Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)

Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken

Fried chicken, whether it’s Southern, Japanese, or Korean, is one of my favourite foods of all time. Put simply, it would be on the menu for my last meal. It’s one of those dishes that strikes the perfect balance between flavor, texture and richness. The only downside about a really great
fried chicken (calories aside), is that it takes about a day to make.

Karaage (唐揚げ), also known as Tatsutaage (竜田揚げ), is the Japanese version of fried chicken. Pronounced kah-rah-ah-geh, the name literally means “Tang fried” (Tang as in the Chinese dynasty). Like Gyoza and Ramen, Karaage is an example of Wafu-Chuka (Chinese-style Japanese) cuisine, whereby dumplings, noodles, or in this case fried chicken, was adapted from the Chinese culinary repertoire and turned into something uniquely Japanese.

Tatsuta Age Fried Chicken

After being marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, the two-bite nuggets of chicken are dredged in potato starch and deep fried until crisp. The potato starch creates a golden shell around the karaage with a lasting crispness which makes it perfect for packing into a bento lunch. Karaage also makes for a great summer picnic with some onigiri (rice balls).

I know someone is going to ask so I’ll address a few substitutions up-front. You can make Karaage with breast meat, but it will be dryer and less flavorful for the same reason why breast meat is healthier: it has less fat. Cornstarch can be substituted for the potato starch, however the texture won’t be the same. Karaage made with cornstarch has a dense crunchy texture like tortilla chips, while karaage made with potato starch fries up with a light crispy crust like a potato chip.

Personally, I also prefer potato starch to cornstarch as a thickening agent, so I’ve done away with cornstarch in my kitchen. In the US, you can get potato starch at Whole Foods under the Bob’s Red Mill brand.

Equipment you'll need:

Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken
Karaage
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Votes: 24
Rating: 4.29
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Karaage, the Japanese version of fried chicken is first marinated in ginger, garlic and soy sauce, then coated in potato starch and fried until golden brown and crisp.
Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken
Karaage
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 24
Rating: 4.29
You:
Rate this recipe!
Karaage, the Japanese version of fried chicken is first marinated in ginger, garlic and soy sauce, then coated in potato starch and fried until golden brown and crisp.
Servings Prep Time
70minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
Servings Prep Time
70minutes
Cook Time
10minutes
Ingredients
  • 450 grams chicken thighs – boneless skin-on cut into 2.5 centimeter pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ginger - fresh grated
  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce use tamari to make it gluten-free
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • lemon for serving
Units:
Instructions
  1. Add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sake and sugar to a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the chicken, then stir to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Add 1 inch of vegetable oil to a heavy bottomed pot and heat until the oil reaches 360 degrees F. Line a wire rack with 2 sheets of paper towels and get your tongs out. Put the potato starch in a bowl Add a handful of chicken to the potato starch and toss to coat each piece evenly. Fry the chicken in batches until the exterior is a medium brown and the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the fried chicken to the paper towel lined rack. If you want the chicken to stay crispy longer, you can fry the chicken a second time, until it's a darker color after it's cooled off once. Serve with lemon wedges.

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  • Ack Vandal

    Are you frying in your rice cooker bowl?! Why?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hahaha, nice catch. It’s a stove top rice cooker (i.e. a pot with marker lines). I just moved and it’s the only pot I have right now. 

      • Louis

        Hahaha I was just about to ask the same thing.  So are you still in NYC, Marc?

  • Jennietoyokawa

    I totally agree with you on katakuriko…it’s all I use…also I swear by chicken thighs. I am anxious to try your recipe…karage/tatsutaage is a staple in my house such that i don’t use a recipe. I’ve not put garlic in before. Thanks.

  • http://www.italianinthemidwest.com/ PolaM

    That is fried chicken 2.0! Have to try it!

  • http://twitter.com/chefashishnegi Ashish Negi

    It makes me go nom nom nom right now… lovely pics and easy recipe.

  • http://www.ouichefnetwork.com Oui, Chef

    I MUST make this dish….I even have potato starch, yippee!

