Tonjiru (Butajiru)

While most of the world knows Japan for only one soup, there’s more to the Japanese soup repertoire than miso soup. Tonjiru (豚汁), which is also sometimes called Butajiru, literally means “pork soup” and is a mainstay at the dinner table during the frigid months of winter. To make the preparation fast, the pork is usually sliced thin and the vegetables are chopped small. For my version I’ve turned it into a stew, with big chunks of pork belly, konnyaku, carrot, and taro.

Burdock is full of fiber and is a great source of iron and other minerals, but it also adds a wonderful earthy flavor that compliments the pork. Once peeled, it tends to oxidize very quickly, so you need to quickly get it into a bowl of cold water that’s been acidified.

While I love having rich, tender chunks of pork belly in this stew, you can use a slightly leaner cut such as spare ribs or pork shoulder. Please don’t ruin a perfectly good loin by using it in a stew. Long cooking times work in favor of tougher fattier cuts of meat, turning the sinewy connective tissues into silky collagen and rendering out the excess fat. Because leaner cuts of meat are short on fat and collagen, they start out tender, but quickly turn into tough dry nuggets with a texture akin to damp dryer lint.

For those of you that don’t eat pork, you could substitute chicken thigh meat for the pork. Since chicken takes less time to become tender than pork, you can also cut out the 40 minutes of simmering time, adding all the vegetables in with the water. For vegans, there’s a similar soup called Kenchinjiru you might want to try.

Equipment you'll need:

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    Votes: 4
    Rating: 2.5
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  • Tonjiru (豚汁), also known called butajiru, literally means "pork soup", made with pork, miso and root vegetables, it's a hearty stew perfect for winter.
ServingsPrep TimeCook Time
4 15 minutes 80 minutes




  1. Put the pork belly into a cold pan, and turn on the heat to medium. The pork should release some fat as the pan heats up so you shouldn't need to add any oil. Once some oil has rendered out, add the white parts of the scallions and ginger and fry until the surface of the pork is cooked and a brown crust has formed on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Turn up the heat to high and then add the sake. Use the liquid to scrape up the brown fond on the bottom of the pan, and boil until there's almost no liquid left.
  3. Add the water and kombu, and then bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that accumulates at the surface until there's no more foam accumulating.
  4. Cover with a lid and turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, fill a bowl with cold water, then add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Working quickly, peel the burdock, then use a sharp knife to whittle away chips of burdock as you rotate the root with your other hand.
  6. Remove the kombu and ginger. Skim off as much excess fat as you can. Drain the burdock and add it to the tonjiru along with the carrots, konnyaku and taro.
  7. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Turn down the heat to low, then add the miso. Because the salinity of miso varies by brand, taste the soup and add more miso if it needs more salt.
  8. Add the green parts of the scallions, and serve.
  • kencanau

    Enn…, It seems konnyaku is not mentioned in the procedures, or did I miss it?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Nope, my bad, it’s fixed now. It goes in with the other veggies.

  • Denise

    Looks like a recipe I’d love to try, and having just learned what konnyaku is I’m excited to work with that ingredient, too. But I’ve read and re-read the recipe and can’t tell where you put itin. And I see when I look up the ingredient thatitcomes in lump (?) form and noodle form (which isee is called by another name, can you clarify, please?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Sorry about that, it’s fixed now it goes in with the carrots and taro. In lump it’s alled konnyaku, in noodle form it’s alled shirataki (literally “white waterfall”) it’s also sometimes called ito-konnyaku (string konnyaku). In the US, House brand makes a “pastas” by mixing the konnyaku with soy milk (to make it creamy white) and sell it under various pasta names (angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccine, and macaroni)

      • Denise

        Thank you so much! So I’m still wondering If you use the lump or pasta form of the konnyaku? I’ve never used this product before so don’t know it’s qualities. In lump form does it dissolve into the broth? Or if you are using the noodle form is it sturdy enough to hold up to cooking as long as the taro and carrots cook?

        • Marc Matsumoto

          Hi Denise, sorry I misunderstood your question. Usually when you see it refereed to just “konnyaku” it’s referring to the lump form. If a recipe were calling for the pasta form it would say “shirataki” or “ito-konnyaku” (at least that’s the case in all my recipes). As for holding up, konnyaku is made from mostly water with a water-soluble fiber called Glucomannan extracted from a Voodoo Lily tuber. Once it’s been processed, it won’t absorb any more water, and so it will not dissolve as you cook it. If anything, it gets firmer the longer you cook it.


    Soups are my favorite during the winter! Yours looks so comforting!

  • Kelli

    Marc, thank you so much for this delicious tonjiru recipe. Made it for dinner tonight, and it was so enjoyable in this cool weather and perfectly flavored. My 3 year old gobbled it up and so did I. Keep up the good work!

  • Akemi Spendlove

    I love this dish. We called it butajiru and little bit different than way I make but I really like to try yours. Awesome pictures always. A happy New Years!

  • Yogicfoodie

    Hi Marc,
    I plan to make this in three days. All the ingredients are ready except the pork belly.
    I usually ask my butcher to remove the skin for pork belly for me. Would that be ok or
    to ensure the flaver, do you recommend keeping the skin intact? Thank you!
    I’m so thrilled to try this recipe!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Have the butcher remove the skin and trim any excessive fat off . While some dishes work better with more fat and collagen, you drink the soup in this one, so too much and it will be too rich. 30/60 fat to meat would be a good ratio.

      • Yogicfoodie

        Thank you So much for the reply! So when I cook the soup, I DO NOT put the trimmed excessive fat and skin, correct?

        I am gonna get this one DOWN~~~! Oh, did I tell you that I make your
        tonkotsu ramen on regular basis? Yes, it’s so time consuming.. I usually devide it up to three days and quadruple the batch and freeze the base, but can’t live without it. My toddlers and husband thank you and so do I!!

        • Marc Matsumoto

          Yep, don’t use the skin and excess fat for this dish. You can save the skin and make Chicharrón with it if you want.

  • Yogicfoodie

    Hi Marc,

    As always, your recipes are so SUPER! Everyone loved it and it was so belly warming for all of us cold sufferers. I doubled the recipe and it worked out great.

    All the grown-ups couldn’t believe how light it tasted, even though having pork belly as the base. Kids loved sweet carrots and creamy taro. I did go heavy on taro since we all love it.

    A question:

    How can I bulk up the broth portion without having to double up on the rest of the ingredients… That’s w/o compromising the depth of flavor?

    Thank you as always!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Since the broth get’s it’s flavor from the other ingredients, just adding more water will water down the broth. If you want more broth without compromising the flavor you’re going to need to increase the amount
      of pork, scallions, ginger, kombu, burdock, carrot and miso proportionally.


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!