Cheap yet satisfying, Korokke is both literally and figuratively a meat and potatoes dish that's long been a staple of Japanese home cooking. Growing up, my mom used to make her version of these potato croquettes with ground beef, onions, and canned corn, and the smell of the meat and onions always drew me out of my room to give the filling a taste.
You can read more about the history of Korokke in the FAQ below, but in short, the dish evolved from European Croquettes substituting mashed potatoes for bechamel because dairy products weren't widely available in Japan at the time of the dish's introduction in the late 19th century. These days, Korokke ranks up along with tonkatsu and curry rice in terms of Japan's most popular Western-style dishes.
I've used a few culinary techniques I've learned over my years in the kitchen to make the filling velvety smooth and creamy with enough flavor to be eaten with a side of rice or stuffed into a roll to make a Korokke Sando.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- Boiling the potatoes with the skin on prevents them from absorbing too much water as they cook.
- Cutting the pork into a mince by hand provides a better texture than ground pork.
- The starch-thickened gravy helps emulsify the pork fat into the potato mixture, adding a creamy richness and flavor to the filling without making it greasy.
- Refrigerating the filling mixture overnight allows all of the flavors to meld while firming the mixture up so that it's easier to shape and handle. I recommend splitting the recipe into 2 parts and preparing the filling one day and then shaping, breading, and frying the Korokke the next day.
Ingredients for Korokke
- Pork - Korokke is typically made with a mixture of ground beef and pork, but I prefer to hand-mince a fatty cut of pork like pork shoulder or a lean pork belly. This provides a ton of umami for the filling while enriching the potato with fat in a similar way to how adding butter or sour cream to mashed potatoes makes them creamier. Skin-on chicken thighs or boneless beef shortribs should also work, and you can check the FAQ below for suggested substitutions to make a vegan Korokke.
- Potato - To get the best texture, it's important to use a starchy low-moisture potato like Russet potatoes or Yukon Gold. I don't recommend waxy high, moisture potatoes like New potatoes or Red Bliss.
- Oyster sauce - Seasoning the pork with oyster sauce infuses it with loads of umami and a mild sweetness.
- Onion - Caramelized onions add a ton of flavor to the filling, but other members of the allium family, like leeks or scallions, could also work here.
- Potato starch - The starch helps emulsify the fat that renders out of the meat with the stock to make a paste that integrates smoothly with the mashed potato. This makes the filling ultra-creamy and flavorful.
- Chicken stock - Chicken stock not only adds umami to the filling but also provides a liquid that keeps the filling from getting dry and pasty. I used chicken stock because it's the easiest to find, but other types of stock would also work.
- White pepper - White pepper is one of those things that people tend to love or hate, so if you're in the latter camp, black pepper would be fine.
- Nutmeg - Nutmeg is a standard ingredient in bechamel-based croquettes, but it's also a delicious way to add some more depth to potato Korokke. I recommend grating whole nutmeg freshly with a Microplane to get the best flavor.
- Breading - The combination of flour and egg act as a glue to bind the panko to the surface of the Korokke. Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb made from crustless sandwich bread. It tends to create a lighter, more crispy coating than Western-style bread crumbs. If you can't find it, you can make your own by cutting the crusts off of sandwich bread and pulsing it in a food processor until you have crumbs about ⅛-1/14 inch in size.
How to Make Korokke (Potato Croquette)
The first thing you need to do is boil potatoes whole. Make sure you scrub them well to remove any dirt, and add them to a pot before covering them with a few inches of water. Next, cover the pot with a lid and bring the water to a boil. Once it's boiling, you can remove the lid and turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer; this keeps them from falling apart. Depending on the size of the spuds, they may take anywhere from thirty to forty minutes to cook through.
For the pork, you want to mince it up by hand. I usually slice the block into ⅛-inch thick slices and then cut the pieces into ⅛-inch wide strips. Then you can turn the strips 90° and cut them into small cubes. Mix the oyster sauce into the pork to season it.
