Get a complete 5-day Osechi cooking timeline and best tips here! Your ultimate guide to planning a delicious, stress-free Japanese New Year feast!
The Japanese start the new year with Osechi Ryori (おせち料理), a special type of meal offered to the Year God and enjoyed on New Year’s Day. Each dishes is carefully packed in lacquered boxes and presented gracefully on the table. This customary tradition is a wonderful way to usher in a new year.
However, it does take a lot of time and effort to prepare these elaborate dishes. In fact, for the Japanese ladies, we start spending the last several days of the year in the kitchen. At least 2 days to complete the mission!
These days store-bought Osechi is getting more popular due to convenience, but it does not carry the same meaning and spirit of the occasion. When prepared from scratch, Osechi Ryori has a one-of-a-kind feeling that you get to enjoy once a year. Most importantly, there is a beauty to the taste and tradition that worth preserving for the next generation.
In this post, I share my own tips and timeline to make your Osechi-Ryori-making experience smoother. You don’t have to follow this to a T, but having a plan makes me feel so much less overwhelmed about the undertaking of such a big meal. And I hope this will encourage you to make Osechi Ryori of your own.
A 5-Day Osechi Cooking Timeline
Here is your 5-day Osechi cooking countdown — a timeline of what to do from 5 days before the Japanese New Year until the big day! Plus, a bonus prepping guide for 4, 3, and 2 weeks before JNY. This will help to lower your stress during the busiest time of the year.
December 1st (4 Weeks Before JNY): The Rough Idea
- Make a list of menus (draft): Mark which dishes you will make from scratch or buy from the store. Review and update your recipes from the previous year if necessary.
My Osechi Menu
- Ikura (Salmon Roe) いくら
- Decorative Fish Cakes (Kamaboko) 市松かまぼこ
- Sweet Rolled Omelette (Datemaki) 伊達巻
- Salmon Kombu Roll (Kobumaki) 鮭の昆布巻き
- Candied Chestnut and Sweet Potatoes (Kuri Kinton) 栗きんとん
- Candied Sardines (Tazukuri) 田作り
- Daikon & Carrot Salad (Namasu) 紅白なます
- Sweet Black Soybeans (Kuromame) 黒豆
- Herring Roe (Kazunoko) 数の子
- Simmered Shrimp (Ebi no Umani) えびのうま煮
- Yellowtail Teriyaki (Buri no Teriyaki) ぶりの照り焼き
- Butter Soy Sauce Scallops (Hotate no Butter Shoyu Yaki) 帆立のバター醤油焼き
- Pickled Chrysanthemum Turnip (Kikka Kabu) 菊花かぶ
- Pickled Lotus Root (Su Renkon) 酢れんこん
- Pounded Burdock Root with Sesame Sauce (Tataki Gobo) たたきごぼう
- Simmered Chicken and Vegetables (Chikuzenni) 筑前煮 or Instant Pot Nishime 煮しめ
December 11th (3 Weeks Before JNY): Inventory Check
- Check kitchen equipment: Osechi boxes, serving dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, and anything you might need for cooking and serving.
- Clean up the pantry and check ingredients
- Purchase Osechi box dividers: Read my How to Pack Osechi Ryori post to learn why bamboo leaves and mini containers are helpful.
December 18th (2 Weeks Before JNY): Finalize Menus + Shopping Trip #1
- Finalize the Osechi menus: Label what dish goes into each compartment of Osechi boxes with sticky notes. This not only ensures you have enough dishes but makes it easy to delegate the transferring of food into each compartment.
- Print out Osechi recipes: Read carefully and double-check ingredients and equipment you will need.
- Purchase condiments and dry ingredients: Don’t wait till the last minute. They may be sold out toward the end of the month!
- Soy sauce, sake, mirin, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, saikyo miso (for kansai-style ozoni)
- Katsuobushi and kombu for dashi (Japanese broth)
- Black soybeans (kuromame) for sweet black soybeans
- Azuki beans for sweet red bean paste (anko)
- Hidaka kombu and dried gourd strips (kanpyo) for salmon kombu rolls
- Dried shiitake mushrooms for simmered chicken and vegetables
- Dried sardines/anchovies (niboshi) for candied sardines
- White sesame seeds for pounded burdock root
- Dried red chili peppers for pickled chrysanthemum turnip and pickled chrysanthemum turnip
- Soybean flour (kinako) for mochi
- Chestnuts in heavy syrup (kuri kanroni) for candied chestnuts and sweet potatoes
- Mochi (rice cake) or glutinous rice/sweet rice (mochigome)
- Soba noodles to make Toshikoshi Soba on the 31st
December 27th (5 Days Before JNY) – Clean House & Shopping Trip #2
- Clean the house: Clean the entry, living room, bathrooms.
