Katsudon: Ingredients, Variants & More

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Katsudon is a popular Japanese food, a bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried pork cutlet, egg, and condiments. The dish takes its name from the Japanese words tonkatsu (for pork cutlet) and donburi (for rice bowl dish). It has become a modern ritual tradition for Japanese students to eat katsudon the night before taking a major test or school entrance exam. This is because “katsu” is a homophone of the verb 勝つ katsu, meaning “to win” or “to be victorious”. It is also a famous gag of Japanese police films: many people think that suspects will speak the truth with tears when they have eaten katsudon and are asked, “Did you ever think about how your mother feels about this?” Even nowadays, the gag of “We must eat katsudon while interrogating” is popular in Japanese films.

Let’s look at what katsudon is, how it’s made, and why it’s such a popular dish. Plus, I’ll share some fun facts about katsudon and its place in Japanese pop culture.

What is katsudon

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Discovering the Ultimate Katsudon: A Guide to the Japanese Pork Bowl

Katsudon is a popular Japanese donburi dish that consists of a deep-fried pork cutlet that is simmered in a sweet and savory sauce, then served over a bowl of steamed rice and topped with a beaten egg. The word “katsudon” literally means “cutlet bowl,” as the dish includes a breaded and fried pork cutlet that is sliced into pieces and placed on top of a bed of rice. The dish is commonly garnished with onions and is served in a large bowl, making it a filling and satisfying meal.

The History of Katsudon

Katsudon is said to have originated in the Edo period of Japan (1603-1868) and was considered a staple food for the upper class. The dish gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s and has since become a regular menu item in Japanese restaurants. Katsudon is now commonly featured in donburi, a style of Japanese cuisine that combines rice with various toppings.

The Ingredients and Recipe

The main ingredients for katsudon include:

  • Pork cutlet
  • Rice
  • Onion
  • Egg
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • Dashi (Japanese soup stock)

To make katsudon, follow these simple steps:

1. Cook rice and set aside.
2. Cut pork into thin slices and season with salt and pepper.
3. Dip pork slices in beaten egg and coat with panko breadcrumbs.
4. Fry pork slices in oil until golden brown and crispy.
5. In a separate pan (best pans for katsudon here), sauté sliced onions until slightly browned.
6. Add soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and dashi to the pan and mix well.
7. Add the fried pork slices to the pan and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.
8. Beat an egg and pour it over the pork mixture. Cover the pan and let the egg cook for a few minutes.
9. Serve the pork mixture over a bowl of steamed rice.

Is Katsudon Healthy?

Katsudon is a hearty and filling dish, but it is not considered a healthy option due to its deep-fried pork cutlet and high sugar content. However, there are alternative versions of katsudon that use substitutes for the pork cutlet and sugar, making it a more convenient choice for those who love the dish but want to make healthier choices.

Popular Variants and Garnishes

Katsudon is a versatile dish that can be customized to suit individual tastes. Some popular variants and garnishes include:

  • Miso katsudon: a version that includes miso paste in the sauce mixture.
  • Vegetable katsudon: a vegetarian version that substitutes the pork cutlet with vegetables.
  • Chicken katsudon: a version that uses chicken instead of pork.
  • Tonkatsu sauce: a sweet and tangy sauce commonly used as a garnish for katsudon.

Where to Find Katsudon

Katsudon is a popular dish in Japan and can be found in many restaurants and food stalls. It is also commonly served in Japanese-style convenience stores and can be purchased as a standalone meal. Katsudon is rare in other countries, but some local Japanese restaurants may offer it on their menu.

The Evolution of Katsudon: From Edo to the World

Katsudon is a popular Japanese dish that consists of a bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried pork cutlet, egg, and onions, all smothered in a sweet and savory sauce. The word “katsudon” takes its name from two elements: “katsu” means “cutlet,” while “don” is short for “donburi,” which refers to a bowl of rice.

