The first time I traveled to Japan, I expected to eat a lot of sushi, a lot of ramen, and drink a lot of sake. While I definitely had my fill of all of that, the highlight of my trip was the discovery of Okonomiyaki.
While not everybody likes sushi or a big bowl of ramen, everybody I’ve made Okonomiyaki for has loved it. Whenever I go on a camping trip with a group of mates or we have a BBQ, people always tell me to make Okonomiyaki.
This recipe guide will cover absolutely everything you would want to know about Okonomiyaki.
In this recipe guide, you will learn:
- What Okonomiyaki is
- What Okonomiyaki is like in Japan
- How to make a basic Okonomiyaki with simple ingredients
- How to make a more authentic Okonomiyaki with traditional ingredients
- How to modify the basic Okonomiyaki with some interesting ideas
- How to make Okonomiyaki sauce
- A printable recipe card with everything you need for Okonomiyaki
If you’re looking at trying something a little bit different and you love cooking on a hot plate, I highly recommend giving Okonomiyaki a go. As I’ll explain, you don’t even need to like Asian food to enjoy it.
What is Okonomiyaki?
Outside of Japan, Okonomiyaki is often thought of as a “Japanese Pizza” or “Japanese Pancake” (savory pancake – not sweet). Neither of these quite fit Okonomiyaki. I think of it somewhere between a pizza and a hash brown.
Okonomiyaki translates to ‘grilled as you like it’ (Okonomi = as you like, yaki = grill). Think of Okonomiyaki in a similar way you might think about pizza. With pizza, you start with a base then add ingredients that suit your tastes.
You can do the same with Okonomiyaki. Different regions in Japan seem to have their own spin on Okonomiyaki with Hiroshima and Osaka being the two most common. For example, Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima layer the ingredients, while in Osaka the ingredients are mixed together.
The great thing about Okonomiyaki is that you can create your own version by adding in different ingredients. You start with the basic Okonomiyaki ‘base’ recipe I’ll explain later, then modify it as you see fit.
The first time you make Okonomiyaki, I highly recommend you try to stick the basic recipe covered here. If you’ve never tried authentic Okonomiyaki before, this basic recipe will give you a good idea of what it is meant to taste like.
The basic recipe version covered here won’t be the same as it is in Japan, unless you take a trip to an Asian grocery and get lucky finding all the ingredients I mention later in my ‘authentic’ recipe.
Once you try the basic version, you can move on to a more authentic version by adding ingredients I’ll cover later, or try creating a Western version. I’ll cover all of this later on.
Authentic Okonomiyaki In Japan
There are a few different ways you can have Okonomiyaki in Japan. I managed to try a couple of ways during my trip and each experience was a little different.
Note: if you don’t plan on traveling to Japan or aren’t interested in the experience, skip this section to get to the recipe.
The first time I tried it was in a typical restaurant setting with a hot plate (teppan) built into each table. Once we chose our ingredients from the menu, the waiter would turn our teppan on and take our instructions to the kitchen.
After about 10 minutes, he brought back the cooked Okonomiyaki and placed it on our teppan.
As it was already cooked, the teppan was really just to keep it nice and hot as you eat it.
You grab a little spatula to cut the Okonomiyaki and eat it directly off the teppan using chopsticks.
Here’s the sign at the front of the restaurant:
As you can see, we ordered their ‘modern’ version which was more like a fluffy pancake than a more traditional Okonomiyaki. Modern Okonomiyaki typically uses a lot of noodles (either yakisoba or udon) and is called modanyaki.
Here’s the front of the restaurant so you know what to look out for if you’re in Japan looking for Okonomiyaki:
In Osaka places like these were easy to find. Once we knew what Okonomiyaki was, we started noticing them on signs everywhere.
This is the second place we went to (called Sakura Tei), tucked away in a side street in Harajuku, Tokyo:
As you can see, each table has a large teppan and ours was turned on when we sat down. You’re given a menu of different ingredients to choose from and you select your options.
Unlike the first place where the waiter comes back with a cooked Okonomiyaki, this time the waiter comes back with this:
After a few confused looks, we were given laminated instructions cards in English explaining how to cook our Okonomiyaki.
Here are the mixed ingredients cooking on the teppan:
After following the steps (which I’ll explain in detail later), this was the end result:
While it was delicious at the first place we went to, it always tastes better when you have a hand in making it.
