deep fried watermelon katsu on a wire rack

Savory watermelon ‘steaks’, marinated, cooked low and slow and then deep fried to create a delicious golden crispy vegan gyukatsu (beef cutlet). Sounds barbaric… but this Wagyumelon Katsu will blow your mind.

watermelon katsu on a wire rack with one piece showing the inside

Friends, say hello Wagyumelon Katsu!! AKA Watermelon ‘Steak’ Cutlets– a plant based take on gyukatsu (Japanese deep fried beef cutlet). This Wagyumelon Katsu will take you through a completely different dining experience from any dish you’ve had before.

The Inspiration

Sometimes Eric and I would come up with weird things and check google to see if it exists. It was one of those nights when the idea of deep frying a watermelon popped into my brain. The first thing that popped up were some fried watermelon bites and at first glance, in the photos it kinda looked like steak! I remember seeing viral videos a year ago about a whole smoked watermelon, and then the idea of vegan gyukatsu (beef cutlet) came to mind.

Looked it up and found a video by Insider that Harry & Ida’s does a Watermelon Katsu Sando (Wagyumelon Katsu Sando) made by Will Horowitz (the same person who invented the smoked watermelon ham). In the video, it looked craaaaazy real, it got me so keen on recreating my version of it. I had the marinade and basic katsu recipe already down, it was more so figuring out how to cook and flavour the watermelon. We’ll get into that a little later. Let’s get to it!

ingredients for watermelon katsu on a brown wooden background

How to Make Watermelon ‘Steak’ Katsu

Ingredients

  • Watermelon: I tested this with two difference watermelons. One was quite sweet and the flesh was slightly softer. The other watermelon was quite firm and less sweet, and this is one of those rare time when you WANT to use a watermelon that is not too sweet and firm to the touch so that when cooked, it doesn’t fall apart as easily.
  • Soy sauce: For flavour.
  • Mirin: Commonly used for katsu marinades, the alcohol will cook off removing some of the watermelon flavour.
  • Sake: Adding a little bit of sake helps remove some of that stronger watermelon flavour.
  • Molasses: Molasses is rich in iron and adds flavour without it being sweet or overpowering.
  • Cake Flour: for coating and the dredge.
step by step how to make deep fried watermelon steaks

To start the experimentation, I knew I had to extract some of the juices first so salted it and then let it marinate.

I decided to try cooking the watermelon in the oven and in the pan just for textural comparison. 10 minutes on the pan vs. 1 hour and 45 minutes in the oven… honestly there wasn’t much of a difference so I do recommend the pan method. I found low and slow is the way to ensure it is cooked through all the way. At this point, the watermelon steaks should hold together but should pretty floppy (kinda like medium firm tofu). Once I figured out how to get that texture and flavour locked in, the rest is pretty much coating and deep frying.

There are a few steps that go into making this vegan watermelon steak katsu but it is very similar to how you would typically make katsu! Here’s a run down with some tips and tricks to help you along the way:

Method

PREP THE WATERMELON

  1. Cut two pieces of watermelon lengthwise, about 2 3/4 inches thick. We’re cutting it slightly thicker than we want to so that we have some leeway to trim off later just incase. Then cut out a 5 x 3 inch rectangle (about the size of an iPhone 11 plus). Now, cut the thickness of the slab as evenly as possible until about 2 1/2 inches. If roasting the watermelon, keep it at around 2 3/4 inches as it does tend to shrink slightly more.  
  2. Salt the watermelon and then let it rest. In the meantime, make the marinade.
  3. Pat the watermelon dry with a clean lint-free cloth. Pour the sauce over the watermelon and let it marinate while making the negi miso sauce (follow directions in recipe below).

COOK WAGYU MELON KATSU

  1. Grease a pan over medium low heat. Place the watermelon steaks into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes covered. We want the inside to be cooked through so low in slow is key here or else the outside will burnt. Remove the lid and then continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes until slightly charred. Flip the watermelon steak and repeat with the other side. Remove the watermelon from the heat and onto a wire rack over a plate.
  2. Heat deep fryer or enough oil over medium heat (takes about 10 mintues)
  3. Into a shallow bowl stir together the cake flour and water until smooth. Prepare a plate with flour and another plate with panko. 
  4. Place the watermelon into the flour and coat the entire slab. Then dip it into the dredge and coat evenly. Then place it into the tray with the panko and coat generously on all sides until fully covered. 
  5. Once oil reached 350 F (180 C), carefully place the watermelon steaks into the oil and fry each side for 45-60 seconds until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a wire rack until ready to slice.
watermelon katsu on a wire rack with cabbage behind it

Gyukatsu is typically served with a simple dashi soy sauce, wasabi and Japanese black pepper because of how rich the cut is. For this watermelon katsu, I paired it with a negi miso sauce, kombu soy sauce and a bit of wasabi.

