Okonomiyaki Osaka-Style (関西風お好み焼き)
Okonomiyaki means “griddled as you like it,” and it’s a savory cabbage pancake that can be customized to your liking with various mix-ins and toppings. It’s a satisfying meal loaded with veggies that can be thrown together from just about anything, making it a great way to use leftovers and bits and bobs from the fridge.
Okonomiyaki is broadly divided into two styles: Osaka (Kansai) and Hiroshima. I’m focusing on the former in this recipe, with a batter that includes cabbage, scallions, and tempura flakes topped with a layer of crispy pork belly.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- Using dashi instead of water makes for a flavorful and umami-rich Okonomiyaki.
- Weaving the pork belly gives this a thick, crispy layer of delicious pork on top and prevents the individual slices from falling off from the pancake when you flip it.
- Slowly cooking this savory Japanese pancake over low heat ensures the cabbage ends up tender and sweet while the pork on the outside gets nice and crispy.
- Date syrup and a small amount of curry powder add subtle caramel and spice notes that take the homemade okonomiyaki sauce to a whole new level.
Ingredients for Okonomiyaki Batter
- Eggs – Eggs provide the leavening for the batter while giving the Okonomiyaki a moist, tender texture. Because this recipe doesn’t use yamaimo, I’ve doubled the amount of egg.
- Flour – The standard wheat flour in Japan, called hakurikiko (薄力粉), has a much lower gluten content of 7-9%, closer to cake flour or pastry flour than all-purpose flour. This makes for a lighter and more tender pancake; however, it’s possible to make Okonomiyaki with all-purpose flour if you use cold ingredients and are very careful not to overmix it.
- Dashi – Dashi is a Japanese soup stock typically made from konbu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dried, smoked, and fermented skipjack tuna flakes). Check out this post on homemade dashi for everything you need to know about this. If for some reason, you can’t find the ingredients to make it, you can substitute vegetable or chicken stock or use water instead.
- Cabbage – Cabbage makes up most of the bulk of this savory Japanese pancake, and it’s a defining ingredient of Okonomiyaki.
- Scallions – Since cabbage doesn’t have a ton of flavor, a generous amount of chopped green onions contribute a ton of flavor to the pancakes. You can also use other members of the allium family, such as chives, onions, or garlic scapes.
- Tenkasu (optional) – Tenkasu are the little flakes of loose tempura batter you end up with when you make tempura. I usually skim these off and store them in my freezer for recipes like this. They don’t stay crispy in the Okonomiyaki but add a nice flavor to the batter.
- Yamaimo (optional, not included) – Yamaimo (sometimes called nagaimo) is a type of yam with a thick mucilaginous texture and is a traditional ingredient for Okonomiyaki. I’ve omitted it from this recipe because it can be difficult to find outside of Japan, but if you can find it, you can puree 1/4 to 1/2 cup of yamaimo on the rasp side of a box grater and substitute it for one of the eggs.
- Other ingredients – As the name implies, Okonomiyaki is meant to be customized with ingredients you like, kinda like a Japanese pizza. These can be seafood like shrimp, octopus, or squid; proteins like bacon, sausage, or cheese; vegetables like carrots, celery, or squash; mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, or shimeji; or herbs like shiso, basil, or thyme. Get creative here and work with what you have in the fridge.
Topping for Okonomiyaki
- Pork belly – The pork belly technically isn’t a topping, but because it’s optional and cooked on top of the pancake, I’ve thrown it in with the toppings. It’s essential to use very thinly sliced pork belly here (sliced for hot pot), or it will end up greasy and chewy. You can also use bacon, but be aware that it will increase the amount of salt in your Okonomiyaki.
- Okonomiyaki sauce – The traditional sauce used to top Okonomiyaki is a sweet, savory, tangy, and spicy fruit sauce similar to tonkatsu sauce but a little thicker. While this is the only traditional sauce used to top Okonomiyaki, this is another area you could get creative, and I’ve used everything from a cheesy bechamel to BBQ sauce as a topping.
- Aonori – Aonori means “green nori” in Japanese. It’s a specific type of seaweed with an emerald green color and a strong aroma that smells like a fresh ocean breeze.
- Mayonnaise – Japanese mayonnaise tastes tangier and more umami-rich than Western mayo. It also tends to come in squeeze bottles with a narrow tip, making it perfect for decorating Okonomiyaki.
- Katsuobushi – Katsuobushi are the thin tan flakes you often see dancing atop a piping hot okonomiyaki. They’re made from skipjack tuna (sometimes mislabelled “bonito flakes”) that’s been dried, smoked, and fermented, which increases the fish’s amino acid and nucleic acid content while turning it into a thick block that’s as hard as wood. These blocks are then shaved paper-thin on a plane. The smoky-umami packed flakes are used in both the dashi in the batter as well as for topping the pancake.
