Tofu Katsu on a plate with short-grain rice

Tofu Katsu (Vegetarian Japanese Tofu Cutlet)

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As someone with celiac disease, I am acutely aware of people’s dietary needs and restrictions. Whether it’s for religious, health, or ethical reasons, vegetarianism continues to rise in popularity as an alternative to the meat-eating lifestyle. As such, we decided to make a meatless version of one of our favorite Japanese foods, katsu, for our vegetarian friends! So, let’s learn how to make tofu katsu, otherwise known as a vegetarian version of the Japanese steak cutlet!   

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But, before getting into the recipe, let’s first learn a bit about Japanese katsu! 

What Is Katsu? 

Katsu is a style of Japanese dish made by coating different proteins, such as chicken, pork, and ham, in panko bread crumbs before frying the meat in oil. 

The word katsu is a shortened form of the word katsuretsu, which translates from Japanese to English as ‘cutlet.’ So, the Japanese named this method of cooking based on the actual meat cut!

During your future travels to Japan, you may note that chicken and pork katsu are typically the most popular and readily available versions of this dish. While that may be the case, you can still find further variations on your travels! 

A side shot of tofu katsu over a bed of rice and topped with cabbage.
Serve Tofu Katsu With Rice and Cabbage!

Types of Katsu:

  • Chikinkatsu (チキンカツ) or Torikatsu (鶏カツ): Chicken Katsu
  • Tonkatsu (豚カツ, とんかつ or トンカツ): Pork Katsu
  • Hamu Katsu (ハムカツ): Ham Katsu 
  • Menchi Katsu (メンチカツ) or Minchi Katsu (ミンチカツ): Ground or Minced Meat Katsu 
  • Gyukatsu (牛カツ): Beef Steak Katsu

How Do People Serve Katsu? 

In Japan, katsu is generally served with a tonkatsu sauce–a thick Japanese condiment made with Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, sugar, and soy sauce. Often, people in Japan serve the katsu and sauce with rice, shredded cabbage, and further sides such as miso soup or grated daikon radish.  

Beyond the traditional way of eating katsu over rice, people in Japan and Hawaii have developed recipes with katsu as the main protein. Examples include:

  • Katsukarē (カツカレー): Katsu Curry. A dish consisting of tonkatsu (pork cutlet) served with Japanese curry and rice. 
  • Katsudon (カツ丼): A rice bowl dish made with tonkatsu, egg, vegetables, and condiments. The dish’s name comes from two Japanese words: tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and donburi (rice bowl dish).
  • Katsu Sando: Katsu sandwich. Often, these sandwiches are made with tonkatsu. The ‘tonkatsu sauce’ is often spread on the bread as the condiment. 
  • Cheese Katsu: A new popular version of katsu. Mozzarella cheese is placed in the center between two pieces of meat before they are breaded and fried. The cheese oozes out as you eat. 
  • And so on…
Dipping a slice of tofu katsu into tonkatsu sauce.
Try Dipping This Tofu Katsu in Tonkatsu Sauce!

Fun Katsu Facts: 

Below are some fun cultural facts about Japanese katsu!

  • In recent years, it has become a tradition for Japanese students to eat katsudon the night before a major test or exam. The word ‘katsu’ is a homophone of the verb katsu (勝つ) which means ‘to win’ or ‘to be victorious.’
  • In the United Kingdom, ‘katsu’ is synonymous with the Japanese curry cutlets instead of the breaded meat cutlets. Just make sure to check when ordering! 
  • Katsu was first invented in the 1800s. At the time, the Japanese considered the dish to be a Japanese version of western cuisine–it resembles the German schnitzel. Actually, the word ‘katsuretsu’ comes from the English word ‘cutlet!’
A slice of the dish after being dipped in the sauce.
Tonkatsu Sauce Tastes Sweet, Savory, and Bold!

Tofu Katsu Tips and Tricks

  • First, prep your tofu by pressing it for an extended period. I typically do this for an hour. Tofu contains a lot of liquid. You need to press out the liquid so the tofu can improve in texture, absorb the flavors you are cooking with, and for safety when frying (as oil and water react dangerously when combined with heat).
  • For those, like me, who do not have a tofu press, place your drained tofu on top of a few layers of paper towels on a cutting board. Then, add a few more layers of paper towels and place something hard on top. I use my cast-iron skillet as a press!
  • Deep-Frying Method: To deep-fry, fill a deep pot with oil. Then, let the oil reach between 350°F-375°F before lowering in the breaded tofu.
  • Pan-Frying Method: For pan-frying, fill a wide and deep skillet with approximately ½-1 inch thick with oil. Let the oil reach between 350°F-375°F before placing your breaded tofu into the skillet. You will need to flip the tofu halfway through frying.
  • Prep your ingredients by placing the corn starch, eggs, and panko in three different bowls next to one another by the stove. That way, you can have an assembly line before adding the katsu onto the pan.   
An Overhead Shot of Rice, Tofu Katsu, Cabbage, Tonkatsu Sauce, and Ketchup!
An Overhead Shot of Rice, Tofu Katsu, Cabbage, Tonkatsu Sauce, and Ketchup!

