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Donburi (which means “bowl”) is a Japanese rice bowl dish that has a variety of main ingredients including fish, meat, vegetables, and toppings. There are simmered in a tasty sauce and served with rice.
It’s sometimes called just “don.”
The dish itself is also called “donburi”, so in this instance, both the dish and the serving bowl have the same name. Pretty interesting, right?
I know it’s weird and confusing having to identify both the dish and the bowl with exactly the same name, so if we’re to distinguish the two, the bowl is actually called donburi-bachi (丼物), while the dish is called donburi-mono (丼物).
The donburi is also referred to as “sweetened” or “savory stews on rice”.
Aside from being used for the famous Japanese rice bowl dishes, the donburi is also used for soba or udon noodle soup. It’s quite a versatile dish and you can use it for many foods, so it’s worth the investment.
I especially like this beautiful blue-striped Zen Table multi-purpose donburi bowl because it has the perfect size and depth for most dishes and is the perfect donburi for ramen too, which I love. But it’s also quite a nice premium bowl that’s going to be a part of your dishware for years with a beautiful design pattern.
Here are my favorite bowls. I’ll get into the detailed reviews below!
|Best overall donburi bowl: Zen Table Japan blue stripe multi-purpose donburi bowl|
|Best set of 2 donburi bowls: Mino Ware ramen noodle bowls|
|Best large Donburi bowl: Tableware East|
|Best multi-use donburi bowl: Jahadori Ceramic Japanese Ramen bowl sets|
|Best Donburi bowl with lid: JapanBargain 16 oz|
|Best budget & best plastic donburi bowl: JapanBargain S-2045 plastic noodle soup bowl|
|Best design donburi bowl: Happy Sales multi-purpose|
|Best donburi bowl with elevated base: Sakura cherry blossom pattern soup bowl|
|Best oven-safe and microwave-safe donburi bowl: AQUIVER ceramic ramen bowls|
|Best donburi bowl for kids and best for gifting: Japanese Shiba dog blue rice bowl|
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is a donburi bowl?
- 2 Donburi bowl buyer’s guide
- 3 Authentic Japanese donburi-bachi (bowls) reviewed
- 3.1 Best overall donburi bowl: Zen Table Japan blue stripe multi-purpose donburi bowl
- 3.2 Best set of 2 donburi bowls: Mino Ware ramen noodle bowls
- 3.3 Best large donburi bowl: Tableware East
- 3.4 Best multi-use donburi bowl: JAHADORI Ceramic Japanese Ramen Bowl Sets
- 3.5 Best donburi bowl with lid: JapanBargain 16 oz
- 3.6 Best budget & best plastic donburi bowl: JapanBargain S-2045 plastic noodle soup bowl
- 3.7 Best design donburi bowl: Happy Sales multi-purpose
- 3.8 Best donburi bowl with elevated base: Sakura cherry blossom pattern soup bowl
- 3.9 Best oven-safe and microwave-safe Donburi bowl: AQUIVER ceramic ramen bowls
- 3.10 Best donburi bowl for kids and best for gifting: Japanese Shiba dog blue rice bowl
- 4 Different kinds of donburi recipes
- 4.1 What are the 5 types of donburi?
- 4.2 Gyudon (Beef Bowl) 牛丼
- 4.3 Unadon (Grilled eel rice bowl) 鰻丼
- 4.4 Chicken katsudon チキンカツ丼
- 4.5 Sosu katsudon
- 4.6 Baked katsudon 揚げないカツ丼
- 4.7 Tamagodon (egg)
- 4.8 Oyakodon (Chicken and egg bowl) 親子丼
- 4.9 Soboro don (Ground chicken bowl) 三色そぼろ丼
- 4.10 Ten don (Tempura donburi) 天丼
- 4.11 Kaisendon (fresh seafood)
- 4.12 Mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐
- 4.13 Salmon ikura don 鮭いくら丼
- 4.14 Niratama donburi ニラ玉丼ぶり
- 4.15 Poke bowl
- 4.16 Yoshinoya beef bowl
- 4.17 Buta don (pork donburi)
- 4.18 Chuka don (Chinese style)
- 4.19 Vegan donburi
- 5 Donburi FAQs
- 6 Get a quality donburi bowl
What is a donburi bowl?