  • http://tartineandapronstrings.com/ Jen Laceda

    I LOVE this! I sometimes put curry powder in mine, too :) Probably not authentic Japanese, but oh-so-good!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Great idea! I’m gonna have to try that next time:-)

  • http://www.hsinrusocial.com/ The Hsinru Social

    I need your advice! I LOVE your recipe and have made chicken karaage a few times. I’m having a guest over that eats only chicken Parmesan; so I want to create a Japanese-Italian dish that is inspired by chicken parmesan. Do you think I can deep fry the chicken Japanese style (just not use the soy sauce base), and then put it on a bed of tomato and melt some cheese ontop? What are your thoughts?

    http://www.hsinrusocial.com

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks, glad you like it! If you’re going to forgo the marinade for the meat and put tomato sauce and cheese on it, why not just make regular chicken parm?

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  • Syna

    I tried this yesterday! It was full of crunchiness and crispiness! What a wonderful cooking experience! Thank you for this piece of gold!

  • http://twitter.com/jillycious Jill

    Can I put Soju instead of sake?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yep, that should be fine.

  • Tania

    what if you cant get sake or use it how about mirin

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Mirin will work, but it will be a little sweeter.

  • Tarla

    I’m a minor so i can’t use alcohol at all, are there any substitutes for sake?

    • Tarla

      Would rice wine vinegar do the trick?

      • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

        The alcohol burns off when it’s cooking so it should not be a problem, but if your parents still don’t let you use it, substitute water. Rice wine vinegar is rice wine that has undergone the last stage of fermentation and turned to vinegar, it doesn’t really taste like sake anymore, and it will make your chicken sour.

        • lmchibisuke

          how would using water instead affect the taste?

          • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

            If you can’t find/use sake for some reason water would be the best substitute, but it will affect the flavor.

  • Adrianna

    Delicious and easy! I lived in Japan for many years and always had trouble finding authentic recipes in English. Thank you for the wide selection of favorites, I can’t wait to try another recipe soon!

  • Emme

    My husband and I moved to Ubud, Bali a year ago and I am always looking for new recipes with ‘accessible’ ingredients as not everything is easily available here :) I am thrilled to have come across your blog and even more excited to try this recipe! I am looking forward to following your blog and cooking my little heart out :) Terima Kashi

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks for the note! I visited Ubud last year and it was stunning. While I didn’t get a chance to go to any local markets, let me know if you run into any ingredients you can’t find there as I might be able to suggest a substitute.

  • Ernest

    I tried tried this yesterday, marinated for about 4 fours. The crunchiness was outrageous!!
    Next time I’ll up the soy sauce though, it was a tad bit under seasoned.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Glad to hear you liked it. What kind of soy sauce did you use?

      • Ernest

        I use Yamasa Brand, full sodium, I don’t do low sodium.

        • Ernest

          So I decided to try this again. This time I marinated the chicken overnight. Spiked it with a touch of fish sauce (red boat brand). Fantastic

  • Ernest

    And just FYI, that Bob’s red mill potato starch might be a little expensive but it’s worth it. I used some cheap potato starch and it stuck to utensils like super glue. Bob’s red mill is the way to go.

    • http://anewblog.squarespace.com/ Michael Allen

      I too use Bob’s Red Mill potato starch, works perfectly!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000100170841 Allyson Outlaw

    To fry it a 2nd time do you need to coat it again or just drop it in hot oil? Is mirin a good sub for sake? Mirin is always in my cabinet. Sake not so much.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Nope, you don’t need to coat it again to fry a 2nd time. Just stop the first fry before it gets too dark, and then brown it all the way on the second fry. As for substituting mirin for sake, I wouldn’t recommend it. Mirin is much sweeter than sake, which isn’t a problem if you like it sweet, but the issue is that the sugar will burn before the chicken is cooked.

      • lmchibisuke

        what if you leave out the sugar in the recipe? Do you think it would even out?

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Good idea, that should work.

  • Jin Ah

    Thank you soooo much for this recipe. I order karaage every time it’s available. I made this last night. I agree with Ernest. I like my karaage a bit more seasoned although I only marinated it for 1.5 hrs. I’m going to add some spice next time, maybe some cayenne. Love the curry idea.

    • Ernest

      A little Sambal Oelek in the marinade adds a nice subtle kick.

  • SolidTD

    What kind of sake should one use?

    There’s a local Japanese super market and I can get may different types. I was told “Ozeki One Cup” is for cooking.