The other type of experience you may have in Japan is when the chef cooks your Okonomiyaki in front of you. If you’ve been to a Teppanyaki before, you know what to expect from this type of experience.
Easy Okonomiyaki Base Recipe (NO Specialty ingredients needed)
If you’re interested in finding out what Okonomiyaki tastes like but don’t want to make a trip to an Asian grocery, a good starting point is to make a simple version using ingredients you probably already have at home.
You won’t need to go to a specialty Asian grocery to make this simple recipe, so it’s a great way to get started. After you try this simple base recipe, you can try out some of the typical specialty ingredients to create a more authentic version.
As I’ll explain later, you can also use this base recipe as a starting point for some delicious versions that you definitely wouldn’t see in Japan.
Once you have all of the below ingredients for your base, check out my recipe for Okonomiyaki sauce. Then you can jump to the directions section for step-by-step instructions on how to get started.
Here are the main ingredients you’ll need:
Cabbage is used in both Osaka and Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki. They tend to use far more cabbage in Hiroshima compared to Osaka. In this recipe, I’ll explain the Osaka version. After you try it, you can try and make it again in layers and use more cabbage to aim for Hiroshima style.
A batter is used to keep everything together. For this easy version, I suggest using standard plain flour.
If you want to go all out, check out an Asian grocery for Okonomiyaki Flour. Okonomiyaki flour is made of unbleached wheat and soy flour, with added herbs and spices. The flour is usually seasoned with kelp powder, ground Yamaimo (a Yam), and powdered Bonito (fish).
This is a pack of Okonomiyaki flour I found at my nearest Asian grocery:
Honestly, plain flour will do the job just fine. When I tasted a batter with store-bought Okonomiyaki flour, it had a distinctly fishy flavor. But when I compared a mix using plain flour and one using Okonomiyaki flour, the difference was barely noticeable. All the other ingredients in the mix overpowered any seasoning in the store-bought flour.
If you want to get a more authentic flavor in your batter, you can easily add seasoning to the mix. I wouldn’t bother buying Okonomiyaki flour. Plain flour works just fine.
To make the Okonomiyaki batter, you simply combine equal parts flour and water (eg: 1 cup flour with 1 cup water) with egg. In this recipe, I use one egg per 120g flour (~1 cup).
I tried making a basic version without spring onion, but it was obviously lacking. So I highly recommend using spring onion in addition to the cabbage. In this recipe, I used 3 shoots, but you can easily raise or lower this as you see fit.
Negiyaki is a different style of Osaka Okonomiyaki that uses a lot of spring onion. If you love onion, you might want to try out this variation by using little cabbage and a lot of spring onion.
Tempura Bits (Tenkasu)
In the earlier photo of the bowl we were given to prepare our own Okonomiyaki, you might have noticed white puffy things.
These puffy things are little bits of deep-fried tempura batter called Tenkasu. They create a nice crispy texture inside of the Okonomiyaki. Without them, you’re just not going to get the right texture.
You can buy tempura bits in Asian groceries although I struggled to find them for a long time. The below photo was the only pack I found:
While you could buy a pack of the real thing, there’s an easy substitute you can use that you probably already have at home.
You probably guessed it – Rice Bubbles! While they definitely don’t taste anything like a deep-fried tempura batter, they have the same texture and crispiness.
When I added some Rice Bubbles into an Okonomiyaki mix, it gave that crispiness I remember from Japan.
Just like the real Okonomiyaki flour, the flavor of real tempura bits quickly becomes overpowered by the sauce. So I found Rice Bubbles are just as effective.
Okonomiyaki Sauce Recipe
If you want to use real Okonomiyaki sauce, this is what I found at my nearest Asian grocery:
Look for ‘Otafuku‘ sauce if they don’t label it as Okonomiyaki sauce.
If you want to make your own Okonomiyaki sauce, I’ve come up with this recipe that gets surprisingly close.
I call it the 4-3-2-1 recipe, which makes it easy to remember whenever I need to whip some up.
The ingredients for my Okonomiyaki sauce is:
- 4 tablespoons Ketchup
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
Simply combine all the above ingredients in a small bowl before you start cooking. If you add the sugar in first, you can use the same measuring spoon for the other ingredients without needing to wash it.
When I compared this sauce against the store-bought Okonomiyaki sauce, it was surprisingly similar. The main difference was that this version was sweeter and had more of a spicy flavor. The store-bought Okonomiyaki sauce was fairly savory and had less overall flavor.