A donburi bowl is a Japanese rice bowl. The word “don” is commonly used to refer to the bowl that the food is served in. But “donburi” is both the name of the dish and the bowl.
The actual bowl is usually between 5-7 inches in diameter and made of ceramic material.
The bowl is filled with a bunch of delicious components.
First, there’s a bed of steamed rice. And on top of it, there’s meat, seafood, vegetables, and some toppings like eggs, chopped spring onion, or sesame. The meat and vegetables are often cooked in a simmered savory sauce.
Donburi-bachi etymology (rice bowl)
Historians aren’t exactly sure how the name for the rice bowl came to be. However, it’s speculated that there might be multiple possible derivations and it may not have entirely originated in Japan as well.
During the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), there were restaurants in Japan that specialized in serving large portion meals.
They were called kendon’ya, which means “greedy”. This denotes that customers who often went to such places were “very hungry” customers, while the suffix “ya” means “house, store, or restaurant”.
They used rather large serving bowls to ascertain their restaurant’s namesake and these bowls were called” kendon-buri-bachi”, which means “greedy” and “in that fashion” and “bowl.”
As time went by, the “ken” portion of the word was omitted, which caused people to call it “donburi-bachi”. Then, later on, the “bachi” was also removed, which left the word to the now well-known “donburi”.
Alternatively, and perhaps a closer derivative of the word, “donburi”, which refers to “a large bowl that has lots of food in it”, may be cognate with donburi (どんぶり), an onomatopoeia of something big and soft dropping down on solid ground, or something massive plunking into deep water, related to onomatopoeia donburi (どぶり), donburi (どぶん), donburi (どんぶ), and don (どん), all of which generally share similar meanings.
The kendon’ya would serve meals with large portions of rice called donburi meshi (丼飯), which could be considered as “plopped-down rice” that guests enjoy a lot.
On the other hand, the term “donburi” may also refer to something “rough, approximate, not finely worked”, like the Japanese word donburi kanjō (丼勘定), which roughly translates to “loose estimate, a rough approximation.”
This term is very similar to the other words/phrases that were derived from the onomatopoeia, although it may not be considered as similar to the donburi used in restaurants.
In kanji, donburi is written as 井 (“a well”) with a dot in the center, which may indicate that something was tossed into the well. This indicates that the “təm X ” Middle Chinese reading may have derived from the same onomatopoeia.
To disambiguate, those who use the term donburi-bachi specifically refer to the bowl where the food (donburi-mono) is served.
The beef or pork stew would be the Western equivalent of donburi-bachi, although the latter is cooked and served dry, whereas the former is cooked with a liquid mix and served with the sauce.
Examples of this are tekkadon (tuna sashimi donburi), tempura donburi, or beef donburi.
What size should a donburi bowl be?
A common donburi bowl is around 15 cm in diameter (5.9 inches) and has a height of 8.5 cm (3.3 inches), with a total volume of approximately 900 ml or 30 oz.
Donburi bowl buyer’s guide
The mini donburi is the smallest sized bowl and it’s usually used to serve donburi for kids. Alternatively, restaurants use the smallest donburi bowl to serve small servings of foods like udon noodle side dishes. This bowl can be as small as 3 inches.
The standard size for donburi bowls used for rice and noodles is 5.9 inches or 15 cm in diameter and 3.3 inches or 8.5 cm in height. This fits about 30 fl oz or 900 ml of food. This size is perfect for one regular portion of rice and toppings.
Anything larger than the standard is considered an extra-large donburi bowl.
The traditional donburi doesn’t have the same shape as a cereal bowl. Rather, it has a wider opening and it’s thicker, so the base is a bit smaller but still well-balanced.
The rice goes on the bottom and then the wider top part creates the necessary space for the meat, vegetables, and sauce.
Most traditional donburi bowls are made of ceramic materials like porcelain. The modern models are usually microwave-safe but not oven-safe.
Many are also dishwasher-friendly and there are also very cheap plastic bowls too, which are great for taking on the go.
