Tonkatsu, Japanese deep fried pork cutlet

tonkatsu, Japanese deep fried pork cutlet

Tonkatsu is a typical Japanglish word - ton is pig or pork, and katsu derives from the word cutlet. Tonkatsu is one of the western-style Japanese dishes that can be classified as yohshoku. However, tonkatsu is so popular in Japan that there are even restaurants that only serve tonkatsu and similar items such as kushikatsu (bite-sized fried bits of pork and other things on a skewer).

One of the key ingredients for tonkatsu, or any breaded deep-fried item in Japanese cooking, is panko. In recent years panko has been adopted by the trendy world of cuisine, but it's not anything special - it's just dried bread crumbs. The thing that makes panko unique is that the flakes are bigger and crunchier than the kind sold by non-Japanese food manufacturers.

You can buy panko ready-made at Japanese food stores, or make your own. To make your own, take off the crusts of day-old good white bread. Flake the white part of the bread by hand, not the food processor, which would turn the bread into powder. Spread out the bread crumbs on baking sheets and dry in the oven at a very low temperature until the crumbs are thoroughly try - not colored, just crunchy. You can store this in tightly sealed plastic bags or containers for quite a long time.

Tonkatsu (Japanese deep fried pork cutlets)

This deep fried pork dish is one of the most popular Japanese meat dishes.

Prep time: 15 min :: Cook time: 15 min :: Total time: 30 min

Yield: 2 cutlets

Serving size: 1 cutlet

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork chops or cutlets, boned, You can use the chop part, or use the filet part, whichever you perfer
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • flour, for coating the cutlets
  • about 1 cup panko or dried bread crumbs
  • peanut oil or other vegetable oil , for frying
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Trim the cutlets if necessary to get rid of any excess fat. (Note, some tonkatsu afficionados leave the fat on, but I like to cut it off.) Make small cuts all the way around the cutlet. This prevents it from shrinking and curling up when cooked.
  2. Lightly season the cutlets with salt and pepper. Dust the cutlets in flour, then dip in the beaten egg, coating the surface thoroughtly. Finally roll in the breadcrumbs.
  3. Heat the oil to medium heat, about 170°C / 340°F.
  4. Deep fry the cutlets in the oil, turning a couple of times, until golden brown. You can tell if it's done by poking it. If it feels firm, it's done. If it yields to pressure, then it's not done yet.
  5. Drain thoroughly. Cut with a sharp knife into slices while still hot.
  6. Arrange on a plate with finely shredded cabbage, and condiments to taste: lemon wedge, mustard (not the French kind, but the English kind - plain mustard powder that's been reconstituted with water), tonkatsu sauce (available at Japanese grocery stores) or steak sauce.
  7. A complete tonkatsu dinner is usually rounded out with a miso soup, some pickles and plain rice.

(For search engine purposes)

By Makiko itoh

Published: April 05, 2004

Type: Japanese, yoshoku, pork, meat, deep-fried

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Tonkatsu

Maki,
thanks for finally explaining to me what panko crumbs are! I kept reading about them in cookbooks and on the internet but had never managed to find out what makes them different since I've never seen them around here.

Alberto | 5 January, 2004 - 10:26

Tonkatsu

you're very welcome Alberto. I have often chuckled at pretentious menus that talk about "panko" as though they were some magical ingredient :).

maki | 5 January, 2004 - 13:08

Tonkatsu

You forgot the "sauce." The special sauce is what _makes_ tonkatsu! Do you have a recipe for that if you can't find it in the stores?

On the other hand, you should have gotten rid of the shredded cabbage. I don't know where that came from--probably pre-/post-war poverty stricken Japan--but it adds nothing, and only makes you feel guilty for not eating it (why the huge pile?). Lose the cabbage and add a green salad. The shredded cabbage thing persists in cheap convenience store bento's, as well as the "salads" you get with teishoku in cheap restaurants: they use just enough lettuce on top to cover up the cabbage that constitutes the bulk of the "salad."

On the other hand, a lot of Japanese food is obviously derived from "peasant food," dressed up in cultural pretense after Japan became more affluent. Sechi-ryori is pretty horrid: obviously just a conglomeration of whatever wouldn't rot quickly without refrigeration.

Merlot | 5 January, 2004 - 13:56

I lived in Japan recently

I lived in Japan recently for 4 years and yes, they do still serve tonkatsu on shredded cabbage. In fact it’s a regular thing. Just look up hokka hokka tei’s online menu.

anon. | 1 September, 2007 - 17:57

Donkatsu

Donkatsu without shredded cabbage would be too plain to me. Eating donkatsu with shredded cabbage salad is fun. It completes tonkatsu experience.