The dish is said to have started in Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912), when Western-style cooking began to spread throughout the country. At that time, a similar dish called “gyudon,” which consisted of beef strips served over rice, was already popular. However, pork was a more affordable meat choice for many people, and katsudon quickly became an alternative to gyudon.

The Sweet and Savory Sauce

One of the key elements of katsudon is the sauce that is used to top the dish. This sauce is made from a combination of soy sauce, sugar, and dashi, a type of Japanese soup stock. The result is a sweet and savory sauce that complements the deep-fried pork cutlet perfectly.

The Complete Katsudon

A complete katsudon is composed of the following elements:

  • A deep-fried pork cutlet
  • A beaten egg, which is cooked and then poured over the pork cutlet
  • Sliced onions, which are cooked until they are soft and translucent
  • A sweet and savory sauce, which is poured over the entire dish
  • A bowl of rice, which serves as the base for the dish

Some people prefer to add other ingredients to their katsudon, such as vegetables or spicy strips of pork. However, the traditional katsudon recipe consists only of the elements listed above.

The Relative of Katsudon: Gyudon

As mentioned earlier, gyudon is a similar dish that consists of beef strips served over rice. Gyudon is also a popular dish in Japan and is often served in the same restaurants that serve katsudon.

The sauce used in gyudon is similar to the sauce used in katsudon, but it is made with beef instead of pork. Some people prefer gyudon to katsudon, while others enjoy both dishes equally.

Katsudon in Pop Culture

Katsudon has become so famous in Japan that it has even made its way into pop culture. In fact, there is a popular Japanese song called “Koi no Katsudon” (“Love’s Katsudon”), which is about a young woman who falls in love with a chef who makes the best katsudon in town.

The dish has also been featured in anime and manga, where it is often portrayed as a quick and easy meal that young people can enjoy. In fact, katsudon has become so popular among young people in Japan that it is sometimes referred to as a “young people’s food.”

Katsudon Around the World

Katsudon has become a popular dish in many countries around the world, including the United States. Many Japanese restaurants in the US serve katsudon, and it is also possible to find the dish in some non-Japanese restaurants.

In some countries, such as Vietnam and China, katsudon is known by a different name. In Vietnam, it is called “cơm chiên sốt cà chua” (“rice with tomato sauce”), while in China, it is called “jī ròu fàn” (“chicken rice bowl”).

What Goes Into Making Katsudon?

To make katsudon, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup of short grain white rice
  • 4-5 ounces of pork loin, pounded thinly
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups of dashi stock (or substitute with chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • Green onions, sliced for garnish
  • Frozen peas for garnish

Ingredient Substitutions and Grocery List

If you can’t find some of the ingredients listed above, here are some substitutions and a grocery list to help you out:

  • Pork loin: You can substitute with chicken or teriyaki chicken.
  • Dashi stock: You can substitute with chicken or vegetable stock.
  • Panko: You can substitute with regular bread crumbs.
  • Green onions: You can substitute with regular onions or scallions.
  • Frozen peas: You can substitute with any green vegetable available at your grocery store.

Nutritional Information and Analysis

Here’s the nutritional information for one serving of katsudon:

  • Calories: 710
  • Total fat: 28g
  • Saturated fat: 5g
  • Trans fat: 0g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 13g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 7g
  • Dietary fiber: 2g
  • Sugars: 12g
  • Protein: 32g
  • Sodium: 2,160 milligrams

Please note that the nutritional information shown above is an estimate based on the ingredients listed and may vary depending on the specific ingredients and amounts used in the recipe.

