Cozy up at your next get-together with friends and family with my homemade Japanese Sukiyaki recipe. Here, we sear marbled beef and simmer it with tofu, mushrooms, and a variety of vegetables in a sweet soy sauce broth. This family-style dinner will warm your stomachs and hearts with its authentic Japanese flavors.
The Japanese love cooking nabe hot pots, especially in the cold winter months. While there are many variations, one of the most popular hot pot dishes is Sukiyaki (すき焼き) or Japanese Beef Hot Pot. It’s warm, flavorful, and an easy social meal to share with a close-knit group of family or friends.
Today, I want to show you how you can replicate and enjoy sukiyaki at home.
Table of Contents
Sukiyaki (すき焼き) is a popular Japanese hot pot dish that is often prepared and served at the table. Well-marbled beef, alongside vegetables, tofu, and mushrooms, is slowly grilled or simmered in a shallow cast-iron pot. The soup broth is rich and bursting with sweet, salty, and savory flavor.
Interestingly, sukiyaki was once called gyunabe (牛鍋) in the Kanto region. Gyunabe’s popularity spread from Yokohama, where many foreigners lived, and then became popular in Tokyo, and is thought to have influenced the sukiyaki culture in the Kanto region.
When the Great Kanto Earthquake happened in 1923, the gyunabe restaurants in the Kanto (Tokyo) region disappeared. During that time, sukiyaki restaurants in the Kansai (Osaka) region expanded into the Kanto region. Since the two dishes were quite similar, people in the Kanto region started to call their original gyunabe ‘sukiyaki.’
Kansai Style vs. Kanto Style Sukiyaki
Did you know that there are two types of sukiyaki? We have the Kanto-style and the Kansai-style and there are some distinctions between them. As my mom’s side of the family is from Osaka (Kansai) and my dad’s side is from Tokyo (Kanto), I grew up eating a mix of Kansai and Kanto foods without realizing it.
Both regions enjoy sukiyaki with a beaten egg, but people would cook and enjoy the dish differently.
The most noteworthy feature of Kanto-style sukiyaki is the warishita (割り下) or sukiyaki sauce. The sauce is made by boiling soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar and diluted with kombu dashi to your liking. It plays an important role in determining the overall taste of the dish (We’ll talk about it later).
Also, the beef is grilled in a cast iron pot. Some people grill the beef directly on the greased pot while others cook the beef with a little bit of the sukiyaki sauce. For my recipe, I used the latter method to avoid marbled beef from getting stuck on the cast-iron pot.
After you enjoy a few slices of the beef, you would then simmer the remaining meat and other ingredients in the warishita until tender. This style of cooking is hugely influenced by the original gyunabe.
On the other hand, Kansai-style sukiyaki involves grilling each slice of beef in the cast iron pot. When both sides of the meat are about 80% cooked, we would sprinkle plenty of sugar so that it covers the surface of the meat. Then, sprinkle soy sauce to balance out the flavor.
After enjoying a few slices of beef, you would then add vegetables such as napa cabbage. It doesn’t use dashi stock so the Kansai-style sukiyaki doesn’t have much moisture and the flavor is slightly stronger.
Since the moisture content in vegetables varies depending on the season, the cook needs to adjust the seasoning accordingly in order to achieve the best flavor. Therefore, Kansai-style sukiyaki is greatly influenced by the skill of the person who makes it. This is where the nabe bugyo (hot pot magistrate 鍋奉行)’s skills are shown!
In my recipe below, I use the Kanto-style sukiyaki method because it’s a lot easier for beginner cooks to follow.
Well-Marbled Sukiyaki Beef
Unquestionably, beef is the star ingredient for this hot pot, so I recommend using quality meat when making sukiyaki at home.
The Japanese like to splurge and enjoy really good quality, well-marbled beef for both sukiyaki and shabu shabu. Wagyu (beef from cows raised in Japan) is very expensive ($40/lb), so typically each person only enjoys about 120-150 grams of sliced meat. Because of the higher fat content in each slice, you don’t really need a lot of it.