Authentic Japanese donburi-bachi (bowls) reviewed
It’s only natural to want to experience eating the best donburi-mono recipes. And if you want to own a set of authentic Japanese donburi bowls, make sure that you only buy them from the most trustworthy of sellers.
To help you narrow down your choices, here are a few donburi bowls that I recommend you purchase!
Best overall donburi bowl: Zen Table Japan blue stripe multi-purpose donburi bowl
- Material: ceramic
- Size: 7.2 inches
If you love donburi rice bowls, then you need a bowl that’s designed specifically for serving rice dishes. However, porcelain is an expensive material so some bowls cost about $100.
But you probably don’t want to be spending lots of money on a bowl and that’s why this budget-friendly porcelain donburi is the best overall choice.
It’s made in Japan, by traditional donburi manufacturers so it’s made from authentic glossy porcelain.
It has a diameter of 7.2 inches (18.5 cm), which is a bit larger than the traditional 5.9” bowls but is more suited to the Western consumer’s lifestyle. The truth is, portions are slightly larger, and having a spacious donburi bowl prevents any overspill.
So, it’s no surprise that this is slightly larger and it’s better if you want to have a complete and filling donburi meal that’ll actually satisfy your hunger.
In America, we’re used to having larger portions, and this bowl is the right size.
The bowl is sold as is, without chopsticks and a spoon. That’s the only problem with this bowl – you need to buy the spoon and chopstick separately.
Overall, it’s a really versatile bowl and you can use it for other foods too. You can even wash it in the dishwasher or heat up leftovers in the microwave because it’s not very fragile.
Other similar colorful ceramic donburi bowls are so prone to chipping and cracking, people have to replace them every few months. But since this Zen one is made of a stronger ceramic, it will last.
In terms of design, it’s a beautiful ceramic donburi bowl with a shiny porcelain-like texture and finish. It’s painted in a nice blue-striped pattern, which makes it different from most other plain-looking donburi.
Best set of 2 donburi bowls: Mino Ware ramen noodle bowls
- Material: ceramic
- Size: 7.2 inches
Couples who love to eat donburi rice bowls together deserve matching specialty bowls. These two stylish ceramic bowls are a bit bigger (7.2 inches), but they’re perfect for a large comforting noodle soup too.
The bowls are very well made and are dishwasher and microwave safe too. This means you can clean them easily and heat up leftover donburi rice or soup without worrying about cracking the ceramic material.
Some traditional bowls aren’t microwaveable and modern consumers these days appreciate the convenience these bowls offer.
These bowls are made in Japan and designed in classic black ceramic material with small speckled details, which add to the overall aesthetic appeal.
You can always gift these bowls to couples because they’re nothing like the cheap kind of dollar store bowls and the quality of these is noticeable immediately.
Zen bowl vs Mino Ware ramen noodle bowls
Both of these bowls have a similar price, but the Mino Ware ramen noodle bowls are a set of 2, which may be more appealing to couples and families because you don’t have to order them separately.
The Zen bowl is a beautiful colorful bowl that might be more appealing if you like cute dishes. After all, the glossy porcelain looks more appealing in your kitchen and it’s a bit better quality. Also, it’s made in Japan and has a more intricate stripe design detail.
Unfortunately, none of these bowls come with accessories like spoons or chopsticks so you won’t have a matching set.
The Mino Ware noodle bowls are used in some Japanese restaurants, so you know that they’re durable and less prone to cracking. The Zen bowl is made of a slightly thinner ceramic, which might make it more fragile. So, my main observation is that the Mino bowls are more “utilitarian” whereas the Zen bowl resembles traditional Japanese donburi cookware.
Overall, both similar-sized bowls are great options for your home and both are microwave-safe.
Best large donburi bowl: Tableware East
- Material: ceramic
- Size: 8.4 inches
When you want to create a delicious donburi rice bowl with a lot of meat, vegetables, and extra toppings, you don’t want the ingredients to get all mushy in there. That’s why you need to get a larger bowl.
Or, if you just love to eat a larger portion, you’ll appreciate this Tableware East bowl with a heavy bottom and wide opening.
It fits lots of yummy rice, sauce, noodles, and meat. So there’s no way your soup can spill out of this bowl as you carry it to the table.
