How To Make Curry Sauce Japanese?

A protein, potatoes, onions, carrots, and other vegetables are frequently included in Japanese curry, a roux-thickened stew. It comes in different heat levels, but most Japanese curries have a sauce that has the consistency of a thick gravy, so it goes well with Japanese short-grain rice. Japanese rice loses its stickiness when curries are thinner, which is not desired.

Given that most Japanese cuisines have a more delicate flavor profile, it makes natural that most people are shocked to learn that Japan has its own curry.

About 150 years ago, during the early Meiji era, military advisers from the British Empire introduced the idea of curry to Japan as a practical way to feed a huge number of ravenous troops. These young men would bring curry to their homes once they had developed a taste for it, and by 1906 there was at least one business manufacturing and “quick curry sauce.

In 1926, House Foods released their version, and SB Foods unveiled the first authentic curry roux in 1954. Since then, its popularity has only increased, and today, reheatable curry packets and a wide variety of other items, including chips, crackers, noodles, and fried rice, can be found on the shelves of any convenience store and supermarket.

As a result of the Japanese people’s aversion to spicy food, Japanese curry contains a counterbalancing sweetness that is added using components like fruit, honey, or even sugar. Because it incorporates a fat and flour roux, it’s also much thicker than most curries. Last but not least, compared to other Asian curries, the elements in the Japanese form of curry (such as potatoes and carrots) are more akin to a stew.

These days, instant curry roux blocks that resemble huge chocolate bars are used in the majority of Japanese homes. They come in sweet, medium, and spicy variants and are made and sold by companies including SB Foods, House Foods, and Glico. A protein (such as chicken, pork, or beef), carrots, potatoes, and water are added to the sauteed onions to make the curry, which is then cooked until the meat and potatoes are soft. To season and thicken the curry, roux blocks are added just before serving.

Although they have a fantastic flavor, these Japanese curry roux blocks frequently contain hydrogenated fats, sugar, MSG, and other dubious chemicals. This is the reason I’ve spent more than ten years developing a recipe for homemade Japanese curry.

Many restaurants use commercial roux mixtures to prepare their curry, despite the fact that they won’t disclose it. However, they distinguish their curry from others by technique and the addition of Kakushiaji.

Literally, Kakushiaji means “A very small amount of a contrasting ingredient is added to a dish as part of a cooking technique known as concealed taste to subtly enhance the flavor. This comprises ingredients like coffee, chocolate, vanilla, butter, chutney, fruit, etc. when it comes to curry.

The goal is to add just enough to noticeably alter the dish, but not enough to make it obvious that the new ingredient has been added. Banana, soy sauce, and cocoa powder are among the kakushiaji components used in this curry recipe. Use a ripe banana for the sauce since it gives it sweetness and a silky texture (yellow with no brown spots yet). The cocoa powder gives the dish an earthy depth as well as a deep brown hue, and the soy sauce adds a ton of umami.

After you’ve tasted this recipe exactly as described, I urge you to play with with alternative kakushiaji component combinations to create a curry that meets your standards for the ideal Japanese curry.

The ingredients in curry powder differ from brand to brand because it is a blend of spices, herbs, and aromatics. Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, Fenugreek, Fennel, Dill, Cinnamon, Ginger, Star Anise, Allspice, Citrus Zest (Yuzu or Mandarin), Cardamom, Cloves, Bay Leaves, and Black Pepper are typically found in most Japanese curry powders. If you want to attempt producing your own Japanese curry powder, I have a recipe for you.

Carrots and potatoes are the two staple vegetables, yet there are differences by location and from home to home. For instance, in Okinawa, piman is added (a kind of green pepper). My mother’s recipe always included celery as well as green peas for color. Even variations made with corn, burdock, taro, or sweet potatoes have been found. Like most stews, I believe there is plenty of potential for creativity, and this is an opportunity to empty out your vegetable drawer.

Since there is no Japanese curry roux in this recipe, it is not, but there is no wheat flour either because it contains soy sauce. Just make sure you’re using a gluten-free soy sauce to make it gluten-free (such as tamari).

This dish is simple to convert to vegan as it doesn’t call for butter or chicken stock. Just substitute your preferred plant-based protein for the chicken. You can also look at my recipe for a chickpea- and mushroom-filled vegan Japanese curry.

What makes Japanese curry so special?

Making Japanese curry is not very difficult. All you need to do is choose your favorite roux, then add meat and vegetables. However, Japanese curry isn’t restricted to a single recipe, just like other comfort cuisines from throughout the globe. Everybody makes it differently, down to the precise manner they cut the vegetables or how long they boil the curry for. Additionally, even if the same curry roux is used, each family’s version of the dish will likely taste different because everyone uses their own special blend of hidden ingredients.

