Where & How To Buy Takoyaki: Your Options
When buying takoyaki you have 3 options:
- Buy pre-packaged takoyaki you can heat up at home
- Order in from a restaurant
- Buy the ingredients and make it yourself from scratch
In this article, I’ll discuss these different options and show you the brands and quality to look for.
Let’s quickly look at your options to buy:
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Buy frozen takoyaki
- 2 Order in from a restaurant
- 3 Where to buy takoyaki ingredients
- 3.1 Best overall takoyaki batter mix: Otafuku Takoyaki Flour for Japanese Takoyaki
- 3.2 Runner-up best takoyaki batter mix: Nissin Takoyaki Powder
- 3.3 Best bonito flakes: Kaneso Tokuyou Hanakatsuo Katsuobushi
- 3.4 Best takoyaki sauce: Otafuku Takoyaki Sauce
- 3.5 Best dried seaweed: Fujisawa Aonori Green Laver
- 3.6 Best Japanese mayonnaise: Kewpie 17.64-Ounce Tubes
- 3.7 Best beni shoga pickled ginger: Shirakiku Kizami Shoga
- 3.8 Best green onions & dried onion flakes: Badia Onion Flakes
- 3.9 Best dashi stock: Ajinomoto Japanese Hon Dashi
- 3.10 Where to buy octopus for takoyaki?
- 4 Tools you must have for making takoyaki
Buy frozen takoyaki
As a takoyaki enthusiast, I’ve always been on the hunt for the best frozen takoyaki that I can enjoy at home. Convenience stores like 7-ELEVEN, FamilyMart, and LAWSON, offer a variety of frozen takoyaki options, making it easy to satisfy my cravings without having to find a street vendor or restaurant.
Let me share my experience comparing these popular brands and their unique takes on this beloved Japanese street food.
Flavors and Textures
Each of these convenience store brands has its unique take on the classic takoyaki flavor and texture:
- 7-ELEVEN’s “Thick and Bodied Takoyaki”: These balls have a throaty, rich flavor and a meltingly soft texture, with a generous amount of octopus inside.
- FamilyMart “Mom’s Shokudo Yamori-Takoyaki (Thick and Smooth Takoyaki)”: This type has a creamy, smooth texture and a slightly sweet taste, reminiscent of a home-cooked meal.
- LAWSON “Softly Melted Inside, Firmly Baked Outside Takoyaki”: These takoyaki balls boast a crispy, browned exterior and a soft, gooey interior, providing a delightful contrast in textures.
All three brands recommend using a specially designed takoyaki grilling machine to cook the frozen balls. However, if you don’t have one, you can still achieve great results by following these steps:
1. Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 180°C (356°F).
2. Place the frozen takoyaki balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
3. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the balls are heated through and slightly crispy on the outside.
Freshness and Quality
While nothing can beat the taste of freshly fried takoyaki from a street vendor, these frozen options come surprisingly close. The convenience store brands ensure that their takoyaki is made with quality ingredients and frozen at the peak of freshness, so you can enjoy a delicious and satisfying snack at home.
7-ELEVEN’s Thick and Bodied Takoyaki
As I bit into the first ball, I was instantly struck by the contrast in texture. The crust was firm and crispy, while the inside was fluffy and voluminous. The taste was elegant and refined, with a hint of sourness that was both refreshing and invigorating. The secret, I discovered, lies in the ingredients and the preparation process:
- Chopped octopus: The star of the show, providing a tender and flavorful bite
- Beni shoga (red pickled ginger): Adding a tangy, sour kick that balances the richness of the batter
- Soy sauce and bonito broth: Infusing the batter with a deep, umami flavor
- Green laver (aonori): Sprinkled on top for a touch of color and a subtle, earthy taste
FamilyMart’s Mom’s Shokudo Yamori-Takoyaki
I remember the first time I tried FamilyMart’s Mom’s Shokudo Yamori-Takoyaki. The moment I bit into one of those thick and smooth takoyaki balls, I was instantly transported back to my childhood, sitting at my mom’s kitchen table. The dough was so fluffy and voluminous, it was like biting into a cloud. The contrast between the crispy outer crust and the soft, pillowy inside was pure perfection.
