This popular Japanese dish from Osaka is a savory pancake made with cabbage, vegetable, meat or seafood, and a delicious sauce.
It’s not a difficult recipe to make, so trust me when I say it’s way more accessible to home cooks than it might look. In fact, there are many different styles of Okonomiyaki throughout Japan, not just one particular way of making it, so you can kind of do whatever version makes you happy, rather than worrying about getting it right.
The first time I had Okonomiyaki was at a supper club dinner. A friend of ours had just been to Japan and wanted to share this awesome dish with us. It was so good, I wanted to learn how to make it myself.
A year later we went to Japan ourselves and we were obsessed with seeking out the best Okonomiyaki we could find. We learned that it comes in many variations, so we tried as many as possible. The version in this recipe has shrimp and bacon in it, but you can easily make it vegetarian or add chicken… whatever you like.
Does Okonomiyaki Require Special Ingredients?
Okonomiyaki is basically a savory pancake made with cabbage, flour, egg and water. Most of us keep those items in the kitchen at all times, so technically you can make a pretty decent okonomiyaki right now.
However, there are a few things that make it extra special. These are somewhat specialty ingredients, that you don’t likely have on hand.
First off, there is a special okonomiyaki flour that is used in Japan. They also use dashi for the liquid, rather than plain water. Both of these ingredients give the pancake something extra special. However, they are not necessary ingredients to make a great Okonomiyaki.
These Japanese pancakes are best served with a few key toppings, including Okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and seaweed. I personally can get all of these items from a Japanese shop near my house, but I realize they can be difficult to find. Don’t worry.
While these pancakes are best when served with all these toppings, it’s by no means a requirement. Below, we will suggested substitutions for the difficult to find ingredients.
How to Make Okonomiyaki
The most important part of making this recipe is ensuring the cabbage is softened, since fresh cabbage contains a lot of water. You don’t want to make soggy pancakes.
To avoid this, you need to salt the cabbage and allow it to sweat off some of its water. Then rinse the salt from the cabbage and dry it thoroughly with paper towels.
I also find that the cabbage is best when it’s chopped into rather small pieces – the size of a dime or slightly smaller. The larger it is, the longer it takes to cook and less surface area for the pancake to brown on the grill.
Mix up the batter, add the pre-sweated cabbage and other ingredients, and you’re ready to go. Pour the batter onto a hot griddle. An electric griddle like this one is perfect for the task, but you can just use a flat crepe pan as well.
Spread out the batter to form a 5-inch round pancake. You can flatten out the batter and cabbage so it forms a flat cake, rather than a mountain, but be careful not to pack it down or press it into the grill. It needs the flow of steam to cook the cabbage properly.
Allow it to cook, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. When it’s golden brown on the bottom, flip it over. It’ll need to cook an additional 5 minutes on the other side for the cabbage to cook thoroughly.
When it’s done, remove it from the pan and cover it with your toppings of choice. I start with a drizzle of Okonomi sauce, then some mayo or Sriracha mayo (which add an extra spicy kick). You can stop there. Or you can also add bonito flakes, some scallions, seaweed flakes, etc.
If you can’t get Okonomi sauce near your home, you can get it on Amazon. You could also substitute it with a homemade sauce made from ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce and sugar.
Here’s a recipe I use sometimes when I don’t have the real sauce on hand. It’s also acceptable to use BBQ sauce, if you don’t want to make the effort to mix up your own sauce.
I’ve made this many times at home and I’m always surprised and happy with how well they turn out. They’re crispy on the outside, while still airy and light on the inside.
The cabbage gets steamed nicely while it’s on the griddle, so it’s no longer crunchy, but not soggy either.
Of course, the sauce is a huge part of the equation too. Without the sauce, the pancake alone lacks luster. With the sauce, the flavors come together nicely to form one tasty pancake.
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Easy Okonomiyaki Recipe
- 1 cup Okonomiyaki flour can be substituted (see below)
- 2/3 cup water Dashi is more traditional, which you can substitute for the water. You can make it yourself, or purchase it.
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt divided into two
- 1/8 tsp sugar
- 2 cups diced green cabbage dime-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion
- 1/4 cup cooked lardons substitute bacon, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup small cooked shrimp
- 1 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 1/4 cup bonito flakes
- 1/8 cup mayonnaise this is easiest to use when in a squirt bottle
- 1/8 cup Okonomiyaki sauce substitute with homemade sauce
- 1/8 cup seaweed flakes substitute with cut strips of nori
- Put the cabbage in a medium glass bowl. Cover with 1/8 tsp salt and mix well to coat all of the cabbage. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. Rinse the cabbage and dry it well with paper towels.
- Mix the flour, water, eggs, remaining salt, and sugar in a bowl. Once mixed, add the cabbage, green onion, lardons and shrimp. Stir well.
- Heat a flat griddle or crepe pan to medium. Add the olive oil to the pan. Pour the Okonomiyaki batter into a round pancake shape in the center of the pan.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown on the griddle side. Carefully flip the pancake over and cook an additional 3-4 minutes, until golden brown. Check the center with a fork to make sure the batter is cooked through.
- Top the hot pancake with drizzles of Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. Top with bonito flakes and seaweed, if desired. Serve while hot.
- The Okonomiyaki flour can be substituted with “00” flour, plus 1/2 tsp baking powder.
- The cabbage needs to be chopped into small pieces, the size of a dime or slightly smaller. Large pieces make it harder to cook properly.