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This hearty Japanese-inspired Vegan Katsu Curry features meaty tofu coated with super crispy panko breadcrumbs and served in a rich and creamy curry sauce! It’s flavorful, packed with texture, and delicious served with rice and steamed greens!

Panko katsu tofu with curry sauce, white rice, and green beans.

🍛 What Is Katsu Curry

Katsu curry is a Japanese dish that traditionally consists of a breaded deep-fried pork cutlet served with a curry sauce and rice. This dish is said to have originated at “Ginza Swiss” restaurant, in Tokyo, in 1948.

This vegan version swaps the pork for tofu! Plus, I’m sharing several tips below on how to make the best vegan katsu curry!

🥣 How to Make It

While this recipe is easy to prepare, it takes a bit of time as there are two main components: the curry sauce and the breaded tofu. Here is what you will need (full measurements in the recipe card):

  • Firm tofu – You can use medium or firm tofu. I am not a fan of extra-firm tofu for this recipe, as I find it a bit too dry.
  • Rice flour – To make the batter for the tofu. You can also use all-purpose flour.
  • Panko breadcrumbsPanko breadcrumbs are crispier and airier than regular breadcrumbs and tend to absorb less oil, resulting in a lighter coating.
  • Onion – I went with half of an onion, which you can replace with 2 shallots.
  • Garlic – Use fresh garlic cloves.
  • Ginger – For freshness and a peppery flavor.
  • Curry cubes – You have two options, you can use curry powder or Japanese curry cubes. More on that later!
  • For serving: white rice, sautéed or steamed greens, cilantro.
Ingredients like tofu, carrots, onion, panko, and curry cubes.

Sauce

It starts with the curry sauce, which takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

Sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Next, add the sliced carrots and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Cover with water and let it simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

Sautéed onions in a pot.

Then, add the curry cubes. To keep things as simple as possible, I went with store-bought Japanese curry roux cubes. These are very popular in Japan and can be found in basically any Asian supermarket.

Can’t find Japanese curry roux cubes? Worry not! I am also sharing another way to prepare this curry from scratch. You can find it in the recipe notes.

Adding Japanese curry cubes to a pot.

Finally, let the curry simmer for about 10 minutes. Your curry should be slightly thicker than most coconut milk-based curries.

If it’s too liquid, let it simmer for a few more minutes. If it’s too thick, add a bit more water and adjust the saltiness accordingly.

Stirring curry sauce in a pot.

Tofu

Next comes the tofu! We start by cutting the firm tofu into sticks, then freeze it, and coat it with breadcrumbs before frying it until golden brown.

Now, you may wonder, why cut the tofu into sticks instead of larger rectangles? Cutting into sticks allows more surfaces to get coated with breadcrumbs. This yields ultra-crispy tofu!

Why Freeze the Tofu?

Freezing the tofu completely changes its texture! It creates a meatier and chewier tofu. If you have never heard of freezing tofu before, give it a try, it’s magical!

During the freezing process, the water present in the tofu expands, creating larger pores. Then, when thawed, the water will drain, leaving those large holes and a spongier texture.

To freeze the tofu:

  1. Cut your tofu into 3-inch long strips, about 1-inch thick.
  2. Marinade the tofu in soy sauce, mirin (or white vinegar), and maple syrup for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
  3. Transfer the tofu to a plate or container and freeze it for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Let it thaw on the counter and squeeze it between sheets of kitchen paper towel to remove most of the moisture.

To fry the tofu:

  1. Mix rice flour (or all-purpose flour) with water to create a batter.
  2. Dip a piece of tofu into the batter and then immediately transfer it to the panko breadcrumbs.
  3. Coat the tofu with the panko breadcrumbs on all sides.
  4. Deep-fry for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown. Finally, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper towels to remove excess oil.

🍚 What to Serve It With

Katsu curry is usually served with white rice and steamed or sautéed greens. This Perfect Clay Pot Rice plus these Garlicky Winged Beans would make the perfect accompaniment!

Close up of panko-coated tofu stick.

📔 Tips

  • Feel free to add potatoes for a heartier curry. You can use 1 large or 2-3 baby potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • Fry the tofu just before serving. While the curry can be prepared one day ahead of time, I highly recommend preparing the tofu just before serving for the best texture.
  • Japanese curry cubes will yield a slightly richer and more fatty curry, as opposed to a curry made from scratch.

💬 FAQ

Does Japanese curry taste like Indian curry?

