Japanese cabbage pancakes for dinner.
This recipe for okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancakes) is a savory, satisfying recipe. This easy recipe, with optional shrimp and bacon, is simple Japanese home cooking at its best.
All About Okonomiyaki (Savory Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)
I love Asian food. And I especially love Japanese food. Japanese food often gets unfairly categorized into two narrow slots: teriyaki and sushi — with maybe a few fussy, hard-to-make dishes in between. But Japanese cuisine is actually quite varied and fun, with lots of satisfying comfort food in the mix.
Okonomiyaki (roughly meaning “cooked how you like” and pronounced “oh-ko-nom-YA-key”) is the casual Japanese cabbage pancake recipe beloved as street food and home cooking alike. It’s savory, satisfying, and comforting without being heavy. Sometimes it’s spelled okonomiyake.
I spent my last semester of law school abroad in Tokyo, where I first learned how good Japanese food could be. The Japanese, as a general rule, take great care in the quality, preparation, and flavor of their food. This includes everything from high-end nigiri to simple yakitori. (And if you do go to Japan, do not miss the food halls in many of the department stores. They are like take-out food temples.)
I did not discover okonomiyaki, however, until later in my semester, when I traveled to southern Japan.
There, the popular and casual dish is served as a giant pancake, sometimes cooked table side, loaded with bonus goodies like bacon, noodles, and shrimp, and topped with flavorful sauces, nori, and bonito flakes.
Osaka-Style vs. Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is most popular around the southern Japanese cities of Osaka and Hiroshima. But the dish has regional differences in its preparation.
- In Osaka-style okonomiyaki, all of the ingredients are mixed together into the batter and poured onto the griddle to cook.
- In Hiroshima, okonomiyaki is prepared by layering the ingredients on the griddle, starting with the batter, then toppings, which are then flipped like a pancake to brown on both sides.
Both versions get topped with sweet-salty okonomiyaki sauce and other goodness like Kewpie mayonnaise, shredded seaweed, and bonito flakes.
This recipe is an Osaka-style okonomiyaki. This is the easier-style cabbage pancake recipe to make, where all the ingredients are mixed together in a light batter, rather than layered.
Japanese Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes): Recipe Notes
- Make sure the cabbage is bone dry. If you add extra moisture to the batter, it will not brown as easily and will taste soggy.
- I like to mix everything into the batter except the bacon, which I place on top of the pancake once it is in the skillet. That way, I can ensure it browns just right when cooked.
How to Serve Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki usually is a rather large pancake affair, so large sometimes that it is cut into pieces and shared, family style. But I have found that a very large pancake requires two spatulas and careful, precise flipping — neither of which is my strong suit.
Instead, I make my okonomiyaki the size of regular pancakes, and eat two or three. Easy to flip, easy to enjoy. Keep the okonomiyaki in a warm oven until you are ready to serve.
Add the Onokomiyaki Sauce and Other Toppings
Finally, let the translation “cooked as you like” be your guide.
- If you do not want to use shrimp or bonito flakes, don’t.
- Have some cooked noodles sitting around? Throw them in.
This is a casual meal, so you can be casual about the add-ins.
Love okonomiyaki? You’ll also like:
Authentic Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)
- 1/2 cup minced shallot (about 1 large shallot)
- 1 cup dashi (water can be substituted in a pinch; recipe for dashi linked below)
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I prefer Diamond Crystal brand)
- 4 cups finely-shredded green cabbage (from about 1/2 pound)
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 cup peeled, deveined shrimp, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as canola
- 3 ounces raw, thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Okonomiyaki sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise, to finish (recipe below)
- Crumbled nori, to garnish
- Bonito flakes, to garnish
For Homemade Okonomiyaki Sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- If you are making your own okonomiyaki sauce, heat the ingredients in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves, stirring. Set aside. Make your dashi, if using.
- Place the shallot, dashi, eggs, flour, salt, shredded cabbage, ginger, and shrimp in a large bowl and mix well.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough oil to coat the pan, about 1 tablespoon. When the oil shimmers and a drop of batter sizzles, ladle about 1/4 of the batter into the skillet, shaping into a large, thick pancake. Layer a quarter of the bacon on top.
- Cook over medium-low until the bottom of the pancake is browned and set. Do not rush; this will take around 7 or 8 minutes. Flip, and cook on the other side. Repeat with the remaining oil, bacon, and batter.PRO TIP: You never want to get the pan too hot; the outside of the pancake will brown before the batter fully cooks in the center. PRO TIP: To help flip the pancake, you can always invert the pancake onto a plate, then slide it back onto the skillet.
- Serve, second side up, with okonomiyaki sauce, a drizzle of Kewpie mayonnaise, the nori, and bonito flakes.PRO TIP: You can simply smear the sauce and mayo on top. But the ideal way is to drizzle ribbon patterns over the top, as in the photo. TIP: Kewpie mayonnaise is from Japan, but is easily available online and in specialty markets. The taste is better and richer than regular mayo because it is made from yolks only.