Learn how to make Authentic Vegan Japanese Curry with this easy recipe. Chunks of carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and soy curls stewed in a rich, thick and sweet sauce – it’s the perfect weeknight comfort dinner! (Gluten free option)

If I had to choose one comfort dish for the rest of my life, it would be Japanese curry. Ready for the best vegan Japanese curry recipe? This is the real-deal, friends!

What is Japanese curry?

Curry rice, or kare rice (カレ-ライス) is a dish that was introduced to Japan around the late 1800’s by the British, when India was under the colonial rule. It was originally a stew-style dish mixed with curry powder served to the Japanese Imperial Navy. It started to gain popularity and then the Japanese adapted the dish to suit their tastes, which is now known are kare rice. By the 1950s, more and more restaurants served curry and commercial curry roux cubes were easily accessible in supermarkets for home cooks.

Curry rice is now considered a staple, national dish that everyone across Japan is familiar with and enjoyed by both adults and children. Nowadays, you’ll also find it served in other ways such as soups, with udon, soba, ramen, buns, tempura, fried rice, yaki curry and more!

What does Japanese curry taste like? (Japanese vs. Indian or Thai Curry)

Japanese curry is much thicker and stew-like in consistency– kind of like hayashi rice. It’s also distinctively sweeter, much less spicy than Indian or Thai curry. There is also a lot of other seasonings added that you typically would not find in Indian or Thai curry such as apples or pickles. Originally, curry was always only served with rice.

What is Japanese Curry Roux?

Japanese curry roux is a mixture of flour, butter and curry powder. In Japan, it’s sold in cubes that look like a chocolate bar for convenience.

Japanese curry is highly popular for two reasons: 1) it tastes SO GOOD and 2) it’s very (VERY) easy to make. What makes it so easy? The curry roux cubes. Instead of using a bunch of spices, Japanese people rely on store bought curry roux.

99% of the time, I’d say homemade is better but honestly you can’t beat the boxed stuff. Maybe I’m a little bias because I grew up eating it and its nostalgic but I think many people can agree on this one with me. If you’ve never tried Japanese curry using the roux cubes, I highly suggest trying it first before making a homemade.

If you can’t find curry roux or want a healthier version, I have a homemade curry cube recipe as well as instructions to make it with just curry powder down below.

Levels of spiciness

Each brand of curry roux blocks comes with 3 levels of spiciness: mild, medium, and hot. However, because these are made with Japanese taste in mind– the hot is not really that spicy. To make your curry spicy without affecting the flavour, add a touch of cayenne pepper and black pepper.

Is Japanese curry roux vegan?

Before, there was never such thing as ‘vegan’ curry cubes. However, in recent years S&B has come out with a meat-free curry roux. Torokersu curry cubes are also vegan.

Ingredients

  • Onions: lots and lots of onion, in all forms.
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes: Yukon gold potatoes are best because they won’t melt into the curry.
  • Soy curls: or any vegan meat substitute of your choice
  • Apple
  • Vegetable broth (or water)
  • Curry roux: store bought (S&B Golden Vegetarian or Torokeru brand) or homemade.

How to cut the vegetables

I grew up with large chunks of vegetables in my curry and its something I definitely do prefer. Some people will cut them pretty small for faster cooking but I find that the vegetables then melt into the actual curry (which is fine if you don’t mind that). I recommend cutting the onions into wedges, potatoes into 1 inch chunks, carrots into 1 inch chunks or diagonally chopped and mushrooms sliced in half.

Customize your curry + Kakushi Aji

Straight out of the box, you have a good curry but adding other condiments and flavourings is the key for really delicious Japanese curry.

Both my grandma and mom would mix two different brands with different spice levels of curry roux for a more complex flavour (Torokeru & Golden Curry were our go-tos). Then they would add kakushi aji ingredients, which are ‘hidden flavours‘ that come from all kinds of condiments. The most common you’ll see Japanese people use are caramelized or fried onions, apples, ketchup and honey. In our household, we always added Worcestershire or Tonkatsu sauce! Here are more ingredients you can try adding (bolded are ones I always include):

  • Apples
  • Banana
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tonkatsu sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa powder
  • Mirin
  • Caramelized onions (store bought or homemade)*
  • Fried onions
  • Sake
  • Rice vinegar
  • White or red wine
  • Yogurt

I always like to make a big batch of caramelized onions (see photo above) and keep it in a jar of caramelized onions in the freezer or fridge to save time. To make caramelized onions, simply dice the onions finely and cook over medium low heat with a bit of oil until super soft and jam-like consistency.