When I did a side-by-side blind test of both sauces on two Okonomiyaki, everyone who tried it preferred the homemade sauce. I personally found the extra sweetness worked perfectly with the rest of the savory ingredients.
You can always reduce the amount of sugar if you find it’s too sweet for your tastes.
Here’s a handy printable recipe card for this simple 4-3-2-1 Okonomiyaki Sauce:
- 4 tbsp Ketchup
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp Oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Add the sugar to a small bowl
- Mix in the Ketchup, Worchestershire sauce, and Oyster sauce
- Only add to Okonomiyaki after it has been flipped once on your hotplate
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 58Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 700mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g
Typical Okonomiyaki Ingredients
As I mentioned above, there are different versions of Okonomiyaki in different regions of Japan. The key ingredients to Okonomiyaki vary depending on the region.
The above recipe gives you a good idea of what Okonomiyaki tastes like without needing to search for specialty ingredients. Some of the ingredients I’ll list below I couldn’t even find in an Asian grocery an hour away from home.
If you can get your hands on any of the below ingredients, try them out. Each one will bring you closer to the authentic Okonomiyaki you would get in Japan.
This is a Bonito …
… and these are Bonito flakes:
On most Okonomiyaki served in Japan, you’re likely to see these flakes added on top. Modern versions like the one shown earlier didn’t use them and I’m sure there are other styles that don’t use them.
Most of the photos of me making Okonomiyaki don’t use them because it took me a long time to find some in Australia. While it still tastes fantastic without the flakes, the missing flavor was noticeable.
The flakes in the packets eventually found were quite small compared to what we were served in Japan. These flakes give the Okonomiyaki a distinct fish flavor without it being overwhelming.
One weird thing we discovered about Bonito flakes while in Japan is that they twist and move on their own when in the presence of moisture:
Seeing the flakes dance on the top of the Okonomiyaki was kind of creepy and shocked us the first time we saw it. If you really want to freak people out, use really big flakes.
How to Make Okonomiyaki (Step by Step Instructions)
Now that you know what can go into your Okonomiyaki, let’s look at the steps involved. In the photos, I’ll demonstrate a basic version using the Easy Okonomiyaki Base Recipe.
The quantities shown here will produce two decent sized Okonomiyaki pancakes. Adjust the quantities up or down to suit you.
Step 1: Prepare the batter
Once you have all of your ingredients, start by preparing the batter. Measure 120g (1 cup) of flour (plain or Okonomiyaki flour) into a large bowl:
Tip: when it comes to measuring flour, measuring by weight is far more accurate and consistent than measuring by cups. A cup of flour can measure anywhere from 110-150g which can really throw off a recipe’s balance.
I found that you get the best results when you use equal parts of flour and water by weight. I’m using a scale here because it makes the job of measuring both flour and water quick and accurate. Simply measure the weight of the flour, tare your scale, then measure the exact same weight of water.
Add 120ml (1/2 cup) of water and mix until it produces a thick paste. You want the paste to be fairly sticky so it grabs the other ingredients. If your batter is dry after adding water, add a little bit more until it starts to get sticky.
We’ll be adding an egg later which will help the batter stick to the other ingredients. So don’t worry if it doesn’t quite look right at this stage.
As long as you have an evenly mixed batter (no dry pockets of flour), you can set your bowl aside and continue to the next step. You can always make adjustments to the mix later.
Step 2: Prepare other ingredients
As mentioned earlier, different regions use different ingredients and mix the ingredients in different ways. For this simple Okonomiyaki recipe, we’re aiming for a good balance between the fluffiness of a pancake and the amount of cabbage.
Cut 1/8 of a cabbage head into fine pieces. After you try this version, you may want to try 1/4 cabbage to see whether you prefer more or less cabbage.
While you could use a food processor for the cabbage, I found that it’s quicker and produces better results when cut by hand. Cutting by hand gives you more control over the size of the cabbage pieces you want in your Okonomiyaki.
Add an egg and your cabbage into the bowl. Don’t worry about mixing until you prepare all other ingredients.
Cut 3-5 spring onions (shallots/green onions) and add to the bowl. I’m using three spring onions as shown below.
Adding more spring onion or cabbage moves your Okonomiyaki closer towards a hash-brown style pancake and away from a fluffy pancake. Negiyaki style Okonomiyaki uses a lot of spring onion.