Octopus Filling: A Seafood Surprise
But it wasn’t just the dough that won me over. The octopus filling was equally impressive. Each takoyaki ball was generously packed with tender, succulent octopus pieces, providing a delightful contrast in texture. The octopus was cooked to perfection, not too chewy or rubbery, but just right.
Broth and Bonito Flakes: A Flavor Explosion
The real magic, however, was in the broth and bonito flakes. The thick, savory broth was infused with the perfect balance of sweet and sour flavors, while the coarser bonito flakes added an extra layer of umami goodness. The combination of the two created an elegant taste that lingered on my palate long after I had finished my last takoyaki ball. Some key highlights of the broth and bonito flakes include:
- Rich, savory taste that complements the dough and octopus filling
- Coarser bonito flakes provide a contrast in texture
- Perfect balance of sweet and sour flavors
Sauce and Ginger: The Perfect Finishing Touch
And let’s not forget the sauce and ginger. The sweet, tangy sauce drizzled over the takoyaki balls added just the right amount of zing, while the refreshing sourness of the ginger provided a much-needed contrast to the rich, savory flavors of the dish. Together, they elevated the overall taste of the takoyaki to a whole new level.
Discovering the Magic of LAWSON’s Takoyaki
Let me tell you, the first time I tried LAWSON’s “Softly Melted Inside, Firmly Baked Outside Takoyaki,” I was blown away by the complex mixture of flavors. The sauce, in particular, was a game-changer. It had this overwhelming aroma that immediately drew me in, and the savory flavor was the perfect complement to the takoyaki itself. I’ve tried many takoyaki sauces in my time, but this one takes the cake as the best I’ve ever had.
The Perfect Balance of Tenderness and Crispiness
What sets LAWSON’s takoyaki apart from the rest is the perfect balance between the tenderness of the octopus and the crispy exterior. The dough is freshly baked, creating a firm, crispy shell that encases the soft, elastic octopus inside. The contrast in textures is simply divine, and it’s something I’ve come to crave whenever I think about takoyaki.
Breaking Down the Flavor Profile
The flavor of LAWSON’s takoyaki is nothing short of amazing. The combination of the tender octopus, the crispy dough, and the savory sauce creates a symphony of flavors that’s hard to resist. Here’s a breakdown of what makes this takoyaki so special:
- The octopus: Fresh and tender, it adds a delightful chewiness to each bite.
- The dough: Crispy on the outside, soft and elastic on the inside, it’s the perfect vessel for the octopus.
- The sauce: A complex mixture of savory, sweet, and tangy flavors that ties everything together.
Enjoying the Full Experience
To truly appreciate the magic of LAWSON’s takoyaki, I recommend enjoying it freshly baked, when the aroma is at its peak and the textures are just right. It’s a sensory experience that’s hard to replicate with other brands, and it’s what keeps me coming back for more. So, the next time you’re craving some takoyaki, give LAWSON’s a try – I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Order in from a restaurant
Ordering takoyaki from a restaurant couldn’t be easier. Most Japanese takeout restaurants will have them on their menu.
There’s almost always just one version of takoyaki on there, so choosing shouldn’t be a problem either. This will be the traditional takoyaki with octopus, dashi flavored batter and takoyaki sauce.
When you get your order, you’ve probably chosen some sushi options as well since takoyaki isn’t a full meal in itself.
The takoyaki will be one of the few items that should be hot, and you should eat it while hot. So start with the takoyaki first when you sit down to have your meal.
Where to buy takoyaki ingredients
There are only a few ingredients you really need to make takoyaki, so I’ll share my top picks here.
In this article, I will list the best toppings, including dried bonito and many others. Since takoyaki is one of the most popular Japanese recipes, you need to know about all the best toppings to go with it.
Best overall takoyaki batter mix: Otafuku Takoyaki Flour for Japanese Takoyaki
- # of takoyaki balls you can make: 100
Otafuku is Japan’s favorite brand of takoyaki batter mix. It’s very affordable but super tasty and resembles the flavor of Japanese street food takoyaki.
