For pantry-led and creative cooking, here are a collection of delicious and easy Japanese recipes you can make at home anytime. Think teriyaki chicken, Japanese curry, miso soup, soba salad, and more. Also, I’ve included tips and resources for anyone who wishes to learn authentic Japanese cooking at home.
Love to cook more Japanese food at home but not sure where to start? In this meal guide, you’ll find the best-tested, easy Japanese recipes that any beginners can make at home. These favorite home-cooked dishes include miso soup, onigiri rice balls, teriyaki salmon, donburi rice bowls, soba salad, and more.
I’ve also included tips, ideas, and resources on how to optimize your ingredients. Whether you’re a home cook or a college student, you’ll be empowered with the know-how by the end of the post.
Let’s get cooking!
Quick Tips on How to Make the Best of Pantry Meals
1. Build your pantry staples based on categories and shelf life
Start with the type of food/ cuisine you prefer to eat and cook. Then build the pantry based on grains, freezer-friendly proteins, frozen vegetables, and essential seasonings. Go for longer shelf-life ingredients. For example, root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes.
For cooking Japanese food, you need to stock up on these 6 must-have condiments. Dried ingredients such as dried kombu, dried wakame, nori sheet, tofu, and dried mushrooms are well-worth adding too.
2. Simplify & improvise
You can still enjoy some of your favorite dishes even when you don’t have access to fresh foods. Emergency meals are about simplification and improvisation. Skip non-essential garnishes or cut down on one or two ingredients on the list. Use eggs, tofu, or mushrooms – these 3 powerful ingredients make wonderful stand-ins for many recipes.
3. Use recipes as your guide
When you’re new to cooking, it’s understandable to feel like you need to follow everything listed on a recipe. That’s not true! I recommend reading through any key tips and getting a quick understanding of the dish. If you really wish to cook it but don’t have everything on hand, it’s ok. Once you learn how to use the recipes as a guide instead of strict instructions, you would discover more freedom, knowledge, and creativity as a cook.
4. Cook in a big batch and freeze
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about time management and efficiency. When I prepare a meal that is suitable for freezing, I’d make a bigger batch so there’s something to eat when my kids are hungry at odd hours. I’d make pickles with leftover vegetables so we can always enjoy them on the side.
38 Easy Japanese Recipes Everyone Can Make at Home
We’ve grouped the recipes based on popular categories, along with substitutions and variations. There are also plenty of ideas for vegetarians and vegans.
Rice + Rice Bowls
Rice and rice bowls are dinner staples in Japanese home cooking, and we always have rice in our kitchen. As they said, rice can feed a nation. It sure can feed a hungry family, and fortify your tummy. Here are some great ideas on how to cook and enjoy rice with minimal effort!
Oyakodon (Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl)
Oyakodon is the one-bowl comfort that can be cooked up in 30 minutes! Here, tender pieces of chicken, onions, and eggs are simmered in an umami-rich sauce and then poured over a bowl of fluffy steamed rice. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t enjoy it.
Gyudon (Japanese Beef Rice Bowl)
This hearty rice bowl is extremely simple to put together, but it’s also famous for being a quick, nutritious meal that never fails to satisfy.
Yakimeshi (Japanese Fried Rice)
I believe fried rice was created out of necessity. It is indeed the most convenient and comforting meal that turns leftovers into something so delicious! You can whip up this classic Japanese fried rice under 20 minutes.
Substitutions: I used ham, egg and green onion in the recipe, but you can easily use bacon, frozen edamame, crab sticks, green peas or whatever you have in the fridge.
- Omurice – Sweet and savory tomato-based fried rice wrapped in a soft thin omelette.
- Shrimp Fried Rice – Use frozen shrimp.
- Kimchi Fried Rice – Kimchi + eggs = excellent fried rice!
- Salmon Fried Rice – I usually use leftover salmon to make this fried rice, but you can use canned salmon.
Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
Onigiri or rice balls are the perfect food for bento, quick snack, picnic, hiking trips, etc. You can make them plain or stuffed them with a variety of fillings such as tuna mayo, kimchi, furikake, and more. Make sure you use Japanese short-grain rice to make these rice balls. Other types of rice will not be sticky enough to make onigiri.
