This tonkatsu recipe makes the most tender Japanese deep fried pork cutlet you’ll ever taste. This simple but revered deep-fried Japanese pork dish has an amazing crunch from the golden panko crust, melt-in-your-mouth moist pork, and the tangy taste of the tonkatsu sauce.
Our tonkatsu recipe makes the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth, deep-fried pork cutlet that you’ll ever taste. When we need a break from Southeast Asian cooking, this Japanese favourite is one of the first dishes I’ll make. It turned out so well when I made it for this shoot, Lara asked me to make it again the next night. I didn’t need much persuading.
I first realised what a great dish tonkatsu could be on our second trip to Tokyo ten years ago, almost mid-way through the year-long global grand tour that launched this website. At a very tranquil tonkatsu place at sleek Roppongi Hills we ate our perfectly deep-fried, breaded pork cutlet in silence.
How could such a simple dish be so incredible we wondered? Well, it’s the combination of the golden panko crunch, moist tender pork, the punch of the brown tonkatsu sauce, and refreshing cabbage ‘salad’ that makes a great tonkatsu.
While it is essentially just deep-fried crumbed pork, tonkatsu is an easy dish to get wrong. Take your attention away from the deep-fryer and it will overcook. Get the temperature of your oil wrong and it will be a soggy mess. Don’t prepare the pork correctly and it will be dry and unable to be saved by the tonkatsu sauce.
But follow my tonkatsu recipe below and you will make the best tonkatsu ever. Maybe almost as good as that tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo.
Tonkatsu Recipe for the Most Tender Japanese Deep Fried Pork Cutlet Ever
This tonkatsu recipe is made with either pork (katsu) tenderloin (hire katsu) or sirloin (rosu katsu). I prefer pork tenderloin but either of those cuts are fine. Both are usually offered at restaurants that specialise in tonkatsu and other fried dishes. You might also see ‘katsu kare’ as well on some menus, which is tonkatsu with the ubiquitous curry sauce that’s so beloved by the Japanese.
The tonkatsu sauce recipe below is a simple one, although I’ve seen recipes with more than a dozen ingredients such as the amazing tonkatsu sauce recipe in Jane Lawson’s Zenbu Zen. The reason to keep this simple – unless you’re going on a tonkatsu-making bender – is that you’ll only ever use this sauce with the tonkatsu.
While store-bought tonkatsu sauces can be just fine, many brands tend to be very expensive, and this tonkatsu sauce recipe can be made with ingredients that you’ll probably have at home.
Tips for Making this Tonkatsu Recipe and Tonkatsu Sauce Recipe
Firstly, if you feel that the simple chopped cabbage accompaniment is just too simple, you can make a more sophisticated cabbage side by making ‘kyabetsu to yuzu-ae’ or cabbage with yuzu dressing. For every 300g of finely chopped cabbage add 60ml fresh or bottled yuzu juice or lemon juice, 1½ tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp mirin, 2 tsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp sesame oil, and 1 tsp caster sugar, and combine well.
Probably the most obvious tip is to not substitute any other types of breadcrumbs, in particular, toasted fine breadcrumbs. This will not work, we’re not making schnitzel. You could try making your own breadcrumbs from stale white bread, but you should try to track down some panko breadcrumbs first so you get a sense of the texture.
I’ve made this tonkatsu recipe many dozens of times over the years and the keys to making a perfect tonkatsu is the brining, cooking temperature and timing. Brining for up to eight hours results in the most tender tonkatsu ever. This is a tonkatsu recipe to follow closely. This is not a recipe to try and be creative with – trust me, it’s worth the rewards.
Tonkatsu Recipe with Tonkatsu Sauce
- 125 g 4 pieces pork tenderloin or sirloin boneless and around 1.5 cm thick
- sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
- ½ cup plain flour
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 savoy cabbage core removed
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- 40 g ketchup
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- To brine the pork, for every 4 cups of water, you add 1/4 cup of salt and 1/8 cup of sugar. Brine the pork for 2-4 hours.
- When ready to start prep, remove the pork from the fridge and bring up to room temperature.
- In the meantime, make the tonkatsu sauce by combining all the ingredients in a bowl for serving. This sauce can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
- Heat the vegetable oil – a little more than the depth of the fillet – to 170°C in a deep frying pan.
- Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible and set aside.
- Place the flour, the beaten eggs and the panko breadcrumbs in three wide bowls adjacent to each other. Have an oven baking tray ready to place the fillets on before frying. Add the salt and pepper to the flour and mix in well.
- For the next step, use one hand for the wet ingredients (eat eggs) and one for the dry. Coat the first pork fillet with the flour and shake off any excess. Coat in the beaten egg and hold the fillet above the egg mixture until it stops dripping. Coat the fillet with the panko and firmly press the panko into the egg coating. Don’t forget to coat the sides and the end of each fillet. Repeat for all the fillets.
- Cook the pork fillets in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the frying pan. Note that if you have a wide frying pan and can do four fillets at a time, the temperature might drop when you put the fillets in. Adjust your heat as necessary.
- Using a kitchen timer, turn the fillets once every minute to get a golden coating of panko crumbs. The fillets should be cooked after four minutes. Double check with a thermometer, they should be at 57˚C to 61˚C. When they are cooked, transfer to a plate with a paper towel and keep warm before slicing.
- Slice the pork on an angle into 2cm-wide strips. Place each portion on a plate, along with the sliced cabbage and tonkatsu sauce on individual small bowls for dipping or pouring.
Do let us know if you make this tonkatsu recipe in the comments below or on social media, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.