Soboro Don or Ground Chicken Bowl is your go-to Japanese comfort meal! With seasoned minced chicken, scrambled eggs, and green vegetables on top of fluffy steamed rice, this three-color rice bowl is effortlessly easy to pull together and full of flavor. A favorite among both kids and adults.
Soboro Don (そぼろ丼) is an easy and delicious Japanese rice bowl with seasoned ground chicken and scrambled eggs. It’s easily one of my favorite bento lunch menus growing up! The sweet-savory flavor of tender chicken and eggs that get mixed in with steamed rice score big on the comfort level. And what’s not to love when you can put a meal together in just 30 minutes? That’s the virtue of rice bowls! Simple, fast and well thought out, you can never go wrong with it.
What does “Soboro” mean?
The Japanese word Soboro (そぼろ) refers to ground meat, fish, or eggs that are cooked into fine, crumbled pieces. Often served over steamed rice and eaten together, you’ll find Soboro Donburi (そぼろ丼ぶり, Don for short, meaning rice bowl) or Soboro Bento (そぼろ弁当) a common menu in Japan.
Ground chicken is the most commonly used protein and sometimes specified as “Tori” (Chicken) Soboro (鶏そぼろ). If you dine at Yakitori (grilled chicken skewered) restaurants, Soboro Donburi is usually served at the end of a meal as a signature dish. It always tastes the best as yakitori restaurants usually have the freshest and quality leftover chicken.
The Difference between Soboro Donburi and Sanshoku Donburi
Now I don’t intend to confuse you. This particular rice bowl can be called Soboro Donburi or Sanshoku Donburi. Are there any differences between the two names?
Well, Soboro Donburi strictly refers just the ground meat over steamed rice or with other ingredients. At the yakitori restaurants, Soboro Donburi is typically composed of just the seasoned ground chicken over rice.
However, Japanese home cooks often serve Soboro Donburi with three-colored ingredients for a balanced meal and a more appetizing presentation. So we call it the Sanshoku Donburi (三色丼ぶり), Three-Color Donburi. It follows a simple template: seasoned ground chicken (brown), finely scrambled eggs (yellow), and cooked green vegetables such as green beans, snow peas, or sweet peas (green). As it has protein, meat, veggie, and carb all in one meal, the dish is the ultimate comfort food popular among both kids and adults.
How to Make Soboro Donburi
Soboro Donburi, especially Tri-Color Donburi, consists of 5 easy steps:
- Make steamed rice.
- Cook ground chicken.
- Cook scrambled eggs.
- Blanch green vegetables.
- Assemble the rice bowl.
See the detailed explanation in the recipe below.
The Unique Chopstick Technique
Have you tried scrambled your eggs using chopsticks? That’s how we do it in Japan when making scrambled eggs for Soboro! Once you pour the beaten eggs into the hot frying pan, hold a few pairs of long chopsticks and move them vigorously to jostle the eggs into fine scrambles. Do it fast and furious, it’s a fun way to practice your chopstick skill!
You could do the same for the meat, but I find the wooden spoon/spatula is much easier to break the meat into smaller pieces.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why sweetening eggs and chicken?
In Japanese cooking, you’ll find that it’s a common practice to season the eggs and meat with some sugar. The reason we do that is to bring out the flavors of the ingredients, especially when we prepare food that can be enjoyed at room temperature. The use of sugar also helps to balance the savory seasoning, so you’d achieve full umami for the meal.
Since Soboro is served with bland steamed rice, the flavor of the dish would come from the well-seasoned eggs and meat.
You can choose to leave out the sugar or reduce the amount to suit your taste. But if you plan on packing soboro don into a lunch box, don’t skimp on the seasonings. Foods served at room temperature require stronger seasonings to attain the flavors.
How about other protein choices besides chicken?
You can definitely use ground pork or beef (or ground turkey). For creative variations, you can finely chop shrimp or crumble firm tofu, too!
If you’re stumped on what to make for dinner tonight, you can count on Soboro Don for a quicker-than-take-out option. It packs beautifully for your bento lunch box too!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Soboro Don is usually served at the end of a meal at Yakitori restaurants in Japan. It's typically just the ground chicken over rice; however, at home, this dish consists of ground chicken, eggs, and some green veggies to make it more colorful.
- 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
- ½ lb ground chicken (227 g; you can also mince the chicken thighs (or use a food processor). I recommend using thighs.)
- 1 tsp ginger (grated, with juice)
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 1 ½ Tbsp sugar (Use 1 Tbsp if you prefer less sweet)
- 1 Tbsp mirin
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
- 2 servings cooked Japanese short-grain rice
- ¼ cup green peas (defrosted)
- pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga)
Gather all the ingredients.
Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, and cook the chicken until no longer pink. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into small pieces.
- Add sake, sugar, and mirin.
- Add soy sauce and continue to break up the meat into smaller pieces.
Grate ginger and keep the juice. When the meat is broken up to pieces, add the ginger with juice.
Cook until the liquid is almost gone. Transfer to a bowl and set aside and wash the frying pan.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add sugar. Mix well until sugar is completely dissolved. Prepare several long cooking chopsticks.
Heat oil in the frying pan over medium-low heat and pour in the egg mixture.
Hold several chopsticks in one hand and break the egg into small pieces. When it’s cooked, transfer to another bowl.
Now you have three ingredients in separate bowls.
Serve steamed rice in serving bowls and put the three toppings on top of the rice as you like. Garnish with pickled ginger (kizami shoga). Enjoy!
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 in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
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Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on April 11, 2011. The pictures have been updated in September 2012. The post was updated and republished in July 2020.