Delicious Vegan Okonomiyaki Recipe with Gluten-Free Ingredients

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  October 27, 2022

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Whether you are craving a tasteful cheat meal or comfort food that won’t eat up your time in preparation, okonomiyaki is your perfect go-for dish.

Resembling a pancake in shape, okonomiyaki contains cabbage, pork or seafood, egg, and a bunch of other ingredients that give it a creamy texture and very unique taste.

However, it doesn’t have to be the same old ingredients every time.

Favorite Asian Recipes
Favorite Asian Recipes

As the name implies, you can tweak the dish into “whatever you want,” which also means making okonomiyaki without egg and meat. Vegan okonomiyaki!

Delicious Vegan Okonomiyaki Recipe with Gluten-Free Ingredients

So next time you have your vegan friend stopping by for brunch, or if you are a vegan yourself, you can always exclude the protein ingredients and still make okonomiyaki that tastes downright delicious.

In this recipe, I will show you how to make a crunchy, creamy, and super tasteful Osaka-style vegan okonomiyaki with the most easily accessible vegan ingredients. 

The best part? The recipe is gluten-free!

What makes vegan okonomiyaki recipe different?

In the most basic and traditional settings, okonomiyaki is often prepared with bacon (see this authentic recipe here).

This is due to its subtle, sweet, salty taste and easy accessibility.

But since we are making a vegan recipe, we will be substituting it with smoked tofu. You can also go for vegan bacon for its unique flavor if you don’t have it for some reason, 

Also, since our recipe will be gluten-free, it’s essential to use gluten-free all-purpose flour. We’ll add just a little sriracha to spice things up.

In this particular recipe, I will be using cassava flour (a great substitute for regular all-purpose flour).

If you aren’t much into gluten-free foods, you can also go for the traditional okonomiyaki flour.

To mimic the extra adhesion egg adds to the recipe, I will add chia seeds to the batter, though that’s not super necessary. It’s really an option. 

The other ingredients in okonomiyaki, like cabbage and seasonings, are quite basic. You will find them in any of your nearest grocery stores without any effort. 

Looking for a great miso paste? Find the Best Miso Paste Brands Reviewed Here & When To Use Which Flavor

Vegan Okonomiyaki Recipe (No Egg & Gluten-Free)

Joost Nusselder
Vegan okonomiyaki is a plant-based take on the traditional Japanese street staple. It is very simple to make, has easily accessible ingredients, and has the same great taste you would expect. You can eat it any time of the day and feel filled!
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • 2 large mixing bowls
  • 1 measurement cup
  • 1 frying pan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup all-purpose cassava flour
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cabbage chopped thinly
  • 3 cups water
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 finely sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds ground
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger minced
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 200 g smoked tofu

Toppings

  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk green onions
  • Sriracha
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions
 

  • Add the chopped cabbage, ground flax seeds, green onions, minced garlic, ginger, and salt and pepper into a mixing bowl and mix them well.
  • Add flour, chia seeds, miso paste, and water into another mixing bowl and whisk them well until combined.
  • After mixing, set the bowl aside and let it sit for 15 minutes. The chia seeds will thicken the batter.
  • Now put the mixed veggies into the batter, and mix them well. Also, cut the smoked tofu into thin slices.
  • Put two tablespoons of cooking oil on a frying pan, and heat the pan on medium flame.
  • Add half of the okonomiyaki batter and spread it evenly to give it a circular shape.
  • Top the batter with tofu slices and fry the batter for 6-8 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown.
  • Then flip and fry the other side for precisely the same duration, and remove it from the pan once cooked. Store it in something where it remains warm.
  • Repeat the same steps for the other half of the batter as well.
  • Transfer the okonomiyaki to a plate, drizzle it with vegan mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, sesame seeds, and green onions, and serve.

Notes

If you plan to make okonomiyaki later, you can seal and freeze the batter. This way, it will be good to use for a month. When you’re in the mood, just put it out, thaw it, and cook it!
Keyword Okonomiyaki
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Cooking tips: How to make the perfect okonomiyaki every time

Although a very simple dish, it’s still pretty normal for people to mess it up the first time they make okonomiyaki.

If you are one of them, the following are some valuable tips that will help you get it perfect each time you make it!

Shred the cabbage nice and fine

Well, this is more of advice than a tip, and anything anyone who has ever made okonomiyaki will tell you- slice the cabbage as thinly as possible.

