What is Okonomiyaki and How is it Made?

by Krystina Quintana

Okonomiyaki is a delicious savory Japanese treat served in a pancake shape. This Japanese pancake (okonomiyaki) includes a variety of toppings with sweet and creamy sauces.

Its name translates to what you want grilled, which is appropriate as you can choose your toppings whenever ordering okonomiyaki. The typical okonomiyaki ingredients include a batter and shredded cabbage, though the remaining ingredients vary greatly and include options like octopus, kimchi, pork, etc.

This delicious food was created before World War II, during the 1930s. However, it gained popularity in Japanese cuisine when rice became harder to come by during the war. It began as a simple wheat pancake, though experimentation with ingredients during and after the war gave way to the variety offered by street vendors.

What Is Okonomiyaki? How Would You Describe Okonomiyaki?

Japanese okonomiyaki is similar to Takoyaki, another popular street food in Japan. Both are batter-based, though okonomiyaki is served in a circular pancake shape while Takoyaki is offered in a cylindrical form.

The toppings are mixed into the batter, then pan-fried on a grill. The final result is a delicious golden-brown crispy exterior. The last step is adding the delightful okonomiyaki sauce and enjoying your Japanese pancake.

What Does Okonomiyaki Taste Like?

Okonomiyaki has a delightfully complex flavor that is sweet, spicy (from pickled ginger), savory, and smoky. It has a delicious crispy, creamy texture. The ingredients and toppings combine to create a distinct flavor that will make you want to order okonomiyaki as often as possible.

How Is Okonomiyaki Different To A Pancake?

Unlike a typical sweet pancake, okonomiyaki is not fluffy or sweet. It's a dense, savory pancake with various proteins cooked into the batter.

The method these savory pancakes are served in okonomiyaki restaurants is also very different from sweet pancakes. In some Japanese restaurants, customers can cook their Japanese pancake (okonomiyaki) on a griddle table. The ingredients are dropped off in a bowl at the table, and the customer is free to fry up their pancake. 

What Kind Of Food Is Okonomiyaki?

Okonomiyaki is a pan-fried dish that street vendors in Japan serve. This street food is popular in Osaka, the birthplace of okonomiyaki. You'll also find it in the Hiroshima and Kansei regions in restaurants and on the street.

However, this dish is popular throughout the country, so you're likely to see it regardless of which city you're visiting.

Types Of Okonomiyaki

Many varieties of okonomiyaki are available, originating from different regions and cities, including Hiroshima and Tokyo. Below, you'll find some of the most popular types available.

Osaka (Aka Kansei) Style

Osaka okonomiyaki is the original version of this dish. It includes mixing all ingredients in a bowl before frying it up on a grill or griddle (as described above). It has a delicious sweet, spicy, smoky, and savory taste.

Hiroshima Style

Hiroshima-style Japanese pancakes are much thinner than Osaka-style pancakes. Most ingredients are added as toppings, creating a dish similar to a Japanese pizza. This option generally includes more cabbage and yakisoba noodles, creating a chewier consistency.

Negiyaki Style

There’s one main difference between negiyaki and standard okonomiyaki; there's no cabbage in this option. Instead, the cabbage is swapped with green onion. You'll have a much stronger onion flavor, though your pancakes will be equally delicious.

Monjayaki Style

Monjayaki style, aka Tokyo-style, has a more liquidy consistency than the other options. This version is made by adding the toppings by themselves onto a grill first. Once cooked, the batter is poured around the toppings.

You even eat this option differently – directly off the grill. The flavor is similar to regular Osaka okonomiyaki, though you’ll notice a difference in consistency.

Is It Difficult To Make Okonomiyaki?

Okonomiyaki might seem like an intimidating dish, but it's pretty easy to make at home. Now, you can stop wondering how to make okonomiyaki as you'll have a homemade version in no time.

For this okonomiyaki recipe, you’ll need to gather your ingredients first. The most common ingredients are flour, eggs, salt, baking powder, tempura scraps, cabbage, a protein of choice (octopus, pork belly, etc.), and okonomiyaki sauce. If you can't find okonomiyaki sauce at your local store, you can make a version at home which uses Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and ketchup.

Step 1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl (except for sauce) until well combined.

Step 2. Heat a skillet, add oil so the pancake does not stick, and pour the okonomiyaki batter onto your cooking surface. Shape the okonomiyaki into a circular pancake using a spatula.

Step 3. Once the first side of the fried egg pancake has browned and cooked through, flip it onto the second side.

Step 4. Once both sides are cooked, add the sauce and drizzle Japanese mayonnaise on top. At this point, you can add any additional toppings you like, such as bonito flakes (dried seaweed flakes). Enjoy!

If you don’t feel like making okonomiyaki from scratch, you can easily enjoy an okonomiyaki-inspired snack. Add Osaka No Aji Honpo Okonomiyaki Senbei to a plate and top with Masuya Onigiri Senbei: Okonomiyaki Sauce for a similar flavor. Check out more snacks inspired by mouthwatering Japanese street food on Bokksu Boutique - the best online store for Japanese snacks. You can even find pantry staples, kitchen tools, and lifestyle goods here.

Let's watch how okonomiyaki is made in Japan!

Author Bio

Krystina Quintana is a 29-year-old copywriter living outside of Chicago, IL. Her passion for Asian culture began at a young age as she learned to create Asian-inspired recipes like homemade sushi with her family. This interest in Asian culture continues today with time spent in the kitchen and copywriting pursuits. Krystina has worked with customers ranging from small businesses to food Youtubers with 70,000+ subscribers. With a passion for food and travel, she seeks to help businesses bring traffic to their page by writing blog posts that are engaging, informative, and fun to read.