Add 1/2 – 1 cup of Tempura bits (or Rice Bubbles) to the bowl based on how crunchy you want your Okonomiyaki to be. I’m using 1/2 cup of Rice Bubbles here and it achieved a nice balance with the other ingredients.
Add any of your other optional ingredients such as seasonings, seafood, ham, or anything else except for the Okonomiyaki sauce or Bonito flakes (or any other toppings that will be added after cooking such as seaweed flakes).
In this example, I’m adding some pickled ginger and two baby octopus. Dice or cut up any ingredients you use so you can properly mix them in the batter.
I find that limiting the number of ingredients you add in produces better results. If you want to try different ingredients, divide your batter into separate bowls so you can create different types of Okonomiyaki at the same time.
Here’s the bowl with all of the ingredients added in:
In the below photo, you can see that all of the ingredients (eg: the baby octopus) are cut into small pieces.
This is important so all the ingredients can evenly spread throughout the mix. But there’s no problem having some larger pieces in the mix (eg: shrimp).
After you make your first Okonomiyaki, think about whether you might like to use larger or smaller pieces next time. I personally didn’t like the results when using a food processor. The larger pieces from cutting everything by hand produced better results.
Step 3: Mix Ingredients
Once you have all of your ingredients prepared, you can mix them all together in the bowl.
Pay close attention to your batter mix and how it mixes with the rest of your ingredients.
If you find that the batter stays in one clump, you might need to add some water to loosen it up.
You should end up with a nicely mixed batter with everything sticking together.
It might not look like the above mix would hold together like a pancake, but it does surprisingly well once cooked.
Here’s a photo from a different batch where I cut everything into much smaller pieces:
The quantities were identical in both batches and the only difference was how much time I spent mincing the ingredients. Both batches held together well and the second batch was a bit more tightly packed while eating.
Step 4: Prepare Your Okonomiyaki Sauce (if you haven’t bought some)
The Okonomiyaki sauce is crucial to getting a good result. If you were to cook up the above mix without the sauce, you’ll be pretty disappointed with the results. Use the printable recipe card shown earlier if you want to have a handy reference for next time.
As I explained above, the recipe for Okonomiyaki sauce is:
- 4 tablespoons Ketchup
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
If you start by adding the sugar in the bowl, you can use the same tablespoon to measure all ingredients without needing to wash the spoon mid-way.
The quantities above are more than enough for the amount of batter for two servings. I like to use a heavy amount of sauce on Okonomiyaki and I still had some left-over.
Once your Okonomiyaki sauce is ready, you’re set to cook!
Step 5: Cook the Okonomiyaki
The method you use to cook your Okonomiyaki is essentially the same whether you’re using a portable griddle (like I am), or a large BBQ hotplate.
If you’re using a non-stick surface, I recommend using as little oil as possible. You’ll notice in the earlier photos of the teppan in Japan that almost no oil was used. We’re not using oil to cook the Okonomiyaki, only enough oil to avoid it sticking to the surface.
Preheat your surface to approx 200C (392F). If you’re using a portable griddle and it doesn’t reach that temperature (the George Forman griddle I use just reaches 200C), set it to max and just let it cook longer.
Add half of your mix and form an even disc using a spatula. It’s up to you whether you want to cook your entire mix all at once or take it one portion at a time.
You might be able to make one large Okonomiyaki depending on the quantity you’ve made, but I suggest keeping them a manageable size to make sure they don’t fall apart when you flip them.
I recommend forming the Okonomiyaki to no more than a diameter of 10″ (25cm).
Don’t worry if you can’t get the edges perfectly round. The larger your pieces are in the mix, the harder it is to form a nice round disc.
Here’s the difference smaller pieces makes from a separate batch I cooked:
You can see that this one formed into a nice round disc. But both batches held together equally.
After about 5-10 minutes (depending on temperature and the thickness of your Okonomiyaki), your Okonomiyaki should be ready to flip.
You can lightly lift it up to check how cooked the underside is and whether it’s cooked enough to hold together.
Here’s my first portion after flipping:
Doesn’t look very appealing, does it?
That’s why I said the Okonomiyaki sauce is crucial to getting a good result. It turns this from a ‘meh’ dish into a ‘wow’ dish.
Use a spoon or basting brush to cover your flipped Okonomiyaki with sauce.