Made of strong ceramic material, this bowl has a similar texture and design as the bowls mentioned above. However, this one is a premium Japanese bowl, so it’s pricier.
It’s technically an oversized Sanuki bowl, but its versatility is perfect for fancy donburi dishes, as well as any other Japanese bowl meal.
The only issue with it is that it’s not as sturdy or heavy as you’d expect from traditional Japanese donburi ceramics.
The bowl has a great rating among Japanese customers because it holds up well to daily use and it can be used in the microwave.
It can also be cleaned in the dishwasher. If you want a bowl that can fit lots of noodles, rice, broth, and tons of toppings, this one is spacious enough.
Best multi-use donburi bowl: JAHADORI Ceramic Japanese Ramen Bowl Sets
- Material: ceramic
- Size: 8 inches
Well, this set of Jahadori bowls is very versatile and multi-purpose. You can even them for your morning breakfast cereal! In terms of size, these bowls are bigger than the average donburi bowl so you won’t go hungry.
This set is also an excellent option for pho, ramen soup, udon, and of course all the best rice donburi dishes you can cook up.
The shape of the bowls still resembles that of the classic donburi with a wide opening but these ones have a narrower bottom. There’s still plenty of room for toppings though!
This is a cheaper set of bowls, but it’s not plastic, so it’s still made of good quality ceramic material. It also has features like more expensive ones, which means it’s dishwasher and microwave-safe.
Also, you get a large ladle spoon and chopsticks, so you have utensils no matter what you choose to serve in the bowl!
These bowls are very well made, they are sturdy, and they hold up to frequent washing without chipping or cracking like other budget bowls.
The shape of the bowl is similar to the large Tableware East one, so it has a narrow bottom and wide top, which makes it ideal for layering the ingredients and serving soups.
Overall, considering the budget price, this is a nice set. The design is simple and minimalist, but it has a basic black color, which makes it easy to integrate with your other dishes and tableware.
Tableware East vs Jahadori
These 2 bowls are comparable because they have a similar size and they’re both ideal for rice, noodles, and liquids. They’re made of ceramic materials, but there’s a huge price difference between the 2.
If you’re a true donburi fan, you might want to invest in the Tableware bowl because it’s long-lasting, durable, and stylish.
But if you want a bowl you can use day to day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then you probably don’t need to spend more money than this simple and minimalist Jahadori set. The bonus is that you get chopsticks and a ladle, and don’t need to pay for those separately.
Both bowls look pretty nice and have a similar “unfinished” texture, which makes them resemble the original Japanese donburi from back in the day.
It all comes down to whether you expect amazing quality, or you’re fine with a mass-produced affordable bowl. Both are easy to clean and will last long because they are sturdy and don’t crack easily.
Best donburi bowl with lid: JapanBargain 16 oz
- Material: melamine plastic
- Size: 5.5 inches
A donburi bowl with a lid is exactly what you need. Did you know that a lid not only keeps the food hot for longer, but that it’s also used for serving small portions of side dishes?
You can place umeboshi plums, pickles, or dipping sauce in the lid because it has a flat bottom. Simply remove the lid, flip it over, and fill it with your favorite donburi rice side dish.
This is an affordable plastic donburi bowl that comes with a lid and serving spoon. It has a nice black shiny finish on the exterior and a shiny red colorful interior. It definitely looks more expensive than it really is and it’s made to be professional grade.
You can carry it around without worrying about breaking it and even use it as your lunch bowl at work. The portability and lightweight material make this a great overall donburi bowl.
The size is a bit smaller than other bowls (5.5 inches), but that’s the typical size of traditional Japanese bowls. So it’s great for a healthy and diet-friendly portion of rice or noodles.
Best budget & best plastic donburi bowl: JapanBargain S-2045 plastic noodle soup bowl
- Material: plastic lacquer
- Size: 3.5 inches
For a small portion, you want the smallest donburi bowl. It’s ideal for people who don’t eat a lot, as well as kids.
But this is an excellent plastic bowl that’s hard to break, and suitable for taking to the office or on the road. It’s also lightweight and well-balanced, considering it’s made of plastic.
