This authentic vegan Japanese curry is creamy, comforting, and packed with flavors! The perfect cold-weather meal that is easy to prepare and ready in 30 minutes. Serve Japanese tofu curry with freshly steamed rice for a simple yet satisfying meal.
💚Why you will love this recipe
- A quick and easy one-pot recipe that is ready in 30 minutes
- Versatile and highly customizable - feel free to substitute/add in ingredients to make this recipe your own!
- Hearty, filling, and high in protein
- Healthier and lower in sodium than the restaurant’s version
🤔What is Japanese curry
Japanese curry is a popular Japanese dish heavily influenced by Indian and British cuisine. It usually includes ingredients like onion, carrot, potatoes, and protein (usually beef). This curry is commonly made from a premade roux, which consist of Japanese curry powder, seasonings, butter, and flour as the thickener.
The recipe for Japanese curry differs from region to region, using different seasonings and flavorings to enhance its flavors. It is commonly served as a main dish with rice, fukujinzuke (relish vegetables), and other side dishes.
We will use tofu as our protein source to make this recipe vegan. The curry is also made from scratch instead of using a store-bought roux, which sometimes contains animal products.
Difference between Japanese curry and other curries
Japanese curry is much milder and less spicy when compared to curries from other regions, like Indian and Thai curries. Unlike its vibrant counterparts, Japanese curry tastes sweet, fruity, and umami.
While different curries can vary in texture, Japanese curry is thicker and has a stew-like consistency. This is due to the incorporation of flour or roux, which consist of flour as the primary thickener.
🥘What you will need
📃Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Potatoes - I recommend going with Yukon Gold potatoes as they are sturdier. Russet potatoes tend to melt and disintegrate after simmering.
- Japanese curry powder - I am using the S&B Japanese curry powder. You can find them at groceries in the international aisle, in your local Asian market, or online. Substitute it with regular curry powder in a pinch, but the taste will differ.
- All-purpose flour - The main thickener in this recipe. To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute it with a gluten-free blend.
- Ketchup - Substitute with tomato puree or tomato paste for a tangier curry.
- Soy sauce - Can be substituted with shoyu or tamari. Use a gluten-free brand if needed.
- Sugar - Any granulated sweetener will work in this recipe. I am using coconut sugar.
🔪How to make
Caramelizing onion - Heat a tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, and saute for 4-5 minutes over medium-low heat or until they are lightly browned.
Sauteing aromatics - Add ginger and garlic to the pot, and fry for a minute. Add curry powder, flour, and garam masala next. Fry for another minute or until the spices are fragrant.
Cooking vegetables - Add broth, soy sauce, ketchup, and sugar to the pot, and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Then, add potato, carrot, and tofu. Cook at low heat for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until the potato cubes are fork-tender. Stir the curry occasionally while cooking.
Serving - Serve your Japanese tofu curry with Japanese rice and whatever sides you fancy!
- Cut veggies into uniform sizes - Cut your potato and carrot into similar sizes to ensure they cook at the same rate.
- Chunkier onion - I prefer my onion to disintegrate into the sauce. Hence, they are chopped into small cubes. However, feel free to slice it into thick chunks.
- Keeping an eye on while cooking - This vegan Japanese curry is on the thicker side and might stick to the bottom easily. Cook it over low heat, and stir it occasionally.
🌶️Personalizing your curry
This might be surprising, but most restaurants make their curry using store-bought roux cubes! The difference in flavors is mainly due to the use of a cooking technique known as ‘kakushiaji,’ which involves adding a small quantity of an ingredient to enhance the flavor of a dish subtly.
For instance, the grated apple adds sweetness and a hint of fruitiness, while the soy sauce bumps up the umami profile of this curry. Listed below are more kakushiaji ingredients commonly added, so feel free to experiment!