Having a pre-packaged takoyaki flour mix for the batter is a real timesaver. I can really recommend this one!
That’s why you’ll be glad to know that you can buy takoyaki batter mix right from Amazon so you can start cooking the octopus balls in no time.
The takoyaki flour mix is already pre-mixed and very tasty, so don’t be wary of using it if you want authentic restaurant-style takoyaki.
I would describe the taste of this takoyaki flour mix as “very close” to traditional takoyaki.
It’s less dense than the Nissin powder and much fluffier.
One of the challenges of getting the takoyaki batter right is combining the dashi and kombu dashi to achieve a balanced flavor. That’s where Otafuku comes to the aid – their takoyaki flour mix is the best on the market because they got the taste right.
The key to the best takoyaki batter is to get the correct proportions of dashi flavor so that it doesn’t overpower the flavor of the octopus. But, with this mix, you don’t have to add the dashi yourself; it’s already in there as powder flavoring.
Customers really enjoy this flour mix for takoyaki balls because there’s a blend of fish stock made of bonito flakes and dashi stock, as well as some kombu dashi stock made from seaweed.
This, combined with wheat flour, creates the perfect batter for homemade octopus balls.
The bag of flour mix has a simple takoyaki recipe on it so you can make this tasty snack at home for the family, or you can host a takoyaki party with your friends.
You can make takoyaki for a large party from this 1 lb bag because there’s enough flour mix in there for approximately 100 takoyaki balls.
The flour is manufactured in Los Angeles, USA, and the ingredient list is pretty clean.
Making the batter will be quick and easy, and once it’s runny, you can heat up your takoyaki pan or electric takoyaki maker and start frying the octopus balls until they’re golden brown.
Overall, this is a tasty mix you can use, and people are impressed because it’s much tastier than using plain flour to make your own batter.
Runner-up best takoyaki batter mix: Nissin Takoyaki Powder
- # of takoyaki balls you can make: 100
This is another recommendation for those of you who really love to make takoyaki at home because you can make about 100 octopus balls per bag.
The Nissin brand is best known for its instant noodles, but they also make takoyaki batter and flour. You can find their takoyaki mix at Asian grocery stores or online.
With this takoyaki powder mix, you can make about 100 takoyaki balls – that’s more than enough to satisfy your hungry friends and family or cook in several batches.
But, the good news is that you can use this mix for more than just takoyaki. Customers are also using the Nissin mix to make Korean green onion pancakes and other Japanese food like tempura batter.
Compared to the Otafuku takoyaki flour mix, this one is denser, and the batter becomes a bit thicker. The texture is less fluffy but just as delicious. It really comes down to your personal preference.
Your takoyaki will be a bit more firm, and the batter is less runny compared to Otafuku or Higashimaru.
Also, you can expect crunchier octopus balls with this mix, although that also depends on how you fry them in your takoyaki pan.
Some customers recommend adding a hint of baking powder to make the batter fluffier.
The taste of Nissin’s takoyaki powder is very delicious. People compare it to the takoyaki you can get at a restaurant or street food vendor.
There are two cons: first, the mix is a bit pricier than the others, and although it says the bag contains 500 grams of the takoyaki flour mix, some people complain that there are only 400 grams.
The Nissin mix contains powdered dashi made with dried bonito flakes and kombu seaweed powder but also some beni shoga powder to give it that classic flavor.
Best bonito flakes: Kaneso Tokuyou Hanakatsuo Katsuobushi
The most common topping for takoyaki is, no doubt, Katsuobushi.
Bonito flakes are fermented, and dried skipjack tuna flakes used to give a salty and fishy flavor to takoyaki balls. Classic Japanese street food stalls (called yatai) will sell takoyaki with a good serving of bonito flakes on top.
These are light pink or light brown fish pieces made of dried tuna and shaved into very thin flakes.
If you’re looking to try interesting Japanese food, then you need to give bonito flakes a try.
When you sprinkle these fish flakes on hot takoyaki balls, they react to the heat and appear to move, even though they’re not alive. It’s definitely a unique topping for your favorite snacks.
