This vegan Japanese curry recipe is made from scratch. It’s an easy, quick and affordable weeknight dinner the whole family will love!
- What is Japanese curry?
- What does Japanese curry taste like?
- Is Japanese curry vegan?
- What is Japanese curry roux made of?
- How to make vegan Japanese curry?
- Variations and substitutions
- Storage and reheating tips
- What to serve with vegan Japanese curry?
- Recommended Products
- Did you make this recipe?
What is Japanese curry?
Vegan Japanese curry is a thick, stew-like dish with chunky vegetables and slightly sweet undertones.
It’s incredibly easy to make and immensely satisfying, especially on a chilly autumn or winter evening.
The difference between Japanese and other types of curry such as Indian or Thai, is that Japanese curry is made from a roux base, which is a blend of fat, flour and spices.
Japanese curry roux is often made from curry cubes, which can be bought in an Asian market or a well-stocked supermarket with a good selection of international items.
However, if you can’t get your hands on Japanese curry cubes, making Japanese curry from scratch is not complicated at all and allows you full control over the spiciness and flavour profile of your finished dish.
Curry is very popular in Japan and has different variations.
Some of the most popular ways to eat Japanese curry are like a stew served over rice, with noodles added like this curry udon, as a filling for fried bread, or katsu curry with a topping of a breaded and fried cutlet.
What does Japanese curry taste like?
Japanese curry is a combination of savory, sweet and umami.
The flavor profile is similar to the spices that make up garam masala and curry powder with umami notes coming from soy sauce or tamari.
The consistency of Japanese curry is thick like a stew as it is thickened with a roux made from flour.
Japanese curry is not as spicy as its Indian counterparts. However, you can add spice to your taste with a touch of cayenne pepper and/or some finely minced ginger.
It is a hearty dish with chunks of vegetables and often meat but it is very easy to veganize by replacing the meat with tofu, tempeh, seitan or just leaving it out and making it a vegetable stew.
Is Japanese curry vegan?
In general, Japanese cuisine is not very vegan-friendly.
Fortunately, there are a lot of talented vegan Japanese food bloggers who have set to work veganizing traditional Japanese recipes. I’ve compiled the best of the best into this collection of over 60 vegan Japanese recipes.
Japanese curry is not usually vegan as it most often contains chunks of meat and animal-based stock.
Fortunately, it is a recipe that is very easy to make vegan. The meat can be replaced with a vegan alternative such as tofu, seitan or a store-bought meat analogue, or you can just add additional vegetables.
What is Japanese curry roux made of?
The base of Japanese curry is the curry roux.
A roux is a mixture of flour and fat cooked together and is used to thicken soups and sauces.
Japanese curry roux is made from flour, butter or oil, and spices.
The spices used in Japanese curry are garam masala and curry powder.
Japanese curry powder is a bit different than Indian curry powder thanks to the addition of orange peel and star anise.
If you’re looking to make this recipe with the most authentic flavor, try to track down S&B Japanese curry powder.
The ingredients for vegan Japanese curry are both accessible and economical. You’ll be able to find everything you need in any supermarket!
Oil: For this recipe you’ll want to use a neutral oil without a strong flavor of its own. I recommend vegetable, sunflower or canola oil. I would avoid using olive oil for this recipe.
Flour: All-purpose flour is used to make the roux. It acts as a thickener to give this curry its stew-like consistency.
Vegetables: Potatoes, carrots, and peas or edamame are the main vegetables in this hearty stew. Onion is also added to flavor the stock. A finely grated apple (I know, not a vegetable) is added for a touch of sweetness that’s characteristic of Japanese curry.
Garam masala: It’s a good idea to get a good-quality garam masala, even if its a bit more expensive. For the best flavor in all your curry dishes, you want a garam masala that is made with high-quality spices without a lot of cheap filler spices.
Curry powder: If you’re fortunate enough to live near an Asian supermarket, you can pick up some Japanese curry powder for the most authentic flavor. Personally, I don’t live near an Asian market so I just used a generic curry powder from the supermarket.
Cayenne pepper: Japanese curry isn’t super spicy but you can add a touch of spice to your liking with a pinch (or two) of cayenne pepper.
Ketchup: Ketchup or tomato paste are fairly common, but optional, ingredients in Japanese curry. Tomato products are used to add sourness which balances out the sweetness of the apple.
Soy Sauce: Soy sauce adds umami and saltiness. Worcestershire sauce can be used instead for the same purpose. A teaspoon of salt is also added to season the vegetables.
Vegetable broth or water: For a bit of extra flavor in the broth you can use vegetable stock. If you don’t have any, water will work too since there is so much flavor in the spices.