The best feature is the raised base, which comes up about 2/3 of an inch from the table. Therefore, you can move and hold it, even if it has liquid in it. The base is also insulated so it doesn’t burn your hand when transporting it!
This authentic Japanese donburi rice bowl is made from plastic lacquer material, which gives it a shiny look and smooth texture.
It’s not as fragile as real ceramic bowls, so you don’t have to be super careful when handling it. Many people appreciate this feature because you know how easy it is to break bowls!
Designed to be oven-safe, it can handle any food that needs heating in your microwave oven and it’s also dishwasher-safe too! But you can also hand wash it very easily, as it’s also very light in terms of its weight.
JapanBargain with lid vs basic JapanBargain with no lid
Both of these great plastic bowls are made by the same JapanBargain brand. They’re very affordable and great for those looking for simple dishware for rice, noodles, and soups.
The main difference is the lid. If you’re the kind of person who loves to eat food as soon as it’s cooked while piping hot, you might not even need a lid.
But if you think you’ll use the bowl at work or you’re busy and tend to wait, you’ll want a lid to keep the rice hot.
Also, the basic bowl with no lid is smaller than the first and it might put you off a bit if you have a hearty appetite. But keep in mind that you can actually fit 2 ramen packs in the bowl and that’s quite spacious! It just depends on how much liquid you like to add.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with these 2 plastic donburi bowls because they’re cheap and durable. They’re pretty well insulated too, so they won’t burn your hands so fast.
Best design donburi bowl: Happy Sales multi-purpose
- Material: ceramic
- Size: 5 inches
Want a donburi bowl that has an Asian-style design but is also versatile? Well, Happy Sales is one of those affordable bowls that combines quality, artistic design, and utility. It’s a very versatile bowl and is suitable for rice, soup, ramen, pho, udon, and more!
Don’t be fooled by the low price because this is a very good ceramic bowl with nice painted motifs and illustrations. It comes in a whole bunch of cool color combinations and patterns, so you’re sure to find one that you really love.
What makes this bowl unique compared to the others in my reviews is that it has 2 special perforations, which are chopstick holders. This makes the bowl easy to store with the matching chopsticks so you never misplace them anymore.
It’s a bit smaller (5-inch diameter), but you can fit about 2 cups of liquid. So you have plenty of room to layer the rice, chicken, onions, and veggie toppings if you choose to make oyakodon.
You’ll feel like you’re dining at a great Japanese restaurant in Tokyo when eating from this bowl!
Best donburi bowl with elevated base: Sakura cherry blossom pattern soup bowl
- Material: plastic
- Size: 4.3 inches
Don’t underestimate the utility of a platform base for your donburi bowl. It makes the bowl taller, but it also means the hot bowl doesn’t touch the table directly.
Not only does this means you won’t burn or damage the table or counter, but the bowl is also easier to move and carry.
Compared to the other bowls, this one is designed to have a taller platform base and it gives the bowl a classic soup bowl design. But don’t worry, it’s great for donburi dishes too!
Your bowl will have added stability, so if you touch it with your arms while eating, there’s less of a chance that you’ll knock it over.
The one thing about this bowl is that it’s made of plastic and some people complained that a ceramic material would make this bowl even more practical. But it’s very cheap and comes in 3 sizes, so you can get 3 different sized ones for the price of one premium don.
I recommend this particular model if you want a dishwasher-friendly bowl that has a cute design and stable bottom.
Happy Sales vs Sakura pattern bowl
These 2 bowls are made for people who value beautiful dishes with pretty patterns and aesthetic appeal. Both of these bowls are in the budget-friendly category, so you can’t go wrong with either. You just have to decide what you prefer design-wise.
The Happy Sales bowl has a slight advantage when it comes to portability and compactness because it has a built-in chopstick holder.
But the Sakura bowl has the advantage of being more heat-proof and stable, thanks to its taller base. Sure, the Happy Sales bowl has a raised bottom platform too, but since it has a taller and narrower shape, it’s not as balanced and stable as the Sakura, which is wider.
Finally, I want to compare the materials because the Sakura bowl is made of plastic. So if you’re looking for authentic ceramic bowls with a longer lifespan, you’re probably better off with Happy Sales.
