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Tonkatsu Recipe (Japanese Schnitzel) and Home-Made Panko

Tonkatsu close-up

A lot of people think Japanese food is just raw fish. Whilst sashimi is one of my favourite things to eat, this notion couldn't be further from the truth.

My husband's favourite food from Japan is tonkatsu. A pork cutlet which has been dredged in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs before being deep-fried till it's crisp and golden yet still juicy and without a whisper of grease.

Like tempura, Japan's more famous fried food, tonkatsu actually came from Portuguese traders in the 19th century, and was originally considered to be yoshoku - or Western food - but it has now been firmly adopted as washoku - Japanese cuisine.

Tonkatsu is made with boneless pork loin steaks or chops (with a ribbon of fat if possible), though I sometimes go left-field and use pork loin slices cut for shabu-shabu which makes for a daintier dish.

With a tussock of thinly-shredded cabbage, a dab of yellow mustard, a drizzle of fruity tonkatsu sauce, some pickles and some hot sesame rice, a meal of fresh-fried tonkatsu is irresistible.

Tonkatsu meal


Serves 2

  • 2 pork loin chops or steaks (~200g each)
  • 1 egg
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Plain flour
  • Flavourless oil for deep-frying
  • Quarter of a white or tenderheart cabbage
  • Yellow mustard
  • Tonkatsu sauce
  • Black or white sesame seeds
  • Rice to serve
  1. Shred the cabbage as finely as possible and then soak in cold water.
  2. Wrap the steaks in clingfilm and bash them with a rolling pin, but you're not trying to tenderise - just thin them out a bit.
  3. Lay out one plate of flour, one plate of breadcrumbs and a bowl of beaten egg.
  4. Season one steak generously with salt and pepper. Then dredge it in flour, dip it in the beaten egg, then flour again, then egg again. Lastly coat the steak evenly in the panko breadcrumbs and place on some greaseproof paper. Prepare the other steak in the same way.
  5. Drain the shredded cabbage and put to one side to dry.
  6. Heat three inches of oil in a deep frying pan or wok - check if it's ready by throwing a couple of panko crumbs in and if it goes brown, it's ready.
  7. Place one steak in the oil gently and, turning a couple of times, fry until it goes golden brown - this should take about 6 minutes. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels while you cook the other.
  8. Then serve the tonkatsu immediately with the shredded cabbage, pickles, mustard, tonkatsu sauce for drizzling and rice sprinkled with sesame and salt (gomashio).
Tonkatsu Sando

A tonkatsu sandwich (or sando) is a thing of beauty.

Simply place the fried tonkatsu in between two thick slices of buttered white bread with the shredded cabbage, plenty of tonkatsu sauce, a squeeze of mustard and a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise.

Or go get one from Tsuru Sushi.

Tonkatsu in Kyoto

Home-made Panko Breadcrumbs

If you can get panko breadcrumbs, perfect, but if not, you can make your own as follows:
  1. Shred four slices of stale white bread in a blender so the crumbs are larger, flaky and more ragged than normal breadcrumbs,
  2. Spread the crumbs across a baking tray and bake at 150 C till dry but not brown - then leave to cool.
  3. Use for tonkatsu or store in a sealed sandwich bag - will keep a few weeks.
Home-Made Tonkatsu Sauce

Tonkatsu sauce is a fruity brown sauce similar to barbecue sauce which adds an essential tangy dimension to the dish.

The brand that everyone uses is Bulldog and you can get this from the Japan Centre and certain other Asian stores, but here's my recipe for home-made tonkatsu sauce.
  • 6 tbsp ketchup
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate syrup or apple sauce (optional)
Mix all the ingredients and dilute with enough cold water to get a consistency like thin maple syrup.

Tonkatsu meal tilted


Mr Noodles said…
Lovely recipe, but wot no curry? I love crispy deep fried tonkatsu served with an ever so slightly 'dirty' curry sauce. I had a great one in Tokyo where the curry sauce had been made with pork belly. I still have dreams about that meal...
meemalee said…
@Mr Noodles -

Katsu Curry Recipe

Sweat a handful each of diced potatoes, carrots, peas and onions in some oil.

Add 500 ml water and a Japanese curry roux cube and stew for 30 minutes.

Pour curry sauce over the tonkatsu.


House or S&B do the best instant curry cubes - a selection here.
Su-Lin said…
I like the Java's just a bit spicier!

Great post! Love the idea of homemade tonkatsu sauce!
Hollow Legs said…
I bloody love tonkatsu; I made it fairly recently for the first time. Wish I'd seen your tonkatsu sauce recipe though as ready made is quite pricy.
meemalee said…
@Su-Lin - Ah, I'd forgotten about Java!

Serious Eats did a Japanese Curry Roux taste test here.

@Lizzie - Shop-bought is pricey and price-wise seems to vary eg very expensive at Centrepoint, but it lasts a while. It's fun experimenting with home-made sauce :)
Dennis K. said…
Hi Meemalee, I dressed up as Tonkatsu-Man for Halloween during the second grade, haha. It was pretty crude, a cape, father's t-shirt with markered "T", and in my right hand a plastic baggie full of tonkatsu pieces. I think I was inspired by how Popeye gained strength by eating spinach...?

I heard Renga Tei in Ginza was first to serve Tonkatsu in Japan and also first to garnish with finely shredded cabbage. Hope to eat there my next visit, they were closed as it was close to new years.
Oh god I love Tonkatsu - your post has got me craving a Tsuru katsu curry AND sandwich immediately (this is dangerous. I work 100-yards away). And yes, anyone who thinks Japanese food is all sushi and healthiness would be a bit shocked by most izakayas!
tori said…
Katsu is dangerously good comfort food. DANGEROUSLY good.
meemalee said…
@Dennis K - Aww, I'd love to see a pic of Tonkatsu Man!

Whoa, so the place that first served it is still around? That's cool.

@Katy Salter @ Pinch of Salt - Yeah, I spend many a lunchtime in Tsuru. I miss izakayas - Asakusa in Mornington Crescent's pretty close to being one though.

@tori - Yup :)
The Grubworm said…
I'm with your hubby on this one, a good Tonkatsu is very hard to beat. Especially when it has a beaten egg poured over it just before serving...

Glad you posted the sauce recipe as well, it looks like a beauty and it could be fun playing with ingredients to produce different results.
Luiz Hara said…
I have gone through life looking down on tonkatsu, until now. Maisen in Harajuku makes the most fantastic black pig tonkatsu, at about £25 a pop (3 times the price of any other Tokyo eatery) buy it is amazingly good!

Luiz @ The London Foodie
Anonymous said…
is the yellow mustard for the sauce a powder or something like French mustard? Thanks.
meemalee said…
@Luiz - I have to try Maisen! So glad you've been won over to tonkatsu :)

@Anonymous - It *should* be karashi - a Japanese mustard which comes powdered or in a tube and which you can buy in Japanese/Oriental stores. But English mustard (eg Colmans) is a fine substitute.
donna mikasa said…
Thank you for sharing a delicious tonkatsu sauce! I've searched all over and yours is delicious and very authentic!