Below, we listed some items you may need to make our tofu katsu and tonkatsu sauce. These links are affiliate links we recommend!

Tofu Katsu Frequently Asked Questions 

Below, we listed some questions you may have about this tofu katsu recipe. If we do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment or email us at carvingajourney@gmail.com!

Can You Make Tofu Katsu Gluten-Free?

Yes! You can make tofu katsu gluten-free. These days, many grocery stores and online retailers sell gluten-free panko! Our tofu katsu photographed is actually gluten-free.

How Should I Store Tofu If I Don’t Use the Entire Block?

If you do not use the entire tofu black, place the remaining tofu in an airtight container. Once you do that, fill the container with water until you fully submerge the tofu. Then, place it in the refrigerator. Tofu should be eaten within a few days after being opened. 

The tofu dish dipped in ketchup.
Maybe Dip in Ketchup Instead?

How Should I Store Leftover Tofu Katsu?

Place your leftover tofu katsu in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. You should consume your leftovers within 1-2 days of cooking. 

If you also made the tonkatsu sauce and have leftovers, place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week! 

How Should I Reheat Leftover Tofu Katsu?

I do not recommend reheating in the microwave. Unfortunately, reheating with that method makes the panko bread really soggy. 

Instead, I recommend toasting the leftovers in the oven or toaster oven until warm. This allows the breading to crisp again and the tofu center to reheat. First, preheat your oven to 350°F. Then, cover a baking sheet with parchment. Finally, place your leftovers on the parchment and into the oven. Heat until the dish is warm again. 

Note: Make sure to keep an eye on your food. You don’t want to burn the breading during the reheating process!  

A side shot of the crispy katu, rice, and cabbage.
Crispy and Delicious Katsu Dish!

We Hope You Enjoyed Our Tofu Katsu Recipe!  

In the end, do you enjoy eating different Japanese foods? If so, let us know your favorites! We would love to hear of any recommendations in the comment section! 

If you would like to read more articles listing different types of delicious foods, check out our Carving A Journey recipe below! 

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Tofu Katsu (Vegan Japanese Steak Cutlet)

Recipe by EmilyCourse: Recipes, EntreeCuisine: JapaneseDifficulty: Easy
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

25

minutes

Ingredients

  • Tofu Katsu
  • 1 Block Extra Firm Tofu (18 oz)

  • 1/2 Cup Corn Starch

  • 2 Extra Large Eggs

  • 2 Cups Panko Breadcrumbs

  • Oil, for Frying

  • Tonkatsu Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Ketchup

  • 1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce

  • 1 TSP Sugar

  • 2 TSP Soy Sauce

  • Optional Sides
  • Rice

  • Cabbage, Shredded

Directions

  • Tofu Katsu
  • First, press your block to tofu for at least an hour in advance to remove the liquid. Once pressed for an hour, cut the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside. (At this point, if you are making rice, start cooking it by your preferred method.)
  • Prepare three bowls. Put the corn starch in the first bowl, whisked eggs in the second bowl, and panko bread crumbs in the last bowl.
  • Heat your pan over high heat. Add your oil to the hot pan.
    Deep-Frying Method: To deep-fry, fill a deep pot with oil. Then, let the oil reach between 350°F-375°F before lowering in the breaded tofu.
    Pan-Frying Method: For pan-frying, fill a wide and deep skillet with approximately ½-1 inch thick with oil. Let the oil reach between 350°F-375°F before placing your breaded tofu into the skillet. You will need to flip the tofu halfway through frying.
  • Once the pan is hot with oil, prepare your pieces of tofu one at a time. First, lightly coat your tofu in the corn starch. Shake off any excess corn starch. Then, dip the tofu into the whisked eggs. Finally, coat the tofu in the panko bread crumbs. Add the tofu into the hot oil. Monitor until it turns golden brown. Flip to fry the other side if you are pan-frying. Once cooked, remove from the oil and set it on a paper towel.
  • Repeat the steps until all of the tofu is cooked. Serve with rice, shredded cabbage, ketchup, and tonkatsu sauce.
  • Tonkatsu Sauce
  • Combine the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and soy sauce. Mix until fully combined.

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