How to make it

Japanese curry is one of the easiest meals to make, which is what makes it so popular among busy moms! Plus it’s great for parties and potlucks because you can easily make a big batch too with minimal effort. Here’s how it goes down:

  1. Add the vegetables: Cook the onions for about a minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add mushrooms, carrots and potatoes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
  2. Simmer: Add the water, veggie stock powder and grated apple. Bring it up to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low, letting it simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Add the roux: Turn heat to low. Chop up the curry cube (see photo above) to make it easier to dissolve it into the curry. Dissolve the curry roux in using a ladle and chopsticks. Then stir in your choice of seasonings and condiments.
  4. Finish it off: Let it simmer for about 5 minutes to let the curry thicken.

How to serve & side condiments

There are so many ways you can serve the curry (udon, soba, katsu… etc) but for the classic curry rice, simply serve with a bed of fresh cooked Japanese white rice.

One last ingredient I want to highlight to experience true Japanese curry is Fukujinzuke. Fukujinzuke is picked vegetables (usually daikon) in soy sauce and umeboshi (sweet plum) vinegar. You can find this at any Japanese grocery store and some Asian markets in the refrigerator section.

How to store

Once cooled, transfer to a air tight container and store in refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Reheat on the stove over low heat or in the microwave.

How to freeze leftovers

Curry is freezer friendly and will last for 1 month, but it is important to remove the potatoes because they don’t thaw well.

How to make it without roux

If you don’t have curry roux or cubes on hand, you can easily make this with just the curry powder as well! We’re essentially making a ‘small batch’ roux in which you’ll need:

  • 200g onions, finely diced
  • 5 tbsp oil or vegan butter
  • 4 tbsp sweet rice flour or all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp Japanese curry powder
  • 3 garlic cloves (9g // minus amount of recipe card)
  • 2 tbsp ginger (30g // minus amount of recipe card)

Steps:

Add 1 tbsp of oil to a pan and cook the onions until caramelized over medium heat (takes about 10 minutes). Add garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute. Add remaining oil or vegan butter. Once melted, add the flour and curry powder and cook for another minute stirring frequently. The ‘roux’ is complete.

Then simply add in the remaining 300g of onions, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes and soy curls with vegetable broth. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, add grated apple and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Finally, stir in any other flavours of your choice and then serve!

How to make it in an instant pot

  1. Select sauté option on the instant pot. Once it’s hot, fry the onions, garlic and ginger for 1-2 minutes. Add in the carrots, potatoes and soy curls, and mix. Add 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth.
  2. Add the curry cubes on top and do not mix. If using homemade cubes, add them while they are still frozen. If they are at room temperature, add it after the instant pot is finished to prevent it from burning.
  3. Cancel saute, cover and lock the lid and ensure steam release is set to sealing. Pressure cook on manual high for 8-10 minutes, depending on how ‘firm’ you want your vegetables.
  4. Set steam release to venting and let the steam out or let it release naturally. Unlock the lid, set to sauté (low heat) and mix in your flavourings. Taste and adjust flavour accordingly (salt, pepper, etc). Lastly, stir in the roux until melted and then serve.

More Vegan Japanese Curry Recipes

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Authentic Vegan Japanese Curry


  • Author: Lisa Kitahara
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Authentic Vegan Japanese curry with chunks of vegetabes stewed in a rich, sweet and mega flavourful sauce. Served over rice for the perfect weeknight comfort meal. 


Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Curry

  • 1 large (300 g) onion, sliced into wedges
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1/2 (150 g) package mushrooms
  • 1 (150 g) carrot, cut into wedges
  • 23 (250 g) potatoes
  • 3/4 cup (60 g) soy curls
  • 1/2 (100 g) apple, grated
  • 2 1/2 cup (625 ml) vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 box (120 g) curry roux cubes (or about 240-270g homemade curry cubes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Kakushi aji (hidden flavours)

Caramelized onions

  • 1 large (300 g) onion
  • 1 tbsp (15 g) vegan butter

To serve


Instructions

Curry

  1. Over medium high heat, add onions and fry for 1 minute. Add in garlic and ginger and fry for another minute. Add in the mushrooms, carrots, potatoes and soy curls, and cook for 5 minutes. 
  2. Add vegetable broth or water and grated apple. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a low and simmer for 15 minutes or until you can pierce a toothpick through it. 
  3. Turn off the heat. Chop up the roux into small pieces (makes it easier to dissolve). Add the chopped roux to a soup ladle and dissolve it well into the curry. Stir in kakushi aji mixture. Add any other kakushiaji.
  4. Turn heat to low and simmer to thicken, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Serve over rice and enjoy! 