It’s also a more giftable item because it feels more expensive than it really is.
Best oven-safe and microwave-safe Donburi bowl: AQUIVER ceramic ramen bowls
- Material: pure clay ceramic
- Size: 9 inches
If you want a truly versatile and practical donburi, then you need the Aquiver bowl. It’s unique because it’s not only safe for microwave use, but it’s also oven-safe.
Most donburi bowls aren’t oven-safe because they’re not made with pure ceramic clay, but this one is. So the way that the bowl is manufactured is very important. In this case, you’re paying a bit more, but this is a truly great quality bowl.
The raw material is first bisque-fired at low temperatures. Afterward, it’s glaze-fired at high temperatures and this makes it oven-safe. So you can cook rice dishes and broil them in the oven for a short while for that extra crunch.
This bowl has a minimalist design and it’s a simple yet multi-purpose dish. At 9 inches, it’s larger, but then you can use it for soups, stews, pho, ramen, and more!
Best donburi bowl for kids and best for gifting: Japanese Shiba dog blue rice bowl
- Material: ceramic
- Size: 6.3 inches
If you have kids who are fussy eaters, then you probably want to entice them to eat the yakimeshi rice meal. These cute Shiba Inu dog illustrations are sure to capture your kids’ attention!
The color, the texture of porcelain, and the artistic rendering on this rice bowl are exemplary and deserve to be included in this list! Chances are, your kids will be interested in the bowl and eat more of the food inside.
This kind of bowl is also a great gift idea if you want to give something unique but useful at the same time. The bowl is quite affordable, but well made out of durable ceramic material.
Even though it has artwork painted on it, it’s still microwave and dishwasher-safe. So if you need to reheat your kids’ meals, you can use this bowl.
Mino is one of Japan’s famous ceramic manufacturers and this series is full of fun cute animal illustrations, so the bowls are definitely different from all the others. If you’re looking for some fun dishware, don’t skip out on this one!
Aquiver vs Shiba dog bowl
There are many differences between these 2 donburi dishes. The Aquiver is more suitable for adults looking for a simple bowl that can be used in the microwave and the oven. On the other hand, the Shiba dog bowl is a fun take on the classic donburi and ramen bowl.
If you have kids, you’ll need a colorful and cutesy bowl to overcome the picky eating phase. After all, presentation is key, and it’s always nice to have some fun dishes in your collection.
I want to mention the size differences too. If you like to have larger portions, then you might be happier with the Aquiver 9-inch bowl.
Plus, if you want to place it in the oven, you’ve got more space so the food and especially the liquids don’t overflow and make a mess in the oven.
Both bowls are excellent options, giftable, and overall, well-made durable ceramic dishes. You just have to decide which is more suited to your lifestyle!
Different kinds of donburi recipes
Donburi rice bowls are simple one-dish meals topped with all of your favorite Japanese foods that are definitely better than your typical fast food. They’re the perfect choice for a quick and delicious meal in Japan.
Donburi is derived from the serving bowl where it’s placed in, which is called simply a “don.”
You’ll find a combination of several ingredients in a donburi, which include steamed rice, meat, vegetables, sauce, and usually a side of pickles and miso soup.
The donburi is the all-in-one meal that you need to satisfy your hunger. Yet, it’s very convenient to prepare and eat!
The traditional Japanese dish donburi appeared first during the Edo Period when restaurants started serving sliced eel that’d been grilled and placed on top of rice bowls (these rice bowls were usually served to theatergoers, as it was famous in 17th century Japan).
As time went by, the donburi dish not only became famous as traditional Japanese cuisine, but also evolved into different flavors that people love.
Let’s look at all the most popular donburi dishes right now.
Also read: try this amazing Japanese curry recipe
What are the 5 types of donburi?
There’s a common misconception that there are 5 types of donburi. Did you know that there are actually 8?
