I’ve been in love with Japanese Curry since I was a little girl. The sweet and savory flavors married in a rich brown curry sauce make it so that every bite is exciting to eat. Make this easy classic Japanese dish from scratch or out of a box, and watch your kids devour it!
What is Japanese Curry?
Curry rice, or kare rice (pronounced karē raisu), is a dish that was brought to Japan during the Meiji era (1868–1912) from the British, when India was under colonial rule. It was served to the Japanese Imperial Navy to prevent thiamine (vitamin B-1) deficiency and became popular across Japan in the 1960s when curry made its appearance in restaurants and supermarkets.
Nowadays kare rice is considered a national dish and is served as a soup with udon or ramen, in curry pan (deep-fried bread buns stuffed with curry – the absolute best!), as fried rice (called dry curry, dorai karē), and in a hot stone bowl with rice on the side (similar to bibimbap), called ishiyaki karē.
How to Pronounce Kare Raisu (Japanese Curry)
What Does Japanese Curry Taste Like?
Japanese curry is quite different from any other curry you’ll find in Asia – it’s not spicy but rather sweet (which is probably why kids love it so much), savory, and sometimes a little spicy. The sauce is similar to a rich and thick demi-glace that’s layered with spices and earthy flavors.
What Do You Put in Japanese Curry?
Typically, curry rice consists of onions, carrots, potatoes and beef. That’s the classic combination and the most popular one used across Japan. However, you can use pretty much any combination of vegetables and protein to create your own special curry. I’ve added kabocha squash, mushrooms, green peas, zucchini, chicken, even chickpeas.
There are also restaurants like Coco Ichibanya that offers the option to customize your curry by choosing toppings, level of spiciness, even rice portions!
Japanese curry is often served with fukuzinzuke, a relish made of chopped daikon, eggplant and lotus root, pickled in a soy sauce and corn syrup based liquid. The result is a crunchy relish that’s orange or red in color, with flavors that are both sweet and salty. It pair beautifully with Japanese curry, elevating each bite with more depth of flavor.
How To Make Japanese Curry
- Cook the beef cubes in a large pot and transfer them to a plate once they are cooked.
- Add onions to the pot and cook them until tender.
- Stir in garlic, ginger and grated apple and cook for two minutes.
- Sift flour and stir.
- Add carrots, potatoes and spices and stir.
- Add tomato paste and red wine and bring to a boil.
- Stir in sugar, soy sauce and water and bring to a boil.
- Return the beef to the pot, cover and simmer for half an hour.
- Remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
You may think that making kare raisu (that’s how it’s pronounced in Japanese) from scratch is really hard. It does look like a lot of work because of the amount of ingredients involved but I’m telling you, it’s really not that bad and so worth it!
Just like a good old stew, the hardest part about this Japanese curry is the amount of chopping involved. You will also need a few minutes to cook the ingredients but once this is done, the rest is left mostly unattended.
You know that famous Japanese dish that comes with rice, curry and crispy breaded pork? It’s called katsu kare and I have a delicious, baked version for you to try!
I swapped pork for chicken and created a breading that’s super crispy without the need for frying (you know I have a fear of hot oil spits by now!). Pairing this curry recipe with baked chicken katsu is the ultimate comfort food and one your family will love!
Japanese Curry Roux (Sauce Mix)
No time to make it from scratch?
You can buy premade Japanese curry roux in a box and they are absolutely delicious!
Go to your nearest Japanese supermarket or order it on Amazon. Called curry sauce mix, they are basically blocks of curry roux that melt once you add them to water. They may not be as nutritious as the homemade version but boy are they tasty!
I recommend still adding the grated apple and ginger for more sweetness and a hint of heat. That’s a trick I’ve picked up from cooking with my Japanese aunts and a good friend of mine, Naoko.
I always have a few boxes of curry sauce mix in my pantry because they take no time to make and always hit the spot. Now you are probably wondering what brand is the best and I’m about to tell you right this second!
