Savory and juicy sliced beef served over steamed rice, this delicious Yoshinoya Beef Bowl is a weeknight meal keeper!
Gyudon (牛丼) or Beef Bowl is a popular quick meal in Japan. It consists of a bowl of steamed rice topped with thinly sliced beef and tender onion, simmered in a sweet and savory dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce and mirin.
What is Beef Bowl (Gyudon)?
Thanks to Yoshinoya (吉野家), the largest beef bowl restaurant chain, Japanese gyudon became known as “beef bowl” and enjoyed by many people all around the world. You might wonder when the Japanese started to enjoy gyudon.
Western customs like eating beef were adopted and spread throughout Japan between the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Gyudon originated from another dish, Gyunabe (牛鍋) and Sukiyaki (すき焼き) where thin slices of beef are cooked with vegetables in a pot. At some point, it was served over rice in a bowl as “donburi” (rice bowl).
In 1899, the first Yoshinoya restaurant was opened in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district. The use of cheaper beef cuts helped lower the cost, and ultimately drove the success of Gyudon. Today, it continues to be a popular quick, and inexpensive lunch menu for salarymen.
My Beef Bowl vs. Yoshinoya Beef Bowl
My mom cooks her gyudon without dashi and her method is similar to how she cooks Sukiyaki (Osaka-style). She also pour the egg over the beef and onion mixture toward the end of cooking, so the dish has a nice layer of egg to go with the beef. My other Gyudon recipe is similar to my mom’s version.
For Yoshinoya’s gyudon, onion and thinly sliced beef are simmered in dashi broth and other seasonings. Every household makes gyudon slightly different, so you can choose whichever style you prefer.
Quick & Easy Yoshinoya Beef Bowl Recipe
Now let’s look at the key ingredients for this recipe:
Thinly Sliced Beef: If you don’t eat beef, you can make this dish with thinly sliced pork as well. Just make sure the meat is thinly sliced. Japanese, Korean, and Chinese grocery stores carry thinly sliced meat (both pork and beef), but if you can’t find it in the refrigerated or frozen meat sections, you can purchase a block of meat and slice them on your own. I’ve added the instructions in the recipe below.
Onion: If you really do not like onion, you can skip it; otherwise, please include it. Cooked onions are tender and give sweetness to the sauce. I consider the onion just as important as meat in this recipe. You can use regular yellow onion, sweet onion, or even purple onion (if the color doesn’t bother you).
Shirataki Noodles: I usually cook gyudon at the very last minute (not planned) so I don’t have shirataki noodles in my fridge. However, it’s a great addition to gyudon and it’s a smart way to add the volume of the food without adding more meat. The texture also improves with shirataki noodles.
Dashi: This recipe requires dashi. We cook the beef and onion in the dashi-based sauce. If you don’t want to use dashi, check out my other Gyudon recipe that does not require dashi. You can make dashi in 3 ways if you’re not sure how to make it.
Pickled Red Ginger (beni shoga): Typically pickled red ginger is served on top of gyudon, and it gives a nice refreshing break to your palate. Similar to how sliced pickles are added inside juicy burgers. I personally like every bite to include a bit of pickled ginger but the amount is entirely up to you.
Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven spice): If you like it spicy or got bored eating the same gyudon, sprinkle some shichimi togarashi on top. It’s a mixture of seven different kinds of spices and adds layers of flavors.
Miso Soup: Donburi or rice bowl dish is almost always served with miso soup (any kind). As you’re required to make dashi for this gyudon recipe, you might want to make a big pot of dashi. Take out some of the dashi for gyudon and keep the rest for miso soup.
Yoshinoya Beef Bowl (Gyudon)
- ½ onion (3 oz, 85 g)
- 1 green onion/scallion
- ½ cup dashi (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more)
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- 1 Tbsp sugar (feel free to adjust if you want to make it a bit sweeter; I wouldn't reduce the amount as you need to counterbalance the soy sauce.)
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- ¾ lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye) (12 oz, 340 g: Your local Japanese market may sell packages with the name “Komagire”, which includes thinly sliced scraps from different parts and works great for Gyudon. If you have to buy a rib eye or chuck and cut into slices, follow my tutorial.)
- 2 Tbsp pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- If you cannot find sliced beef in your local grocery store, freeze a block of fresh chuck or rib eye for 1-2 hours and slice. See this post for detailed instructions. After you slice, if the piece is too large then cut them in half. I use "Komagire" cut from my local Japanese market and I cut them further into smaller pieces.
- Cut the onion into thinly slices and chop the green onion. Set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add ½ cup (120 ml) dashi, 1 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp mirin, and 2 Tbsp soy sauce.
- Cover the lid and bring the sauce to boil. Once the sauce is boiling, add the sliced onions and spread them out. Cover to cook until tender (if you don’t cover, the sauce will evaporate, so make sure you cover the lid).
- When the onion is tender, add the beef and cook until no longer pink. Skim off the foam or fat with a fine-mesh sieve.
- Serve the meat and sauce over steamed rice.
- Top with chopped green onion and pickled red ginger. If you like to add an egg, serve with onsen tamago. Alternatively, you can pour beaten egg over the meat when it’s almost finished cooking in the pan (see how I do it in my other Gyudon recipe).
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for a month.