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Tofu Katsu: Vegan Japanese Curry Recipe

Tofu katsu is a delicious take on the classic chicken katsu curry dish that the world has come to embrace with open arms. When prepared correctly, katsu curry offers a subtle blend of curry flavours and spices that is remarkably comforting to enjoy with a large bowl of rice!

Our vegan katsu curry offers this same blend of curry and spices, just without the usual chicken in panko crumbs. Instead, we use firm tofu, a tofu press, and fantastic seasoning to create an authentic meat-free Japanese vegan curry. 

Here's our ultimate vegan tofu katsu recipe!

What is katsu sauce made from?

Before we start cooking, let's take a quick look at what makes up the defining component of any great Japanese tofu curry; and that’s the katsu sauce.

Katsu sauce offers a subtle curry tang, but it consists of a surprisingly complex array of ingredients. Importantly, you need to get this complex set of ingredients just right to prepare the best katsu curry sauce that you can. 

The primary ingredients of katsu sauce include onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger, alongside a variety of curried spices, such as curry powder and garam masala. This base is then complemented by a further array of Japanese spices, including miso, soy sauce, and mirin.

Our recipe does change a few of the staples, as it’s intended to be suitable for vegans. For example, we substitute egg whites for aquafaba, which is prepared from chickpea juice. Don't skip any of the ingredients below if you want your Japanese curry tofu to taste as authentic as possible. 

How to make tofu katsu curry

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients for the katsu curry sauce

  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 1 finely chopped white onion
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 tsp of finely grated ginger
  • 2 peeled and sliced carrots
  • 1 peeled and sliced Granny Smith apple
  • 4 tsp of curry powder 
  • 1 tsp of garam masala
  • 1 tbsp of white miso paste
  • 4 tsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tsp of rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp of mirin

Ingredients for the tofu seasoning

  • 14 ounces of firm tofu*
  • 4 tbsp of soy sauce
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of gelatinous aquafaba**
  • 3.5 ounces of panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

*It’s important that your firm tofu is pressed thoroughly before use. A tofu press removes the excess liquid from the tofu, thereby allowing it to take on more of the seasoning and curry flavour of the katsu.

**You can prepare homemade aquafaba using the water from a can of chickpeas or by mixing a half cup of cornflour into water.

Ingredients to serve 

  • 2 cups of cooked rice
  • Lettuce for garnish
  • Pickled radishes for garnish

Directions for the katsu curry sauce

  1. Begin by heating 2 tbsp of frying oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, fry your chopped onions until they are starting to soften. Next, add your minced garlic cloves, followed swiftly by grated ginger. Allow the ingredients to fry for around 2 minutes.
  2. Now add your sliced carrots and apple, alongside curry powder and garam masala. Give all the ingredients a vigorous stir while frying for 2 more minutes. 
  3. Measure out 1 cup of warm water and use it to dissolve 1 tbsp of miso paste. When dissolved, pour this into the skillet with your other ingredients. 
  4. Lower the heat on the stovetop and allow the ingredients to simmer for around 15 minutes. You need the carrots and apples to soften up. 
  5. Once ready, pour your mixture into a blender to blend the ingredients into a smooth sauce. At this stage, you can add in soy sauce, rice vinegar, and mirin for extra flavour. 

Directions for the tofu 

  1. Start by pressing any excess water from your block of tofu. Use a tofu press for the best results. When satisfied, slice your pressed block of tofu into 4 evenly sized slices.
  2. Measure out 4 tbsps of soy sauce into a bowl, and leave the tofu to marinate in the soy sauce while you coninue to prepare the rest of the dish. You can turn the tofu every now and then. 
  3. Now you need to prepare 2 large plates. Cover the first plate in flour and place panko breadcrumbs on the second plate. You can mix in a little salt with the panko breadcrumbs for seasoning. 
  4. Take a large, shallow bowl and pour in your aquafaba.
  5. Place a wok on the stovetop and heat up frying oil (you need enough oil to cover your tofu pieces).
  6. While the oil is heating up, it’s time to coat your tofu. First, give each piece a good coating of flour. Then dip the tofu into the aquafaba before finally coating in panko breadcrumbs.
  7. Once coated, place each piece of tofu into the frying oil in the bottom of the wok. 
  8. Each piece of tofu needs to fry for at least 2 minutes on either side. Remove from the oil when the breadcrumbs are golden brown, and allow to drain on kitchen towels. 
  9. Repeat until all of your tofu katsu is ready. 
  10. Serve your tofu katsu pieces with recommended garnishes, rice, and a heap of curry sauce!

Tofu katsu curry FAQ

What kind of tofu do you need for katsu curry?

Just as it’s important to get the right combination of spices and ingredients for your curry sauce, it’s important to select the right kind of tofu for the dish!

The best choice to use for tofu Japanese curry is firm or extra firm tofu. If you try to use soft or silken tofu, then the tofu won’t hold its shape during the frying process, leaving you with squidgy, messy breaded tofu.

Why do I need to press the tofu?

It’s also important that you press out any excess liquid before you start preparing your tofu. If there’s too much water in the tofu, then it’s going to taste watery. You need to remove this excess liquid, so the tofu can take on and absorb the flavors of the marinades, seasoning, and curry sauce.

Again, soft and silken tofu have too much water for them to work well as a meat substitute. Firm tofu also has lots of excess water, however, which is why we need to press this water out of the block. 

The best way to do this is by using a tofu press, which does all the hard work for you. If you don’t have a press, though, you can wrap your block of tofu in paper towels and press down firmly from above using a solid object, such as a chopping board.  

What’s the best curry powder for tofu katsu?

Curry powder is the essential ingredient when you’re preparing tofu katsu, so it’s important to select your curry powder well!

For a mild, yet flavourful katsu sauce, you can use a basic ‘curry powder’ from the store, which is simply a mixture of different spices and herbs. For a spicier version, you can use a much hotter madras curry powder. You could even add a few chilis to the recipe if you prefer a fiery curry!

What is ‘aquafaba’?

Our recipe calls for aquafaba, which is one of the best vegan substitutes for egg whites. Aquafaba acts as a thickening and binding agent, so it’s essential for holding together the breadcrumb coating on our tofu.  

The easiest way to source aquafaba, is from chickpeas. Aquafaba is simply the leftover liquid in which the chickpeas sit. All you need to do is drain the chickpeas and hold onto the liquid. 

Another alternative method is to prepare a cornflour mixture. Mix together a half cup of cornflour with a half cup of water. You’ll need to use a whisk to get out the lumps. Corn flour tends to clump together when it’s fried, so you need to make sure it doesn’t cause your tofu to stick to the wok!

That's how you make tofu katsu curry!

That’s it for our tofu katsu curry recipe. Yes, it can seem like a challenging recipe to bring together, but once you have your ingredients organized and laid out on the countertop, it’s simply a matter of going through the directions, one step at a time.

Get this recipe right, and you’ll be enjoying the delights of vegan Japanese curry for many dinners to come!