Kim | 24 August, 2008 - 00:58

Re: Tonkatsu

The "cabbage" is essential to Asian cuisine and is served often AS a salad with a sweet sesame dressing. Trying to impart western values into foods of other cultures is a huge mistake most westerners make when trying to recreate an authentically foreign meal.

Nutritionally speaking, the cabbage in the dish serves as the "fiber" portion of the meal, since the rice and meat eaten alone, over and over would not provide that element.

In Thailand, cabbage is often sliced in a wedge, served raw with the intention that a bite is consumed with each spoon full of the entree or dishes served at the meal in order to compliment the texture and offset the heat of the spices.

Oh and cabbage in the Asian sense, isn't necessary your grandma's variety cabbage. Sounds like Merlot would benefit from a trip or two outside his/her hometown.

Tashima | 9 February, 2012 - 11:13

Tonkatsu

That looks so incredibly delicious, Maki. Is it possible to make it with ... tofu? I don't eat any meat, but the panko part just looks too good not to put on *something*!

Jodi | 5 January, 2004 - 14:03

Re: Tonkatsu

Yes, I've made it with deep fried tofu before. It's still good.

anon. | 20 April, 2009 - 03:44

Tonkatsu

Merlot, i am not sure i agree or disagree on the shredded cabbage. Yes it is a cheap plate filler. Then again I do find it rather refreshing to eat with a high-fat main item like tonkatsu, or gyoza. With a bit of the sauce, the cabbage is quite tasty if it's been shredded fine. But when we have tonkatsu at home we do actually serve a regular mixed green salad with it. (often we use the sauce on the salad too.)

Which brings us to the sauce...well I haven't really been successful at finding a good recipe for it. I've tried making it a couple of times...it's difficult! If bottled tonkatsu sauce is not available I would substitute a "steak sauce" - I know that A-1 sauce in the US is a decent substitute. Worcestershire sauce, which is available everywhere, is okay at least for the flavor. Or, do as my mother does and use soy sauce instead.

Osechi is another subject entirely...i didn't have time to write about that in much detail this New Year's. Maybe next year :P

maki | 5 January, 2004 - 19:49

(I know this is already

(I know this is already quite an old post, but still…)

While it is not quite the same as proper Tonkatsu sauce, I mix ketchup with a bit of Worcester sauce (maybe in 3:1 or 4:1 ratio). I think the result has somewhat similiar flavor and even structure.

Rina | 4 August, 2008 - 19:58

know this is already

You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post.
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mayur | 1 August, 2012 - 17:19

Tonkatsu

Jodi, you can use the panko coating for a lot of things. I've never tried it with tofu - if I am going to deep fry tofu, I prefer to do it another way (something else to write about, hehe) but I have used it for vegetables. A popular beer snack is preboiled potato pieces with the flour-egg-panko coating. Leek pieces are also good with this coating. The same coating is also used for korokke, Japanese-style croquettes.

maki | 5 January, 2004 - 19:52

Tonkatsu

Three tonkatsu sauce recipes from a Japanese sauce book I have:

(1) "Indian style"
-----1 t soy sauce
-----4 T tonkatsu sauce (A recursive recipe!)
-----3 T ketchup

(2) "For kids"
-----2 T sugar
-----2 T soy sauce
-----2 T Worcestershire sauce
-----2 T ketchup

(3) "Miso tonkatsu sauce"
-----1-1/2 T dashi soup
-----4-1/2 T sugar
-----1 T soy sauce
-----3 T Miso
-----2 t "tokigarashi"

These all sound pretty gross. I wonder, is it really that hard to make real tonkatsu sauce from scratch??

Merlot | 6 January, 2004 - 04:22

Tonkatsu

I guess tonkatsu sauce is sort of similar to a barbeque sauce in flavors...

It sort of reminds me of a scene in an old movie that was playing a lot over the holidays, Meet Me In St. Louis. They were making a huge pot of ketchup, and everyone in the family kept tasting it and adding stuff to it.. hehe.

maki | 7 January, 2004 - 04:20

Tonkatsu

My mom taught me to make a really simple tonkatsu sauce...ketchup and worchestershire sauce. I don't know the amounts, I just mix the two together to taste. It doesn't sound good, or even authentic, but it's just the same as you would get with your tonkatsu in a japanese restaurant.