    I was at the general store and there was better deals on bottles. They have

    “Gekkeikan Taditional” and “Sho Chiku Bai Classic Junmai”

    • Ernest

      I normally get ones that say Junmai Ginjo ($7 for a 300ml bottle). Junmai Daiginjo is hard to come by around my area but it’s supposed to be top notch.

      • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

        While you can’t go wrong with a more expensive bottle of sake (such as Junmai Daiginjo), it’s a little overkill since you really won’t be able to tell the difference in the finished product ( the soy sauce, ginger and garlic, will cover up any differences). That said, since this recipe only uses 1 tablespoon, you could buy a bottle, use a little bit to make the karaage, and drink the rest:-)

        • Ernest

          Very true. It’s just my philosophy on food is to use the best ingredients whenever possible. You wouldn’t put regular gas in a Ferrari, would you? LOL

          • SolidTD

            I will agree, that not spending a lot for sake that’s going to be cooked, with other ingredients, is probably good practice. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to put Nigori Sake in the mix, if it didn’t call for it; even though, I can get Nigori for really cheap in my area. These sakes give the chicken different flavor. I’m just trying to find one that will blend the best.

            Which type do you have lying around when you make your recipe?
            Which type do you regularly use?
            Which type do you perfer?
            (These questions are assuming you’ve tried this recipe with multiple types.)

          • Ernest

            I tried using a cheap one that claimed to be premium sake $4, ended up with slightly bitter/ off kind of taste. After doing some research I went and got a bottle that clearly said Junmai Ginjo on the label. I haven’t looked back. Plus side is it is fairly drinkable but I keep a bottle handy just for cooking. I’m a whiskey drinker.
            And as for the Mirin, Kikkoman aji mirin is laced with corn syrup. I ditched that and got Eden Foods mirin. The difference is night and day. It is $7 a bottle but it’s not like you’ll use the whole bottle at once.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      All three of the ones you mentioned are inexpensive sakes that are fine for cooking. It’s a waste of money buying really expensive sake for cooking as most of the subtleties that make them so expensive will get lost amidst the other ingredients.

  • Ernest

    Marc, I can’t express enough how much I appreciate your effort and site. I stumbled on it a few months ago and I thoroughly enjoy everything that I have tried. But the Karaage! I’m addicted to the Karaage.

    How about putting together a list of essential kitchen ingredients, if you ever have some time to spare?

    And by the way, Lodge makes a 10 inch deep skillet that fries anything beautifully. Less than $30 on Amazon.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Great idea! I’m at my grandmothers house right now and she’s at the age now where she doesn’t cook anymore. I’ve been cooking for the family all week, and had to go out and buy a bunch of kitchen basics, but since I won’t be here long it’s been challenging to limit myself to the absolute necessities. Here’s a quick list of pantry stuff I’ve been buying

      Olive oil, regular oil, japanese soy sauce, sugar, sea salt, flour, miso, pepper, some kind of hot sauce, sake, dashi, canned tomatoes, canned (or jarred) italian tuna, italian anchovies in oil, whole block
      of parmesan cheese, spaghetti, onions, garlic, ginger, scallions.

      With these basics (+ veggies, and meat), you can make a ton of dishes.

  • Savrien454

    is it possible to use any other parts of the chicken besides the thighs? Can I also use this with skinless chicken breasts?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yep breast will work, but it has less fat so will have less flavor and be dryer. If you’re worried about the fat content of using skin-on thighs, skinless thighs with the visible fat trimmed off would be a good compromise.

  • Pam McDonald

    I live in Oregon and have a Japanese aviation student staying with me who says this one of the most favored dishes in Japan. He cooked this for me and it was delicious so I searched the web for a recipe and showed it to him. He says these are all the correct ingredients and I cannot wait to cook it, I love Japanese food and this is one I had not heard of. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Ernest

    Just FYI, I find tossing the chicken in potato starch quite stressful. So I dump the chicken and the potato starch in a large container, put a lid on and SHAKE it!!!!! Done

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      A ziploc bag will also work (and no bowl to wash), but personally I find this gets too much potato starch on the outside of the chicken.

  • Pradipto

    Sorry, but is it okay if i use chicken breast?

  • Denise

    I was wondering if I could fry this ahead of time and put it in an electric roaster to keep warm. Would be making it for about 85 people so could not do it last minute. Thanks

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Denise, if you use chicken thighs this shouldn’t be a problem (though I don’t know if it will stay crisp). I would not try do that if you’re planning on using chicken breasts.

