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 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 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).
Watch How To Make Okonomiyaki
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, 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.
If you can’t finish all of it, 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 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.
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 Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki recipe, click here.
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.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Hailing from Osaka, Okonomiyaki is a delicious Japanese savory pancake made with flour, eggs, cabbage, and protein, and topped with a variety of condiments.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour) (120 g)
- ¼ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; 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 (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more) (180 ml; You can make Dashi or use ¾ cup water + 1 tsp dashi powder. For vegetarian, use Kombu Dashi.)
- 1 large cabbage head (1.6 lb or 740 g)
- ½ lb sliced pork belly (227 g; You can thinly slice the pork belly if your pork belly is a slab. You can sub with shrimp or squid. For vegetarian, skip and use mushroom.)
- 4 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- ½ cup Tenkasu/Agedama (tempura scraps) (8 Tbsp)
- ¼ cup pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga) (4 Tbsp)
- neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
- 1 ½ Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 4 Tbsp ketchup
- 3 ½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Okonomi sauce
- Japanese mayonnaise
- Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (Skip for vegetarian)
- Aonori (dried green seaweed)
- Green onions/scallions
- pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga)
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.
Meanwhile, gather all the ingredients for 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.
Discard the core of the cabbage and then mince the cabbage.leaves.
- 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 ⅓ 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 (400 F or 200 ºC), spread the batter in a circle on the pan. We like thicker okonomiyaki (final thickness is ¾ inches or 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
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)