Friends, this vegan gyukatsu made with watermelon was one of the funnest recipes I’ve made. A must try this summer, I hope you enjoy!

dipping gyukatsu in negi miso sauce

More delicious vegan katsu recipes to try!

SAVE IT FOR LATER! ↓

vegan watermelon katsu on a wire rack with cabbage and wasabi beside it

If you recreate this Wagyu-Melon Katsu recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!
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Wagyu-Melon Katsu (Watermelon Katsu)


  • Author: Lisa Kitahara
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x

Description

Savory watermelon ‘steaks’, marinated, cooked low and slow and then deep fried to create a delicious golden crispy vegan gyukatsu (beef cutlet). Sounds barbaric… but this Wagyumelon Katsu will blow your mind.


Ingredients

Scale

KOMBU SOY SAUCE

NEGI MISO SAUCE

  • 2 scallions, finely chopped (35g)
  • 1 heaping tbsp miso paste (25g)
  • 1 tbsp mirin (15ml)
  • 1 tbsp sake (15ml)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (5ml)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar (8g)
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger (4g)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (10ml)

MARINADE

  • 1/2 watermelon (about 3 lbs)
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce (60ml)
  • 2 tbsp mirin (30ml)
  • 2 tbsp sake (30ml)
  • 4 tsp molasses (20ml)

DREDGE

OTHER

TO SERVE

  • cabbage, finely shredded
  • wasabi
  • grated nagaimo
  • Japanese black pepper
  • tomatoes

Instructions

KOMBU SOY SAUCE: 

  1. The night before, dust off the piece of kombu with a dry kitchen cloth. Pour the soy sauce into a air tight jar and then add the kombu. Close it tight and refrigerator overnight. 

PREPARE THE WAGYU MELON: 

  1. Cut two pieces of watermelon lengthwise 2 3/4 inches thick. Place it flat onto a cutting board and then cut out a 5×3 inch rectangle. Repeat with the other slice. Cut down the thickness of the watermelon to just about 2 1/2 inches. 
  2. Salt the watermelon and then let it rest. 
  3. In the meantime, mix together the soy sauce, mirin, molasses and sake. 
  4. Dry the watermelon and then pour the marinade over it. Let it rest while making the negi miso sauce.

NEGI MISO SAUCE: 

  1. In small bowl add the miso paste, mirin, sake, soy sauce, sugar and grated ginger and whisk together.
  2. Add scallions to a pan over medium high heat. Drizzle in sesame oil and fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce and cook until slightly reduced (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. 

COOK WAGYU MELON KATSU

  1. Grease a large pan over medium low heat. Place the watermelon ‘steaks’ into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes covered. Remove the lid and then continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes. Flip the watermelon steak and repeat. Remove the watermelon from the heat and onto a plate.
  2. Into a shallow bowl stir together the cake flour and water until smooth. Prepare plate with flour and another plate with panko. 
  3. Prepare deep fryer or enough oil over medium heat. 
  4. Place the watermelon into the flour and coat the entire slab. Then place it into the dredge and coat evenly. Then place it into the plate with the panko and coat generously on all sides until fully covered with panko. 
  5. Once oil reached 350 F, carefully place the watermelon ‘steak’ into the oil and fry each side for 45-60 seconds. Remove from oil and place on a wire rack. 

PLATE AND SERVE

  1. Add shredded cabbage to a plate along with wasabi and your choice of sides. Prepare small bowls with negi miso and kombu soy sauce. Cut the wagyumelon katsu stright down (this will help the panko stay intact) into bite sized slices. Serve and enjoy! 

Notes

  • TO ROAST THE WATERMELON: Keep watermelon slabs about 2 3/4 inches. After marinating the watermelon, pour the remaining sauce into a baking dish and bake at 350 F (180 C) for 1 hour and 30-45 minutes.
  • Helpful Equipment: non-stick pan, long chopsticks, wire rack, deep frying skimmer, shallow cooking trays
  • Nutritional Information Disclaimer: Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated on an online tool (Cronometer). 
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: entree
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: vegan, japanese

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 410
  • Sugar: 26.3g
  • Sodium: 1698mg
  • Fat: 14.2g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11.7g
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 57.7g
  • Fiber: 2.2g
  • Protein: 7.3g
  • Cholesterol: 0

Keywords: vegan steak, watermelon steak, katsu, vegan katsu, cutlet

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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42 Comments

  1. Whenever I crave katsu, I make this and this is a perfect subs. and definitely satiate my craving.
    I made two today and I finished it all LOL couldnt stop eating it.
    Thank you for this wonderful Recipe 🙂