When it comes to Japanese cuisine, sushi and ramen often steal the spotlight. However, there is another mouthwatering dish that deserves recognition: okonomiyaki. This savory pancake, often referred to as “Japanese pizza,” is a beloved comfort food that has been enjoyed for centuries. In this article, we will explore the origins of okonomiyaki, its key ingredients, and the traditional recipe to create this delectable dish.

The Origins of Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki traces its roots back to the Kansai region of Japan, specifically Osaka and Hiroshima. The word “okonomiyaki” itself translates to “grilled as you like it,” reflecting the customizable nature of this dish. While its exact origins are unclear, it is believed to have been influenced by both Western and Japanese culinary traditions.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), a similar dish called “funoyaki” was popular in Osaka. Funoyaki consisted of a mixture of flour and water cooked on a griddle and topped with various ingredients. Over time, this dish evolved into what we now know as okonomiyaki.

The Key Ingredients

Okonomiyaki is a versatile dish that allows for a wide range of ingredients. However, there are a few key components that are essential to its traditional preparation:

  • Batter: The base of okonomiyaki is a batter made from flour, water, and eggs. This creates a light and fluffy texture that holds the other ingredients together.
  • Cabbage: Finely shredded cabbage is a crucial ingredient in okonomiyaki. It adds a refreshing crunch and balances the richness of other toppings.
  • Protein: Okonomiyaki can be customized with various proteins such as pork, shrimp, or squid. These proteins are often diced or thinly sliced before being mixed into the batter.
  • Yamaimo: Yamaimo, or Japanese mountain yam, is a unique ingredient that gives okonomiyaki its signature texture. When grated, yamaimo becomes slimy and sticky, binding the ingredients together and adding a pleasant chewiness.
  • Toppings: The toppings for okonomiyaki are where the dish truly shines. The most common toppings include okonomi sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce), mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and dried seaweed. These toppings add layers of umami and enhance the overall flavor.

The Traditional Okonomiyaki Recipe

Now that we understand the key ingredients, let’s dive into the traditional recipe for okonomiyaki:

  1. Prepare the batter: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 ½ cups of water, and 2 beaten eggs. Mix until the batter is smooth and free of lumps.
  2. Add the cabbage: Finely shred half a small cabbage and add it to the batter. Mix well to ensure the cabbage is evenly coated.
  3. Choose your protein: Dice or thinly slice your preferred protein, such as pork, shrimp, or squid. Add it to the batter and cabbage mixture.
  4. Grate the yamaimo: Peel and grate a small yamaimo. Squeeze out any excess liquid and add the grated yamaimo to the batter. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Cook the okonomiyaki: Heat a large non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat. Pour a ladleful of the batter onto the pan and spread it into a circular shape. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.
  6. Add the toppings: Once the okonomiyaki is cooked, drizzle okonomi sauce and mayonnaise over the top. Sprinkle with bonito flakes and dried seaweed for an extra burst of flavor.
  7. Serve and enjoy: Cut the okonomiyaki into slices and serve it hot. Enjoy the delicious combination of flavors and textures!


1. Can I make okonomiyaki without yamaimo?

While yamaimo adds a unique texture to okonomiyaki, it is not a mandatory ingredient. If you cannot find yamaimo, you can still make delicious okonomiyaki by omitting it from the recipe. The dish will have a slightly different texture, but it will still be enjoyable.

2. Are there vegetarian or vegan options for okonomiyaki?

Absolutely! Okonomiyaki is a versatile dish that can be adapted to various dietary preferences. For a vegetarian version, you can omit the protein or substitute it with tofu or tempeh. To make it vegan, use plant-based alternatives for eggs, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce.

3. Can I use different toppings for okonomiyaki?

Yes, you can get creative with the toppings for your okonomiyaki. Some popular alternatives include cheese, kimchi, pickled ginger, or even additional vegetables. Feel free to experiment and find your favorite combination!

Yes, okonomiyaki is a beloved street food in Japan, particularly in Osaka and Hiroshima. You can often find small stalls or restaurants dedicated to serving this delicious pancake. It is a popular choice for both locals and tourists.

5. Can I freeze leftover okonomiyaki?

While it is best to enjoy okonomiyaki fresh, you can freeze any leftovers for later consumption. Wrap the cooled okonomiyaki tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container before freezing. When you’re ready to eat, simply thaw it in the refrigerator and reheat it in a pan or microwave.


Okonomiyaki is a delightful and customizable dish that showcases the rich flavors of Japanese cuisine. With its origins in Osaka and Hiroshima, this savory pancake has become a beloved comfort food both in Japan and around the world. By following the traditional recipe and experimenting with different toppings, you can create your own mouthwatering okonomiyaki at home. Whether you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine or simply looking to expand your culinary horizons, okonomiyaki is a must-try dish that will leave you craving more.


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