Takoyaki is a Japanese snack made famous for its octopus filling. It’s a wheat flour-based batter with a round shape cooked in a special molded pan.
This Japanese snack is a ball of mixed ingredients that includes the “tako” (octopus, usually diced but could be minced), “tenkasu” (which are scraps of tempura) and you often add some green onions and also pickled ginger to the filling to spice up the flavor.
Let’s look at them more closely and I’ll teach you how to make these at home in your own kitchen!
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Best homemade takoyaki recipes
- 2 History of Takoyaki
- 3 Takoyaki in Osaka
- 4 5 Essential Ingredients for Authentic Takoyaki
- 5 Takoyaki Pan
- 6 What Else is in Takoyaki Apart from Octopus?
- 7 Other Tools and Skills You Need to Make Takoyaki
- 8 Sauce and Toppings for Takoyaki
- 9 3 Tips To Make the Perfect Takoyaki
- 10 Simple Takoyaki (octopus balls) recipe
Best homemade takoyaki recipes
Since we already know what tako means, let’s look at the word “yaki;” it is derived from the word “yaku” which means to fry or to grill.
Takoyaki is often referred to as “konamono”, which literally just means “flour things”. It falls into the same konamono category as Okonomiyaki and Ikayaki as they are all prepared with a flour batter (called “Kona” in Japanese).
Most Japanese words are a combination of two distinct words fused into one to describe someone or something, in this case, takoyaki.
History of Takoyaki
Is takoyaki from Japan?
Takoyaki was originally from Osaka, circa 1935. The octopus fried ball is a transformation of what used to be called choboyaki. Choboyaki has similar ingredients as takoyaki. A man by the name of Tomekichi Endo invented the takoyaki and popularized it in Osaka in 1935. He is a street vendor but was quite the smart cook for his time.
But instead of a round ball, choboyaki was more like a flat square. Another difference is the filling, as choboyaki uses beef instead of the octopus.
Choboyaki then evolved to rajioyaki, the very same food but with a ball-shaped like today’s takoyaki.
People still use beef as fillings, although it was not so long before people started switching it with octopus. This marked the birth of takoyaki.
This street snack gained its popularity real fast due to the unique octopus flavor. The chewy texture and light flavor of the briny meat makes a wonderful complement with the dashi and toppings.
People also try out many other things to use as fillings, but the name Takoyaki remains.
You can have the ball snack filled with shrimp, cheese, or tofu (for vegan option). Yet still, up until now, the most popular version is the octopus.
The takoyaki konamono derived from akashiyaki, which is a small spherical dumpling (made of an egg-rich batter and octopus) that originated from Akashi City in Hyōgo Prefecture.
With a new taste hitting the streets of Akashi City, so too its popularity started spreading across various regions which included Kansai, Kanto as well as the rest of the country as time went on.
It is believed that the first takoyaki snacks were introduced among the yatai street food stalls, which later evolved into takoyaki specialty restaurants, which are widespread across the Kansai region.
Today takoyaki has gained so much notoriety that it has become a household name in Japan. It is also sold at commercial outlets like 24-hour convenience stores and supermarkets.
The takoyaki dish is also very popular in Taiwan. Historically, the island nation is a common trading partner of Japan since ancient times. It has borrowed some Japanese cuisines and adopted them into their culture such as the takoyaki.
The oldest known takoyaki store is Aizuya in Osaka and was founded by the cuisine’s inventor himself, Tomakichi Endo in the 1930s. The store has remained operational to this day.
Before the takoyaki became famous for its octopus meat as one of its base ingredients, Endo first experimented with beef and konjac and improved the flavorings for the batter too!
Nicknamed as the “octopus balls”, the takoyaki was first known by that name before it was called takoyaki today. It became widespread across Japan as it was among the favorite in the street food stalls dipped in brown sauce.
Takoyaki in Osaka
Although Takoyaki has now been widely popular and available throughout Japan, you still need to go to Osaka if you aim for an ultimate culinary adventure with these fried balls.
The town has more than 650 takoyaki stores, with subtle taste differences between one to another.
While most people serve takoyaki with multiple toppings, in Osaka you will see some takoyaki is garnished only with a pinch of salt to highlight the strong dashi flavor in the batter.
Another variation of a takoyaki is takosen, which is two takoyaki balls sandwiched between two crackers.
5 Essential Ingredients for Authentic Takoyaki
To make traditional takoyaki, you need 5 ingredients. Here they are.
