover this topic later on in the post.
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 where the chefs make them right in front of you.
- At a table which has built-in teppan, 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 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 teppan grilling experience at home (unless you have one built-in), and okonomiyaki made on teppan simply tastes better. This is why sometimes I still choose to go to a restaurant even though I can make it easily at home.
The Key Ingredients for Delicious 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 長芋 / Yamaimo 山芋:
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, so you can wear a kitchen glove to grate or wash your hands quickly. The raw grated yam is very slimy, but when it’s cooked, it helps the texture of okonomiyaki nice and fluffy. You can purchase nagaimo/yamaimo at Japanese and most Asian grocery stores.
Substitute: You can add silken tofu (For those who tried my fluffy Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs would know the amazing tofu effect!), meringue (beaten egg whites), or more baking powder to create a similar “fluffy” effect. I’ve never tried it personally, but I’ve heard from my readers that grated potatoes or lotus root will work as well (use a fine grater), but the texture may not become “fluffy” but rather chewy/bouncy texture.
With leftover, you can make this quick and easy Sauteed Yam!
2. Tenkasu 天かす (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 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 unique fragrant. 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 a different type 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.
What Ingredients Can We 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
This Okonomiyaki recipe is from my friend Hiroko who’s originally from Hiroshima. She cooked this delicious okonomiyaki years ago when she visited us from Los Angeles and we were really impressed and asked her for the recipe. Thanks, Hiroko!
If you prefer Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki recipe, click here.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (120 g)
- ¼ tsp kosher/sea salt (use half for table salt)
- ¼ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 2-3 inch Nagaimo/Yamaimo (5-8 cm, 160 g, 5.6 oz)
- ¾ cup dashi (180 ml) (See Notes)
- 1 large cabbage head (1.6 lb or 740 g)
- ½ lb sliced pork belly (227 g) (See Notes)
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup Tenkasu/Agedama (tempura scraps) (8 Tbsp)
- ¼ cup pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga) (4 Tbsp)
- neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
- 1 ½ Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 4 Tbsp ketchup
- 3 ½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Gather all the ingredients.
- In a large bowl, combine 1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. sugar, and ¼ tsp. baking powder and mix all together.
- Peel and grate nagaimo in a small bowl. It can get itchy, so work quickly and rinse your hand right after. Nagaimo is very slimy and slippery, so make sure you have a good grip if you wear a glove.
- Add the grated nagaimo and dashi in the bowl.
- Mix all together till combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Gather all the ingredients for Okonomiyaki Sauce.
- To make homemade Okonomiyaki Sauce, combine 1 ½ Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce, 4 Tbsp. ketchup, and 3 ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Mix all together until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Remove the core of the cabbage and mince it. Set aside to let the moisture evaporate so it won’t dilute the batter.
- Cut the pork belly slices in half and set aside.
- Take out the batter from the refrigerator and add 4 large eggs, ½ cup (8 Tbsp.) tempura scraps (Tenkasu/Agedama), and ¼ cup (4 Tbsp.) pickled red ginger (Kizami Beni Shoga) in the bowl. Mix well until well-combined.
- Add chopped cabbage to the batter 1/3 at a time. Mix well before adding the rest.
- In a large pan, heat vegetable oil on medium heat. When the frying pan is hot (400F/200C), spread the batter in a circle on the pan. We like thicker okonomiyaki (final thickness is ¾ inches (2 cm)). If you’re new to making okonomiyaki, make a smaller and thinner size so it’s easier to flip.
- Place 2-3 sliced pork belly on top of Okonomiyaki and cook covered for 5 minutes.
- When the bottom side is nicely browned, flip over.
- Gently press the okonomiyaki to fix the shape and keep it together. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Flip over one last time and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. If you’re going to cook next batch, transfer to a plate.
Here are the ingredients for toppings. Apply okonomiyaki sauce with brush, add Japanese mayonnaise in zigzagging lines (optional), and sprinkle dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi). You can also put dried green seaweed (aonori), chopped green onions, and pickled red ginger on top for garnish. Please see the video for this step.
- If you have a Japanese griddle with a lid (We call it “Hot Plate”), you can cook several okonomiyaki at once! Otherwise, I recommend cooking two okonomiyaki (each in one frying pan) at a time.
- Okonomiyaki freezes well. Once it cools down (no sauce or toppings), wrap each okonomiyaki in aluminum foil and put it in a freezer bag. When you want to eat it, defrost first and put it in a toaster oven or oven to heat it up. It's a great quick meal!
Dashi: If you don't have homemade dashi, you can use 3/4 cup water + 1 tsp. granulated dashi (dashi powder).
Sliced Pork Belly: You can thinly slice the pork belly if your pork belly is a slab. You can use shrimp, squid, or other ingredients instead.
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 and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
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.