- Mashed banana
- Grated Asian pear
- Maple syrup
- Lemon or line juice (add right before serving)
- Tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- Tomato puree or tomato paste
- Red wine
- Chili flakes
- Fresh chilies, chopped
- Chili powder
- Cayenne pepper
Increasing the depth of flavor
- Instant coffee
- Cocoa powder or a small square of dark chocolate
- Oyster sauce (use vegetarian to keep this recipe vegan)
- Worcestershire sauce
✨Variations and add-ins
Using roux cubes - You can make your Japanese tofu curry with pre-made roux cubes instead of making your own using flour, curry powder, and garam masala. Add it towards the end of cooking, and stir well to ensure the cubes dissolve entirely.
To keep this recipe vegan, I recommend purchasing S&B golden curry mix. As the roux cubes are pretty salty, use a low-sodium vegetable broth or water to make your curry.
Vegetables - This recipe is highly versatile, so feel free to add whatever veggies sound good! Some commonly added to Japanese curry include sweet potato, celery, mushrooms, and taro.
Tofu - If you are not a fan of tofu, substitute it with soy chunks, soy curls, or a can of chickpeas.
🍚How to serve
Here are some dishes that pair great with vegan Japanese curry:
- Rice - Japanese pearl rice, brown rice, Jasmine rice, cauliflower rice
- Noodles - Cooked noodles like udon or ramen pairs great with this Japanese tofu curry. Or, make a quick stir-fry like my vegan yakisoba.
- Side dishes - Lighter vegetable sides like my wakame salad, yasai itame, wakame miso soup, and avocado maki.
- Fukujinzuke - A relish that consists of chopped daikon, eggplant, and lotus roots. It is commonly served with Japanese curry.
- Vegan katsu - To make vegan katsu curry, top it off with a store-bought chicken cutlet or tofu katsu.
Fridge - This Japanese tofu curry can be refrigerated for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
Freezer - This curry freezes well for 3 months, but I recommend removing the potato before freezing or leaving it out altogether. This is because potatoes will turn mushy and grainy after freezing and thawing.
Do portion out your curry using freezer bags or containers before freezing so you will only take out what you need.
Reheating - Allow frozen curry to defrost overnight in the fridge. You can then heat it in the microwave or on the stove. Add a splash of water if the mixture is too thick.
❔Commonly asked questions
Japanese curry is umami, earthy, and subtly sweet. Unlike Thai and Indian curries, this variation is milder in flavor and less spicy, making it kid-friendly.
Grated apples are commonly added to Japanese curry as they provide sweetness and a hint of fruitiness.
Some Japanese curry cubes, like those from the S&B brand, are naturally vegan. However, do turn and read the ingredient list, as sometimes animal products like honey, tallow oil, and dairy products are added.
Japanese curries are pretty mild when compared to Indian and Thai curries, making them great for those who have a lower heat tolerance. Even those that are labeled hot are not very spicy.
If you prefer your curry hot, add a pinch of cayenne pepper or chili powder to bump up the heat!
🍽️More vegan curry recipes
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Vegan Japanese Curry with Tofu
- 1 medium yellow onion diced*
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons Japanese curry powder
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour or gluten-free blend
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- ½ medium apple grated
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or shoyu/tamari (use gluten-free if needed)
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large potato cubed (Yukon gold prefered)
- 2 carrots cut into thick chunks
- 1 block extra-firm tofu drained, pressed, and cubed (around 14oz/400g)
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, and saute for 4-5 minutes over medium-low heat or until they are lightly browned.1 medium yellow onion
- Add ginger and garlic to the pot, and fry for a minute.3 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- Add curry powder, flour, and garam masala next. Fry for another minute or until the spices are fragrant.2 tablespoons Japanese curry powder, 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon garam masala
- Add broth, apple, and all seasonings to the pot, and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.3 cups vegetable broth, ½ medium apple, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 2 teaspoon sugar
- Stir in potato, carrot, and tofu. Cook at low heat for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until the potato cubes are fork-tender. Stir the curry occasionally while cooking to prevent the curry from sticking at the bottom.1 large potato, 2 carrots, 1 block extra-firm tofu
- Serve your Japanese tofu curry with Japanese rice and whatever sides you fancy!
Nutrition info calculated is just a rough estimate and is provided as a courtesy. Bear in mind that value will vary based on variables like specific brand or type of product used. To obtain the most accurate representation, it is highly recommended that you calculate it on your own with the actual amount and type of ingredient used.