Furikake is a beloved Japanese condiment that's traditionally sprinkled on top of cooked rice to season it. The name literally means "sprinkled over," and its concentrated umami-rich flavor makes it well suited for topping much more than rice.
While it's used primarily as a seasoning these days, Furikake originated as a nutritional supplement for rice, to combat malnourishment. Unfortunately, today's mass-produced Furikake is loaded with coloring agents and additives. Making it home makes it possible to make one that tastes good and isn't terrible for you.
Why This Recipe Works
- The combination of umami-packed ingredients such as dried fish and seaweed with soy sauce and sake creates an ultra-savory condiment that makes almost anything you add it to, taste better.
- Drying the furikake in the oven makes the furikake crispy, which gives it a great texture; it also increases its shelf-life so that it will keep for weeks in a sealed container at room temperature.
- Adding salt in addition to the soy sauce reduces the amount of liquid, which speeds up drying time.
- Dried fish - Dried fish, is the base for most furikake, and the most common addition is Katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is skip-jack tuna that has been steamed, smoked, dried, and fermented. The resulting block is then planed into paper-thin shavings. The process naturally multiples the umami-producing compound inosine monophosphate, which is responsible for its good taste. You should be able to find katsuobushi at Japanese grocery stores or online on sites like Amazon. Niboshi or dried baby sardines are also sometimes used for making Furikake.
- Seeds - Sesame seeds are the most common seed to add to furikake, but I've seen furikake using shiso seeds or unhulled hemp seeds. You could also go with something less traditional by using things such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or even chopped nuts.
- Seaweed - Furikake usually includes some kind of sea vegetable such as nori, wakame, or konbu. Assuming they are already dehydrated, I generally add these at the end after the Furikake has had a chance to cool as they burn easily.
- Color - The base ingredients for furikake are mostly earth tones, so it is common to add colorful ingredients to brighten it up. Manufactured furikake include things like eggs, carrots, and leafy greens, but when you make it at home, it is pretty tricky to get denser ingredients like eggs and carrots to dry sufficiently in the oven. That's why I've added spinach, removing the thick center stem. If you want to add other vegetables, you can use dehydrated or freeze-dried vegetable flakes and add them in at the end.
- Seasoning - Because furikake is intended to season other foods, it should have a concentrated taste. It's typically seasoned with a mixture of soy sauce, sake, and sugar with a little more soy sauce than the other ingredients. Since adding more liquid means a longer drying time, I've augmented the soy sauce with a bit of salt instead.
How to Make Furikake
Make the seasoning for furikake by stirring the soy sauce, sake, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl until everything is completely dissolved. If you get impatient, you can microwave the mixture for a few seconds, speeding things up.
Wash and thoroughly dry the spinach. The center stem is too thick to dehydrate properly, so it is best to trim this out. Stack the leaves in the same direction and then slice them into ⅛-inch strips. Turn the strips 90 degrees and chop them into squares.
Add the katsuobushi, sesame seeds, and spinach to a large bowl and stir the ingredients together so that they are evenly distributed.
Drizzle the sauce mixture over the dry ingredients evenly. Pouring too much in one area will cause the dry ingredients to clump together, and it will be difficult to mix. Use chopsticks to mix the ingredients together until the moisture is evenly distributed.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and then spread the Furikake mixture evenly over the surface using chopsticks to rake it around so that it does not clump together.
Put the sheet pan in the oven and set it to 250 degrees F (120 C). The idea here is to dehydrate rather than cook the furikake, so you want to go low and slow, or the sugar in the furikake will burn.
After about 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and stir it to break up any large clusters and redistribute everything.
Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, or until the Furikake is fully crisp and there are no damp pieces.
Let the Furikake cool on a wire rack until it comes to room temperature and then use kitchen scissors to shred the nori on top.
Store the furikake in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.
Japanese Condiment Recipes
Furikake is a savory-sweet condiment that was originally intended to be sprinkled over rice to season it. These days it is used as a seasoning for foods ranging from potato chips to pasta to buttered toast.
Fu-ri-ka-ke has four syllables and each one is pronounced as follows:
1) fu like fool
2) ri like real
3) ka like copy
4) ke like kept
Although furikake is traditionally used to season rice, it is an all-purpose seasoning that can be tossed on salads, mixed with steamed vegetables, added to sauces and soups, and sprinkled on popcorn or french fries.
Assuming your furikake has been fully dehydrated and stored in a sealed container in a dry place, it should keep for weeks. If you live in a humid area, you may want to place a desiccant packet in your storage container.
- In a small bowl, stir the soy sauce, sake, sugar, and salt together until the sugar is mostly dissolved. If you get impatient, you can pop the sauce in the microwave for a few seconds to speed things up.
- To prepare the spinach, wash and dry each leaf thoroughly. Trim out the thick stem in the center and then stack and dice the leaves into ⅛-inch (3mm) pieces.
- Add the sesame seeds, katsuobushi, and spinach to a bowl and stir to combine.
- Drizzle the sauce over the mixture evenly and then stir everything together until the sauce is evenly distributed.
- Dump the furikake onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet spread it into an even layer.
- Put the Furikake in the oven and set the oven to 250 F (120 C) and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and use chopsticks to stir the mixture and break up any large clusters.
- Put the pan back in the oven and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the Furikake is completely crisp and has no damp pieces.
- Let the Furikake cool to room temperature and use scissors to shred the nori on top.