- Benishoga – Benishoga literally means “red ginger,” and it’s a pickle made by soaking young ginger in ume vinegar, which traditionally gets its vibrant magenta hue from red shiso leaves.
- Other toppings – Like the mix-ins, you can get creative with the toppings. Some ideas include chopped herbs, scallions, parmesan cheese, kimchi, or mentaiko.
Ingredients for Okonomiyaki Sauce
- Worcestershire sauce – Worcestershire sauce is the backbone of Okonomiyaki sauce, contributing loads of spices and a vinegary tang. I used Lea & Perrins brand.
- Ketchup – Ketchup contributes most of the fruity flavor to this savory pancake sauce while increasing its viscosity.
- Date syrup – Dates are a core component of traditional okonomiyaki sauce, adding sweetness and a marvelous caramel flavor. If you can’t find it, honey or maple syrup will work in a pinch.
- Oyster sauce – The oyster sauce has a nice balance of savory and sweet tastes that adds a ton of umami to our Okonomiyaki sauce while also contributing thickness.
- Curry powder – In Japanese cuisine, there is a concept called kakushiaji, which literally means “hidden taste.” It refers to an ingredient added in such a small quantity that its inclusion is not immediately apparent. Curry powder serves the role here, and the blend of spices adds depth and complexity to the sauce without making it taste like curry.
How to Make Okonomiyaki Sauce
You first want to mix the curry powder with the Worcestershire sauce to moisten the powder; otherwise, you’ll end up with lumps that are hard to incorporate into the sauce.
Then you can combine this with the ketchup, date syrup, and oyster sauce. This sauce can be kept for weeks in the fridge, so you can make a bigger batch. It can be used to season dishes like yakisoba or yaki udon, and it’s also a delicious condiment for fried foods such as tonkatsu.
How to Make Okonomiyaki
The first thing you want to do is shred your cabbage and chop the scallions. For the cabbage, I recommend cutting the whole leaves in half through the center of the stem and then slicing the cabbage into thin ribbons perpendicular to the direction of the stem. This ensures you get the thicker stem sliced nice and thin, so the cabbage cooks through properly.
For the batter, break the eggs into the dashi and whisk the mixture together until it’s uniform in color.
Pour the egg and dashi mixture into the flour and stir until it’s mostly combined and there are no big lumps of flour remaining. You mustn’t overwork the batter, or your Okonomiyaki will become tough and chewy.
Pour the pancake batter over the cabbage, scallions, and tenkasu and stir the ingredients together until they’re evenly coated with the batter.
It’s easier to watch how to make the pork belly weave than to read about it, so check out the video below to see how it’s done. Once you’ve got a woven mat of pork belly, dust the top surface with some flour using a tea strainer.
To cook the cabbage pancake, heat a frying pan, skillet, or griddle over medium-low heat until hot. Drizzle in the oil and spread it around before adding the Okonomiyaki mixture into a pile in the center of the pan.
Next, you want to shape the cabbage mixture by pressing down on the top of the pile while pressing in on the edges as they spread out. Repeat this process going around the circumference of the Okonomiyaki until you have a thick round pancake that’s an even thickness throughout.
Flip the sheet of pork belly onto the top of your Okonomiyaki and center it before peeling away the paper. Tuck any loose flaps of pork under the pancake with a spatula. Reduce the heat to let the Okonomiyaki cook through slowly. This will take about seven to nine minutes, but it’s important to do it slowly, or your pancake will burn outside before the cabbage is cooked through to the center.
When the Okonomiyaki is golden brown on one side and cooked a little over halfway through, you need to flip it over. There are three ways to do this. My recommended method is to use two spatulas on opposite sides of the Okonomiyaki. The second method is to flip a second pre-heated frying pan over the first one and then flip both pans over so you invert the pancake into the second pan. This is pretty dangerous, though, as the pans are hot, and hot oil can leak out between the two pans and burn your forearms. If you use this method, I highly recommend using mitts and covering your arms with towels. The final method is to use the pan and the momentum of the Okonomiyaki to flip it, this takes a lot of practice, and if you mess up, you’ll end up scraping the batter off your stove. This is how I usually do it, but if you want to practice this, I recommend doing it over a clean counter so you can recover the Okonomiyaki if you miss.
Now you want to use your spatulas to press the cabbage down again to eliminate any large air pockets and ensure the pork belly is making good contact with the pan. Cook the Okonomiyaki for another six to seven minutes on the second side. If you aren’t using pork belly, you’ll need to add another tablespoon of oil around the rim of the pan after flipping the pancake.