It’s important to add the sauce after it has been flipped. Adding the sauce early will not give you a good result as it changes the way the Okonomiyaki cooks.
Looks a lot better now and I guarantee it will taste remarkably better. The sweetness of the sauce works really well with the savory flavor of the rest of the mix.
To finish it off, take your Kewpie Mayonnaise and make a criss-cross pattern.
If you’re trying to replicate the thin lines shown in the photos from what I had in Japan, either move the bottle really fast or transfer your mayo into something with a smaller nozzle.
They used 3-hole bottles at the places we went to in Japan, so if you want to go all out, you can get a 3-hole mayonnaise bottle for yourself.
Apart from changing how your Okonomiyaki looks, it does change the flavor as you have more control over the amount of mayo you have.
I found that adding the mayo directly from the Kewpie bottle was way too much compared to what I had in Japan.
Compare the above Okonomiyaki to the below one and the amount of mayonnaise on each one:
In the first photo, I slowly squeezed the mayo on to the Okonomiyaki. In the second photo, I tried to do it faster like they do in Japan. It made a big difference to the taste. The first photo had way too much mayonnaise per bite.
Step 6: Eat
After around 5 minutes after flipping your Okonomiyaki, it will be ready to eat.
Depending on where you’re cooking and who you’re cooking for, you can either serve the Okonomiyaki on plates or you can eat it directly from the hotplate. As you saw from the photos in Japan, it’s normal to eat Okonomiyaki directly from the hotplate.
The benefit here is that it stays warm as you eat so the last bite will be just as good as the first bite.
If you want to eat directly off of the hotplate, turn the plate off so it doesn’t over-cook your food. You only want the hotplate to stay warm.
Use a spatula to cut the Okonomiyaki into manageable pieces and if you know how to use chopsticks, use them to get the authentic experience.
Before you eat, add any other toppings such as Bonito flakes or seaweed. If you use Bonito flakes, you’ll see why you should wait to the last minute before you add them as they’ll start to move and curl.
Here is an Okonomiyaki I made using Bonito flakes as well as store-bought Okonomiyaki flour and sauce:
To be honest, the difference between the plain flour version and the Okonomiyaki flour version was hardly noticeable. The sauce and the Bonito flakes completely overpowered the flour’s seasoning.
Okonomiyaki Recipe Card
Print off the below recipe card if you want a quick cheat-sheet for the next time you make Okonomiyaki.
Alternatively, you can save this page to social media and come back for the full details (also helps support this site).
- 1/2 Cup Tempura Bits (or Rice Bubbles)
- 100g (~1 cup) Plain Flour (or Okonomiyaki flour)
- 120ml (~1 cup) Water
- 3-5 Spring Onions
- 1 Egg
- 1/8 Cabbage
- Kewpie Mayonnaise
- Bonito Flakes (optional)
- Seaweed Flakes (optional)
Okonomiyaki Sauce (or store-bought sauce)
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 2 tbsp Oyster Sauce
- 4 tbsp Ketchup
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- Yakisoba Noodles
- Powdered or Grated Yamaimo (yam)
- Pickled Ginger
- Pork Belly or Bacon
- Seafood (eg: shrimp, octopus, calamari)
- In a large bowl, combine 100g flour (~1 cup) and 100ml (~1 cup) water and mix thoroughly
- Mince cabbage and cut Spring onion. Add to bowl
- Add egg, tempura bits (or Rice Bubbles), and any other diced optional ingredients to bowl
- Mix all ingredients together and adjust water or flour level to create a sticky mix
- Prepare Okonomiyaki sauce by combining all ingredients in a separate bowl
- Preheat hot plate to 200C/392F and add a minimal amount of oil if not using a non-stick surface
- Form a 7-10" disc on the hotplate with the mix using a spatula to form
- After around 5 minutes, flip over
- Add sauce on top of Okonomiyaki using a brush or spoon. Completely cover with sauce
- Make a criss-cross pattern using Kewpie mayonnaise
- Add any other optional toppings such as Bonito flakes or Seaweed flakes
- After around 5 minutes, turn off hot plate and either eat directly from surface or serve on a plate
On your first attempt, I recommend keeping it as basic as possible. Then you can start experimenting with some of the optional ingredients.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 7-10" pancakes
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 610Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 220mgSodium: 1780mgCarbohydrates: 85gFiber: 5gSugar: 16gProtein: 38g