Otherwise, your pancake won’t hold together properly. Big chunks of cabbage will give your okonomiyaki a weird texture. Plus, it can easily break during flipping. 

Remember, okonomiyaki is about delicate texture and fine taste, like any Japanese food.

Mix the batter properly

Most people see mixing as a means to, well, mix the ingredients of the batter.

However, the reality is it’s much more than that… it’s an art, really.

Anyways, make sure to mix the batter and the ingredients, and give the mixture all the air and time it needs for each ingredient to settle.

That’s especially necessary if you are adding super flavorful ingredients like miso paste to the batter, which needs to be spread throughout the mixture evenly.

Learn here how to dissolve miso, so it melts into your batter mix nicely.

Giving the mixing process, it’s proper due will also make your ingredients taste fresher and more delicious. 

Just don’t overmix it. 

Cook it at a high temperature

The best okonomiyaki is always crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. And this is only possible when you heat it at a minimum temperature of 375F.

Such high heat sears the outside to give it a nice crunch while keeping the inner content soft, much like a steak.

Don’t be shy from experimenting

The very meaning of the dish’s name is “grill as you like”.

Therefore, experimenting with different toppings can be a total game-changer.

I often top my okonomiyaki with Sriracha and BBQ sauce when I’m out of okonomiyaki sauce, and I find it quite enjoyable to eat. 

Don’t let it get cold

Due to its unique flavor profile, okonomiyaki is best served hot, right off the stove.

That’s when every ingredient used in the recipe shines and gives you that tasty, comfy goodness you craved.

Origin of okonomiyaki

According to the available history, okonomiyaki finds its origins in pre-world war II Japan.

However, this dish got more popular and evolved during and after the second great war.

It finds its earliest origins in the Edo period (1683-1868), beginning with a crepe-like, sweet pancake served as a dessert at special ceremonies in Buddhist traditions.

The dish was known as Funoyaki, consisting of wheat dough toasted on a grill, topped with miso paste and sugar. The original taste was mild and sweet.

However, the sweetness in the flavor profile was taken to another level in the Meiji (1868-1912) period, when the miso paste was replaced by sweet bean paste, making the pancake even sweeter.

The name was also changed to sukesoyaki with the latest tweak in the recipe.

But the changes didn’t stop there!

The pancake was modified further in the 1920s and 1930s when topping the cake with different sauces got popular.

With rapid changes in the recipe per the preference, a restaurant in Osaka gave it the official name of okonomiyaki, which means “how you like it.”

The savory variant of okonomiyaki was also created in the 1930s. It was originally made with shallots and Worcestershire sauce.

However, the recipe was modified a few years later, making it into the dish as we know it today. 

Plot twist: I’m talking about World War II.

Okonomiyaki became a household dish during the Second World War when primary food sources like rice became scarce.

This led the Japanese to improvise and experiment with whatever they had. As a result, they included egg, pork, and cabbage in the recipe.

After the end of the war, this improvised recipe got quite popular, resulting in a delicious, wholesome meal that we eat today.

Find out how exactly Okonomiyaki is different from Takoyaki

Substitutions and variations

If you can’t find some of the ingredients for any reason or want to give a twist to your recipe, the following are a bunch of substitutions and variations you can try out now!

Substitutions

  • Smoked tofu: You can use vegan pork instead.
  • Okonomiyaki sauce: You can conveniently replace it with BBQ or sriracha sauce (or make it yourself if you can’t find it in the shop).
  • Miso paste: Since miso paste infuses umami flavor into the dish, you can replace it with shiitake mushrooms for the same purpose.
  • Cabbage: You can use red cabbage, green cabbage, white cabbage, or Napa cabbage.
  • Cassava flour: I used cassava flour to make a gluten-free, vegan recipe. You can also use a common all-purpose flour if that’s not your thing.

Variations

Osaka-style okonomiyaki

In Osaka-style okonomiyaki, all the ingredients are mixed with the batter before cooking.

It is relatively thinner compared to other variants and is among the most popular ones.

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki

In this variant of okonomiyaki, the ingredients are put on the cooking pan in layers, beginning with the batter.

It’s more like a pizza and thicker than the Osaka-style okonomiyaki.

Modan-yaki

It is special Osaka-style okonomiyaki made with Yakisoba noodles topping as a special ingredient. The noodles are first fried and then piled high on the pancake.