Exploring the Different Variants of Katsudon

Katsudon has become a popular dish not only in Japan but also in different parts of the world. However, the dish has its own regional variants that differ in taste and preparation. Here are some of the regional variants of katsudon:

  • Tokyo-style katsudon: This variant is said to have originated in Tokyo and is considered the main version of katsudon. It uses tonkatsu, a deep-fried pork cutlet, and is topped with a sweet and savory sauce called tare. The dish is served with steamed rice and a beaten egg that is gently simmered with the pork cutlet.
  • Niigata-style katsudon: This variant is known for having a pure and simple taste. It uses a shredded pork cutlet instead of a deep-fried one and is topped with a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. The dish is served with pickled vegetables and steamed rice.
  • Western-style katsudon: This variant uses beef instead of pork and is topped with Worcestershire sauce. It is said to have been introduced in Japan during the Meiji era when Western cuisine started to become popular.

Alternative Versions

Aside from the regional variants, katsudon also has alternative versions that use different types of meat or ingredients. Here are some of the alternative versions of katsudon:

  • Chicken katsudon: This version uses a deep-fried chicken cutlet instead of pork.
  • Seafood katsudon: This version uses seafood such as shrimp or squid instead of pork or chicken.
  • Vegetable katsudon: This version uses vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers instead of meat.

Special Featured Versions

Some restaurants or chefs have also come up with their own special featured versions of katsudon. Here are some of the special featured versions of katsudon:

  • High-end katsudon: This version uses high-quality pork or beef and is served with premium ingredients such as truffle or caviar.
  • Long-simmered katsudon: This version uses a pork cutlet that has been simmered for a long time, resulting in a tender and flavorful meat.
  • Shredded katsudon: This version uses a shredded pork cutlet that is cooked with onions and other vegetables.

How to Enjoy Katsudon

Katsudon is a simple and delicious dish that can be enjoyed in different ways. Here are some tips on how to enjoy katsudon:

  • Try different regional variants to discover your favorite.
  • If you want to make katsudon at home, prepare the ingredients beforehand and follow the recipe instructions carefully.
  • Katsudon is typically served in a bowl, so make sure to have a nice bowl ready.
  • Some people like to add sides such as miso soup or salad to their katsudon meal.
  • Katsudon is a popular dish in Japan, so you can find it in many local stores and restaurants.
  • Don’t be afraid to try different versions of katsudon to find the one you love the most.

How to Cook Delicious Katsudon at Home

  • Start by pounding the pork chops until they are about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Dust the cutlets with flour, then dip them in beaten eggs and coat with panko breadcrumbs.
  • Press the coating gently to make sure it sticks well.
  • Heat a large skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • When the oil is hot, lay the pork cutlets in the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  • Remove the cutlets from the pan and drain them on a wire rack lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Preparing the Katsudon Sauce

  • In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of mirin, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/2 cup of chicken or pork stock.
  • Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Set aside until ready to use.

Assembling the Katsudon Bowls

  • Cut the onions into thin slices and sauté them in a large skillet over medium heat until they are slightly translucent.
  • Add the katsudon sauce to the skillet and bring it to a low boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low and carefully add the sliced pork cutlets to the skillet, making sure they are evenly coated with the sauce.
  • Beat 2 eggs in a small bowl and pour them over the pork and onion mixture.
  • Cover the skillet and let the eggs cook for 2-3 minutes until they are set.
  • While the eggs are cooking, prepare steamed rice in a separate pot.
  • When the eggs are cooked, remove the skillet from heat and serve the katsudon over a bed of steamed rice.
  • Garnish with sliced green onions and drizzle with soy sauce if desired.

Tips and Tricks

  • For a different twist on katsudon (full recipe here without dashi), try using chicken instead of pork.
  • Make sure to use a good quality soy sauce and mirin for the best flavor.
  • If you’re looking for a healthier option, try using natural or fresh breadcrumbs instead of panko.
  • You can also change up the sides by adding steamed vegetables or a small salad.
  • Follow the recipe instructions carefully to ensure the best results.

Is Katsudon Good for You?