Caramelized onions

  1. Thinly slice the onions (*previously, I have diced the onions, but have since kept them just thinly sliced). 
  2. Heat butter in a medium pan over medium heat until melted. Stir the onions until softened and become translucent.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes to prevent them from sticking and burning until light amber (about 20 minutes). Continue to caramelize until golden brown. If at any point it looks like the pan is burning, add a splash of water to deglaze the pan.
  4. You can stop here at the point where they are soft and jammy or continue to cook for another 10 minutes until slightly blackened around the edges.  

Notes

  • Nutritional Information Disclaimer: Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated on an online tool (Cronometer) with added flavour and 1 cup of cooked rice per serving. 
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: entree
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: japanese

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 513
  • Sugar: 12.1
  • Sodium: 1379
  • Fat: 11.7
  • Saturated Fat: 5.6
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0.4
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 86.5
  • Fiber: 6.7
  • Protein: 14.8
  • Cholesterol: 0

Keywords: vegan japanese curry, vegetarian japanese curry, easy japanaese curry, homemade japanese curry

Okonomi Kitchen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. When you purchase something through my amazon affiliate links, I earn a small commission that helps me produce consistent content at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting my plant based kitchen! 

Konnichiwa

About Lisa

I'm Lisa, a home cook, recipe developer and founder of Okonomi Kitchen. Here, you'll find a mix of classic and modernized Japanese recipes, and creative, plant-forward meal inspiration using seasonal ingredients. I hope to share more about Japanese cuisine and culture through food and recipes.


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71 Comments

  1. Really great recipe, turned out delicious. I don’t know why Japanese curry seemed intimidating when its actually the easiest yummiest meal to make, so thank you for making it so accessible and the handy flavour hints to make it even more scrumptious! Don’t know why I waited so long to try making this, it will now be on heavy rotation this winter!

  2. I loooooove j curry! It’s a childhood favorite and a total comfort food. I used to love mashing the potatoes and mixing it with my rice on night two or three of leftovers. Weird, I know 😅 Since I’ve started cooking in uni, I never added any kakushi aji to my curry before. I’ve always wondered what restaurants’ secret ingredients were in their curries. My friend’s mom’s cafe would use raisins and apples as part of it. I tried yours, cocoa & coffee (love!!) and all with s&b roux. I honestly can’t have curry without this magic ever again! Thank you for your recipes, I loooooove everything I’ve tried so far! I’ve been super nostalgic/homesick since I haven’t been back to Japan or Taiwan since Jan 2020 so your recipes are really comforting! Thank you!

  3. Delicious! Super easy to make and to make extra if you want to save it throughout the week. I used the suggested S&B Golden Curry. Mixed Mild and Medium in case it was spicy. Not spicy at all by the way. Will be making more!!

  4. The absolute best. Cannot recommend this recipe enough. It’s easy to prepare yet tastes like it took hours to make. Thank you, Lisa, for continuing to create delicious recipes.

    1. I made this dish this week and I had to come back to this website to let you know that this was amazing. We usually cook it in an instant pot but I wanted to try cooking it on a stove instead. And this was super simple and easy too follow. My boyfriend was hesitant on the Kakushi but I love trying new things and it added so much flavor that it will now and always will be in my curry dish. It added so much more flavor. This dish made me very happy. Thank you Lisa!! 🙂

  5. This recipe is so easy to make and the instructions so simple to follow, even I couldn’t screw it up. Ridiculously tasty and I really like the fact that it encourages us to experiment with kakushi aji, which means your curry never need be the same twice – one basic recipe and a world of possibilities! And as an added bonus, the left-overs keep really well in the fridge for a couple of days and…maybe…taste even better?

    10 out of 5 with many thanks for sharing this awesome vegan recipe with the world.

  6. Easy, delicious, and hard to mess up. 10/10 would recommend. I can’t 100% tell if the kakushi aji added depth of flavour so I am tempted to do a side by side comparison one day. I ate an ungodly amount of rice because of how good this curry was.

  7. Hey Lisa! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I love Japanese curry but haven’t had it since I went vegan, so I’m very excited to try this out. Just wanted to point out, though, that Worcestershire sauce is not vegan as it contains sardines. (Yes, even the Japanese version.) Might not be an issue for some readers, but it’s probably worth adding a note for readers who are looking to keep this strictly vegan/vegetarian. Thank you!

  8. Delicious and easy! Will be making this regularly. I found the soy curls got a bit spongey so might try with tofu next time.

  9. I think this is my first time trying Japanese curry and it was AMAZING! I used store-bought curry cubes but followed Lisa’s recipe for the add-ins and hidden flavors. The curry paired with Lisa’s tofu katsu recipe is a mouthwatering combination. Highly recommend preparing both for the best experience!

    I did not have mushrooms or soy curls but the curry still turned out hearty & delicious. Next time, I would skip on the sugar since my store-bought cubes already had sweeteners.