A popular street food from Osaka, Okonomiyaki is a delicious Japanese savory pancake “grilled as you like it“ with your choice of protein and tasty condiments and toppings. My recipe includes the 6 key ingredients that give your Okonomiyaki a truly authentic taste.
Among all the Osaka specialties, Takoyaki (たこ焼き) and Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) are the most well-known. Today I’m sharing my favorite Okonomiyaki recipe with you so you can make this popular street food at home!
Table of Contents
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 substitute. 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 a texture that is not dense. 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! The grainy texture of grated potatoes does not have any effect on the okonomiyaki except for adding cooked potato texture.
- Grated lotus root — I haven’t done this, but I assume it’s a similar texture as grated potato, and I believe this won’t add fluffiness 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 it 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 them 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 a unique fragrance. Interesting fact: in ancient Japan, Ao (pronounce as [ah-o]) means green in the 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, and nori, to kombu. We use a 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.
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 that 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 from 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 Batter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour) (weigh your flour or use the “fluff and sprinkle“ method and level off)
- ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher 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) (use standard Awase Dashi, dashi packet or powder, or Vegan 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
For the Quick Okonomiyaki Sauce
- 1½ Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 3½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
For the Toppings
- okonomiyaki sauce
- Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise
- katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (skip for vegetarian)
- aonori (dried green laver seaweed)
- green onions/scallions (chopped)
- pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Prepare the Batter
- In a large bowl, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour), ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, ¼ tsp sugar, and ¼ tsp baking powder and mix all together.
- Peel and grate 5.6 oz nagaimo/yamaimo (mountain yam) in a small bowl (I use a ceramic grater that I love). Note: The nagaimo may irritate your skin and cause itchiness. Work quickly and rinse your hands immediately after touching the nagaimo. It is very slimy and slippery, so make sure you have a good grip on the nagaimo if you wear kitchen gloves.
- Add the grated nagaimo and ¾ cup dashi (Japanese soup stock) 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. Meanwhile, prepare the okonomiyaki sauce and other ingredients. Tip: Resting the batter relaxes the gluten, improves the flavor, and makes the okonomiyaki fluffier. Some okonomiyaki shops refrigerate the batter overnight.
To Make the Okonomiyaki Sauce
- Meanwhile, gather all the ingredients for the okonomiyaki sauce.
- Combine 1½ Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp oyster sauce, ¼ cup ketchup, and 3½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Mix all together until the sugar is completely dissolved.
To Prepare the Other Ingredients
- Discard the core of 1 head green cabbage and then mince the cabbage leaves.
- Cut ½ lb sliced pork belly in half and set aside.
To Cook the Okonomiyaki
- After one hour, take out the batter from the refrigerator. Add 4 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell), ½ cup tenkasu/agedama (tempura scraps), and ¼ cup pickled red ginger (beni shoga or 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 a bit of neutral 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.
- Serve on individual plates. Spread okonomiyaki sauce on top with a brush or spoon, drizzle with Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise in a zigzag pattern (optional), and sprinkle with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). You can also sprinkle with aonori (dried green laver seaweed) and chopped green onions/scallions and top with pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga) 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.