Zosui (Japanese Rice Soup)
Zosui is a comforting Japanese rice soup that works beautifully with pantry-ready ingredients like ready-cooked rice, eggs, and leftover ingredients. The easy template is flexible, yet you’re guaranteed a nourishing meal at the end of the day.
Substitutions: Use fish (salmon or cod), tofu, or other protein if you don’t have chicken. No shiitake mushrooms? Don’t worry, any mushrooms are fine, or just skip them.
Noodles (Soba, Udon, Ramen, Pasta)
In addition to rice, you’ll find soba noodles, udon noodles, ramen, and pasta on the Japanese table. We love our noodles! Most of these noodles are available in fresh and dried, and if you have them stocked up, you can make your favorite noodle dishes when the cravings strike.
Soba Noodle Salad
Enjoyed chilled or at room temperature, this soba noodle salad tossed in a honey-soy dressing is exactly what you need for a quick, light meal. Great on its own, or bulk it up by topping the salad with ramen egg, rotisserie chicken, cucumber slices, sauteed mushrooms or some greens.
Substitutions: No fresh herbs? Replace it with furikake seasoning, shichimi togarashi, or shredded nori sheet.
Soba Noodle Soup
This soba noodle soup is here to warm you right up when all you need is something easy and soothing. It’s about as simple as dinner can get.
Substitutions: You can choose to top the soba noodle soup with any greens, or just keep it plain. For a fancier version, top the noodle soup with frozen tempura from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
Japanese udon noodles stir-fried with vegetables and your choice of protein, yaki udon is definitely a keeper when it comes to an easy pantry meal.
Substitutions: Use chicken, tofu, or any protein, or simply add more vegetables to make it a hearty noodle dish!
- Yakisoba – If you don’t have udon, you can still make this with yakisoba noodles or other types of noodles, including spaghetti noodles!
Beef Udon (Niku Udon)
Slurp-worthy udon noodles, savory soup, tender sliced beef, and caramelized scallions—that’s all you really need for a well-composed bowl of noodle soup.
Trust me, you can make delicious ramen with authentic broth in less than 30 minutes, which rivals the ramen joint! My recipe will show you how.
Substitutions: I topped mine with homemade chashu (which takes time), but you can keep things minimal with easy toppings like ramen eggs (make-ahead), sweet corn, chopped onion, or nori seaweed.
‘This is the most incredible ramen I have ever made!‘ A reader exclaimed. Ready to create a super rich and creamy broth at home? Let’s do it.
Napolitan (Ketchup Pasta)
This simple recipe elevates pantry staples with fresh ingredients like sausages, mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper. It’s a savory and satisfying dish!
Miso Butter Pasta with Tuna and Cabbage
When you combine the canned fish with essential pantry staples like rice and pasta, it turns into a full-blown meal, like this Japanese-style pasta.
Japanese people believe that it’s best to eat seasonally. On busy weeks, I always make sure I keep some root vegetables and fresh greens in the fridge so we’ll always have vegetables on the table. These easy recipes utilize vegetables that are available year-round so you can make them any time!
Japanese Potato Salad
What makes Japanese potato salad a well-loved dish is its colorful addition of fresh vegetables, creamy texture, and rounded flavor. You can never go wrong with this crowd-pleaser! Serve it as part of the bento lunch or for a potluck and BBQ. Leave out the ham to make it vegetarian.
Variation: Instant Pot Potato Salad
Carrot Ginger Dressing
Made with carrot, ginger, and miso, the sweet-tangy dressing will zest up your salad. It’s light, refreshing & healthy too!
Variation: Wafu Dressing – another versatile salad dressing that goes well with any salad combo you can think of.
Japanese Spinach Salad with Sesame Dressing
Blanched spinach dressed in a savory nutty sesame sauce, this easy salad makes a healthy side dish that goes well with everything.
Variation: Green Bean with Sesame Dressing
Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)
Dressed in vinegar, sugar, salt, and soy sauce, this sweet and sour cucumber salad is a delight!