Matcha and sakura petals are two unusual ingredients that have been used in curries before, but surely these are just fad ingredients meant to appeal to foodies? These unconventional items aren’t typically used in Japanese households, right?

The top 10 responses from a survey conducted by the Japanese lifestyle website Kufura, which included 437 Japanese women, were published.


Soy sauce, no. 5

The fifth most chosen response, soy sauce, may not have been all that surprising. Supporters said that it changed the dish’s flavor profile from hot to rich and imparted a typical Japanese flavor.

Four. Garlic

Garlic, another rather traditional ingredient, is ranked fourth. As a result of this ranking of “Respondents aren’t putting entire cloves in and eating them like the big chunks of potato or carrot you get in Japanese curry, though, so the secret components. The secret is to grate the garlic first, before adding it to the pot, to ensure that it melts into the roux.

Chocolate, third

Surprisingly, 36% of respondents admitted to putting chocolate in their curry. Instead of milk chocolate, dark chocolate was chosen to give the dish more depth without becoming overly sweet.

Worcestershire sauce, second

Although ketchup made the list of ten, the second most popular hidden ingredient was what’s simply known as “Japanese seasoning known as sosu is most closely related to Worcestershire sauce. Since the sauce is composed of a variety of different spices, it can be used to curry to boost flavor without dominating the roux’s natural flavor.

First, instant coffee

For those who like a sweet caffeine boost with their dinner, instant coffee took the top rank among the secret components. Because Japanese curry already exhibits rather strong spicy, salty, and sweet flavors, the addition of a bitter flavor really completes the dish and gives lovers a sophisticated, mature eating experience.

The top 10 most popular answers contain a few unique ingredients, but other uncommon but still outlandish responses included Calpis (“It gives the curry a pleasant taste,”) and “It’s eco-friendly,”) leftover jam. In addition, other respondents said they didn’t use any secret ingredients at all since they preferred to savor the flavor of the roux on its own.

Why not give one of these items a try the next time you cook yourself a Japanese curry? You could find your new favorite flavor in the process. Just… if there aren’t any genuine breaded cutlets on top, don’t call it katsu curry.

What herbs and spices go into Japanese curry?

Different curry powders contain various components in varying amounts, depending on the brand. I adapted my recipe from S&B, the most well-known brand.

The necessities:

  • turmeric
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • fenugreek
  • black pepper, ground
  • ground nutmeg
  • ginger
  • powdered garlic
  • nutmeg
  • fennel
  • cardamom
  • cloves
  • bay leaves

It can be improved by:

  • anise star
  • allspice
  • thyme
  • sage
  • cayenne

What spice do I add to Japanese curry roux to make it spicier?

Curry made in Japan is supposed to be mild. Even the ones sold in stores with the label “hot” are not really spicy. Cayenne and black pepper are two spices that can boost the heat without altering the flavor. Remember that a little cayenne pepper goes a long way and just use a pinch at a time.

What distinguishes Japanese curry from other types?

Japanese curry typically consists of a protein, sweet onions, carrots, and potatoes and has a thick, stew-like consistency. A roux thickens the sauce (a mixture of fat and flour, and an addition of curry spices).

Japanese curries come in various varieties, varying from houses to areas, but the recipe I’m presenting here is for the most basic one, which includes chicken.

Don’t miss my collection of Japanese curry recipes, which also includes a vegetarian curry.

History of Japanese Curry

The British brought curry, which was originally Western-style stews spiced with curry powder, to Japan in the late 1800s. Curry was modified by the Japanese to become their own form, and soon after, “Curry Rice” (Kare Raisu) was created. In order for everyone to quickly make curry rice at home, S&B Foods created a simple instant mix known as curry roux in block form by the 1950s.

Curry is now a common cuisine seen in restaurants and food courts of department stores and has become a staple in Japanese households. Even outside of Japan, several other Asian nations have adopted it due to its popularity.

What Makes Japanese Curry Different from Other Curries

The majority of curries around the world are extremely different from Japanese curry; it has a thicker viscosity and a more sweet and savory flavor profile. The particular sweetness comes from onions, carrots, and additional additives like honey and chopped apples.

The sauce has layers of earthy tastes and spices, like a rich, thick demi-glace. Japanese curry is sometimes compared to a hearty stew rather than a traditional curry like Thai or Indian curry. Children can eat it because it is considerably less spicy.