  • la fata della zucca

    Yummy! I’ll try this!

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  • Jortiz3

    Its actually one of the lower calorie options out there, if your pieces you fry are large. Its moderately low in carbs, low in Sat Fat, and extremely high in protein.

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  • jaknyf

    Several have asked if they could use mirin instead of sake. Several have commented that the mirin is too sweet. Well the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons sugar. I would think that one could simply adjust the sugar amount accordingly

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      That would work too, you’ll need to experiment to figure out how much sugar to omit.

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  • Lisa

    Have you tried using rice flour instead of potato starch? Will that work as a substitute?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Nope, I haven’t tried. I’m sure it will work, but I think it will have a texture similar to all-purpose flour after it’s fried, more crunchy than crispy.

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  • carley

    Can I use sherry or port instead of sake

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Sherry and port make decent substitutes for Chinese rice wine, but they have a fairly different flavor profile from sake. That said, Karaage was originally a Chinese dish, so in this case either will probably work.

      • DDC

        Can you use Mirin instead of Sake?

  • Anantama Virgiawan

    excuse me, what do you recommend to substitute the sake Marc? I’m muslim and sake si not allowed, please answer

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      You can substitute water. It obviously won’t taste quite the same, but it’s the closest substitute.

    • Legna

      I don’t understand hwy sake isn’t allowed in your “religion” eve if it is just only being used for cooking.. The heat prey much kills the alcohol content and just leaves the flavor.

  • george

    the best subs for potato starch is corn starch!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Corn starch can be substituted but it will not give you the same crispy texture as potato starch.

  • Monica

    What would you eat it with? Just rice? Do you have a side dish that would be a nice accompaniment? Thanks

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  • ezzye

    would Panko in with the potato starch work?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      To make panko stick you typically need to do a flour coating followed by an egg wash. Have a look at my Tonkatsu post for more details. —
      Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

  • Eric

    Great recipe. Thank you very much. Followed everything and it’s the best Chicken Karaage ever. I will never order this from a restaurant again. It’s so easy to make. Others are asking if you can sub for panko or corn starch. The simple answer is no. It won’t taste the same. Potato starch is harder to find and more expensive but it’s worth it. If you don’t have a thermometer to measure frying temp, keep the burner around medium high and should be about right.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Eric, glad to hear you enjoyed it! You’re right about subbing panko and cornstarch, but regarding the oil temperature, keep in mind that everyone has a different cooktop that puts out a different amount of heat. Unfortunately that makes it difficult to make generalizations that will work for everyone.

    • DDC

      I used a thermometer for making candy…it reads high temp.

  • elle

    I was wondering can you use this marinade for other things? I really like it and was wondering if you could use it for grilling or baking chicken?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Absolutely!

  • http://anewblog.squarespace.com/ Michael Allen

    Very specific presentation detail I’m curious about: I see in your photos of the finished dish the karaage is on some sort of absorbent parchment paper – I’ve seen it used with fried dishes in nicer Japanese restaurants as well. What exactly is it called and can I find it at my local chain grocer (if not online)?

    Many thanks in advance!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Michael, in Japan they’ll often use rice paper, but I just used regular paper (the kind you put in your printer).

      • http://anewblog.squarespace.com/ Michael Allen

        Funny it was something so simple. I really like the way it looks on the plate, so I’ll try it out when I prepare this dish later this week!

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Yep:-) The idea is just to put something absorbent underneath. A paper towel would work too. To give it a little style, I usually cut long rectangles and fold the paper in half at a slight angle.

          • http://anewblog.squarespace.com/ Michael Allen

            I really like the sound of that, I’ll definitely use your method!

  • Kristen

    Thank you so much for adding the bit about gluten-free tamari! It’s difficult to come across great recipes that are also gluten free.

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  • ena

    Made this for a dinner once, and everyone raves about how it tastes so much better than the one in restaurants! Thank you so much for the recipe!

  • hpenguin

    im calling bull on the potato starch i just tried to fry the chicken in only potato starch and it never got medium brown the chicken skin burned inside before the potato starch browned.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi hpenguin, sorry to hear it did not work out for you. It’s normal for there to be some darker spots on the karaage but it should not taste burnt. Also potato starch does not brown like other flours. It will still have a slightly white frosted look on the outside. The main thing is that the chicken is cooked through, but not over cooked, the exterior will be crisp even if its not fully browned. Just out of curiosity, did you measure the temperature of the oil before adding the chicken?

