Types of Takoyaki: Flavors, Variations & Filling ideas
Takoyaki is a traditional Japanese street food snack that is typically made with octopus. However, there are many variations on Takoyaki including those without octopus.
These crispy balls are sure to delight all of your friends and family during your next dinner party.
Keep reading for traditional takoyaki as well as takoyaki variations.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Does takoyaki always have octopus?
- 2 Takoyaki without octopus recipe: Mentaiko Takoyaki
- 3 Best homemade takoyaki recipe variations
- 4 Other tools and skills you need to make takoyaki
- 5 Sauce for takoyaki
- 6 Takoyaki toppings
- 7 3 Tips to make the perfect takoyaki
- 8 Why is takoyaki so good?
- 9 Can you use store-bought takoyaki mix?
- 10 Best takoyaki flavors & filling ideas
Does takoyaki always have octopus?
Takoyaki is almost always made with octopus in it, that’s the traditional way of making it at least. But because it’s so popular you now have a lot of variations with chicken, fish, and even a sweet matcha one. When making it yourself you actually have a lot of options like this recipe without octopus.
Takoyaki without octopus recipe: Mentaiko Takoyaki
- 2 oz takoyaki batter
- 6 oz water
- ½ egg
- 1 oz mentaiko (salted pollock roe)
- Takoyaki sauce, to serve
- Bonito flakes, to serve
- Sliced spring onion, to serve
- Japanese mayonnaise, to serve
- Add the takoyaki batter mix, water, and egg to a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
- Pre-heat the takoyaki pan over a medium heat and brush with vegetable oil to ensure all the holes and surfaces are generously coated.
- When the pan starts to smoke, carefully pour the batter into each hole. Add the mentaiko and pour over more batter until it slightly overflows the holes.
- Allow to cook for four minutes or until the edges turn slightly brown. Then use a skewer or a chopstick to break the batter around the edges and allow any uncooked batter to flow out. Push the extra batter back into the holes to form the ball and turn each ball 90 degrees. Allow it to cook for a further 4 minutes until the ball is evenly brown in color.
- Remove the mentaiko takoyaki from the pan and place them on a platter. Sprinkle with bonito flakes and sliced spring onion and serve with Japanese mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce.
- Serve immediately.
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.
But, you can get a lot of amazing flavor variations by making these different filling types!
In this article, you’ll learn 7 takoyaki recipes and additional fillings you can use as alternatives for octopus meat.
Best homemade takoyaki recipe variations
Check out more takoyaki topping ideas, or here are a few more recipe variations for you:
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 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 altogether.
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 for takoyaki
Chances are, you don’t have all of these toppings, but I’ve listed them here so you can easily buy them online if you’re missing a couple of them:
Popular alternative takoyaki fillings
- green peas
- crab sticks
- fish cake
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 a round takoyaki 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.
Why is takoyaki so good?
Takoyaki is a 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!
Is takoyaki sweet or salty?
Because of the seafood (octopus) and dashi (bonito flakes and kombu), takoyaki is a bit salty, so it’s not sweet street food. It’s a popular savory mid-day snack sold mostly at stalls.
Can you use store-bought takoyaki mix?
If you don’t feel like making your own dough and batter from scratch, you can buy ready-made mixes in some Asian grocery stores but certainly online. It’s much more delicious to make your own batter though, and quite easy if you have the right ingredients.
Best takoyaki flavors & filling ideas
- 1 egg
- 1 cup dashi stock
- 3/4 cup plain flour
- Vegetable oil
- 4oz octopus, cooked and diced
- 2 spring onions
- 2 tbsp pickled ginger, minced
- Takoyaki sauce, to serve
- Japanese mayonnaise, to serve
- 1/4 cup dried bonito flakes, to serve
- Whisk the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour and whisk until combined. Then, slowly add the broth until smooth.
- Coat the takoyaki pan with vegetable oil using a brush, ensuring all surfaces are covered.
- Heat the takoyaki pan over medium heat until it reaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use a spoon or ladle to add batter into each hole until they are almost full. Add the octopus pieces, spring onion, and ginger into each hole.
- Allow it to cook for four minutes until the edges start to brown. Then, use a skewer to break the batter in between each hole and rotate each ball by 90 degrees.
- Allow the uncooked batter to flow out onto the pan and then push the batter back into the holes so that it forms the other side of the ball.
- Continue to rotate until both sides are cooked and allow to cook for 4 more minutes until each ball has an even brown color.
- Remove the balls from the pan and drizzle with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise and sprinkle with bonito flakes.
Not everyone will like seafood, especially the strong ocean taste of octopus. But most people will care for a little chicken in their fried balls.
Takoyaki with fish
Another great way to make these balls without octopus is to make fish takoyaki.
Chocolate Banana Castella
Matcha Adzuki Cake
I’ve written about both of these in my article on how to make takoyaki in 6 different recipes.
Vegan takoyaki is also an option if you want to ban all animal products from your dish and I’ve got a great vegan option here
Salmon onigiri takoyaki
- 1 1/2 cups Nishiki (Japanese rice)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 oz hot smoked salmon
- Vegetable oil
- 2 sheets nori paper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- Ponzu sauce, to serve
- Put the rice in a saucepan and cover with water, stir the grains with your hands, and drain the water. Repeat this process until the water is clear. Drain as much as the water off as you can. Then, add 1 1/2 cups water to the pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce the heat, and cook for fifteen minutes. Then, turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit, covered for another ten minutes.
- When the rice has cooled, fill a small bowl with water. Wet your hands and place some rice into your palm. Use your thumb to flatten the rice and place some salmon flakes into the center. Cover the salmon with the rice to make a ball shape of the same size as the holes of the takoyaki pan. Continue to make rice balls to fill your pan.
- Cover the holes and surface of the takoyaki pan with oil and place over medium heat. Put the rice balls into the holes and allow to cook for four minutes, until it starts to lightly brown.
- Use a chopstick or skewer to turn the balls over and cook the other side for another four minutes. Remove the balls from the pan and place them on a plate.
- Wrap the balls with a strip of nori, wetting the end to allow it to stick to itself. Serve the rice balls immediately or place them in the refrigerator to be eaten within one to two days.
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.