Pualani | 28 July, 2004 - 01:08

Tonkatsu

Great to know how to home-make panko -- sounds much cheaper than buying it in a box! Can't do without the stuff; it's a vital ingredient for our spring parties at the beach in Hood Canal, because nobody can do without our signature super-fresh oysters fried in panko right on the beach (no need for anything but oysters and panko -- just mostly dry off the oyster with a paper towel, bread it, and toss it in the oil) are perfection. Now that I can make it, I'll have to bring the panko this year!

Hunter | 31 January, 2005 - 00:04

Tonkatsu

Hi Maki,

Just wanted to thank you for your post on making Panko. It's hard to believe it could be so simple, considering that in my grocery store I pay $1.99 for a 3 1/2 ounce box of the stuff. I have been looking for a recipe to no avail until I finally found yours. I will make some tomorrow, after I have properly "aged" a loaf of good white bread. Hope it works out. I love the stuff, but resent the priciness of it. Best to you and yours!

Lorna

Lorna | 26 February, 2005 - 17:27

Tonkatsu

Just for any of you who might check back, including you, Maki... I kept on with my search and found a recipe for Tonkatsu Sauce on another site. It sounds about right, so I pass it on for any and all to try with their pork.

Mix 1/2 cup Worchestershire sauce, 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and some black pepper.

Actually sounds pretty good to me, and I intend to make it myself this weekend.

Lorna

Lorna | 26 February, 2005 - 23:51

That sounds like something

That sounds like something we used to do as kids at Zippy’s. After meals, while waiting for the adults to finish talking we would make our own concoction of whatever was on the table: ketchup, soy sauce, pepper, salt, and sometimes worestershire sauce and tabasco! then we would dare each other to try it..

I must say, kids think of the craziest things.

chata21 | 21 September, 2008 - 21:28

Tonkatsu

maki - i only found your blog recently; congratulations, it is really good & v informative. i have recently blogged tonkatsu and referenced your site ... if you have any ideas on why the combinations of pork / cabbage etc. are so successful i'd love to hear them, cheers, steve

coops | 24 March, 2005 - 19:07

Tonkatsu

Where is the recipe for making tonkatsu sauce with applesauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc? Candy

Candy | 11 October, 2005 - 00:53

Tonkatsu

One of those things I guess wehre everyone thinks you know how to make tonkatsu sauce, like mayonnaise LOL, so happy I found you here, thanks

ebus | 22 November, 2005 - 19:39

Tonkatsu

Maki:

I just wanted to say thanks for your write-up on tonkatsu. I'm giving your recipe a shot tonight for my first time making it. I'll let you know how it turned out :)

BDeauman | 4 January, 2007 - 21:59

Tonkatsu and sauce

I just made tonkatsu the other day for the first time in awhile. I had read a recipe (on Bento.com, I think) that suggested you place breaded katsu in freezer for 20 minutes before frying to ensure crispy tonkatsu. I loved how it came out.

I find the “Bulldog” brand of Tonkatsu sauce indispensable for this dish and the must-have accompaniments of my childhood include cabbage, tomato and of course rice. You can find Tonkatsu sauce at most Asian grocers. I’ve heard a ketchup/A.!. Steak sauce mix is a good substitute.

Thanks!

Jacqueline Church
AKA The Leather District Gourmet

Jacqueline | 4 September, 2007 - 08:38

Panko

I love using Panko, but you mention in the recipe how to make it at home you should not use a food processor and shred it by hand instead.

Well, we make breadcrumbs at home, often, and I find if you put very fresh bread into a food processor and then use a lower setting the crumbs come out more like the panko you can buy. The drier the bread (for example, if you toast it in the oven first) the finer the crumb at the end.

So, really, you can get a panko-like texture using a food processor.

Erica | 13 February, 2008 - 15:07

I’ll have to give that a

I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks Erica!

maki | 13 February, 2008 - 22:30

Chicken katsu

Quite popular in Hawaii is the substitution of chicken for pork for those not wanting to eat red meat. Also yes, the tonkatsu sauce is quite important. A mixture of worchestershire sauce and catsup usually is pretty good and is most often used for the chicken katsu version. For pork, authentic tonkatsu sauce is best.

anon. | 14 February, 2008 - 00:55

I didn’t know pork was

I didn’t know pork was considered red meat???

chata21 | 21 September, 2008 - 21:31

I have a japanese cookbook

I have a japanese cookbook that i use and the ingredients for the Sauce are worcestershire sauce, shoyu, and ketchup shoyu can be purchased at the world market or you can just use regular kikkoman soy sauce. other things can be added according to taste though like sugar, ginger, mirin, garlic. it’s pretty much however you prefer it to taste, i think i’ll add a little mirin to mine next time myself! haha.