  • ku san

    how long (max) can the raw chicken be kept in marinade until frying?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      There isn’t really an upper limit, beyond the chicken spoiling.

  • dk002

    Have you ever used rice flower instead of potato starch?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      I’ve never tried it, but I think it will give the the chicken a different texture. BTW potato flour and potato starch are not the same thing. Potato flour is dried ground potatoes, potato starch is just the starch of the potato.


      Marc Matsumoto
      http://norecipes.com
      Twitter: @norecipes

  • Angel Stillions

    So I was reading the comments…and saw a link to Japanese potato salad. It didnt work :( Do you have another good link or recipe for it? I make bento for my husband and I to take to school! It would be awesome to add that to my list of sides! And of course the Kaarage recipe was excellent!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Angel, you just need to take the end parenthesis of the end of the URL (the commenting software isn’t smart enough to figure out it’s not part of the URL. Here’s the link again without the parens: http://www.pbs.org/food/fresh-tastes/japanese-potato-salad/

      • Angel Stillions

        Thank you ^_^

  • Kaevin

    Hi, i just wanted to know if we can replace the Sake with something else? any suggestions?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      The sake is there for flavor, since there’s really nothing that’s similar in flavor to sake, water would be the best substitute.

      Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

  • Mica M

    Made this recipe before. Excellent. Could I leave out the sake and sugar when using mirin?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yep, that should be fine.

      • Mica M

        Thanks for the quick respond. I’ll do that then. Regards, Michiko

  • Jags

    is it okay if i use wine or rum replacing sake?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Wine and rum both taste quite different from sake. They’ll certainly work, but if you want something more neutral without the rum flavor or the acidity of wine it would probably be best to use water.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Wine and rum both taste quite different from sake. They’ll certainly work, but if you want something more neutral without the rum flavor or the acidity of wine it would probably be best to use water.

      • Jags

        thank you for the quick respond.

  • Zulita Linares

    Hey Marc!

    I tried making this but I feel like I put on too much coating in the beginning and then too little towards the end of the batch. They all ended up coming out burnt looking with frosty white spots, my roommate said they looked like crushed oreos! I know the main issue was the fact that I didn’t use a thermometer and just kinda eyeballed it. Should I just be more mindful of the frying temp and just kinda wing it when it comes to the coating?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Zulita, some white speckles and dark areas are perfectly normal. Potato starch fries up differently than flour or cornstarch, so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. As for the dark areas, because there’s some sugar in the marinade, it’s inevitable that some areas will end up looking a little darker than others. You can minimize this by lowering the temperature of your frying oil, but as long as it doesn’t taste burt, I wouldn’t be too alarmed.

  • Eric Cabato

    Hi! Can i use cornstarch instead of potato starch?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Eric, you can use cornstarch, but it will give you a very different texture. More crunchy than crispy. — Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

  • Netso46

    Made this tonight & it was outstanding!! Changed it a little bit, by adding a little sugar & sesame seed oil, but OMG, so delicious. Had stir fried green beans, a few basil spaghetti noodles & chili sauce-yum, yum. Will definitely keep this for my favorites. Thanks for a great recipe!!!

  • Harwin

    Looks like a great recipe. Just need to see if my local supermarket carries sake and potato starch. Would the left overs making a good filling for onigiri?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Harwin, if you’re in the US, the biggest brand that makes potato starch is Bob’s Red Mill. They usually carry it at high end supermarkets like Whole Foods. As for Onigiri stuffing, I’ve never tried it but it sounds like an awesome idea!

  • Hạnh Hanna

    my mother made it for last dinner at very first time and it was awesome, my Japanese bosses love it so much :D

  • Dom Bradley

    Replace the potato starch with almond meal + parmesan, and omit sugar from the marinade, and you get a fantastic Atkin’s/Keto/Paleo meal

  • jo

    After I fried the chicken it had a white powder on it? What is that? How do I make it go away?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Jo, if you used potato starch, this is quite normal (you can see in the first photo there are white areas). There’s nothing wrong with it, but if it bugs you, you can just coat each piece with less starch the next time you make it.

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