Japanese beef curry is probably one of the most delicious and flavorful curries out there! The sauce is incredibly savory, has the perfect consistency, and tastes simply amazing.
If you’ve had Japanese curry before, then you already know how delicious it tastes! This Japanese beef curry combines a flavorful Japanese curry sauce with perfectly tender beef and fresh vegetables.
Plus, the recipe is actually super simple! Yes, it needs some time to cook to tenderize the beef. But other than that, this Japanese beef curry recipe is super easy and the ingredients are also easy to find.
What does Japanese curry taste like?
If you’ve never tried Japanese curry before, then you might be wondering how Japanese curry differs from other curries.
There are many different types of curries, but a lot of curry recipes use coconut milk as a base, and curry pastes which contain ingredients such as lemongrass, chiles, cilantro, cumin, and ginger.
Japanese curry is usually made by using a curry roux (can be bought or made at home) that contains ingredients such as turmeric, coriander, ground cumin, fenugreek, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, allspice, and many other spices. They can also contain other ingredients like apples, bananas, or honey.
These ingredients create a curry dish that tastes completely different than coconut-based curries.
Japanese curry is super savory, rich in umami, sometimes sweet, and really delicious. It is very mild compared to other curries (though it doesn’t lack flavor!) and it has no coconut milk. It really reminds me of a classic beef stew, but with Japanese flavors and ingredients.
To make Japanese beef curry, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Stewing beef: Just use regular stewing beef cubes to make this curry.
- Vegetables and aromatics: The classic combination for Japanese beef curry is onions, carrots, and potatoes. Garlic and ginger are often added for some extra flavor. And I added some mushrooms and eggplant just to add more veggies to the dish. If you don’t like mushrooms or eggplant, feel free to substitute with other vegetables or just skip them!
- Japanese curry roux: Japanese curry roux is usually sold in all Asian grocery stores. The brands you’ll often find are Golden Curry, Vermont Curry, JAVA Curry, and Torokeru. They all taste different and it’s actually really fun to try them and find the perfect match for you!
- Kakushi aji (hidden flavors): Many people in Japan like to add small amounts of additional ingredients („hidden flavors“) to enhance the flavor of the curry. They are barely noticeable, but they definitely change the taste of the curry. My favorite combination is soy sauce, chuno sauce (optional), ketchup, and cocoa powder. They really make the curry taste so much better and you probably already have them at home!
Which Japanese curry roux brand should I use?
All curry roux brands are great for making delicious Japanese beef curry. But they do have different flavors. These are the brands that are commonly used and loved by many people:
- Golden Curry: Golden Curry is one of my favorites as it has a very deep and savory flavor. It is intensely flavored and best for people who don’t like mild sauces. The curry sauce doesn’t have any sweetness. So if this sounds like something you’d enjoy, pick Golden Curry.
- Vermont Curry: Vermont is the brand to use if you like a hint of sweetness and something milder. The secret ingredients are apple and honey which lend the curry its sweet flavor. It is great for kids and anyone who doesn’t like too much spice. It definitely is delicious!
- JAVA Curry: JAVA Curry lies somewhere between Golden Curry and Vermont. It has some sweetness but is still savory with deep flavors. It really tastes like a great combination of both.
Another popular option is Torokeru. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test the brand yet so I can’t say much about it. I will update this post as soon as I’ve tried it.
All curry roux brands usually have a mild, medium hot, and hot option. The mild version is usually very mild (they might actually taste too bland for some people), the medium-hot version has more flavor and only a tiny amount of heat (there really is no need to be afraid of the heat here), and the hot version has a „normal“ amount of heat but isn’t really that hot.
When I make Japanese beef curry for myself and my family, I actually like to use a combination of medium-hot curry roux. I often use Vermont for the delicious sweetness of the apple and honey. And either JAVA or Golden Curry for more spice and savory flavors.
Honestly, you can’t really make a mistake here! They all taste great and it’s actually really fun to try the different brands and mix them to find your perfect match!
How to make Japanese beef curry
Making Japanese beef curry is super easy! Just follow these steps:
- Sear the beef and sauté the onions: Preheat some oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sear the beef from both sides until it has browned. Then remove the beef chunks and add the onion. Sauté until the edges start to brown.
- Simmer: Add back the beef. Then add the water. Cover the pot and let everything simmer over medium-low heat for about 1.5 hours until the beef is tender.
- Add vegetables and simmer: When the beef is tender, add the vegetables and aromatics, cover the pot, and let everything simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
- Add sauce ingredients: Now add the curry roux cubes and stir until they start to dissolve. Stir in the soy sauce, chuno sauce (optional), ketchup, and cocoa powder. Season with black pepper. Thin the sauce with some water as needed and let the curry simmer for 3-5 minutes uncovered.
- Serve: Serve the Japanese beef curry over fluffy white rice and enjoy!