S.Fukui | 1 August, 2008 - 17:24

Kikkoman Tonkatsu Sauce

I like KIKKOMAN TONKATSU SAUCE. It tastes better than any of homemade sauces.

Kim | 24 August, 2008 - 01:04

Egg free

Would it work if I used something else instead of egg? My nephew has an egg allergy but I would love to try and make this sometime.

Cynthia | 17 September, 2008 - 21:44

That is rather difficult to

That is rather difficult to say. You need something that will coat the flour coating layer completely, providing a good base for the breadcrumbs to stick to, since the meat stays moist due to it being insulated inside the coating. You can see if there is an egg-free egg substitute that would work - I’m afraid I don’t know of any myself, for this use. :(

maki | 19 September, 2008 - 21:30
yannie | 8 December, 2010 - 07:14

Hi! Just a quick question,

Hi!
Just a quick question, would it work if you cooked the pork in the oven instead of deep frying?
Thanks :)

Maria | 5 October, 2008 - 14:19

I don’t think you would

I don’t think you would get the crispy texture on the outside if you baked it in the oven…

maki | 8 October, 2008 - 11:13

I’ve baked panko coated

I’ve baked panko coated shrimp in the oven. They get crispy, but it’s not the same sort of crispy as frying.

cmtigger | 15 October, 2008 - 01:42

Re: Hi!Just a quick question,

I know this is an old one, but just in case anyone else wanted to know:

The other night I wanted tonkatsu really badly, but I realized too late that I was out of frying oil. We baked them on a lightly greased cookie sheet and they turned out okay. They were crispy, but lacked the extra crunchiness (and the lovely golden-brown color) of fried.

knittedninja | 1 March, 2013 - 18:35

Made this for dinner with

Made this for dinner with chicken. Followed your steps word by word, added a bit of curry powder and garam masala while marinating the chicken chops, and they turned out pretty well although I blackened them a little ^^;
It’s my first time working with panko and I realised they burn quite easily..

The curry powder and garam masala gave a bit of kick in them.

Thank you for the recipe!

MitarashiDango | 9 October, 2008 - 16:57

this post and mine

Maki:
I wanted to let you know that I have been reading through your site at a steady pace — what an amazing resource! I used your tonkatsu recipe today and found it just as good as the mochi and onigiri recipes that I have tried before. I write about my experience frying it up at: http://avidalegria.blogspot.com/2008/12/fast-filling-foreign-and-fried.h....
Keep the posts coming! I love them.

Ai Lu | 8 December, 2008 - 04:22

Re: Tonkatsu

Hi Maki,

I've been following your various blogs and really love them all - thanks for sharing all your great recipes!

I know this recipe post is quite old and focuses on tonkatsu, but I'm quite obsessed with eating the shredded cabbage (japanese style) that normally accompanies the katsu but can't seem to figure out how to replicate it at home. I've tried using a mandoline, but it doesn't come out nearly as finely shredded as those served in restaurants and japan. Do you have any insights/ tricks you can share? Thanks!

oinkmoo | 10 February, 2009 - 10:28

Re: Tonkatsu

It's actually usually shredded with a plain kitchen knife (unless it's shredded with machines at large restaurants). Cut out the stem part of the leaves, stack the leaves, roll them up and shred finely. The only trick really is to have a sharp knife.

maki | 11 February, 2009 - 01:16

Re: Tonkatsu

Cut out the stem and roll. Aha! You shred basil by rolling up a small bunch of leaves and slicing, but it didn't occur to me to do the same with cabbage, which I also think is a necessity with katsu. Cutting out the thick stem part solves the problem. Thank you!!!

SBS | 20 March, 2009 - 17:57

Re: Tonkatsu

Thank you for the tip on getting the shredded cabbage right! It was the one thing I've never managed to replicate at home.