The red substance in Japanese curry is what?

Fukujinzuke (), a variety of Tsukemono, Japanese pickled vegetables, is a typical component of Japanese curries. The pickles appear atop practically every curry dish and are instantly recognized by their striking red hue.

Fukujinzuke, despite their intriguing name, are just a combination of veggies like daikon, eggplant, lotus root, cucumber, and bamboo shoots. They are carefully sliced into tiny pieces, salted to drain out the moisture, and then pickled in a liquid made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.

Several hypotheses exist regarding the name’s genesis “Fukujinzuke. One of the prevailing ideas is that pickles use seven different types of vegetables, hence their name “Shichi-fukujin, also known as the Seven Lucky Gods, are honored with the dish Fukujin-zuke (Fukujin-pickle) ().

When creating Fukujinzuke at home, I prefer to ignore the coloring and instead concentrate on the flavor and texture. Commercial Fukujinzuke often uses food coloring to give it the distinctive red hue.

Fukujinzuke is addictively crunchy, salty, sweet, and sour. We enjoy fukujinzuke with steamed rice and curry because of this.

Why is Japanese curry such a dark color?

  • Good Japanese curry starts with caramelized aromatics like onions, carrots, garlic, and ginger. The normal time needed to mix these ingredients until they are a beautiful caramel brown is over one hour. By grinding them and adding baking soda to boost the pH, I was able to reduce the time needed to complete this task to around eight minutes (more on this later).
  • Although cocoa powder may seem like an odd addition to curry, it adds umami and a deeply roasted flavor that gives the curry the impression that it has simmered for hours rather than just a few minutes.
  • Although I typically like my tonkatsu thick-cut, for Katsu Curry it’s best to pound it out. This gives it a higher ratio of crunchy panko to meat, which provides more surface area for the curry sauce to stick to. Additionally, it cuts the cooking time for the katsu by nearly half.

How can you improve the flavor of Japanese curry?

The best curry can be made with just curry roux cubes, but the best curry and rice are made using roux cubes and secret ingredients.

Did you know that the majority of eateries that serve curry rice don’t actually produce their own curry? In fact, they also employ roux cubes! What distinguishes them from curries made at home, then? The secret ingredients hold the key.

I’ll share some suggestions for flavor-enhancing elements that can be added to homemade curry rice. Every time, use a different set of secret ingredients and compare the results.

Caramelized onions

I just recently learned about this. Despite not being a major fan of onions myself, I always add onions to curry, and I used to believe that simply frying them till tender was sufficient. That is, until I added “caramelized onions,” which completely changed the game!

Whether you use Japanese curry roux or not, caramelized onions will give your curry a rich, gravy-like flavor and enhance the color. Although it takes effort, it’s time well spent if you want to elevate your curry. The recipe below includes instructions on how to caramelize onions.

  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Quantity: 1.5 to 2 onions
  • Recommended: For someone who values flavor depth
  • Effect: Brown color intensifies and taste becomes richer and more gravy-like.


A tiny bit of chocolate will enhance the curry’s flavor. Keep in mind that it’s a secret ingredient, so don’t add too much!

  • After the roux has melted, the timing
  • Amount: 2 to 3 g
  • Recommended: A person who dislikes spice
  • Effect: Lessening the heat

Instant coffee Powder

I always add instant coffee while using roux cubes to prepare curry and rice.

  • 2 teaspoons
  • Those who desire deeper and fuller tastes might consider this.
  • Effect: Make the curry richer

Red wine

It will give the roux a wonderful punch and a hint of stew flavor from Europe.

  • When: At the same time as water
  • Replacing 10% of the water amount (so this recipe would be 720ml water 80ml wine)
  • Whoever wishes to add some sourness is advised to do so.
  • Effect: Adding a hint of sourness and freshening it more.

Soy sauce

Personally, I always add a little soy sauce. I typically use the Kikkoman brand from Japan.

  • Before the roux cubes, the timing
  • 1 tablespoon
  • Anyone who wants to add Japanese or Wafu flavor is advised to do so
  • Effect: Adding umami and a Japanese flavor

Tomato juice/puree/ketchup

Although it’s a common addition, I personally don’t use it because I dislike too-sour curry.

However, any of these tomato products can be used if you wish to increase the sourness of the tomato. The addition of too much tomato puree can make the dish taste overly tomato-ey, so use caution when using it. (I’m quoting my own experience.)

  • When you add the vegetables, is when.
  • Amount: 1 to 3 tablespoons
  • Person who wants to add sourness is advised
  • Making it sour and tomatoey as a result