Seven Easy Japanese Dishes to Try at Home

If you enjoy Japanese food from a restaurant, there are a few recipes that are simple enough to try in your own kitchen. Change up your weeknight routine with a nikujaga (beef stew), turn your family on to eggplant with yaki ​nasu, or use up those leftovers in a batch of onigiri (rice balls). Most recipes require just a few typical Japanese ingredients and no special skills at the cutting board or stovetop. ​

  • 01 of 06

    Onigiri (Rice Balls)

    Japanese Rice Balls

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

    Rice balls (called onigiri in Japanese) are often put in Japanese bento lunch boxes. They are usually shaped into rounds or triangles by hand and filled or topped with a variety of ingredients. Onigiri makes good use of leftovers like vegetables and fish you might have in your fridge.

    These little flavored rice balls are made with sushi rice, but the rice is not fanned and seasoned with rice vinegar and sugar as it is in sushi-making; instead, the rice is simply salted lightly. 

  • 02 of 06

    Miso Soup With Tofu

    Basic Vegetarian Miso Soup

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

    The most common soup in Japan is miso soup. Seasoned with miso (soybean paste), this umami broth is quick and easy to make. As an added bonus, is very nutritious.  The broth is based on dashi soup stock that is made of niboshi (dried baby sardines), kombu (dried kelp), katsuobushi (thin shavings of dried and smoked bonito, aka skipjack tuna), or hoshi-shiitake (dried shiitake). Cubes of tofu add a welcome silky texture. Miso soup is also delicious (and heartier) with the addition of scallions, garlic, kale, cabbage, or mushroom.

  • 03 of 06

    Beef Kushiyaki (Grilled Beef Skewers)

    Japanese Beef Skewers (Kushiyaki)

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Kushiyaki is a Japanese culinary term that refers to any food that is skewered and grilled. In this recipe for beef kushiyaki, flank steak is thinly sliced, marinated in a mixture of sugar, soy sauce, sake, ginger, garlic, and sesame seeds, and then quickly grilled. The dish is perfect for a crowd and is reminiscent of teriyaki beef without too much sweetness.

  • 04 of 06

    Gyudon (Beef Bowl)

    Gyudon Recipe

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

    Gyudon is an immensely popular rice bowl dish in Japan. Steamed rice is topped with beef and onions that have been simmered in sake and soy sauce. The balance of sweet and savory ingredients complements the flavors of beef and onions. Sometimes a raw egg or a poached egg (tomago) is placed on top. It's a quick, easy meal that's perfect for a cold winter night at home.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Asari no Sakamushi (Clam Soup)

    Japanese Clam Soup (Asari No Sumashijiru)

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

    In Japanese, sakamushi is a clear soup; asari means clam and "no" means "of," so although it translates to a clear soup of clams, the recipe is essentially steamed clams. The ingredients called for are just clams, water, and salt. A garnish of lemon peel adds freshness and complements the very flavorful short-necked clams.

    Once the water comes to a boil, you simply add the clams and cook until they open. Place four to five clams in each bowl, spoon over some broth, and add a piece of lemon peel.

  • 06 of 06

    Nikujaga (Beef Stew)

    Japanese nikujaga recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    In Japanese, "niku" means "meat" and "jaga" translates to "potatoes." So this dish is basically a meat and potato stew. It's real Japanese comfort food. Nikujaga is quite a flexible recipe as well; you can use any cut of meat you prefer (as long as it is fatty), any type of potato, and throw in other vegetables in addition to the onion and carrot. If you prefer, you can include shirataki noodles, which, in addition to the dashi, mirin, and soy sauce, give this dish true Japanese flavor.