- Dashi Flavored Batter – to make dashi flavored batter, add dashi stock cubes dissolved in water to your batter.
- Octopus – you need boiled octopus meat.
- Beni Shoga – red pickled ginger bits give color and flavor to the takoyaki.
- Tenkasu – tempura scraps add that rich umami flavor to the food. They make the takoyaki crispy and creamy.
- Spring Onion – this is the best way to add some color and flavor to the takoyaki. Spring onion is a popular topping.
Why is Takoyaki so good?
Takoyaki is very popular street food in Japan. This is because it has a delicious flavor. The taste is described as umami, or savory.
It is so good because the boiled octopus filling melts in your mouth and has a traditional seafood taste. As well, the round-shaped balls of dough are crispy and crunchy. They are easy to eat as bite-sized snacks.
Just remember to watch out because they come piping hot straight from the cast-iron specialty grill pan!
Takoyaki octopus balls aren’t really fun to make without using a special cast iron takoyaki pan.
The takoyaki pan, or its other nickname – takoyaki-nabe, is a cast iron griddle that’s dotted with indented half-spherical molds. [read my full Takoyaki pan reviews here]
The unique iron griddle heats up the takoyaki evenly until the bottom half-spherical side of it cooks. Then the ball is turned over using a special pick or a larger bamboo skewer (you know, the ones they use for yakitori as well).
This allows the uncooked batter to cook in the base of the rounded cavity. It’s kind of like deep-frying but with every ball in its own little shallow pocket of oil.
During open-air Japanese festivals, restaurants, street vendors, or individuals use LPG or LNG tanks.
You can also get smaller electric versions that look a bit like a hotplate to use at home, and you even have some smaller cast iron makers for your stovetop.
Because takoyaki is a fairly easy recipe to cook and is quite the popular street food in Japan, so many households in Japan own a takoyaki pan.
It’s also the reason why the production and sale of this particular kitchen item are common in Japanese stores and supermarkets. However, they may not be as popular outside of Japan.
Online stores like Amazon do sell takoyaki pans, but if Amazon does not deliver to your country, or you can’t find it in your local store, then you can use the Dutch pancake pan as a replacement.
The 2 pans are very similar to each other with the exception that the Dutch pancake pan has shallower rounded concave indentions than the Japanese takoyaki pan, but they do the job nevertheless.
What Else is in Takoyaki Apart from Octopus?
The takoyaki batter is specially made with a mixture that includes flour, egg and dashi stock, which is already delicious in and on itself.
On top of that, it is also mixed with cooked and diced octopus (or other meats and seafood like beef steak, shrimp, salmon, etc. depending on the creativity of the chef he’ll use the type of meat in order to accentuate the takoyaki’s flavor).
Often, some diced scallions or green onions are also added and tenkasu tempura bits and some pickled ginger to add to the flavor.
Okay, at this point you’re probably wondering what a tenkasu is, but you don’t need to Google it as it is simply the crunchy bits of deep-fried batter debris from cooking the tempura. Think of it as tempura batter crumbs.
How amazing is that?! Using remains from another food as a flavoring/topping for a different recipe. You can only find it in Japan!
Adding tenkasu enhances the flavor of the takoyaki as it gives off a piquant flavor or smell.
Add a pop of color to Takoyaki with some red pickled ginger. It gives the octopus balls a refreshing, yet pungent taste when you take a bite.
Popular alternative Takoyaki fillings include:
- green peas
- crab sticks
- fish cake
You should check out this post I wrote about the exact flavor of takoyaki and all of the alternative filling ideas to learn EXACTLY how to make delicious variations of this Japanese favorite!
Other Tools and Skills You Need to Make Takoyaki
Do you know how to make takoyaki? If not, watch this How To Make Takoyaki (Recipe) on YouTube:
You don’t necessarily need the skills of a world-class chef to be able to cook the takoyaki; however, you need some basic skills and lots of practice!
The one thing that you’ll need to remember when cooking the takoyaki is how to flip the batter correctly.
This is because when it is done in the wrong way, then the batter could get a different shape other than a sphere and you’ll ruin the takoyaki all together.
It’s a tricky business as the batter could split open and the uncooked part of it might end up all over the pan instead of the mold, so must have the finesse of a chef to flip the batter over and perfectly put it where it belongs.
A bamboo or a small metal skewer should do the trick, although you may still have to use your hands to aid in flipping the takoyaki over successfully.
Sauce and Toppings for Takoyaki
Eating takoyaki won’t be complete without its dipping sauce also called takoyaki sauce.