At the Japanese grocery store, there are packages of thinly sliced “sukiyaki beef.” There is also “shabu shabu beef” but they are thinner than the ones for sukiyaki, so don’t pick the wrong package. We do not want chewy meat for the hot pot. If possible, find a well-marbled piece of meat so that the fat of the meat becomes tender when you eat.
If you can’t find pre-sliced beef, you can try slicing the ribeye at your home. Follow my directions and tricks on How To Slice Meat.
Make Your Own Sukiyaki Sauce (Warishita)
The Kanto-style sukiyaki needs warishita (割り下), the sukiyaki sauce. It’s very simple to make with just 4 ingredients: soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.
Some recipes already include kombu dashi in the sauce while others don’t. I prefer to keep them separate so that the sukiyaki sauce lasts longer in the refrigerator (water/dashi in the sauce will not keep long).
It’s very easy to cook the sauce. Boil the sake and mirin first to let the alcohol evaporate, then add sugar and soy sauce until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Make the sukiyaki sauce ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month (or longer!). You can use this sukiyaki sauce for Gyudon (Beef Rice Bowl), Simmered Beef and Tofu (Niku Dofu), Nikujga (Japanese Meat and Potato Stew), simmered fish, and more!
Sukiyaki Ingredients and Substitutions
Besides the good quality beef, you will need to prepare a variety of vegetables, a few kinds of mushrooms, grilled tofu (or regular tofu), and shirataki noodles (yam noodles).
Typically we use leafy vegetables such as napa cabbage and chrysanthemum greens, onion, Tokyo negi (long green onion), carrot, and gobo (burdock root).
You can also use more common vegetables like cabbage, spinach, watercress, eggplant, potatoes, or any other Asian vegetable such as bok choy or bean sprouts. These are not classic sukiyaki ingredients, but they will still taste delicious cooked in the sukiyaki sauce!
For vegan/vegetarian, you can use meat alternative products or add more tofu and meaty mushrooms such as king oyster mushrooms.
Cooking Sukiyaki at the Dining Table
Sukiyaki is usually cooked in a cast-iron pot over a portable butane stove at the dining table. I recommend getting these items for sukiyaki and other table-top Japanese hot pot dishes.
- Cast-iron sukiyaki pot – I got mine from MTC Kitchen (use JOC10 for 10% off!).
- Iwatani portable butane stove – MTC kitchen sells this and this.
- Butane Fuel for the portable stove
Can we use a donabe (Japanese clay pot) for sukiyaki? The answer is no. You are not supposed to use high heat for the donabe and it’s not meant for grilling/searing the meat.
For the table, each person will need their own set of chopsticks, a medium bowl/plate for the cooked food from the pot, and a small bowl for a beaten egg. Prepare a few sets of communal long cooking chopsticks for cooking the raw meat and vegetables.
It’s a fun dinner for family and friends’ get-together, and not to mention, all you have to do is to chop ingredients before dinner time!
How to Eat Sukiyaki the “Authentic” Way
I am a bit hesitant to talk about the “authentic” way the Japanese enjoy sukiyaki as some of you may not find it appetizing. However, since some of you may eat sukiyaki in Japan and this is the traditional way to enjoy sukiyaki, so you won’t get caught off guard. Whether you follow this method or not, I think it’s worth discussing it here.
In Japan, sukiyaki is enjoyed by dipping cooked beef and other ingredients in raw eggs. I know, I can almost hear “eww” from some of my readers but that’s the fact.
In the past, eating meat was officially prohibited until the Meiji era in Japan. Ordinary people were not around to eat meat until the Meiji emperor started eating beef. So it was said that dipping sukiyaki in cold eggs helps eliminate the smell of beef and to prevent burning your mouth with hot food. Thanks to improvements in meat quality, it is now common to eat delicious beef. Also, dipping it in an egg gives it a deeper flavor, so this way of eating has been passed down to this day. It’s a custom that we eat sukiyaki with an egg, but some people skip it.