Actually, there are so many more since there are endless combinations of ingredients for donburi. But these 8 are the most popular in Japan and America:
- Gyudon (beef)
- Unadon (the most traditional with grilled eel)
- Katsudon (deep-fried crispy pork cutlet)
- Tamagodon (with egg)
- Oyakodon (parent and child bowl made with chicken thighs)
- Soboro (ground beef with peas)
- Tendon (tempura)
- Kaisendon (sashimi and roe)
Gyudon (Beef Bowl) 牛丼
The Gyudon (beef bowl), which is made from thinly-sliced beef portions simmered with onion and dipped in a sweet-savory sauce, is considered by many of its patrons to be one of the most popular types of donburi-mono in all of Japan.
Here’s chef Adam Liaw making it:
Aside from the fact that it’s very delicious, you’ll also love how simple the cooking method of gyudon is.
My preferred toppings include freshly beaten egg, some pickles, and chopped scallion to add green veggies and make it look fresh.
Unadon (Grilled eel rice bowl) 鰻丼
Unagi don (or unadon, which means “grilled eel rice bowl”) is a specialty dish in Japan and is also a national favorite.
The perfectly grilled unagi (which is served over steamed rice and garnished with sweet caramelized sauce) will send your senses into an overdrive mode where it’s almost impossible to say “no” when this meal is offered to you!
Also read this post on unagi and unadon
Chicken katsudon チキンカツ丼
The chicken katsudon (or chicken cutlet in a rice bowl) is just stir-fried crispy chicken katsu that’s been simmered in dashi sauce with a savory flavor, topped with sliced onion and scrambled egg.
There’s a better way to stir-fry chicken cutlet lightly so it doesn’t get too oily. There’s less mess, even when you cook it at home.
This dish is almost the same as katsudon. However, the sauce is different. Hot rice is topped with a crispy breaded cutlet in a savory sauce.
It’s a regional dish from the Fukui prefecture and instead of simmering the meat with onion broth, the sauce is made with savory Worcestershire sauce.
Baked katsudon 揚げないカツ丼
Have you ever tried baked katsudon?
Well, this juicy deep-fried pork cutlet (that has a beaten runny egg and is cooked in dashi broth that’s responsible for its savory taste, then served over steamed rice) will make you forget other dishes for a little while!
This version is most similar to oyakodon, but there’s no chicken or any other meat. Instead, the meat is replaced with tasty eggs!
It’s basically white rice covered in an omelet and made with a sauce made of onion, dashi stock, mirin, soy sauce, and sake.
Oyakodon (Chicken and egg bowl) 親子丼
Literally “parent-and-child rice bowl” when translated into English, the oyakadon is wordplay for the delicious chicken and egg combination.
This high protein meal is common across all cultures, not just in Japan. People love it for its simple yet savory flavor!
Soboro don (Ground chicken bowl) 三色そぼろ丼
Translated as “minced chicken and egg on rice”, the soboro don will not only please your taste buds, but also your eyes with its multicolored ingredients. It’s also nutritious and easy to prepare!
The soboro don is perfect for little children, so if you have a handful of them at home, give them this meal to enjoy.
Ten don (Tempura donburi) 天丼
The ten don is deep-fried golden-brown and crispy shrimp tempura with vegetables on top of a bowl of freshly cooked rice. It’s garnished with the tempura dipping sauce known as tentsuyu.
This tempura donburi recipe is an absolute treat for a special weekend dinner, whether you’re alone or are with friends.
To complete your meal, just add a bowl of miso soup, a side dish (e.g. salad or other Japanese condiments), and a refreshing fruit juice, soda, beer, or sake.
Kaisendon (fresh seafood)
The Kaisendon is a regional specialty in Japan’s northern Hokkaido region. It’s made with the fresh catch of the day, which means the toppings may vary depending on what’s available.
The hot rice is usually combined with fresh sea urchin (uni), crab meat, scallops, and gleaming ikura. These ingredients can be substituted though, depending on the fresh catch.
Mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐
If you’re craving something bold for dinner, then the Japanese mapo tofu recipe is what you should have. I guarantee you that it won’t disappoint!
The protein-rich tofu is mixed with ground pork and cooked in a very delicious sauce that’s served over a bowl of newly steamed rice. Mapo tofu is the most delicious and satisfying meal you could ask for!
The mapo tofu donburi-mono is milder and less spicy than the Sichuan-style mapo tofu. So you can also give it to children, as they can handle its flavor and mild spiciness.