To make the gravy, add the potato starch, chicken stock, salt, and white pepper to a bowl, and use a Microplane to grate in about ⅛ of a teaspoon of nutmeg. Ground nutmeg will work, but I find the fragrance is always better when it's freshly grated. Whisk the ingredients together until the starch has evenly dispersed
When the potatoes are done, remove them from the water and mash them. I usually just toss them into the hopper of a potato ricer. This makes it easy because you don't need to peel them first, and it does a great job of mashing them smoothly. If you don't have one, you can wait for them to cool enough to handle and peel them before using a potato masher or fork to mash them up.
To make the filling, saute the onions in a tablespoon of oil for about four minutes or until they start to brown. Add the minced pork and continue sauteing until the meat starts to brown around the edges (another 4-5 minutes). Stir the gravy mixture again and pour it into the pan. It will thicken into a paste quickly, so mix it into the pork and onions as fast as possible.
Fold in the mashed potatoes until the mixture is uniform in color. Then you want to dump the mixture into a tray and flatten it out. Next, cover the surface of the mixture with parchment paper to keep it from drying out and let it come down to room temperature. Then you want to cover the tray and refrigerate it overnight to give the flavors a chance to mingle.
To fry the potato croquettes, heat 2-inches of vegetable oil in a high-sided pot to 320°F (160°C) and line a wire rack with a few sheets of paper towels.
Divide the rested potato mixture into eight to twelve equally sized blocks using a pastry knife. Then you want to shape each block into a round or oval patty that's no thicker than one inch. Next, slap the patties back and forth between your hands to get rid of any air pockets or cracks in the Korokke, which can cause them to burst when you fry them.
To bread the Korokke, prepare a bowl of flour, a bowl with a beaten egg, and a tray or shallow bowl with the panko breadcrumbs.
The first thing you want to do is dust all of the patties with a thin, even layer of flour.
Next, you want to coat one patty with an even layer of egg with one hand. Then you can transfer it to the panko and switch hands to cover it with the breadcrumbs. I usually like to scoop panko onto the patty and use a gentle squeezing and patting motion to ensure you have good adhesion of the panko with the patty. Repeat these steps for the rest of the potato patties.
Once the oil is up to temperature, carefully lower the Korokke into the oil and deep fry them in batches until they're golden brown and crisp (about 6 minutes). Be sure to flip them over periodically so that they brown evenly.
Drain the potato croquettes well as you take them out of the oil and then transfer them onto the prepared cooling rack to continue draining.
Other Yoshoku Recipes
Korokke (コロッケ) is the Japanese transliteration of the French word Croquette. It refers to a class of yōshoku (Western-style food) dishes made by breading and deep frying a starch-based dumpling. When Croquettes were first introduced to Japan in the 1870s, dairy products such as milk and butter were not widely available, so mashed potatoes were substituted for the bechamel filling traditionally used in European versions of the dish.
The first written reference I could find for these Japanese potato croquettes was in a book published around 1888 called "Simple Cooking Methods of Western Cuisine" (軽便西洋料理法指南 - Keiben Seiyō Ryōri-hō Shinan). You can see the title page and recipe below.
According to this book, there were two ways of preparing Korokke at the time. One method uses a mix of minced meat that's breaded and fried like what is now known as menchikatsu. The other method is a potato croquette filled with mashed potatoes, onions, and minced meat.
Nowadays, there is a wide variety of Korokke, but the two major categories are potato croquettes known simply as "Korokke" and bechamel-based croquettes, known as "cream Korokke."
Korokke is a 3-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
ko like corner
ro the “ro” sound does not exist in the English language, and the best way to make it is to say the word "roll" with the tip of your tongue at the front of your mouth.
