Takoyaki’s unique taste, flavor variations & filling ideas

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  June 11, 2021

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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.

Different takoyaki variations

What does takoyaki taste like?

Takoyaki has a soft texture and is very moist. You would feel like it melts inside your mouth as you chew. This salty snack has a savory oceanic flavor coming from the chewy octopus inside of it. You will notice a hint of kelp flavor from the dashi on the ball batter. The toppings enhance the complexity of its taste.

a portion of takoyaki

As a rule of thumb, if you like how octopus tastes, most likely you will love takoyaki. But let’s get to know more about this popular snack!

Now, for you to understand it’s taste I’ll give you a bit more background information on this snack, but if you’d like to learn more on Takoyaki and it’s recipes you should really also read this post I’ve written on it.

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 (here are some sweet examples). It’s a popular savory mid-day snack sold mostly at stalls.

What is Takoyaki?

Takoyaki is the most loved and well-known street food from Japan, which has a perfectly round shape. The bite-sized ball is commonly served on a paper plate and two toothpicks. Most takoyaki has an octopus block as fillings.

But, you can also find ones with other food as fillings.

Takoyaki has multiple toppings to serve, including katsuobushi, takoyaki sauce, and Japanese mayo. Sometimes, people also sprinkle some bits of chili flakes or powder to add spiciness to the food.

As Japan’s number one street food, you would be able to find them easily from street vendors with stalls called yatai.

They are also widely available in traditional markets and festivals. If you are fond of Japanese cuisine, takoyaki must be on your try list.

To eat the takoyaki, hold the toothpicks the same way you hold chopsticks. But instead of tweezing the food with them, you spear it with them.

Vendors serve takoyaki right away after it is taken out of the stove because all the taste and aroma will gradually fade as the dish cools off. Hence, be careful not to burn your mouth.

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.

Mentaiko Takoyaki without octopus

Takoyaki without octopus recipe: Mentaiko Takoyaki

Joost Nusselder
If you don't like the idea of eating octopus in a ball but don't mind fish, the mentaiko or salted pollock roe is also a very good option.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.
Keyword mentaiko, pollock, Takoyaki
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Best takoyaki flavors & filling ideas

Traditional Takoyaki

Ingredients

Method

  1. Whisk the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour and whisk until combined. Then, slowly add the broth until smooth.
  2. Coat the takoyaki pan with vegetable oil using a brush, ensuring all surfaces are covered.
  3. Heat the takoyaki pan over medium heat until it reaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Continue to rotate until both sides are cooked and allow to cook for 4 more minutes until each ball has an even brown color.
  8. Remove the balls from the pan and drizzle with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise and sprinkle with bonito flakes.

Read more on all of the steps in our post on traditional takoyaki recipes here

Chicken takoyaki

We’ve written about a delicious chicken takoyaki variation before, you can check that out over here.

Takoyaki with fish

Another great way to make these balls without octopus is to make fish takoyaki like this recipe here.

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

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

Ingredients

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Also read: this is how you make Japanese onigiri rice balls

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

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.