Salmon ikura don 鮭いくら丼
A sashimi-type of dish that features raw salmon roe but is served in a casual donburi style, the salmon ikura don recipe is perfect for a quick meal option in case you’re in a hurry to go somewhere.
The best way to prepare this dish is to cook the rice 15 minutes in advance. That way, it’ll only take you less than 2 minutes to assemble all the ingredients together in the donburi-bachi (bowl).
Niratama donburi ニラ玉丼ぶり
The niratama donburi has soft fluffy egg stir fry with garlic chives served over hot rice. It’s going to be the most comforting meal you’ll ever have!
What defines this simple donburi Japanese dish is the unique aroma and flavor of garlic chives. The garlic chives are also known as “Chinese chives” and they’re available at your local Asian grocery stores and produce markets.
The poke bowl dish is a Hawaiian favorite and is becoming popular across the United States rather quickly. But this Hawaiian soul food is heavily influenced by sashimi, which is also a famous Japanese cuisine.
Yoshinoya beef bowl
In case you’re unsure of what you’ll have for dinner while you’re busy working, just look up Yoshinoya beef bowl donburi and you won’t mind chowing down on it every night.
It’s basically a bowl of rice (most often regular steamed rice) and then some thinly sliced beef and baked onion are added on top.
The beef is first simmered in a dashi broth with soy sauce and some mirin that’s both sweet and savory.
Buta don (pork donburi)
This is the same dish as gyudon, except it’s made with pork meat, not beef.
The dish became popular in the ’90s and 2000s, and it’s still one of the tastiest and most popular options for those who don’t really like beef.
Chuka don (Chinese style)
A chuka don bowl is inspired by the classic Chinese stir-fry. It’s very popular because it has intense flavors.
The steaming hot rice is topped with a Chinese stir-fry which may include meat, seafood, vegetables, cabbage, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms (especially wood ear).
There are plenty of tasty vegetable combinations for those who don’t eat meat. One of the best vegan donburi bowls is a savory grilled eggplant dish with a yummy soy sauce, served on a bed of rice.
Tofu is also a good option for vegans. Steamed rice is topped with fried tofu chunks, bok choy cabbage, eggplant, and miso or soy sauce.
Also read: these are the knives the head chef uses
There’s a lot to say about donburi because it’s such a popular Japanese food. But I’m sure you have questions you want to be answered. Here are some FAQs!
What makes donburi special?
The reason why donburi is so special and popular is that it’s comfort food that doesn’t take a long time to cook. So many people prefer this dish for quick lunch meals and speedy dinners after a long day’s work. It’s a complete meal and will surely fill you up.
Since donburi is made with tasty steamed fluffy rice, it appeals to most people’s taste. And there are plenty of tasty toppings like meat, seafood, and vegetables.
Vegetarians and vegans also love this dish because they can substitute the meats and seafood with all kinds of delicious mushrooms, root veggies, or any vegetables and greens they have in the fridge.
Making donburi is simple, so it’s perfect for those days when you want something quick because you’re running late, or those cold winter days where you want soothing food.
Are donburi bowls healthy?
Donburi is still considered to be a “fast food”, so as with other fast foods, there’s some good and some bad. But compared to other fast food like burgers with fries, donburi is much healthier!
Generally, donburi is made with fresh meat or seafood and healthy ingredients like tofu and vegetables. The problem is the steamed white rice which is a high carb source, so it’s not ideal for dieting.
But even with white rice, this dish is still pretty healthy and has an average of 500-800 calories. It’s a filling meal, so it’s not too bad, especially when you make it at home with healthier ingredients.
Get a quality donburi bowl
Oyakodon, katsudon, ramen, or miso soup are all served in small to large-sized donburi bowls. These bowls are an indispensable kitchen staple because they can be used for serving a variety of Western and Asian dishes.
They’re easy to clean and some are very cheap. So you can always have some of these Japanese bowls among your dishware!
If you’re still deciding which one to get, you should go for the Zen Table striped bowl because it also comes with a spoon and chopsticks. And it’s the perfect size for tasty layers of meat and veggies on a bed of steamed rice.
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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.