Once the pork belly has browned and crisped, use wadded-up paper towels and tongs to soak up all of the excess fat that has been rendered out of the pork belly. Depending on how fatty your pork was this could take a few sheets of paper towels to get it all, and I recommend tipping the pan to one side to get it all to pool in one place. This keeps your Okonomiyaki from getting greasy and ensures you don’t splash yourself with hot oil when you flip it over again.
Flip the Okonomiyaki once more to bring the pork belly on top, and then slide the cabbage pancake onto a plate to serve. Spread the Okonomiyaki Sauce all over the top of the Japanese savory pancake and garnish with your choice of toppings.
Other Japanese Street Food Recipes
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) literally means “griddled as you like it,” and it refers to several types of savory Japanese cabbage pancakes that can be prepared a few different ways, depending on the region of Japan you are in. The name refers to the flexible nature of this vegetable pancake that allows you to mix in your favorite ingredients to the batter and top it with whatever condiments suit your fancy.
Okonomiyaki is a 6-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
o like order
ko like corner
no like normal
mi like meat
ya like yacht
ki like key
The two most common types of Okonomiyaki are Osaka style (Kasai) and Hiroshima style. This recipe is for Osaka style Okonomiyaki, where the batter is mixed with the other ingredients and cooked into a solid pancake. Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki is more like a crepe, with a thin layer of batter topped with layers of cabbage, scallions, tenkasu, pork belly, yakisoba noodles, and egg.
Okonomiyaki sauce is part of a class of fruit-based sauces that includes tonkatsu sauce, chunou sauce, and takoyaki sauce. It’s thick and glossy with a savory, sweet and tangy taste loaded with umami, making it the perfect accompaniment for drizzling on this savory Japanese pancake.
Because of its flexible nature and cabbage base, Okonomiyaki is easily adaptable to be both vegan and vegetarian friendly. I’ve published a Vegan Okonomiyaki recipe in the past. If you want to make this vegetarian, you can use konbu dashi and omit or substitute the pork belly and katsuobushi topping. In addition, the sauce can be made vegan by using vegan Worcestershire sauce and substituting a 6:3 ratio of soy sauce to date syrup instead of the oyster sauce.
- 2 large eggs
- 120 grams flour (~ 1 cup)
- ½ cup dashi
- 300 grams cabbage (thinly shredded)
- 30 grams scallions (chopped)
- 30 grams tenkasu (optional)
- 250 grams pork belly (8 very thin slices)
- 2 teaspoons flour (for dusting)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For Okonomiyaki Sauce
- ¼ teaspoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon date syrup
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- Japanese mayonnaise
- Make the okonomiyaki sauce by whisking together the curry powder and Worcestershire sauce. Once the mixture is free of lumps, add the ketchup, date syrup, and oyster sauce and stir to combine.
- To make the Okonomiyaki batter, whisk the eggs and dashi together until uniform.
- Add this mixture to the flour and stir until there are no large clumps of flour remaining. Be careful not to overmix it.
- Pour the batter over the shredded cabbage, scallions, and tenkasu and stir together until the ingredients are evenly distributed and covered in batter.
- Watch the video above to learn how to weave the pork belly strips together. Add 2 teaspoons of flour into a tea strainer and evenly dust the weave with a thin layer of flour.
- To cook your Okonomiyaki, heat a frying pan or griddle over medium-low heat until hot. Add the oil and then dump the okonomiyaki batter into a pile in the center of the pan.
- Use two spatulas to shape the Okonomiyaki into a thick round pancake, pressing on the top to compress any air pockets and ensure your pancake is the same thickness.
- Invert the pork belly weave on top of the cabbage pancake and ensure it's centered before peeling away the parchment paper. Use your spatulas to tuck any overhanging pork around the edges of the Okonomiyaki.
- Reduce the heat to low and let the savory pancake pan-fry for 7-9 minutes on this side.
- Once the Okonomiyaki is cooked halfway through and the bottom side has browned, use two spatulas to flip it over. Alternatively, you can invert another frying pan over the one you are using and use oven mitts and towels to flip the two pans over to get the pancake into the second pan. Be careful not to drip or splash hot oil onto yourself.
- Use your spatulas to press the cabbage pancake to ensure even contact with the pan. Then, continue frying the Okonomiyaki on the second side for another 6-7 minutes or until the pork belly has browned and crisped up. If you aren’t using pork belly, you will need to add some more oil to the pan to ensure the second side browns evenly.
- When the Okonomiyaki is almost done, tip the pan to one side and use wadded-up paper towels to soak up all the excess fat that accumulates.
- Use your spatulas to flip the Okonomiyaki over one more time, and serve it by sliding the pancake onto a plate.
- Slather the top of your Japanese pancake with the Okonomiyaki Sauce. Top with aonori, mayonnaise, katsuobushi, and benishoga.