Japanese curry has a thicker texture, and it’s not tomato-based, as opposed to many Indian curries. Regarding the flavor, the spices are very similar. It has a strong garam masala flavor.

Which curry cubes should I use?

I recommend going with Golden Curry Mild from S&B. For a spicier curry, feel free to use the Hot ones.

Can I bake the tofu instead of frying it?

Yes, you can bake the tofu for 35-40 minutes in a 375°F (190°C) preheated oven. I personally have a preference for the fried version, though, which has a better texture overall.

Panko katsu tofu with curry sauce, white rice, and green beans.

I hope you are going to love this vegan katsu curry! It’s incredibly meaty, super crispy, and so comforting! Plus, the curry sauce is savory and just slightly spicy!

⭐️ Did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments below, and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

Panko tofu with curry sauce and white rice.
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Recipe

Vegan Katsu Curry

Author: Thomas Pagot
Crispy and meaty katsu tofu served with a rich and creamy curry sauce! This Japanese-inspired dish is plant-based, hearty, and SO flavorful!
Prep Time : 45 minutes
Cook Time : 30 minutes
Resting Time : 4 hours
Total Time : 5 hours 15 minutes
Servings 2 servings

Ingredients
 

Curry Sauce

  • 1/2 onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger finely minced
  • 1/2 carrot peeled and sliced
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cubes Japanese curry roux cubes half of a package. I used the Golden Curry one.

Katsu Tofu

  • 9 ounces firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin or white vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • For serving: white rice, sautéed or steamed greens, cilantro.

Instructions
 

  • Before starting: be aware that the tofu needs to stay in the freezer for at least 4 hours, so I recommend preparing the tofu the night before you want to make this recipe.

Freeze the Tofu

  • Cut the tofu into 3-inch long strips, about 1-inch thick. Transfer it to a deep dish.
  • Pour the soy sauce, mirin, and maple syrup over the tofu. Stir to coat the tofu with the marinade. Let marinade for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
  • Discard the marinade and transfer the tofu to a plate lined with parchment paper. Freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight. Next, let the tofu thaw on the counter.

Curry Sauce

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Next, add the sliced carrots and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Pour in the water and let simmer covered for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the Japanese curry cubes and stir to dissolve. Let simmer covered for another 5-7 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Taste and adjust the saltiness to your liking. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

Fry the Tofu

  • Squeeze the tofu between a few sheets of kitchen paper towel to remove the excess water.
  • Prepare your dipping station: in a small bowl, mix together the rice flour and water. Place the panko breadcrumbs on a deep plate.
  • Working with one stick of tofu at a time, quickly dip it into the rice flour batter and lightly shake to remove excess. Immediately transfer the tofu to the plate containing the panko breadcrumbs and press it to coat on all sides. Transfer the panko-coated tofu to a plate. Repeat with the remaining sticks of tofu.
  • Fry: heat about 2 cups of oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the panko-coated tofu sticks and fry for 5-8 minutes, flipping regularly until golden brown on all sides.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper kitchen towels to remove excess oil.
  • To serve: arrange some cooked white rice on one half of a deep plate, pour some of the curry sauce on the other half, and top with a few sticks of katsu tofu. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately!

Notes

To prepare the curry sauce from scratch:
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (or plant-based cream)
  • 1/2 carrot, sliced
  • salt to taste
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Next, add the curry powder, flour, and a couple of tablespoons of vegetable broth. Stir until the flour has dissolved and forms a paste.
  3. Pour in the remaining vegetable broth, soy sauce, sugar, and coconut milk. Add the sliced carrots and let simmer covered over low-medium heat for 25-30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender and the curry sauce has thickened.
  4. Taste and adjust the saltiness.

Tips

  • Feel free to add potatoes for a heartier curry. You can use 1 large or 2-3 baby potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • Fry the tofu just before serving. While the curry can be prepared one day ahead of time, I highly recommend preparing the tofu just before serving for the best texture.
  • Japanese curry cubes will yield a slightly richer and more fatty curry, as opposed to a curry made from scratch.
Course : Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine : Japanese
Did you make this recipe? Tag @fullofplants on Instagram and hashtag it #fullofplants
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

Learn more ➜

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Are you just testing us out?
This link to japenese cubes is wrong and what can I use if I don’t have. Just marigold stock?
This link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=S&linkCode=gg3&linkId=7554670583c3e1a05d41c39e21427462&tag=fullofplants-20

Could the tofu be air fried?

I am going to air fried the tofu too and will let you know after i air fried the tofu