Bonito flakes have a fishy, smoky, and salty flavor.
Check the price on Amazon: Kaneso Tokuyou Hanakatsuo Bonito Flakes
Best takoyaki sauce: Otafuku Takoyaki Sauce
Every delicious bite of takoyaki needs the mild and slightly sweet flavors of takoyaki sauce.
One of the best brands to try is the Otafuku Takoyaki Sauce, an authentic Japanese topping. The takoyaki sauce is drizzled over the top of the hot octopus balls.
Takoyaki sauce is made from a combination of ingredients:
- mentsuyu (soup base)
- Worcestershire sauce
Some recipes require a dash of soy sauce or oyster sauce to add some seafood flavor.
Check the current price of bottled Takoyaki sauce on Amazon: Otafuku Takoyaki Sauce.
What does takoyaki sauce taste like?
It is a mild brown umami sauce with a light sweetness, tanginess, and fruity notes. The base flavors are soy sauce and kombu, which are savory, and then you have the sweet and tangy aromas of sugar and ketchup.
Best dried seaweed: Fujisawa Aonori Green Laver
Dried seaweed called Aonori is another common topping. You can also use pieces of Nori, kombu (kelp), or wakame seaweed to add that salty sea flavor.
Aonori has a very potent sea flavor, and it is shaved into flakes, so it works well as a topping. It adds some crunch, and combined with the takoyaki sauce; it adds a rich kombu flavor. Aonori and bonito flakes are the crunchiest part of the takoyaki.
Check the price on Amazon: Aonori Dried Green Laver Seaweed for Takoyaki.
Best Japanese mayonnaise: Kewpie 17.64-Ounce Tubes
Japanese mayo is similar to American mayonnaise, but it is made differently. It is made from egg yolk only and no egg whites.
As a result, it has more umami flavor than your classic Western mayo. Also, it is much creamier, thicker in texture, and a much bolder egg flavor.
The flavor is less sweet but a bit tangier, and there is less acidity in this type of egg yolk mayo.
You can make this mayo at home by mixing:
- vegetable oil
- rice vinegar
- egg yolk
Or, you can buy Japan’s favorite Kewpie Mayonnaise. This mayo is sold in a tube format, not bottles like American mayo.
So, once you make takoyaki, you can douse it with this Japanese mayo and enjoy the sweet but tangy flavors.
Check the price on Amazon: Kewpie Mayonnaise
Best beni shoga pickled ginger: Shirakiku Kizami Shoga
You might be familiar with Japanese pickles (tsukemono), which are healthy and delicious (takoyaki itself isn’t very healthy). Beni shoga is one of the best pickles.
Thin strips of ginger are pickled in umezu, a special vinegar pickling mix used to make umeboshi pickled plum.
The beni shoga ginger has a light red color from artificial coloring. It adds a sour and spicy taste to takoyaki and a nice pop of color.
Red pickled ginger is a popular topping and condiment in Japanese cuisine.
Check the price on Amazon: Kizami shoga
Best green onions & dried onion flakes: Badia Onion Flakes
If you want to add some herbs and veggies on top of each takoyaki ball, you can add some sliced green onions or scallions.
There’s nothing like some fresh crunchy green onions on top of hot takoyaki. It is the best herb to add, and you probably have some in your fridge already.
For an alternative, why not try dried onion flakes? Dried onion flakes have a tasty savory flavor and they’re easy to store in your pantry.
It all depends if you prefer fresh green onions or the more potent flavor of dried white onions.
Check the price on Amazon: Badia Onion Flakes
Best dashi stock: Ajinomoto Japanese Hon Dashi
Alright, it’s not really a topping but more of a dipping sauce. In some Osaka restaurants, the takoyaki balls are dipped into a savory and umami dashi soup stock.
This variation is called Akashi yaki and the dashi can be considered a type of topping since it’s used to add more flavor to the takoyaki.
You can buy dashi stock cubes, dashi powder, or a liquid dashi seasoning and make your own dipping sauce at home.
Alternatively, you can pour some dashi stock onto the takoyaki to make them very soft.
Check the price of Japanese Hon Dashi on Amazon.