If you travel to Japan and try sukiyaki there, I actually highly recommend trying it at least once as eggs there are considered safe to consume raw. The sweetness from raw egg coats well with salty, strong-flavored beef and vegetables and it amazingly balances out the flavors very well.
Since raw eggs here in the U.S. are not safe to consume, you can purchase pasteurized eggs. Although I found one at a Japanese market, Nijiya, before, it’s not always there and pasteurized eggs are hard to find elsewhere.
Sukiyaki vs. Shabu Shabu
Now that you’re familiar with sukiyaki, you may wonder what is the difference between sukiyaki and another popular hot pot dish, shabu shabu. Let’s take a closer look.
Thinly sliced beef is seared and then cooked alongside other ingredients in a sweet and salty soy sauce-based sauce. It has full of bold flavors straight from the pot. Traditionally, all the cooked food is enjoyed after dipping in a beaten raw egg.
- Equipment: Cast-iron pot
- Broth: Warishita (a mixture of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar, diluted with kombu dashi)
- Meat: Well-marbled beef (thicker than shabu shabu beef)
- Vegetables: Napa cabbage, chrysanthemum greens, Tokyo negi, carrot, shirataki noodles
- Tofu: Grilled tofu
- Mushrooms: Shiitake, enoki, shimeji, maitake
- Final course (Shime): Udon noodles
- Dipping sauce: Raw eggs
Shabu Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) [recipe]
Thinly sliced beef or pork and all kinds of ingredients are cooked in a clear kombu-based broth. The flavor is subtle and you dip the cooked food in a ponzu or sesame-based sauce.
- Equipment: Donabe (Japanese clay pot)
- Broth: Kombu dashi
- Meat: Well-marbled beef or pork
- Vegetables: Napa cabbage, chrysanthemum greens, Tokyo negi, mizuna, carrot
- Tofu: Medium-firm tofu
- Mushrooms: Shiitake, enoki, shimeji, maitake
- Final course (Shime): Udon noodles, rice
- Dipping Sauce: Ponzu sauce and/or sesame sauce
Despite having different flavors and cooking pots, both sukiyaki and shabu shabu have similar ingredients, such as leafy vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, and so on.
Both sukiyaki and shabu shabu are representative dishes of Japan that were spread not only in Japan but around the world. With high-prized beef on the table, it is always a delicacy in Japan and is loved by people of all ages from children to adults.
Other Hot Pot Recipes
- Shabu Shabu
- Mizutaki (Chicken Hot Pot)
- Chanko Nabe (Sumo Stew)
- Soy Milk Hot Pot
- Nabemonot: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot
For the Kombu Dashi (for diluting the cooking sauce; as needed)
- 2 cups water
- 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (one piece is 5 g; 2 inches x 2 inches, 5 x 5 cm)
For the Sukiyaki Sauce (yields 1⅓ cups for 2 servings)
For the Sukiyaki Ingredients
- 4 leaves napa cabbage (12 oz, 340 g for 2 servings)
- ¼ bunch shungiku (chrysanthemum greens) (3.5 oz, 100 g for 2 servings)
- 1 Tokyo negi (naga negi; long green onion) (only the white part; can substitute it with 1 leek or 4 green onions)
- 6 inches gobo (burdock root) (1.6 oz, 45 g for 2 servings)
- ½ onion (3.5 oz, 100 g for 2 servings)
- ½ package enoki mushrooms (1.75 oz, 50 g for 2 servings; skip or use other mushrooms)
- ½ package maitake mushrooms (1.75 oz, 50 g for 2 servings; skip or use other mushrooms)
- 2 shiitake mushrooms (1.75 oz, 50 g for 2 servings; skip or use other mushrooms)
- ½ package broiled tofu (yaki dofu) (one package is 9 oz, 255 g; if you cannot find yaki tofu, substitute medium-firm (momen) tofu instead)
- 1½ inches carrot (optional; use for decoration and color)
- ½ package shirataki noodles (3.5 oz, 100 g for 2 servings; or cellophane/yam noodles)
- ½ lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye) (or slice your own meat; typically 4 oz (113 g) per person; skip for vegan/vegetarian and use more tofu, mushrooms, and vegetables)