My mother’s favorite because it’s less sweet and deeper in savory flavors. Golden Curry‘s roux is simple and contains the shortest list of ingredients of all curry mix sauces. The taste is also milder and more bland than other mixes so if you like strong, punchy flavors, keep reading because there are better options to excite your palate. My mother likes this brand because it’s the most traditional, plus, she gets to adjust the flavors however she likes.
Sweet and so delicious! Vermont Curry is the most kid friendly because it’s sweeter than the others. The sauce contains honey, apples and cheese, which is why it’s called Vermont (a little strange but as long as it tastes good, right?) and also why the sauce is thicker than the other brands.
This was my favorite brand until I discovered…
If you like spicy, this is the brand to buy!
I was actually surprised at how much heat Java Curry packed since Japanese people usually don’t like spicy food. It’s less sweet than the Vermont brand but still has plenty of fruitiness. I would say it’s a more balanced curry roux where savory and sweet meet in the middle, with a kick of heat.
Kokumaru and Torokeru are two more popular curry mix sauces but I can’t talk about them since I’m not familiar with their flavors. I do plan to give them a try though since I’ve heard really good things.
Adjusting Levels of Spiciness
Adding ground black pepper to Japanese curry is quite delicious but won’t make your curry hot.
If you enjoy wiping sweat off your face while eating curry, I suggest using ichimi togarashi, which are ground red chili peppers, or Sichuan chili flakes. Both will give you that eye watering punch of heat you are looking for.
What to Serve this Japanese Curry with
If you are looking to serve an authentic Japanese dinner at home, here are some of my favorite, easy and quick recipes:
- Tsukemono (Japanese pickles)
- Green salad with Japanese Restaurant Style Ginger Dressing
- Topped with Baked Chicken Katsu
- Nasu Dengaku (Japanese eggplant with sweet miso glaze)
- Kani Salada (crab salad)
Freezing Japanese Curry
Save the curry in individual batches (in small air tight food containers of Ziploc bags) and thaw it in the fridge overnight or in the microwave.
Eat it with rice, pasta or you can even add it to ramen! A couple of scoop in your ramen and you’ve got yourself a seriously intense bowl of flavor!
Did you like this Japanese curry rice recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!
Japanese rice and curry go hand in hand.
Watch our video on How To Make Japanese Rice the stove top or rice cooker method!
Japanese Curry Recipe
A sweet Japanese beef curry your entire family will love!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
- Total Time: 75 minutes
- Yield: 4 people 1x
- Category: Curry
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: Japanese
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 pound stewing beef, chopped into bite size pieces
- 1 large onion peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 apple, peeled, finely chopped or grated
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 large carrots (peeled and roughly chopped on the bias)
- 1 large potato (peeled and roughly chopped)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 4 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 1//2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 cups water
- In a large pot over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon peanut oil and stewing beef. Cook for 5 minutes or until meat is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Lower heat to medium low and in the same pot, add remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil with onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and slightly caramelized.
- Add garlic, ginger and apple and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add flour and stir for 1 minute.
- Add carrots, potatoes, garam masala and curry powder and stir well.
- Add tomato paste, stir well and slowly add red wine and bring to a boil.
- Add sugar, soy sauce and water, stir and bring to a boil again.
- Add beef and lower heat to a simmering boil. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Take the lid off and cook for another 30 minutes or until curry soup has reduced by a third.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve with rice.
This Japanese Curry Recipe will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- Serving Size: 1 bowl
- Calories: 506
- Sugar: 12.8g
- Sodium: 583.2mg
- Fat: 31.4g
- Saturated Fat: 14.7g
- Unsaturated Fat: 1.9g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 33.1g
- Fiber: 7.6g
- Protein: 21.1g
- Cholesterol: 240.9mg
Keywords: recipe, main, Asian, stew, beef, easy