Where to buy octopus for takoyaki?
You can typically find octopus for takoyaki at various places, depending on your location. Here are a few common options:
- Asian or Japanese grocery stores: These specialty stores often carry a wide range of Japanese ingredients, including octopus. Look for the seafood section or ask the store staff for assistance. They may have fresh octopus or frozen octopus available.
- Seafood markets or fishmongers: Local seafood markets or fishmongers often have a variety of fresh seafood options, including octopus. Visit your nearest seafood market and inquire about octopus availability. They may be able to provide you with fresh octopus or recommend a suitable alternative.
- Online seafood suppliers: Several online platforms specialize in delivering fresh seafood to your doorstep. Look for reputable online seafood suppliers that offer octopus. You can browse their selection, place an order, and have it shipped to your location.
- Supermarkets with a seafood section: Some well-stocked supermarkets have a seafood section where you can find octopus. Check the fresh seafood area or ask the store staff if they carry octopus suitable for takoyaki.
When purchasing octopus for takoyaki, it’s essential to ensure its freshness. Look for firm, glossy, and odorless octopus. If fresh octopus is not available, you can also consider using frozen octopus, which is often pre-cooked and ready to use. Just thaw it according to the instructions before adding it to your takoyaki.
Matiz Octopus in a Can is a good alternative to fresh octopus if you can’t get your hands on any:
It is a bit oily and since you won’t be grilling it directly on the heat source, you should dab it with a paper towel to get of most of the oil before you use it in your takoyaki.
Tools you must have for making takoyaki
A takoyaki can only be perfected with the right tools and equipment. You can’t flip a takoyaki if you don’t have the right gear.
You can start off with an electric takoyaki maker or pan (best ones here) with a non-stick smooth surface, that is portable, and can make lots of takoyaki all at once.
Last but not the least, you have to get a pair of takoyaki picks to flip those octopus balls. If your grill pan is uncoated, you can opt for stainless steel picks. But, plastic picks are good too and I’ll tell you why below.
Best cast iron takoyaki pan: Iwatani Medium Grill Pan
- Type: stovetop, portable stove
- Number of holes: 16
- Material: aluminum
- Nonstick coating: yes
If you like the size and design of the Cooker King pan but want a non-stick coating that helps you make takoyaki more easily with no sticking, then Iwatani is the top product in its category.
This pan is designed and manufactured in Japan and is ideal for butane portable stoves and stovetop cooking. The pan’s bottom has a unique lock-in feature with special grooves that lock the pan in place if you cook on a small portable stove so it doesn’t move around.
This feature offers added security and stability while cooking, especially when you turn the balls.
It’s not made of cast iron like the other pan but the advantage is that the aluminum pan has a nonstick top coating which means your batter doesn’t stick and so you don’t have misshapen or broken octopus balls.
It also means that the pan is easier to use for beginners because you’re almost guaranteed to get perfectly baked takoyaki that maintains its shape. You also get two handles so you can move it around it simply.
Cleaning is easy because it’s also dishwasher safe. I recommend handwashing though to maintain the nonstick coating for longer. Some customers complain that if you wash it in the dishwasher too many times, the nonstick surface gets damaged.
But one important feature that people love is that the pan has grooves that run up and down between the holes. This means that you can pour the batter and then trace a bamboo stick around the batter to divide it.
Thus, you can ensure you get the perfect round-shaped takoyaki and the batter doesn’t overspill too much.
So, if you’re looking for the easy route to making this yummy Japanese snack, having a nonstick pan is the top choice.
Best soft plastic takoyaki picks: Health and Home set of 2
- material: plastic
- length: 7.1 inches
Are you looking for a basic pair of takoyaki picks? I know that buying the takoyaki pan or an electric takoyaki machine can be costly, so you probably don’t want to spend too much on picks.
Not all takoyaki picks are the same. Sometimes, people are too lazy to get real takoyaki picks and use any old bamboo sticks or toothpicks they have at home and then they wonder why the balls crumble or break.
Here’s the thing: takoyaki picks are designed to have a specific length and they have a heat-resistant handle so you don’t burn yourself when flipping the balls.