It is similar to the okonomiyaki soy-based sauce that takes the already flavorful takoyaki to new heights.
To make basic Takoyaki sauce, mix Worcestershire sauce (usutah so-su), mentsuyu (noodle soup base), ketchup, and sugar. The sauce gives off a sweet fruity flavor to the bite, although it’s not as strong as the okonomiyaki sauce.
You can dress the takoyaki sauce with Japanese mayonnaise and drizzle it with seaweed and bonito flakes.
They are all readily available in Japan and in most Asian or Japanese grocery stores.
Takoyaki on its own is already a delicious dish; however, you would not enjoy the best of its taste without the sauce and toppings.
Easy Takoyaki Sauce From Scratch Recipe
All you need to make this recipe is 5 ingredients.
- Worchestershire sauce
- Mentsuyu (Japanese soup base)
- Oyster Sauce
Add a few teaspoons of each and only a little bit of sugar. In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients and stir them until the sauce blends well.
3 Tips To Make the Perfect Takoyaki
It is hard to get the recipe right the first time. But that’s because people don’t follow the three most important tips.
They are so simple yet essential to getting perfect takoyaki balls every time.
Oil the pan well
People think that if you add a little teaspoon of oil, that’s enough. The secret to great, crispy takoyaki is to use lots of oil. Apply the oil generously everywhere.
Fill the holes of the pan and even add some to the surrounding area beside the molds. You need to fill holes with at least 5 mm of oil. The oil makes the takoyaki crispy and makes it easy to flip the balls.
Pour batter generously
The secret to round ball is to completely fill the mold with batter. It needs to overflow with batter so don’t worry about it if it seems too full. Fill the whole grill with batter after you put in the octopus and the rest of the ingredients.
Flip balls at 90 degrees
As the batter cooks, break it with a chopstick or skewer so that the liquid flows out. Once the bottom browns, flip the balls at 90 degrees and let any uncooked batter pour out. You have a special takoyaki pick you can use for that.
Now, push the dough into the ball and the mold. This helps you make perfect round-shaped takoyaki.
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Simple Takoyaki (octopus balls) recipe
- Takoyaki pan or maker
- 10 ounces all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 4 1/4 cups water (1 liter)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp kombu dashi stock you can use granules
- 1/2 tsp katsuobushi dashi stock you can use granules
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 15 ounces boiled octopus in cubes or you can use any other type of protein as a filling, although it wouldn't really be takoyaki
- 2 green onions sliced
- 2 tbsp tenkasu tempura bits (or use rice krispies)
- 3 ounces shredded cheese
- 1 bottle Japanese mayonnaise add to taste
- 1 bottle Takoyaki sauce (you can buy it bottled at a lot of the Asian groceries, you can't miss it with the picture of takoyaki on the front)
- 1 tbsp bonito flakes
- 1 tbsp Aonori or seaweed strips (Aonori is a type of powdered seaweed)
- Crack the eggs in a small mixing bowl and add the water as well as the stock granules, then beat the mix manually or with an egg beater. Pour the egg-water-stock granules mixture into the flour, then add salt and mix well (with an egg beater or manually) until you’ve successfully created the batter. Turn on the stove and place the takoyaki pan on top of it. Brush the individual half-sphere compartments with oil.
- Two minutes into heating, pour the takoyaki batter into the concave semi-spherical molds. It’s okay if you accidentally make the batter in the molds spill over the brim as you can just gather them later when you’ll flip the batter over for the other side to be cooked. While you’re cooking the takoyaki in the takoyaki pan add the green onions in each ball, add your protein (your choice of meat), the shredded cheese, and the tempura bits, or use rice Krispies.
- Two to 3 minutes into cooking the takoyaki, you may now flip it over in order for the other side to cook. Use a bamboo or metal skewer when flipping the ball over in order to not ruin its spherical shape. If you can’t turn the takoyaki easily, it probably needs to cook for a bit longer. Let it sit in the pan for another 60 seconds before flipping it over. The takoyaki balls should be easier to turn over once they’ve cooked through because the batter will no longer stick to the pan.
- You will know when the takoyaki is done because it will have a light brown crispy texture on the outside and you can flip them easily in their holes as they no longer stick to the pan. The overall cook time is estimated to be 10 minutes per batch from the time you’ve placed them on the stove to the time you’ll take them out.
- Place the hot takoyaki on a clean plate, then drizzle them with Japanese mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce. Sprinkle them with aonori and bonito flakes as well. Then serve them to your guests.