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Japanese Tofu Curry: Vegan Katsu Curry Recipe

Japanese tofu curry is a delicious vegan and vegetarian recipe that puts a tofu twist on the katsu classic. 

This hearty Japanese katsu curry is thick and spicy, but the real highlight of the show is the breaded tofu, a moreish stand-in for the katsu meat cutlets you’d expect to serve with this meal. There’s not much that can beat a fresh curry with tofu, so get ready to learn how to make this vegetarian Japanese curry recipe from scratch!

Get your breadcrumbs and tofu lined up, and prepare to cook up some outrageously tasty katsu sauce. Here’s our Japanese tofu curry recipe. 

What is Japanese katsu curry? 

Traditional Japanese curry is a classic dish that became popular in Japan in the 19th century when Indian curries began arriving through trade with the British. Japanese curry uses similar curry powders and spices (such as garam masala) to Indian curry recipes, but the Japanese recipes have evolved to suit Japanese tastes.

Japanese curries are a little sweet and a little sour, and they don’t tend to use chilis (they are much milder than an Indian curry). Japanese curry sauce is used for various recipes, and it’s commonly served with rice, over noodles, or bread.

A Japanese katsu curry actually refers to a specific dish that’s made with curry sauce. A Japanese katsu curry recipe has a katsu curry sauce, which is served over breaded vegetables, breaded meat, or in our case, breaded tofu. 

‘Katsu’ actually refers to this breaded ‘cutlet’ rather than to the curry sauce, but in a Japanese curry katsu, the two are inseparable!

How to make Japanese tofu curry 

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients for vegan Japanese curry sauce 

  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp of curry powder
  • ¼ tsp of turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp of garam masala
  • 1 tbsp of mirin 
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock 

Ingredients for tofu in breadcrumbs

  • 16 ounces of extra firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients to serve vegan Japanese curry with tofu

  • Rice
  • 2 chopped scallions
  • Freshly chopped cilantro

Directions for vegan Japanese curry recipe

  1. Start preparing our simple tofu curry recipe by removing your block of extra firm tofu from the packet and pressing it in a tofu press to remove any excess water. If you don’t have a tofu press, wrap your tofu in paper towels and press it down firmly with a heavy object. Leave your block of tofu to press and drain for 20 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, you can prepare the Japanese curry sauce recipe. Dice your onions, then cook them in oil in a large skillet on the stovetop. When the onions start to soften, add minced garlic and grated ginger. Chop your carrots, and add them to the skillet too.
  3. Leave the veggies to cook for 5 minutes. Then you can measure out curry powder, garam masala, and turmeric. Mix the vegetables with the spices and let everything cook for another 2 minutes. 
  4. When preparing Japanese curry from scratch, the next step is to pour in mirin and soy sauce, followed by tomato paste and vegetable stock. Give everything a good stir in the skillet, then allow everything to simmer together for 15 minutes. 
  5. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and move all the ingredients from the skillet, to a blender. Blend the ingredients, until you have a deliciously smooth curry sauce. If the curry sauce is too thick for you, then add a little extra vegetable stock to the mix and blend again.
  6. When you’re happy with the texture and consistency of the curry sauce, move it back into the same skillet you used earlier and leave it on low heat on the stovetop, ready to pour over your rice and tofu later.
  7. Now it’s time to prepare the breaded tofu (the katsu tofu element of our meal). First, slice your pressed and drained tofu into 4 rectangular slices. At the same time, you can leave your rice to boil in a large pot of water on the stovetop too.
  8. Next, place flour, almond milk, and panko breadcrumbs into 3 small, separate bowls. Take each slice of tofu in turn, and cover it in flour, then almond milk, and finally, panko breadcrumbs. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste, then fire up another skillet and heat up 3 tbsp of oil.
  9. When the oil is hot, take your breadcrumb tofu pieces and place them gently into the oil to fry. Keep turning and frying each piece of tofu until it has a golden brown breadcrumb coating. Place the fried tofu onto paper towels to allow excess oil to drain. 
  10. By now, your rice will be cooked too, so it’s time to serve your Japanese curry vegetarian tofu meal. Place rice on a plate, slice your tofu rectangles into thinner, diagonal strips, and arrange them on or around the rice. Pour over your curry sauce, then garnish with freshly chopped coriander and scallions to finish! 

Japanese tofu curry FAQ

Is Japanese tofu curry healthy?

Japanese tofu curry sauce is a relatively healthy recipe; however, there are still a large number of calories in Japanese curry sauce, as well as a large number of saturated fats.

However, tofu is high in protein and makes for a fantastic vegan cutlet when coated in breadcrumbs (and it’s lower in calories than, say, chicken or pork). You can make the meal healthier by using brown rice or lower the number of calories by removing rice entirely and serving on a leafy green salad instead. 

What tofu is best for Japanese tofu curry?

Extra-firm tofu is the best tofu to use for this dish, as it holds its shape well when coated with breadcrumbs and fried in oil. Softer types of tofu can easily lose their shape and fall apart. 

Remember to press your tofu before coating in breadcrumbs, as this removes the excess water (simply put, the pressing process makes the tofu taste less watery and more flavorful!). 

Japanese tofu curry: a vegan classic in the making!

Japanese tofu curry is a vegan classic that’s guaranteed to be around for a long time to come! Now you know exactly what to put in Japanese curry sauce and how to make breadcrumbed tofu, you have all the ingredients for a vegan katsu curry!

Why not bookmark our Japanese tofu curry recipe for your Japanese-inspired dinner?