The takoyaki picks aren’t very fancy so there’s no real science behind buying them. However, you want to look for some basic features that ensure you’re getting usable picks.
Soft vs hard material
There are two types of takoyaki picks: soft type and hard type.
Traditional takoyaki picks are hard, which just means they have a stainless steel pick and wooden handle. These sturdy picks are long-lasting and great for turning octopus balls because they don’t bend or melt from the heat. Even if you touch the hot pan, the hard pick will stay intact.
The soft type refers to picks that are made of a heat-resistant plastic material. But, the disadvantage of these picks is that you can only touch the batter to separate it in the mold pan, or the balls when you turn them. You cannot touch the hot pan or the edge will bend and potentially melt.
I’m sure you’re asking “what about wooden bamboo skewers?”
Well, the 7 or 8-inch ones can be used to flip the takoyaki but these are really wasteful.
When you make food like takoyaki, you don’t need to waste wooden bamboo skewers which might be reusable once but they are very prone to damage and breaking.
That’s why I no longer recommend them, especially for beginners.
Most takoyaki picks are between 7-9 inches long. The handle should be about 3 to 4 inches long too.
This length ensures that your hands are never too close to the burning hot takoyaki or pan. Thus, the longer the pick, the safer it is to use.
The bottom line is that a good 7-inch pick is perfect for flipping takoyaki and the idea is that you use two picks at the same time to ensure you don’t break the balls.
So what are the best takoyaki picks for flipping the balls? Let’s have a look.
After all, they’re not supposed to be fancy. They are supposed to be just long enough to keep your hands safe from the heat and have a semi-sharp tip that helps you separate the batter while cooking and to help you poke the takoyaki without breaking it while flipping it around.
The plastic handle takoyaki picks are the most popular ones because they’re cheap and do a good job. Many Japanese households own at least one pair of these red handle picks because they don’t scratch the pan.
We all know pans and electric machines aren’t the cheapest so you don’t want to damage them.
Since it’s made of plastic material, the tip of the pick isn’t hard or sharp enough to break through the crispy cooked batter.
Therefore, when you turn the takoyaki balls in the pan or machine, there’s less of a chance that you’ll crack or break them.
You can also use these picks with your Aebleskiver pan or to turn other round ball-shaped foods while cooking.
Although it’s made of cheap material each pick is heat resistant up to 194 F which is enough to protect you from the high temperatures.
But, the downside is that you can only use the picks to insert into the takoyaki, separate batter, and turn the balls over. Do not touch the hot pan with these picks or else they will bend at the tip and even start to melt.
Once your takoyaki is nice and golden brown and you’ve removed them from the pan with the picks, you can clean the pick quite easily with some tissue paper or a wet cloth. Do not wash the picks in the dishwasher.
Best stainless steel pick: JapanBargain 3076
- material: stainless steel with wooden handle
- length: 7 1/4 inches
If you want to use the Japanese street food stall pick, get authentic ones like this pick from JapanBargain. What makes it different from the previous picks is that it has a tip like a rounded chisel.
This kind of pick is not used to poke the takoyaki balls, and instead, it’s used to maneuver the balls carefully, especially when turning them over. The rounded chisel tip is used to separate the batter when you pour it into the electric takoyaki maker or pan.
Compared to the plastic handle of the other pick, this one has a longer wooden handle and a shorter stainless steel part.
At 7 1/4″ it’s the ideal size for turning the takoyaki because you can pick up the balls without dropping them but it’s also long enough to keep your finger away from extreme heat.
I advise you to check the package when you receive your pick because some people claim their pick is only 6″ long which is too short for takoyaki and can cause burns.
But, the majority of customers rate this pick highly because it’s really well made and best of all, it doesn’t scratch the pan at all. So, even if you end up touching the sides and bottom of the takoyaki machine or pan, you won’t be left with ugly scratch marks.
Unlike the plastic pick, the stainless steel ones don’t melt or bend when exposed to high heat, as long as you don’t leave the wood handle on the hot pan by accident.
Overall, this is a great Japanese product and it’s worth getting, especially since it’s so inexpensive!
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.