Eggs are the essential pantry item for any kitchen. There are so many fun ways to cook them. Let’s discover some of the Japanese favorite recipes here!
Japanese Egg Sandwich
Egg salad tucked between slices of white bread, the Japanese Egg Sandwich (Tamago Sando) is a timeless snack you can find in every convenience store in Japan. The filling is creamy and bursting with a rich egg-yolk flavor, and the bread is soft and pillowy. Some claim it’s the absolute best egg sandwich they ever tasted!
Ramen Eggs are delicious as a topping on ramen or enjoyed as a snack. Learn how to make these flavorful, soft-boiled eggs at home with just 5 ingredients!
Tamagoyaki (Japanese Rolled Omelette)
Tamagoyaki is the classic egg dish that accompanies bento lunches, Japanese breakfasts, dinners, and atop sushi. It is made by rolling together thin omelettes in a frying pan, folding them into a layered log, and then sliced into pillows. You’ll enjoy its light sweet taste and custardy texture.
Variations: Try this Quick and Easy Tamagoyaki. You can also add other ingredients such as seaweed, cheese, veggies, salmon flakes, and meat to change up the flavors.
Made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, and meat/ protein, this popular Japanese street food is a savory version of the Japanese pancake. Once tried, you’ll be coming back for more.
Substitutions: Okonomiyaki literally means ‘grilled as you like it’. That means you can cook with whatever fillings and toppings you like. Read the recipe for more suggestions.
Tofu is the MVP of the Asian pantry. They’re packed with protein and very affordable. You can pan-fry them, bake them, scramble them, or add them in a hot pot. I always have a few blocks in the refrigerator and a few boxes of silken tofu that keep well in a cool place.
Looking for something quick and easy to make, not to mention delicious? This Japanese-style Mapo Tofu will surely satisfy you! You can adjust the spice level easily so the children can enjoy it too.
Substitutions: Switch the ground meat to finely minced mushrooms or seitan.
Crispy on the bite, yet delicately soft, this pan-fried Teriyaki Tofu is amazingly flavorful. It’s a dynamic recipe for anyone to try, with easy options to turn the dish vegan or gluten-free. Top your steamed rice with the tofu and toss in some veggies, and you’d have a great satisfying rice bowl for dinner.
Substitutions: Leave out the bonito flakes and garnishes if you don’t have any.
Variation: Try this Pan-Fried Teriyaki Tofu Bowl for a one-bowl dinner!
Crispy deep-fried tofu served in a flavorful umami sauce, agedashi tofu is a popular appetizer you can find at izakaya and Japanese restaurants. It requires deep-frying, but the process is easier than you think. Skip the bonito flakes to make it vegan-friendly!
More popular tofu recipes: Hot Tofu, Japanese Cold Tofu.
Meat & Seafood
The Japanese eat a variety of meat and seafood, so we have developed many interesting ways to cook with them. Be it pan-frying, grilling, deep-frying, or baking, you’ll find your favorites!
Everybody loves chicken teriyaki! My recipe shows you the authentic Japanese cooking method to prepare this dish at home. You’ll love the juicy chicken and crisp brown skin glazed in a flavorful homemade sauce. It’s so easy, and no bottled teriyaki sauce is needed.
Yakitori (Japanese Grilled Chicken Skewers)
These Japanese grilled chicken skewers are one of the best things to serve at a BBQ, game day, or potluck! Glazed in a savory-sweet sauce, everyone will come back for more. You can grill it outdoors or under the broiler in the oven.
Variation: Also, don’t miss Yakitori-Style Grilled Vegetables.
Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)
Crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, the Japanese breaded pork cutlet is seriously good. This requires deep-frying, but it is easier than you think and should take no more than 30 minutes! I have all the tips you need to make the best cutlet at home.
Variation: If deep-frying is not your thing, I also have this baked version for you. The same oven-baked technique can be applied to many deep-fried recipes. It’s a game-changer!
In this recipe, salmon fillets are pan-grilled to tender perfection in the traditional method and finished with an authentic homemade teriyaki sauce. It makes a light and savory meal any night of the week.
