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Japanese curry – How to cook from scratch (and the easy method)

Have you tried Japanese curry before?

Japanese curry is a quick, easy, fail-safe recipe, making it an excellent choice for busy people to prepare a simply delicious meal.

This recipe offers two methods to prepare the curry.  First, use the store-bought Japanese curry cubes for cooking, and secondly making the roux from scratch, but it takes a longer time.

The word curry normally associate with the fiercely hot and spicy However, Japanese curry is an exception. It has a tinge of sweet flavor!

Japanese curry is not an original cuisine from Japan. It was introduced to Japan during the Meiji era (1868–1912) by the British. During that era, India was under the British colonial rule, and the Britons had widely accepted curry. Curry had been popularised in Japan through improvisation hence a new flavor utterly different from any curries from the South-Asian countries was developed. Japanese curry has become a staple meal of the Japanese and is enjoyed by people of all ages.

Japanese curry is a quick, easy, fail-safe recipe, making it an excellent choice for busy people to prepare a simply delicious meal. This recipe offers two methods to prepare the curry.  First, use the store-bought Japanese curry cubes for cooking, and secondly making the roux from scratch, but it takes a longer time.

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Here is the step-by-step guide on how to prepare the Japanese curry.  

Caramelized the onion

One of the most important aspects of making Japanese curry is to sauté the onions until they are caramelized, which can take up to 20 minutes. Most of the curries from Asian countries are prepared by sautéing the onion until translucent only.

The onions should be cut into thin slices so that they can caramelize quickly. The caramelization will render the unique flavor to the curry that sets it apart from other curries.

Marinate and pan-fried the chicken

Chicken, beef, and pork are all suitable for cooking Japanese curry. I am using chicken in this recipe. You can substitute it with other meat to cook by following the same method in this article.

I prefer to marinate the chicken with some salt, although this method is not typical in preparing the Japanese curry. I find that marinate the meat can enhance the flavor substantially. Since the meat is in bite-size, marinate for half an hour should be enough.

I also like to pan fried the chicken until it turns to light brown before cooking it with water. Pan frying creates another layer of flavor to the curry through Maillard reaction, which will not happen by simmering the chicken.

Cooking the curry

  • Place the caramelized onions, the pan-fried chicken, carrots, potatoes and water in a pot.
  • Bring it to a boil and then simmer for fifteen minutes.

So far, the process is quite common to other curry dishes. Now we want to add a few items that are unique to the Japanese curry.

  • Tonkatsu sauce.  It tastes similar to Worcestershire sauce.  You can use Worcestershire sauce as the substitute.
  • Tomato ketchup.  It changes the color of the curry to slightly reddish. You can also use tomato puree or paste as the substitute.
  • Fuji apple.  Grate half a Fufu apple into the pot.  Apples provide a unique sweetness to the curry.  Some people like add a small of honey for the same purpose.

Two ways to make the roux

There are two ways to proceed from here.  

1. Use the store-bought curry roux mix

The easiest way is to get the store-bought Japanese curry roux cubes.  It is widely available is most of the grocery shops in many countries. The mix contains the roux (oil and flour) and the curry spices.  

It is easy to use the Japanese curry roux for preparing the curry. This method saves you time, but you have less control over the taste than make from scratch. The curry roux comes with different level of spiciness. I usually use the S&B brand that is moderately spicy.

Add the roux cubes to the pot of curry, keep stirring until the cubes are entirely disintegrated and thicken the liquid.  Do a taste test as these roux cubes also contain some salt and sugar. You may want to add some curry powder and salt to adjust the taste.

2. Make Japanese curry from scratch

Alternatively, you can make the roux by following the steps below.

  • Heat 60g of butter over low heat in a pan.
  • Add the equal amount of wheat flour and stir constantly. Let the butter combine with the flour, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes until it turns to medium brown, which is the characteristic color of Japanese curry.   Keep stirring so that the roux will not stick to the pan. Keep the heat low so that the butter will not turn into smoke and get burn.
  • Add some chili powder if you want a spicier curry.
  • Add three tablespoons of Japanese curry powder (or more if you want a stronger curry taste) and mix it well until it forms a thick paste.

This roux making process is similar to making to preparing the brown sauce. Making your roux has the advantage of you controlling the level of spiciness and the proportion of various spices used.

Once it is ready, add the roux to the pot and cook until it thickens the curry.

Final tasting

Add some salt to the curry until you get the desired level of saltiness. It is better to adjust the taste now because the saltiness depends on how much the curry had been reduced. Also, store-bought roux cubes contain salt (and coloring and monosodium glutamate), so it is safer not to add too much salt at the earlier stages.

For the same reason, you need to add more salt if you are making your roux.  You may also need to add more curry powder, sugar, and chili powder to get the flavor you want.

Once you have adjusted the taste, add some frozen green peas to the curry.  Wait until it boils again and is ready to serve.

The Japanese curry is best to serve with steamed rice and is also good to use to prepare Japanese curry ramen.

If you like this Japanese curry recipe, you may also interested to try other related curry recipes. our Malaysian Chicken curry with gravy, Indonesian beef minang which is a dry curry, and Kapitan chicken which is a famous Nyonya cuisine.

Japanese Curry

Japanese Curry

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Japanese curry is a quick, easy, fail-safe recipe, making it an excellent choice for busy people to prepare a simply delicious meal.


For the roux (or use four curry cubes


Roux (or use four store-bought roux cubes)

  1. Melt the butter in a pan over low heat. Add the flour and combine it with the butter to form a paste.
  2. Cook until the color becomes medium brown, which will take about 15 minutes.
  3. Combine with the curry powder to form a paste. Remove from heat.

The curry

  1. Slice the onions thinly. Saute the onions over low heat with some oil until they are caramelized, which will take 15 to 20 minutes. Remove.
  2. Pan-fried the chicken meat until it turns slightly brown. Removed.
  3. Put the caramelized onion, pan-fried chicken, carrots, potatoes, and water into a pot. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Add tonkatsu sauce, ketchup, and grated apple. Simmer until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Add the roux, (or use 4 roux cubes). Mix well until dissolved.
  6. Adjust the saltiness, sweetness, and spiciness.
  7. Add the frozen peas and wait until it boils again. Serve.


You can use the commercially available curry roux. Just follow the simple instruction on the box. However, the roux made from scratch is far better, without the MSG flavor (which you can taste it) and other food additives.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 416Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 933mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 9gSugar: 18gProtein: 22g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 6/8/2019


Wednesday 30th of March 2022

I love the recipe. Used it a few times already, great home cooking flavour.

But you can't caramelise onion in 15-20 minutes. It's going to take at least 45-60 minutes. This is just sauteing them.


Tuesday 23rd of November 2021

MSG is healthy for humans and adds a delicious umami flavor - it should be a part of any savory recipe.


Saturday 27th of February 2021

As u mentioned we can substitute japanese curry powder to Indian Garam masala? Aren’t they are two totally different taste ?

KP Kwan

Sunday 28th of February 2021

Yes, it will be of different taste, but that is one way to go around if the Japanese curry powder is unavailable.


Friday 21st of February 2020

Love your recipe, it’s always interesting to see how people make the curry or add their own little twist in with different seasoning or ingredients. I hope you can check out and comment on my recipe post:

google street view

Thursday 26th of September 2019

This is fantastic! I've made it twice now – sans apple and peas, and using a jumbo sweet onion – and it's just as good the next day (cooking for two people, I end up with leftovers for the week).

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