Negiyaki

It is similar to Chinese scallion pancakes, with green onions as a major part of the recipe. The profile of this variant is much thinner than the regular okonomiyaki.

Monjayaki

This variant of okonomiyaki is popularly eaten in Tokyo and is also known as monja.

In the traditional recipe for monjayaki, dashi stock is used as well. This gives the batter a thinner consistency and a melted cheese-like texture when cooked.

Dondon-yaki

Also known as Kurukuru Okonomiyaki or “the portable okonomiyaki,” Dondon-yaki is simply okonomiyaki rolled up on a wooden skewer.

However, Its popularity and availability remain limited to a few regions in Japan, especially the Sendai and Yamagata prefecture.

How to serve and eat okonomiyaki?

Once you prepare okonomiyaki, just put it on a plate and season it with your favourite sauces.

Afterwards, cut it either into a triangular shape, just like pizza, or small squares.

I prefer cutting okonomiyaki into small squares. This makes it easier to eat it in one scoop, either with a spatula or even a chopstick.

Here’s a short video on how okonomiyaki is traditionally served and eaten:

Also, keeping in mind that you will be serving it at home, why not try it out with some flavorful side dishes to give your tastebuds some extra pleasure?

Let’s look at what else we can pair with okonomiyaki to enhance its flavor!

Pickles

Cucumber pickle is one of the most popular pairings you can try with okonomiyaki. It’s light, healthy, and has a balanced flavor that goes great with the savoriness of okonomiyaki. 

If you want to give your experience a more spicy twist, you can also try out jalapeños, but those are not for the light-hearted.

French fries

French fries are one of those things you can side with anything, and it will only enhance the flavor. Okonomiyaki stands as no exception.

Though it will “westernize” your dish, you should try it once.

The crunchy texture of french fries and the soft texture of okonomiyaki is nothing less than magic when combined. 

Sauteed greens

If you as me, I would absolutely devour a couple of these savoury pancakes with anything without thinking twice.

But for those who want something light with their pancake, sauteed greens are a perfect choice.

They are light, tasty, and have just the perfect crunchiness to balance the soft texture of okonomiyaki.

Just make sure to saute them with garlic-ginger paste to bring the best flavour out of them.

Orange salad

Yes, I know, this isn’t for everyone. But hey, it wouldn’t harm to have a sour-sweet salad on the side.

Just cut some oranges along with sweet onions and top the salad with any sweet or sour dressing of your liking.

The salad’s overall texture and flavor profile complement okonomiyaki beautifully and give it a refreshing taste.

How to store leftovers?

If you have any leftovers of your vegan okonomiyaki, you plan to eat later in the day or within the next 3-4 days, simply store them in your fridge. 

However, if that’s not the case, you would most certainly like to freeze it. This way, it will remain good for the next 2-3 months. 

All you need to do is just put your pancake in the oven, heat it up to 375F, and eat it once it reaches your desired temperature.

Also, don’t keep your okonomiyaki in the freezer for longer than 3 months, as it will get freezer-burnt and hence, lose its fresh taste.

Similar dishes to okonomiyaki

The closest dish to okonomiyaki is pajeon. So much so, People unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine often confuse both dishes with each other.

However, numerous things differentiate okonomiyaki from pajeon.

For example, okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake cooked with less oil, having more density, and originally using weight flour.

Plus, it is topped with different sauces, as mentioned.

On the other hand, pajeon is a Korean savory pancake recipe that uses non-wheat flour mixed with wheat flour.

It requires more oil for cooking, is much thinner, and is sided with a soy sauce dip instead of saucy toppings. It is more of a deep-fried dish, unlike okonomiyaki.

Though both are easy to make and remain the favorite comfort foods of different people, okonomiyaki is still more popular. It is loved by anyone who likes to whip up Asian dishes.

Final takeaway

So there you have it, a delicious vegan okonomiyaki recipe that will tantalize your taste buds with pure savory delight!

This savory pancake is perfect for any occasion. It can be paired with various side dishes to give you an authentic Japanese dining experience.

I’ve also shared some tips on storing leftovers and what dishes are the best pairings for okonomiyaki.

I’m sure you’re going to love this recipe.

Want to spruce up your okonomiyaki even more? Here are the 8 Best Okonomiyaki Toppings and Fillings

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

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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.