- 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) (or 1 small piece of suet (raw beef fat); it may come with your sukiyaki beef package; you can also save it from a steak)
- 2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell) (optional, for dipping; raw eggs are safe to consume in Japan; elsewhere, you can buy pasteurized eggs or make sous vide eggs for safety; skip for vegan)
For the Shime Finishing Course
- 1 serving udon noodles (cooked according to the package instructions; eat the udon at the end of the meal with the remaining broth in the sukiyaki pot)
To Make the Kombu Dashi and Sukiyaki Sauce
- Gather all the dashi and sauce ingredients. Tip: Adjusting the seasoning as you cook and taste the food is a normal part of enjoying Sukiyaki. We drizzle in a bit of kombu dashi whenever the sauce in the sukiyaki pot becomes too salty. Diluting the sauce is especially important if you are not using beaten egg to dip your cooked food. This recipe makes more dashi than you need for this dish and you'll likely have leftovers. If you'd like, you can dilute with water instead of kombu dashi.
- To make the cold brew Kombu Dashi, put the water and kombu in a 2-cup measuring cup or pitcher. Set it aside to steep for a minimum of 30 minutes, or make it ahead up to overnight.
- To make the Sukiyaki Sauce, combine the sake and mirin in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and let the alcohol evaporate for a minute or so.
- Add the sugar and soy sauce and mix together. Bring it back to a boil. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off the heat and set it aside.
- Transfer the sukiyaki sauce to a pitcher and bring both the dashi and the sauce to the table. Tip: You can make the sukiyaki sauce ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
To Prepare the Sukiyaki Ingredients
- Gather all the sukiyaki ingredients. Since we love tofu, I used the entire package (twice as much) here. Feel free to customize the portions to suit your personal preference.
- Cut the napa cabbage into pieces 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
- Cut the pieces in half or thirds down along the thick white center of the leaves.
- Cut the shungiku 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
- Slice the Tokyo negi diagonally into ½-inch (1.3 cm) pieces.
- Shave off the outer skin of the gobo (burdock root) with the back of a knife. We do not use a vegetable peeler because the flavor of the gobo is right under the skin and you don't want to peel that off. Then, using the vegetable peeler, shave the gobo into superthin strips.
- Soak the gobo strips in water for 5 minutes, changing the water once. Drain well.
- Cut the onion into ½-inch (1.3 cm) slices widthwise. Next, discard the bottom part of the enoki bunch and tear it into smaller clusters.
- Cut off and discard the root ends of the maitake mushrooms and separate the maitake bunch into two small clusters.
- Cut off and discard the stems of the shiitake mushrooms. Optionally, you can cut a flower pattern on the shiitake mushroom caps: First, cut a sliver off the top of the mushroom cap by making 2 incisions in the shape of a “V". Bevel these cuts toward each other by inserting the knife at an angle.
- Make a second cutout in the same manner to form an "X" with the first cutout. You can keep this "X" pattern or add one or two more cutouts. Watch my video on "shiitake hanagiri" that demonstrates this Japanese cutting technique.
- Cut the tofu into smaller pieces. Since we love tofu, I used an entire package for 2 servings; I usually cut one block into 6-8 pieces.
- If you'd like to make flower-shaped carrots (optional), first slice the carrot into ¼-inch (6 mm) rounds.
- Here, I stamp the carrot coins with a vegetable cutter into a floral shape for decoration.
- Rinse and drain the shirataki noodles. Cut the noodles in half. To remove any odor, add the shirataki noodles to boiling water. Once the water is boiling again, cook for 2 minutes, drain, and set aside.