Tips & Notes
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you try this recipe:
- Don’t omit the onions. The recipe might sound like it uses a lot of onions, but they actually dissolve while they simmer with the beef. They make the Japanese curry sauce really thick and delicious. So I wouldn’t recommend skipping them! If you really don’t like onions, then skip them. But make sure to use less water as the curry sauce will be much thinner.
- Cook the beef in batches and don’t cook it through. You only want to sear the beef to brown it. I’d also recommend searing it in batches to not overcrowd the pot. As you only want the beef to brown, searing it in batches shouldn’t take too much time.
- Check on the beef and let it cook until fork tender. Use the cooking time in the recipe for general guidance and make sure to check if the beef is tender. If it needs more time to cook, let it simmer longer until it is fork-tender.
- Start with less water and adjust as needed. I use 5-6 cups of water to make this Japanese beef curry, but you might prefer your curry thicker or thinner. Plus, your results might be different than mine. So I’d recommend starting with less water (3-4 cups) and adding more as you go.
The great thing about Japanese beef curry is that you can make your own version of it by adding/replacing certain kakushi aji or vegetables. Here are a few ideas if you want to switch things up.
To add more sweetness use:
- Grated apple
- Chuno sauce
To make the curry savory use:
- Chuno sauce
- Tonkatsu sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Soy sauce
To add more depth use:
- Dark chocolate
- Instant coffee
- Cocoa powder
To add some acidity use:
- Tomato paste
- Chuno sauce
Other vegetables you can use:
- Green peas
- Red bell pepper
- Green beans
In the recipe box below you’ll find my favorite combination and I’d highly recommend using the kakushi aji I used there, but feel free to modify the recipe to your taste!
How to serve Japanese beef curry
The traditional way to serve Japanese beef curry is using Japanese white rice and often fukujinzuke (a Japanese relish including Daikon radish, eggplant, and other vegetables) which can be bought in Asian grocery stores.
But you can definitely serve it with many other sides that don’t necessarily need to be Japanese. Here are some of my other favorites:
- Udon noodles
- Scrambled eggs
- Miso soup
- Pickled radishes
- Seaweed salad
Frequently Asked Questions
This really depends on the curry roux you use. They are available in mild, medium hot, hot, and sometimes extra hot. I like the medium-hot packages (they aren’t very spicy), but pick the one that suits your taste best!
Yes, you can! Just omit the beef and use only vegetables or tofu. If you’re vegetarian, you can serve the Japanese curry with scrambled eggs and rice.
If you omit the beef, you can reduce the cooking time as there is no beef that needs to be tenderized. You might want to use 1-2 onions and reduce the amount of water you use as the onions won’t dissolve when only cooked for 20 minutes. Or cook them until they dissolve if you prefer a thicker curry.
You can store leftovers in your refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Another option is freezing the curry for up to 3 months. If the curry is too thick after reheating it, add some water to thin it.
More quick and delicious Asian recipes
If you love simple and delicious Asian dishes, you have to try the following recipes:
Japanese Beef Curry
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or avocado oil
- 1 pound beef stewing meat trimmed and cut into cubes
- 3 medium-sized yellow onions roughly chopped
- 4-6 cups water
- 2 carrots cut into slices
- 2 potatoes cut into dices
- 6 mushrooms cut into slices
- ½ eggplant cut into dices
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ tablespoon grated ginger
- ½ package Japanese curry roux
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chuno sauce (optional)
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oil in a pot over high heat. Sear the beef until both sides have browned. Remove the beef and sauté the chopped onion over medium-high heat until the pieces brown around the edges.
- Now add the water and browned beef. Cover the pot and simmer for 1.5 hours (or longer) over medium-low heat until the beef is tender.
- Now add the garlic, ginger, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms. Cover the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
- Next, add the curry roux cubes and stir until they start to dissolve. Stir in the soy sauce, chuno sauce, ketchup, and cocoa powder. Season with black pepper.
- Let the curry simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes while stirring everything. Add more water if you need to thin the sauce.
- Serve with white rice and enjoy!
- The onions should dissolve and thicken the curry when they are cooked with the beef chunks. If they don't dissolve, use less water as 5 or 6 cups might be too much.
- For more information, check out the post. It answers many questions and includes more tips and tricks!
Can you make this recipe in an instapot?
Hi Kim, I have never tried making it in an instant pot, but it should work. I would prepare the Japanese curry like any other stew in the instant pot and then stir in the curry roux and other sauce ingredients in the end. Hope that helps! 😊
Thanks for the recipe!! Keep it coming. 🙂 I used it as a base but loaded it up with a ton of veggies— strings bean, peas, zucchini and three types of potatoes (yellow, Asian and sweet).
Hi Caroline, that sounds delicious! I'm happy that you liked the recipe. 😊