Katsudon is a delicious and filling dish, but is it healthy? Well, it depends on how it’s prepared and how much you eat. Here are some notes to consider:

  • Katsudon is a high-calorie food, with a typical serving containing around 700-800 calories.
  • The dish is high in protein, with the pork cutlet providing a good amount of meat.
  • Katsudon is also high in carbohydrates, due to the rice and the sauce, which contains sugar and starch.
  • The dish can contain vegetables, depending on the recipe and the chef, but they are usually served as sides and not as the main ingredient.
  • Katsudon can be high in sodium, due to the soy sauce used in the sauce.

The Health Benefits of Katsudon

Despite its high calorie count and sodium content, katsudon can still be a good food option if prepared and eaten in moderation. Here are some potential benefits:

  • The dish contains a good amount of protein, which is important for building and repairing muscles.
  • The rice in katsudon is a good source of carbohydrates, which provide energy for the body.
  • The dish can contain vegetables, which can provide vitamins and minerals.
  • Katsudon can be a satisfying and filling meal, which can prevent overeating and snacking.

The Bottom Line

Katsudon is not a particularly healthy dish, but it can be a good food option if you follow these tips:

  • Check the nutritional value of the katsudon you’re getting, especially if you’re buying it from a market or a professional chef.
  • Eat katsudon in moderation, as it is a high-calorie food.
  • Consider making your own version of katsudon, so you can control the ingredients and the portion size.
  • If you want to make katsudon at home, follow a recipe and use a sharp knife to cut the pork cutlet. The way you cut the meat can make a big difference in how hard or tender it feels.
  • Serve katsudon with a small bowl of miso soup and some pickled vegetables on the side, to add variety to your meal.

Everything You Need to Know About Katsudon: A Short Guide to FAQs

Tonkatsu refers to a deep-fried pork cutlet, while katsudon is a rice bowl dish made with tonkatsu, eggs, and onions.

How is katsudon usually served?

Katsudon is usually served in a bowl with steamed white rice, deep-fried pork cutlet (tonkatsu), onions, and eggs.

Is katsudon an everyday food in Japan?

Yes, katsudon is a popular everyday food in Japan and can be found in many Japanese-style restaurants.

What is the easiest way to cook katsudon?

Here are the steps to cook katsudon:

  • Cook rice in a rice cooker or on the stove.
  • Cut onions and cabbage into thin slices.
  • Fry the pork cutlet until it’s golden brown and crispy.
  • Beat eggs in a bowl and add the onions and cabbage.
  • Place the pork cutlet on top of the rice in a bowl.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the pork cutlet and rice.
  • Cover the bowl and cook on low heat until the eggs are set.
  • Garnish with green onions and serve hot.

Are there any variants of katsudon?

Yes, there are several variants of katsudon, including:

  • Chicken katsudon
  • Beef katsudon
  • Salmon katsudon
  • Vegetable katsudon

Where can I find katsudon recipes?

You can find katsudon recipes on various websites, including Pinterest, TikTok, and Wiki How. You can also sign up for exclusive and free recipes via email on some food websites.

What are some other Japanese dishes similar to katsudon?

Some other Japanese dishes similar to katsudon include:

  • Gyudon- a rice bowl dish made with beef
  • Tendon- a rice bowl dish made with tempura
  • Unadon- a rice bowl dish made with grilled eel

What is sudachi and how is it used in katsudon?

Sudachi is a small, green citrus fruit that is often used in Japanese cuisine. It is commonly used as a garnish for katsudon to add a tangy flavor to the dish.

What are some ingredients used in katsudon?

Some ingredients used in katsudon include:

  • Pork cutlet (tonkatsu)
  • Eggs
  • Onions
  • Rice
  • Cabbage
  • Panko (bread crumbs)

What is the meaning of the word “katsu” in katsudon?

The word “katsu” in katsudon refers to the Japanese word for cutlet, which is “katsu” (カツ).


Katsudon is a delicious Japanese dish that consists of a deep-fried pork cutlet, simmered in a sweet savory sauce, and served over a bed of rice. 

It’s a great meal for anyone looking for a filling and satisfying dish. So, if you’re looking for something new, give it a try!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

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.