David. | 15 March, 2012 - 00:56

Re: Tonkatsu

Hi! I'm a big fan of your blog and I'm planning on making some tonkatsu using your recipe.I know it's probably a bad idea but how do you pack tonkatsu for a bento you'd be eating in a couple hours?

anon. | 27 May, 2009 - 06:00

Re: Tonkatsu

Very good question...I will address that in a full post over on Just Bento soon, but briefly, you can one of two ways - crisp it up a bit in a toaster oven or a dry frying pan, then let cool complete, or smother it with a sauce of some kind - even when it turns soft the coating is kind of tasty.

maki | 27 May, 2009 - 18:02

Re: Tonkatsu

the easiest way to make panko is to buy a loaf of French bread or a baguette - cut it in 1/2 and let it dry ( you can speed up with an oven on low - don't brown it) and then grate the pieces with a regular grater on the larger hole size face - works great and a loaf will keep you stocked for quite a few meals....

kiko | 30 November, 2009 - 01:14

Re: Tonkatsu

I just made some katsu using this recipe and watching a "Cooking with Dog" video on youtube.

I don't really know what katsu sauce is supposed to taste like, so I made a sauce out of Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, red miso and ground ginger.

Sarah Jane | 22 January, 2010 - 05:13

Miso sauce

I stayed in Japan for about 2 years, in the town of Okazaki south of Nagoya, and there is this restaurant that makes these incredible tonkatsu with a special miso sauce. I know I will never be able to replicate the taste of that sauce, but I want to try and make something like that when I cook tonkatsu later next week. Miso paste and soy I have, but the problem is I don't live near an asian store, so getting hold of stuff like mirin will be hard. Same goes for sake.

Does anyone have a good, tasty miso-sauce recipe without mirin and sake?

fuubi | 27 February, 2010 - 00:45

Re: Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu, or chicken katsu is very very popular in Hawaii too. They even serve them in local restaurants. I'm currently living in Alabama, so I have to make a lot of dishes from home too, including katsu. The sauce you can make yourself too, my dad use to make it whenever we didn't have it, he would just put ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and A1 sauce together and mix it. It tasted just like tonkatsu sauce.

Adrian | 6 August, 2010 - 19:37

Re: Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu sauce

Ingredients

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup worchershire sauce
1/2 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 tablespoons ginger
2 tablespoons garlic
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup mirin
How to make it

Put all above ingredients in sauce pan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring occasionally.
Reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes skimming any foam that rises to the top.
Refrigerate extra sauce.
Make about 3 cups.

Trish | 10 August, 2010 - 02:41

Re: home made panko

What exactly do you mean by flaking the breadcrumbs? I just love the idea of home-made panko as it is so very expensive in the stores here. It costs just under Aus$5 here. We ofen have day old bread so make our own (normal) breadcrumbs in the food processor but I am definitely going to be trying to make panko bread crumbs at home now I have a recipe! Thanks so much!

Bern | 29 October, 2011 - 13:37

Re: home made panko

First off, you want to start with a good loaf of bread - a homemade loaf would be best. If you look good bread, it has a 'grain' so to so to speak - the strands of gluten run in one direction. If you tear a loaf apart you can see this easily. What you want to do to make panko that has sharp, crunchy spikes is not to crush this grain, so grinding it up in a food processor is a definite no no. (I do use my food processor to make breadcrumbs for meatloaf and so on, where the crumb texture doesn't matter, but making panko is a manual job.) To make panko, take the white inside out of the crust, and start tearing it into small bits. Leave the torn up bits (which may still be large) in a dark place, covered with a cloth to keep away dust and insects. The next day the bits will be pretty dry. Keep tearing them up until you have panko sized crumbs. The crumbs should be spiky, not powdered.

maki | 29 October, 2011 - 14:11

Re: Tonkatsu

I made this for the first time last night and it was amazing! I was surprised to find panko in the supermarket so I thought I'd give it a go. My girlfriend (who is Japanese) loved it! Next time I might try making my own panko because it is a bit expensive for what is essentially breadcrumbs. This is not the first recipe I've used of yours and it certainly won't be the last. Thanks Maki!

Jai | 19 November, 2011 - 13:57

Re: Tonkatsu

hi maki, i hope you'll see this comment. can you tell me why my batter peels off after frying? it comes off the pork when i slice it, is it because my oil is not hot enough? or maybe i used storebought panko so its too dry so it doesnt stick to the pork? please advise, thanks!!

Kaylene | 31 July, 2012 - 16:45

Re: Tonkatsu

My favorite Japanese restaurant served tonkatsu with a delicious simple apple slaw that I have been trying to duplicate since I have moved away, but am not having much success with it. It was just shredded apples, and the sauce was mayonnaise-based, but it seemed to have a very light pink/peach tint to it, and I cannot figure out what was mixed with it - any ideas or suggestions?
Thank you!

Melanie | 13 February, 2013 - 01:42

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