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This Vegan Japanese Curry is thickened with a curry roux, made with hearty vegetables like potatoes and mushrooms, and lightly sweetened with grated apple. Serve over rice with our tofu katsu for the best restaurant-style Japanese meal.
What is Japanese Curry?
Curry spices are said to have been brought to Japan during the Meiji era (late 1800s) by the British Royal Navy. During this time period, the Royal Navy commonly ate a curried stew made with potatoes and meat and thickened using a curry roux. Soon after, Japan adopted this westernized cooking style, known in Japan as Yōshoku, and Japanese curry became a staple, national favorite.
Today, the Japanese curry remains very similar to the original curry made by the Royal Navy and usually includes a curry roux, potatoes, vegetables, and meats like chicken or pork. Our inspired version is, of course, 100% vegan-friendly!
Japanese Curry ingredients
- Oil: The best oil to use is neutral in flavor, like vegetable or avocado oil. If you have olive oil, that will work too. Or, if you prefer, you can opt to saute with a splash of water or vegetable broth to prevent sticking.
- Aromatics: Fresh onion, garlic, and ginger are the simple base of this vegetable curry and brighten the flavors in the curry.
- Vegan butter: Used as the start of our vegan Japanese curry roux. Country Crock Plant-Based Butter is our go-to vegan butter. We highly recommend using vegan butter, but additional vegetable oil will work.
- Flour: Essential for making a roux. We have only tested this curry using all-purpose flour, but a gluten-free all-purpose blend could likely be substituted to make this Japanese curry gluten-free friendly.
- Japanese curry powder: Our go-to vegan Japanese curry powder is by S&B because it is naturally vegetarian. It’s made with a blend of spices like turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, orange, chili peppers, cinnamon, and more, making it warming, mildly spiced, and packed with flavor.
- Garam masala: This spice is popular in Indian cuisine but is often used in Japanese curry as well.
- Vegetables: Japanese curry is typically made with vegetables like onions, carrots, and potatoes. We like to add shiitake mushrooms to make it extra hearty and add umami flavor. You can use any vegetables you’d like. Japanese sweet potatoes, peas, or green beans would also make good additions.
- Apple: You may not think to add sweet apples to your curry, but Japanese curry is known for being slightly sweet, and grated apple is commonly used to naturally sweeten the sauce. We recommend using fuji apples. However, Gala or Honeycrisp apples will also work well.
- Soy sauce and Ketchup: Adds a final touch of umami flavor, sweetness, and saltiness to balance the bold spices. Start with 1 tablespoon of each and adjust to taste.
How to make vegan Japanese curry
- Cook the onions. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot, then add chopped onions and salt and cook for about 8 minutes, or until onions brown.
- Add mushrooms, garlic, and ginger. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes or until the mushrooms brown, frequently stirring to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Make a Japanese curry roux. Start by melting vegan butter in the pot with the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and ginger. Once melted, stir in the flour, curry powder, and garam masala. Continue mixing over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until darker in color and fragrant.
- Add carrots, potatoes, and grated apple. Mix to combine, then gradually pour in the water. Mix again, then bring the curry to a boil.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat to low, and simmer until the potato is cooked through and easily pierced with a fork.
- Stir in soy sauce and ketchup. Adjust seasonings to taste. If you’d like your curry a bit sweeter, add a pinch of sugar.
- Serve. Serve with rice and tofu katsu. Enjoy!
*Jump down to the recipe for full measurements and instructions.
What makes curry not vegan?
This homemade curry recipe is naturally vegan, but if you are dining out or shopping for pre-made curry mixes, here are a few popular ingredients to watch out for that are not vegan:
- Oyster sauce: Typically used to add umami flavor to curry.
- Worcestershire sauce: Classic Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies, but there are many vegan-friendly Worcestershire sauces available, too. Always check the ingredients!
- Chicken or beef stock: A lot of restaurants use meat-based stocks as the base of their curries.
- Fish sauce: Similar to oyster sauce, fish sauce is used to add umami flavor in a dish.
- Ghee: Ghee is more common in Indian curries, but it is typically used in place of oil or butter.
What can I substitute for meat in curry?
Our favorite substitute for meat in vegan Japanese curry is tofu katsu. It’s similar in texture to chicken, coated in panko breadcrumbs, and pan-fried until golden and crispy. It’s the perfect vegan substitute to soak up the sweet and savory curry sauce.
Leftover vegetable curry should be stored in an airtight container and will last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for 3 months. To reheat, place your desired serving size in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until warm, or warm on the stovetop in a small pan. The curry thickens over time in the refrigerator, so if preferred, add a splash of vegetable broth when reheating to thin the curry out again.
More Japanese-inspired vegan recipes you may enjoy:Print
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