Vegan tofu katsu thats perfectly crispy served with rice and rich Japanese curry for the ultimate comfort meal! This vegan katsu curry is easy to make and make ahead friendly, too. (Gluten free option)
Katsu and curry and two national home comfort dishes in Japan. And when you take two comfort foods and put them together, you're left with the ultimate hearty, satisfying and incredibly delicious meal.
What is katsu curry?
Katsu Curry (カツカレー) is Japanese curry topped with a light and crispy panko-breaded is a combination of Japanese Curry and a panko-breaded cutlet. In Japan, curry is a frequent dinner of choice because of how quick, easy and make-ahead friendly it is. However, adding katsu to it makes it extra special (in our family, we only had it for special occasions).
The combination of a crispy crunchy cutlet mixed with a rich and flavourful curry sauce.. you really just gotta try it to experience the magic.
Vegan Katsu Curry
Katsu is typically made from pork or chicken cutlets but surprise surprise!! Tofu is an amazing substitute for vegans and vegetarian. It's the perfect substitute because of how meaty the texture is and how easily you can make it look like real cutlets too!
Ingredients you'll need
To make vegan katsu curry, you'll need one recipe of Japanese curry and rice. For the katsu, you'll need:
- Medium firm OR firm tofu: For the best meaty texture, although you can also make this with firm tofu.
- Flour: Either all purpose or rice flour if gluten free.
- Aquafaba: Replaces the egg typically used. Be sure to use a thicker aquafaba (if using from the thin, reduce over low heat on the stove until its thicker). You can also use a combination of water and corn starch if you don't have aquafaba.
- Oil: For deep frying and also adding it into the egg mixture. My grandpa actually taught me this trick and said that it was his secret way to prevent the breading from coming off when frying.
- Panko: Japanese breadcrumbs are key to a really good katsu! Do not use regular bread crumbs.
How to make vegan tofu katsu curry
There are three components to katsu curry: rice, curry and katsu. Start cooking the rice and prepare one portion of Japanese curry. While the curry is simmering is when I'll start making the tofu katsu.
Preparing the vegetables
When making katsu curry, some people like to cut the vegetables smaller so that it kind of melts away into the curry. I personally still like to have chunks of veggies in my curry but experiment and see which you like better
Preparing the tofu: the best method
To mimic the texture of meat with tofu, we first have to draw the moisture out of it. There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Double Freezing: Works best with medium firm tofu, as mentioned in my air fryer tofu recipe. If you want to go beyond that, a third freeze makes extra tight flakey layers!
- Press, freeze & freeze: Again, works best with medium firm tofu but this method also works with firm tofu (slightly spongier texture).
- Freeze & Boil: My personal favourite method! Simply just place a block of frozen tofu in boiling salted water over a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Soak in salted water: salted water over the tofu and let it sit for 8-10 minutes. The salted water will draw the moisture out of the tofu.
- Microwave: On medium (600 W) for 4 minutes until defrosted.
Slice the tofu into 4 squares. You can use the tofu as is or cut them into irregular shapes like (kinda like larger nuggets). Then season the tofu pieces with salt and pepper on both sides.
How to make tofu katsu
There are three methods of making tofu katsu: fried, air fried and baked.
First, prepare three shallow bowls and fill one with flour, another with aquafaba (+ the oil) and the third with panko.
Dredge the tofu in flour and shake off any excess flour. Dip into the aquafaba. Then dredge into the panko making sure you have an even coating all around.
Deep frying / pan frying
- Add oil to a heavy bottom pot about 1 ½ inches in height. Heat over medium-high. I like to start frying at 320 F because it makes for a more even and golden exterior. If you want to pan shallow fry, add enough oil to cover the pan and then fry each side over
- Place 1-2 pieces of the katsu (do not over-crowd) into the oil and deep fry for 1-2 minutes without moving it. Once golden, carefully flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden.
- Carefully remove the katsu with tongs or chopsticks and place onto a wire rack or paper towel lined plate to remove excess oil.
How to know the oil is ready to fry
There are three ways to check:
- Thermometer: the easiest and most accurate
- Chopsticks: Place chopsticks into the oil and if you see small bubbles on the tip, then you're ready to fry.
- Panko: Add a piece of panko to the fryer. If it sinks and pops back up, then it's ready to go.
- Follow the steps from above but instead of deep frying, air fry at 375 F. I highly recommend spraying the air fryer basket and tofu katsu with oil to get a more 'fried' texture. Air fry for about 6-8 minutes or until light golden brown. Flip and air fry for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
- Follow steps 1-3 from above.
- We are also going to be pre-toasting the panko for a better crunchy crust. Add the panko to a pan over medium heat and spray with oil. Cook until lightly golden brown and then remove to the third bowl. Then do the dredge, dip and dredge.
- Place the katsu pieces on a prepare oven safe wire rack or baking sheet and bake at 400 F for 10-12 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Now that we have all three components ready, place some rice into a bowl and then add 2-3 pieces of tofu katsu. Then pour over the curry. Add some fukushinzuke to the side and enjoy!
Quick & easy with left overs
Making katsu kinda sounds like a lot of work. You gotta cook the rice, the curry AND the katsu buttttt, it's actually very quick and easy to make if you're efficient with your time (aka multi-tasking). To make it even faster, you can use leftover curry!
I'll purposely make extra curry and tofu katsu to keep in the fridge or freezer. And then when I feel like katsu curry, I'll make the katsu fresh (from frozen) and then serve it with warmed up left over rice and curry. It takes me under 15 minutes to put together.
How to store curry
Curry will keep in the fridge for 3-4 in the fridge and up to 1 month in the freezer. Be sure to remove the potatoes from the curry if freezing because when thawed, they tend to become soggy-spongy in texture.
To reheat, you may need to add some water to get a smooth consistency because it will thicken as it cools.
- Microwave: Do it in 30 second intervals, stirring each time until heated.
- Stove top: Let the curry thaw first and then add to a pot over medium low heat. Once it starts to heat up, bring heat down to low to keep it warm.
How to store tofu katsu
Tofu katsu will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat, place in toaster oven or oven at 350 F until warmed and crispy again. Do not microwave or the katsu will get soggy.
You can also freeze tofu katsu! I'll always make a double batch just to keep in the freezer for quick meals. You can either freeze it before frying or after frying. Place un-fried katsu on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen keep in freezer safe containers. If after frying, let it cool completly and then place in the freezer for up to 1 month. When ready, let the tofu katsu thaw and then fry. If pre-fried, reheat in the oven at 350 F for 10-15 minutes or until warmed and crispy again.
More vegan curry recipes to try:
- Authentic Vegan Japanese Curry
- Japanese curry powder
- Japanese kabocha curry
- Homemade curry roux cubes
- Yaki Curry (coming soon)
- Curry udon
- Curry fried rice
SAVE IT FOR LATER! ↓
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