- Plan out the meals till 12/31: I make easy dinner menus such as hot pots (Sukiyaki, Shabu Shabu, Oden, etc) and udon noodles for lunch.
- Regular grocery shopping: Buy eggs, milk, bread, salad, fruits, etc for the rest of the week.
- Buy alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks: Restock your beverages after the holiday party!
- Buy root vegetables for Osechi: They last longer, so purchase them early.
- Japanese sweet potatoes (satsumaimo) for candied chestnuts and sweet potatoes
- Carrots for daikon and carrot salad and simmered chicken and vegetables
- Burdock roots (gobo) for pounded burdock root and simmered chicken and vegetables
- Lotus roots (renkon) for pickled lotus root
- Japanese taro roots (satoimo) for simmered chicken and vegetables
- Konnyaku for simmered chicken and vegetables
- Daikon radish for daikon and carrot salad
- Japanese turnips (kabu) for pickled chrysanthemum turnip
- Remember: Cut off the leaves of daikon and turnips to prevent daikon from drying out.
December 28th (4 Days Before JNY) – Start Cooking!
- Continue cleaning the house: Clean the dining room and kitchen.
- Make Candied Sardines (Tazukuri): Among Osechi dishes, candied sardines last for a long time, so start cooking this dish.
- Make Herring Roe (Kazunoko): De-salting, peeling, and marinating.
December 29th (3 Days Before JNY) – Final Shopping Trip + Cooking Day 2
- Buy Osechi ingredients: Do not buy these ingredients prior to 12/29.
- Black tiger shrimp for simmered shrimp
- Yellowtail (Hamachi/Buri 鰤) for yellowtail teriyaki
- Salted salmon for salmon kombu rolls (If you can’t purchase pre-salted salmon from your local Japanese grocery store, make Salted Salmon previous week)
- Ikura (salmon roe)
- Chicken for ozoni and simmered chicken and vegetables
- Kamaboko fish cakes
- Hanpen fish cake for sweet rolled omelette
- Snow peas for simmered chicken and vegetables
- Mitsuba for ozoni
- Yuzu for daikon and carrot salad and ozoni
- Work on the decorative cut: Decorative cut for carrot and lotus root is not necessary; however, if you have extra time, prepare ahead and store them in the fridge.
- Make Veingared Dishes: Vinegared dishes last for a long time, so cook these dishes next!
- Dried shiitake mushrooms (Soak before going to sleep)
- Black soybeans (Need to soak up to 8 hours. Soak at midnight and start cooking at 8 am on December 30th.)
December 30th (2 Days Before JNY) –Cooking Day 3
- Make Dashi: Make good homemade dashi, which we will need for simmered dishes and ozoni.
- Make Vinegared Dishes (Cont):
- Make Simmered Dishes:
- Make Sweet Rolled Omelette (Datemaki)
- Make Candied Chestnut and Sweet Potatoes (Kuri Kinton)
December 31st (1 Day Before JNY) – Cooking Day 4
- Make Simmered Dishes (Cont):
- Make Grilled Dishes (can be made tomorrow morning):
- Yellowtail Teriyaki (Buri no Teriyaki)
- Butter Shoyu Scallop
- Prep Ozoni: Kansai (Kyoto)-style or Kanto (Tokyo)-style (for Kansai-style, add Saikyo Miso tomorrow morning).
- Pack all dishes in containers: Keep all the dishes in airtight containers and store them in the refrigerator.
- Make Toshikoshi Soba: Don’t forget to eat soba noodles today!
Before going to sleep…
- Set the table: Get everything set up (plates, chopsticks, glasses, sake cups, etc) so you can focus on last-minute preparation the next day.
- Chill your drinks: Make sure there’s enough ice in the freezer.
January 1st – Final Cooking + Osechi Packing (2.5 to 3 hours)
- Grill: If you didn’t make yesterday, cook Yellowtail Teriyaki and Butter Soy Sauce Scallops.
- Bring back to room temp: You can’t pack hot food in lacquered boxes. If you do not want to eat cold food, take out the dishes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to packing.
- Cut Kamaboko: Cut decorative Kamaboko and Datemaki.
- Pack in Osechi Boxes: See this detailed guide on How to Pack Osechi Ryori.
- Prepare Mochi: Toast mochi and season.
- Finish Ozoni: Reheat and then add miso and mochi.
- Prepare drinks: Heat up sake and prepare other drinks.
- Clean up the kitchen: If you have the luxury of time or a helpful guest, get the sink cleared and the dishwasher running and empty it after done running.
Now that you have a detailed cooking timeline and the best tips for Osechi cooking, let’s get started! Don’t be shy to enlist help from your husbands, partners, and kids. If you have any questions at all, please leave a message in the comment below. I’m here to help you!
I wish you all the best in pulling off this most significant spread of the year.