Katsu: A Delicious and Popular Japanese Comfort Food

Katsu is a delicious and popular Japanese dish that is enjoyed by both locals and foreigners alike. It’s also one of Japan’s most beloved comfort foods.

What is katsu?

Katsu カツ consists of a deep-fried and breaded cutlet of meat. Meats such as pork, chicken, or beef are used but pork is by far the most common type of katsu in Japan. The meat is pounded thin and then coated with flour, egg, and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) before being deep-fried until golden brown. The end result is a crispy exterior and a juicy, flavorful interior.

Where to get katsu

Skewered miso katsu served in an izakaya gastropub.

Katsu can be found in many types of restaurants in Japan, including izakayas, casual dining establishments and chain stores, and even convenience stores. It is also commonly sold in food stalls and in the prepared food section of supermarkets throughout Japan. Some restaurants and restaurant chains specialize in the dish, so you’re sure to find it when you visit Japan. There are even high-end katsu restaurants which often pride themselves on using particular brands of pork.

Types of katsu

When it comes to katsu meat, there are three main varieties.

Katsu meats

トンカツ tonkatsu: Featuring pork, this is the most common version of katsu and the one you’re most likely to find on your culinary adventures in Japan. There are two main types of tonkatsu, categorized by the cut of meat used: pork tenderloin, known as ヒレ hire and ロース rōsu, which is pork loin.

A typical tonkatsu dish with a side of cabbage and salad.

チキンカツ Chicken katsu: Featuring chicken instead of pork, chiken katsu is generally leaner and a good option for those who wish to avoid pork.

Chicken katsu

牛カツ gyū katsu (beef katsu): Another type of katsu which has been gaining in popularity in recent years, beef katsu is a tasty alternative to pork. It’s often enjoyed rare to medium-rare, and typically served with a dab of wasabi.

Gyu katsu (beef katsu).

When served as a main dish, katsu usually comes with a side of thinly sliced cabbage. In an equivalent that might be more familiar to some of our readers, you can think of it like the side of coleslaw often served with fried chicken. Some restaurants will provide cabbage refills free of charge. As for condiments, you’ll typically find tonkatsu sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Japanese mustard, and others.

Katsu dishes

カツ丼 katusdon: Katsu can also be served over rice in a bowl, usually with egg, vegetables, and condiments, typically featuring pork and sometimes chicken.

A bowl of katsudon.

味噌カツ miso katsu: Born in Nagoya, miso katsu is served with a thick, flavorful sauce made with miso paste.

Skewered miso katsu.

カツサンド katsu sando Katsu sandwich: Katsu is also a popular ingredient in sandwiches. Gyū katsu sandwiches made with beef are more expensive than the pork versions, which are generally cheap and can be found in convenience stores.

A katsu sando.

カツカレー katsu karē Katsu curry: A popular dish that combines katsu with Japanese curry, this dish has become well-known abroad, but it’s important to note that katsu itself is not the same as curry, and katsu can be enjoyed on its own or as a part of other dishes.

A plate of katsu curry.

The price of katsu can vary depending on the type of restaurant and location. Generally, a basic pork or chicken katsu dish will cost around 1,000 to 1,500 JPY, a bowl of katsudon is usually more reasonably priced between 500 to 1,000 JPY while beef katsu can be more expensive. Katsu sando sold in convenience stores are cheaply available for a few hundred yen.

Tips for enjoying katsu

If you’ve only tried one kind of katsu, explore the variety of katsu available, including pork, chicken, and beef. Experiment with different condiments such as tonkatsu sauce, Worcestershire sauce or simply salt to find your favorite. With the exception of katsu sando, be sure to eat your katsu while it’s hot and crispy, as this is when it’s at its best.

With its unique combination of crispy breading and juicy meat, it’s no wonder why katsu has become a beloved staple of Japanese cuisine. Whether you’re dining at a casual eatery or grabbing a quick bite from a convenience store, be sure to give katsu a try during your next trip to Japan.