' The ッ in Korokke is a glottal stop, which means there is an unvoiced portion of the word where you pause for a beat.
ke like kept
This recipe is not vegan; however, it can easily be converted into a vegan and vegetarian friendly Korokke by substituting minced mushrooms for the pork shoulder and vegetable stock for the chicken stock. You'll also need to find a plant-based oyster sauce or substitute 2 teaspoons of soy sauce + 1 teaspoon of sugar.
I recommend preparing the filling the day before you plan to eat the Korokke. If you want to make them further in advance, you can prepare the filling, shape, and bread them. These can then be frozen on a sheet pan. Once fully frozen, they can be packed in a container and stored in the freezer for up to a month. If you plan on freezing them, I recommend making 12 smaller Korokke so that they heat up properly when you fry them. One final possibility is to prepare the Korokke all the way through the frying step. These will keep for a few days in the refrigerator and while they won't be quite as nice as a freshly fried batch, they can be reheated in the oven to crisp.
This Korokke recipe has enough seasoning and flavor to be served without a sauce, but it goes well with any sweet and tangy sauce, such as chunou sauce, tonkatsu sauce, or okonomiyaki sauce. It's also nice with something tangier like Worcestershire sauce or simply a squeeze of lemon.
for Korokke filling
- 320 grams pork shoulder
- 500 grams potatoes
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 120 grams onion (1 small onion, minced)
- 1 tablespoon potato starch (about 11 grams)
- 60 ml low sodium chicken stock
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
for breading Korokke
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 100 grams fresh Panko
- vegetable oil (for frying)
- Thoroughly wash and scrub the potatoes to remove any dirt or debris. Add the potatoes to a pot and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a full boil, remove the lid and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook the potatoes until a skewer can easily be passed through them (about 30-40 minutes).
- Slice the pork into thin slices with a knife and then cut the slices into strips.
- Turn the strips 90 degrees and mince the pork into pieces that are about ⅛-inch in size. Mix the pork with the oyster sauce to marinate.
- Add the potato starch, chicken stock, salt, and white pepper into a bowl, and then grate in some nutmeg with a Microplane (you're aiming for 1/16-⅛ teaspoon). Stir until the starch is evenly dispersed.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the water and let them cool enough to handle. You can peel them and mash them using a potato masher or fork, but I prefer a potato ricer, which eliminates the need to peel them.
- Add the oil and onions to a frying pan over medium heat and saute until the onions start to brown (~4-5 minutes).
- Add the minced pork and then stir-fry until the pork begins to brown and a good amount of fat has rendered out (~4-5 minutes).
- Give the stock and starch mixture a stir to redistribute and pour it into the pork and onions. Stir aggressively until it forms a paste.
- Add the mashed potatoes and fold the mixture together until uniform in color and texture.
- Dump the potato mixture into a tray and flatten it out. Cover the mixture directly with parchment paper to keep it from drying out, and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the tray with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
- When you're ready to fry the Korokke, heat 2-inches of oil in a pot with high sides to 320°F (160°C). Prepare a cooling rack lined with 3-4 sheets of paper towels.
- Use a pastry knife to divide the potato filling into 8-12 blocks.
- Scoop each block out and use your hands to shape them into patties that are no thicker than an inch. Be sure to get rid of any air pockets or cracks; otherwise, the Korokke will explode when you fry them.
- Roll the potato patties in the flour to create a thin, even coating, and then pat them between your hands to remove any excess flour.
- Add the panko into a tray or bowl, and then beat the egg in a bowl until it is uniform in color.
- Use one hand to dip and roll each potato patty in the egg to give it a uniform coating and then transfer it to the panko.
- Use your other hand to scoop the panko on top of the potato croquette and gently pat and squeeze the panko into the patty to get it to adhere. Repeat with the rest of the patties.
- To fry the Korokke, gently lower them into the preheated oil and fry them, flipping them over every 2 minutes until they are golden brown and crisp (this should take about 6 minutes).
- Drain the Korokke on the paper towel lined rack and serve while hot with a bed of shredded cabbage and sauce (tonkatsu, okonomiyaki, chunou, or Worcestershire sauce all work).