Garnishes: You can garnish you vegan Japanese curry with green onions and sesame seeds and serve your curry over rice.
How to make vegan Japanese curry?
Japanese curry is easy to make and with a total cooking time of 30 minutes, it’s great for a weeknight dinner.
Prep the vegetables: Start by finely dicing the onion and peeling and chopping the potato and carrot into chunky pieces.
Peel the apple and use a box grater to grate it finely. You want the apple finely grated to be able to meld into the broth.
Cook the veggies: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and fry off the onion. Then add the veggies, stock, salt and one teaspoon of garam masala.
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender.
Prepare the roux: While the vegetables are simmering, you can prepare the roux in a separate pan.
Heat the oil over medium-low heat and add the flour, garam masala and curry powder.
Mix it well until it’s all combined then add the ketchup, cayenne, pepper and soy sauce.
Continue cooking the mixture while stirring continuously until it all sticks together in a ball and then begins to crumble apart.
Combine: Once the vegetables are cooked, take a couple ladlefuls of the hot stock and add it to the pan with the roux.
Stir it well to dissolve the flour, then add the roux to the pot with the soup and stir well while the stock thickens up. Also add the frozen peas at this point.
Serve: When the soup is thick it’s ready to serve! Serve your vegan Japanese curry in bowls over rice and garnish with sliced green onion and sesame seeds.
Variations and substitutions
Veggies: Feel free to swap out or add different vegetables to your curry.
Serving: Japanese curry can be served in several different ways. Here I’ve served it over rice but you can also serve it with noodles like this curry udon recipe or with some breaded and fried tofu on top katsu style.
Protein: This vegan Japanese curry recipe only calls for veggies. If you’d like to replace the meat that Japanese curry often calls for, try adding cubed tofu, seitan, tempeh, mushrooms or your favorite vegan meat replacement product.
Curry cubes: If you have them available to you you can forgo the homemade curry roux and use a Japanese curry cube instead.
No, Japanese curry is not spicy. Even though commercial curry cubes are labeled as mild, medium and hot, the hot is not very spicy compared to Indian curry, for example. You can amp up the heat by adding a little cayenne pepper if you like.
Some Japanese curry cubes are vegan and some are not. It’s important to read the ingredients before purchasing. S&B Golden Curry cubes are usually vegan. House Foods Vermont Curry is not vegan.
Japanese curry can be served over rice or with noodles - most commonly udon noodles. You can also make katsu curry with the addition of a breaded and fried cutlet on top.
Yes! Curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan.
Storage and reheating tips
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Japanese curry can be frozen but potatoes tend to change their texture after freezing. If you’re cooking this to freeze it’s recommended that you omit the potatoes.
To reheat leftovers, transfer them to a pot and reheat over medium-low heat on the stove or transfer them to a microwave-safe dish and heat in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
You may need to add a couple splashes of vegetable stock or water if the curry is too thick while reheating.
What to serve with vegan Japanese curry?
Serve Japanese curry over rice.
A common side dish for Japanese curry is fukujinzuke. It’s a vegetable pickle dish principally made from daikon radish.
Vegan gyoza can be found in many supermarkets nowadays. I personally like the ones from Aldi.
For more ideas on what to serve with vegan Japanese curry, check out my collection of over 60 vegan Japanese recipes.
For the vegan Japanese curry
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cups (1 litre) of water or vegetable stock
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 large potatoes, chopped into chunks
- 1 apple, peeled and grated finely (I used a fuji)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ cup (75 grams) frozen peas or edamame
- Rice, to serve
- 2 green onions, sliced
- Sesame seeds
For the roux
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon garam masala*
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil and onions. Fry until beginning to brown. Add the water or vegetable stock, carrots, potatoes, apple, salt and garam masala. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
- Meanwhile prepare the roux by heating the oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the flour, garam masala and curry powder and mix well. Then add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring continuously, until the roux sticks together in a ball and starts to crumble apart. Remove from heat.
- When the vegetables are ready, ladle some of the liquid into the pot with the roux and mix well to dissolve all the flour. Add into the curry and mix until the curry is thick. Add the frozen peas.
- Serve the curry with rice and pickled vegetables on the side, if desired. Sprinkle with sliced green onion and sesame seeds.
*I mix my own garam masala and curry powder and I don’t use any chili. Commercial spice mixes are often spicy so you may want to omit the cayenne pepper if that’s the case.
Adapted and veganized from Serious Eats
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 487Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1047mgCarbohydrates: 71gFiber: 10gSugar: 12gProtein: 12g