Kakiage Vegetable Tempura (かき揚げ)
Kakiage is a type of vegetable tempura made by mixing the ingredients together with tempura batter and frying the mixture into crispy fritters. When made well, it should be crisp and light with a thin coating of batter holding a colorful assortment of vegetables together.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Instead of making the batter separately and mixing it together, I toss the vegetables in flour and then add the liquid. This one-step process prevents overmixing.
- Using cold club soda aerates the batter while limiting the development of gluten. This gives the Kakiage a light crispy texture.
- Shaping the fritters on a spatula prevents the batter from pooling and creates a delicate lattice of lightly coated vegetables.
Ingredients for Kakiage Tempura
- Vegetables – I like to use onions, plus a colorful mix of seasonal vegetables to make my Kakiage. The onions provide a wonderful natural sweetness when fried, and the other vegetables give it a fun mix of textures, tastes, and colors. Since it’s summer right now, I used carrots and green beans, but I also like to use veggies like burdock, sweet potatoes, or kabocha in the fall.
- Mushrooms – Since this Vegetable Kakiage doesn’t include any seafood, I usually like to add some flavorful mushrooms to boost umami. I used maitake mushrooms for this recipe, but other umami-packed mushrooms such as enoki, shiitake, or porcini work well.
- Cake flour – Gluten forms when glutenin molecules link together with gliadin in the presence of water to form a viscoelastic matrix. Put another way, when you add water to flour and agitate it, it makes it stretchy and chewy. This is good for bread and noodles, but these aren’t characteristics you want for tempura. That’s why you want to use a low-protein flour like cake flour as it’s going to have less glutenin and gliadin. All-purpose flour will work in a pinch, but you really need to be careful not to over mix it, or it will get tough.
- Club Soda – I recommend using cold carbonated water to make tempura batter because of the aeration it provides. If you don’t have any, regular water will work as well, but be sure the water is ice cold, as low temperatures inhibit the development of gluten in the flour.
How to Make Vegetable Kakiage Tempura
Once the batter is mixed, you need to fry it immediately, so start by adding one and a half to two inches of vegetable oil to a heavy-bottomed pot. Make sure the pot is deep enough so the oil doesn’t go over halfway up the sides. Preheat the oil to 355 degrees F, or 180 C.
Line a wire rack with a few sheets of paper towel to drain the fried tempura.
Add all of the vegetables to a bowl and then mix in the cake flour to coat the vegetables while breaking up any clumps of onion.
When the oil is up to temperature, measure the club soda and pour it over the vegetables and flour. Stir everything together to make a batter, but do not overmix it. It’s okay if there are some lumps of flour left.
Shape the tempura-batter coated vegetables into a patty on a wide spatula. I usually find it helpful to scoop some of the mixture onto the spatula and then use chopsticks to stack some vegetables on top.
Lower the kakiage into the hot oil using the spatula and then use chopsticks or a second spatula to scrape the vegetables off of the first spatula. Make additional fritters until you run out of room in the pot.
Fry the vegetable tempura until it’s crisp enough on one side to flip it over. Continue frying it until the other side is crispy. This took about 5 minutes in total for me.
When the kakiage is done, let it drain well as you pull it out of the oil with tongs, and then place each fritter on the paper towel-lined rack to continue draining.
To serve the kakiage, line a plate with a folded sheet of paper or a paper towel. Place the fritters on top of the paper. I like serving vegetable kakiage with salt and lemon wedges, but you can also serve it with tentsuyu.
Other Fried Recipes
Kakiage (かき揚げ) is a type of tempura, and the name translates to “mixed and fried.” Thus, the name refers to how the ingredients are mixed together with the tempura batter before being fried. In contrast, tempura is usually made by dipping individual ingredients into the batter.
Kakiage is a four-syllable word and is pronounced as follows:
ka like copy
ki like key
a like all
ge like get
This Vegetable Kakiage recipe is plant-based; however, Kakiage can be made with vegetables, mushrooms, or seafood. Additionally, some batters call for the addition of egg, so if you are not making it yourself, be sure to ask what the ingredients are.
Colorful low moisture vegetables tend to work best for kakiage. This includes root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, burdock, and carrots, as well as winter squashes such as butternut or kabocha. Onions are a great addition because they provide a satisfying natural sweetness and tons of flavor. Since this doesn’t have any seafood, I also like to add mushrooms to the mix for a boost in umami. Legumes such as green beans, navy beans, long beans, or fava beans (peeled and shelled) are great for adding a splash of color. Finally, you can add a small amount of herbs or leafy greens such as parsley, basil, or spinach for color and flavor, but don’t make these the main ingredient as they contain a lot of water and will spatter.
The key to a light and crispy kakiage (or any tempura) is to minimize gluten formation in the batter, which can make tempura dense and tough. Using cake flour reduces the amount of gluten-forming proteins in the flour, which is a good start. Then you want to inhibit the production of gluten by keeping everything cold and mixing the batter as little as possible.
Greasy tempura is almost always caused by the temperature of the oil being too low. As food fries, the water in the food turns to vapor and evaporates. This leaves little pockets of air, which is what gives fried food its crispy texture. As long as the oil is hot enough to instantly vaporize the water it comes into contact with, the pressure of the vapor exiting the food keeps the oil from seeping into the empty pockets. The other reason tempura can get greasy is if it’s not drained properly. The moment you remove the kakiage from the oil, the temperature starts to drop, and it gives any oil clinging to the exterior a chance to soak into the food. The key is to quickly drain off as much oil from the surface of the tempura as possible and then immediately transfer it to a paper-towel-lined rack. The paper towels will soak up any extra oil on the surface of the kakiage, while the rack allows any steam from the kakiage to dissipate, which keeps it from getting soggy.
Kakiage can be eaten as is, sprinkled with a little sea salt, or dipped in tentsuyu. I prefer the sea salt route because it lets you enjoy the crispness of the tempura batter, but if you want to have a dipping sauce, make my mentsuyu recipe and dilute it with water. Kakiage is also served in a bunch of other ways, such as a topping for udon or soba, served over a bowl of rice and drizzled with a savory-sweet sauce to make kakiagedon, served over rice and submerged with dashi to make kakiagechazuke, or stuffed into a bun to make kakiagesando.
Vegetable oil (for frying)
onions (~1/2 onion, peeled & sliced)
green beans (trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths)
carrots (1/2 carrot, julienned)
maitake mushroom (shredded)
cake flour (scant 2/3 cup)
club soda (cold)
Sea salt (for serving)
lemon (cut into wedges for garnish)
Add 1.5 to 2-inches of vegetable oil into a deep, heavy-bottomed pot and preheat to 355 degrees F (180 C). Prepare a wire rack by lining it with a few layers of paper towels.
Add the onions, green beans, carrots, maitake mushrooms, and cake flour to a bowl and toss the vegetables in the flour.
When the oil is ready. Add the club soda to the vegetables and stir using a folding motion with chopsticks to distribute the flour into the water. It should be barely mixed, and a few lumps of unmixed flour is okay.
Scoop up some veggies and batter onto a wide spatula and shape it into a patty.
Dunk the whole spatula into the oil and use chopsticks or another spatula to slide the vegetables into the oil. Repeat to make additional fritters.
Fry the Kakiage until it’s crisp on one side, and then flip it over and crisp the second side (it should take about 5 minutes in total).
Drain the tempura well as you remove it from the oil, and then transfer it to your prepared rack.
Serve on a sheet of paper, along with a side of salt and a wedge of lemon.