- Place the meat and suet (or cooking oil) on a plate. Put all the ingredients on one big platter or bamboo tray for the table. I prepared my eggs sous vide (read the blog post) for dipping the cooked sukiyaki ingredients. I also prepared udon noodles and set them aside for the final course.
To Cook the Sukiyaki
- Set a portable gas cooktop at the dining table. I use this cast-iron sukiyaki pot that I got from MTC Kitchen (use JOC10 for 10% off) and an Iwatani portable butane stove. Each person should have a medium-sized bowl where they can transfer the cooked food from the pot.
- Heat the cast-iron sukiyaki pot (or any pot) on medium heat. When it’s hot, add 1 Tbsp cooking oil (or the suet). Then, pour in barely enough Sukiyaki Sauce to cover the bottom of the pot, about ⅛-¼ inch of sauce.
- Place a few slices of well-marbled beef in the pot. When the bottom side of the meat is cooked, flip and cook the other side. Enjoy some (or all) of the sweet and caramelized meat now to consume this good-quality beef at its best. You can do a few rounds of meat first, or you can leave the meat in the pot and continue to the next step.
- How to Enjoy Sukiyaki in Japan: As I mentioned above and in the blog post, we prepare a raw egg for each person at the table. Everyone cracks their own egg in their individual small bowl, beats it, and dips the cooked ingredients in the egg to enjoy. Here in the US, raw eggs are not recommended for consumption, so I pasteurize my eggs using the sous vide method. When you get a chance in Japan, please try this traditional way to enjoy sukiyaki.
- If you are using pasteurized or sous vide eggs, dip the cooked beef in the beaten egg to enjoy. The salty and savory sukiyaki ingredients become mild and sweet after dipping in the egg. If you're not using eggs, drizzle in a bit of kombu dashi to dilute the sauce in the pot, to your liking; otherwise, it might taste too salty.
To Cook the First Round of Sukiyaki
- Add some of the vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, and other ingredients to the pot (leave the udon for the final course). Pour in enough Sukiyaki Sauce so the ingredients are partially submerged in the sauce, about one-third of the way or about ¼ inch of sauce. If you aren't using eggs for dipping, drizzle in some kombu dashi now to dilute the sauce in the pot to your liking. Bring to a gentle simmer. Then, turn down the heat and simmer until the ingredients are cooked through. At this point, you can add more beef, as it cooks fast. Taste the sauce as the ingredients finish cooking and drizzle in a tiny bit of dashi or water if it's getting too salty.
- Transfer some of the cooked ingredients to the individual bowls and begin enjoying the first round of sukiyaki. Taste the food and adjust the seasoning in the sukiyaki pot as needed; drizzle in a bit of dashi or water if it's too salty or add a few drops of sukiyaki sauce if it needs more seasoning. Tip: Adjusting the seasoning as you go is a normal part of cooking and enjoying Sukiyaki.
To Cook the Second and Third (Optional) Rounds
- When there is less cooked food in the pot, divide the leftovers into the individual bowls. Then, start cooking the second round by adding more ingredients to the pot (repeat the previous step). While the second round of sukiyaki is cooking, you can enjoy eating the second portion from the first round or any side dishes. Cook a third round of sukiyaki to finish any uncooked ingredients that remain. Tip: If the cooking broth gets too salty due to evaporation, add more dashi or water to dilute. If the vegetables have diluted the broth too much, then add more sauce. If your sukiyaki sauce runs out, you can add soy sauce and sugar to the broth in a pinch.
To Enjoy the Finishing Course
- We usually end the sukiyaki meal with a final course of udon. When most of the ingredients have disappeared, add the cooked udon noodles to the remaining broth in the pot. Heat through and enjoy.
- You can keep the Sukiyaki leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for a month. Tofu does not freeze well, so remove it before freezing the leftovers. Store leftover kombu dashi in a bottle or airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days (use it for Miso Soup) or in the freezer for 2 weeks. Store leftover sukiyaki sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 11, 2015. It’s been republished on January 29, 2023, with new images, blog content, and a revised recipe.