Black Cod with Miso (Miso Cod)
You might have heard of Nobu’s famous Miso Cod, but do you know you can make this delicate Japanese seafood at home? You will be surprised at how easy it is to pull this off at home.
Hambugu (Hambuger Steak)
This Japanese hamburger steak is a popular dish enjoyed both at home and at yoshoku (Japanese-style western food) restaurants. It’s a steak made from ground meat and usually served with rice rather than buns.
Variation: Wafu Hambagu
Miso is a very important pantry item in Japanese cooking, which means the majority of you who have tried Just One Cookbook recipes may have one or two types of miso in your pantry. Another reason to have a tub of miso around? It’s full of probiotics and many other great health benefits. Here’s how you can use this condiment to flavor your pantry meals.
Classic Miso Soup
My recipe shows you how to make quick and easy soup stock (dashi) from scratch and then make the classic miso soup with tofu and wakame seaweed. Homemade miso soup is not only delicious, but it also brings many great health benefits.
Variations: Vegan Miso Soup, Vegetables Miso Soup, Kabocha Miso Soup
Known for its Omega-3 fatty acid, salmon is a great protein to have in the diet. For that reason alone, I always have frozen salmon fillets in my freezer. You just need to marinate the fish for 30 minutes, you’d get a flavorful fish to serve for dinner.
Substitution: You can use the same marinade on other white fish such as cod or halibut.
All-Purpose Miso Meat Sauce (Niku Miso)
This easy Miso Meat Sauce (Niku Miso) is a great side dish to go with steamed rice, noodles, or lettuce wrap! It’s meal prep and freezer friendly too.
Substitution: Ground pork or ground beef are typically used in the dish, but you can also use ground chicken, ground turkey, or cubed firm tofu. To make it into a meal, feel free to toss in some vegetables like frozen peas, broccoli, leafy greens, or minced carrots.
Miso Butter Cookies
These miso butter cookies are light and crisp and have the perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness. Only 7 pantry ingredients are needed!
Japanese Curry Roux
Japanese curry is one of the most-make dishes for Japanese cooks. You can always find curry roux, whether it’s homemade or store-bought cubes, in a Japanese kitchen.
The good news is homemade Japanese Curry Roux requires only 5 basic pantry ingredients. So, make a big batch, pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze!
Japanese Chicken Curry
Tender pieces of chicken, carrots, and potatoes cooked in a rich savory curry sauce, this Japanese version of curry is a must-keep for your family meal. I have a stovetop version and an Instant Pot version for the curry recipe. To save time, double up the portion, and store the extra in the freezer!
Substitutions: Aromatics such as garlic and ginger are always good to have on hand. But if you’re out, skip them. The recipe calls for 1 fresh apple, you can use unsweetened apple sauce if needed.
- Beef Curry – Got stew meat? It makes a hearty curry!
- Seafood Curry – Turn a bag of frozen seafood into a fancy dinner with this easy curry recipe!
Thick chewy udon noodles soaked in a rich, fragrant curry sauce, this Curry Udon will satisfy your noodles craving in an instant!
Substitutions: Sub the pork with chicken, beef, shrimp, tempeh, or any protein you have on hand really. For extra fiber, feel free to throw in some greens.
Homemade Japanese Sauces
Savory and sweet sauces play a big role in boosting the flavors in our dishes. Making these sauces at home allow you to perk up any dishes. The best part is that you get to control the salt, sugar, and whatever ingredients that go into making them.
Ponzu is a classic Japanese condiment that is both refreshing and versatile. Enjoy making this all-purpose, citrus-based sauce at home!
Authentic Teriyaki Sauce
Learn how to make the must-have sauce with this authentic Japanese method. Only 4 ingredients are needed! It will be your go-to sauce for chicken, salmon, tofu, pork, or even meatballs!
Variations: 6 Homemade Japanese Sauces to Know By Heart
I hope these easy Japanese recipes inspire you to make something new while using what you’ve already got. The goal here is to be flexible & creative—and know that you can still make it delicious. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll be ready to help!
More Popular Japanese Recipes You’ll Love
More Resources on Japanese Cooking
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 22, 2020. It’s been republished with new content on January 25, 2023.