Japanese cuisine is famous all over the world for its impressive flavors, fresh ingredients, lush fragrances, and delicate combinations. Easily one of the tastiest cuisines in the world, Japanese food is also quite elegant.
Most dishes look complex, unique, and occasionally weird. However, a lot of them are surprisingly easy to make.
In fact, if you’re planning a Japanese-themed dinner, you’ll be surprised by just how easy it is to make some of the best Japanese dishes.
Today, we want to focus on Japanese appetizers. Whether you’re celebrating a Japanese holiday or simply want to try something more authentic at home, we’ve got something for you.
In this post, we’ve listed 20 of the best Japanese appetizers. If you want to learn a wide range of tasty Japanese dishes, you’ve come to the right place.
Without further ado, let’s dive into our list!
We’ll start with one of the most popular Japanese appetizers that most people go for when visiting a Japanese restaurant. Extremely popular all over the world, edamame is a super simple Japanese appetizer made out of soybeans.
This salty, grassy dish is easy to make because it only calls for soybeans and salt. All you have to do is boil the soybeans, cover them in salt, and cut the pods open.
This can all be done in 15 minutes, leaving you with a simple, yet delicious appetizer.
Another popular Japanese appetizer is chilled tofu with apple soy sauce. Also known by the name Hiyayakko, this side dish is served cold and features tofu as its base.
A sweet and sour slaw is then thrown on top of the tofu. This slaw is made out of scallions, cilantro, and radishes. To finish things off, a unique apple soy sauce is made by mixing vinegar, apple juice, and soy sauce.
As you can imagine, this dish is pretty unique.
Japanese appetizers are usually referred to as Sakizuke. Sakizuke must be small bite-size dishes served before the main meal. This vegan-friendly vegetable gyoza recipe sums this up perfectly.
These gyozas consist of a simple vegan filling and store-bought wrappers. This makes them not only delicious but very quick and easy to make. Depending on your preferences, you can boil, pan-fry, or steam the gyozas.
To put it simply, shoyuzuke kyuri are pickled cucumbers doused in soy sauce. They take very little preparation and offer a very strong flavor. In Japan, these pickles are typically served with rice.
Thanks to the soy sauce, the pickled cucumber has a strong miso flavor. They are also quite salty. Once pickled, the cucumbers have a satisfying crunch and a taste that will get your tastebuds tingling.
Next up, we have harumaki. Harumaki is a tasty appetizer that we know by the name spring rolls. This particular spring rolls recipe is loaded with pork, vegetables, mushrooms, scallions, mirin, ginger, and soy sauce.
They have a golden-brown, crispy shell and a hot, comforting filling. What’s not to like?
The flavor inside these heavenly bites is divine. The combination of sweet, savory, and earthy ingredients is special, whilst the different textures offer us something more exciting.
Eggplant is a staple Japanese cooking ingredient. The vegetable is used in a huge variety of different recipes and a handful of tasty appetizers. For us, this miso eggplant recipe is the best.
Beautifully flavored with miso, this appetizer is salty, sweet, and immensely refreshing. It can be served cold or hot and only takes 30 minutes to make. Aside from tasting amazing, the look of this dish is great too.
We can picture it now in the middle of your dinner table.
Another delicious eggplant appetizer is this roasted eggplant dish. The best thing about this dish is how it is served. You can throw it all together and then leave it on a platter for your guests to tuck into.
To make the dish, roast the eggplant in an oven before adding the lemon and tahini sauce. The lemon and tahini sauce does a great job of balancing out the bitterness of the eggplant. Of course, the salt helps too.
Topping the appetizer with pomegranate is a great way to bring more flavors and textures to the dish.
As you can probably already tell, most Japanese appetizers are packed with vegetables, making them super healthy. The next recipe on our list is no different. Incredibly easy to make, tempura broccoli is a great dipping appetizer.
All you need is some delicious tempura broccoli and a good sauce. This recipe shows you how to make both. The tempura broccoli is made by dipping the broccoli in a flour mix and frying it.
The broccoli becomes deliciously crispy. The dip helps give the broccoli more flavor and a kick of spice.
If you’re a big meat eater, you’ll love tenderloin rumaki. Tenderloin rumaki is a meaty appetizer that consists of Japanese tenderloin wrapped in bacon.
This traditional dish once consisted of bacon wrapped around chicken liver and water chestnuts, but the addition of beef chunks and scallions is much more enjoyable.
To make the best tenderloin rumaki, cook them in a pan first before transferring them over to the oven.
After that, you can pour the rich sauce on top.
10. Asparagus Rolls
A common way pork is integrated into a Japanese meal is in the making of this asparagus roll dish. In this dish, the pork is used to wrap up the asparagus.
To fully wrap the asparagus, it is important to use a thin slice of pork as opposed to bacon.
Offering powerful savory flavors, the rolls are fried before a tasty soy and sake sauce is added to give the rolls some extra oomph. The final dish is crunchy, slightly sweet, and salty.
11. Ebi Fry
The next Japanese appetizer we have for you is Ebi fry. To put it simply, Ebi fry is fried shrimp, done Japanese style. Served with a gorgeous katsu sauce, this appetizer is crispy, sweet, succulent, and quite frankly addictive.
The shrimp are fried in panko crumbs to ensure the very best crunch. To give the shrimp more flavor, salt and pepper are also added to the breadcrumbs. As for the katsu sauce, this gives the dish a sweet, and spicy flavor.
You probably know onigiri better by the name of Japanese rice balls. Easily one of the best Japanese appetizers there is, this dish is easy to make, versatile, and tasty.
They can be made to any shape you like and be served before any main meal.
Onigiri is usually filled with pickled plums or salmon but it’s fine to serve it without a filling. In this recipe, you’ll be shown how to make the rice balls with onigiri without a filling. Instead, you’ll use soy sauce to give the rice balls more flavor.
If you came here looking for a super simple appetizer, look no further than this chicken salad recipe. It may not be the most authentic Japanese appetizer on our list, but it’s certainly one of the easiest to make.
What makes this salad Japanese is the addition of ramen noodles. Aside from adding a special crunch, the chicken-flavored ramen also gives the salad a meatier flavor.
Other ingredients needed to make this salad include cabbage, chicken, almonds, and onions.
14. Watercress Salad
Another fabulous salad appetizer you can make is this watercress salad. Ready to eat in less than 15 minutes, this salad is fresh, light, crunchy, and healthy.
Watercress is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine so it’s only right to use it when making a Japanese dinner. Watercress is packed with vitamins and comes with crunchy stems and soft leaves, a bit like spinach.
The salad itself only contains watercress. It is a dressing made from honey, salt, rice vinegar, and peanut butter that offers all the flavor.
If you really want to impress your guests, give this sake steamed clams recipe a try. Perfect for seafood lovers, this appetizer tastes phenomenal whilst not filling you up too much.
It is a simple dish to make. All you need to do is soak the clams in water, rinse them well, make a sauce to go with them, and cook them in a skillet until they open.
By the end, you’ll be left with a stunning Japanese appetizer that will leave your guests in awe.
16. Simmered Daikon
For those that don’t know, daikon is a type of white radish native to Japan. The vegetable is regularly simmered in a broth and served as an appetizer. It is also commonly served with sashimi.
This recipe shows you how to simmer daikon in a broth made from soy sauce, dashi, and mirin. These flavors combine perfectly to create a soothing dish that’s savory, aromatic, and fragrant.
Eaten hot or cold, this appetizer is made by peeling and slicing the daikon before simmering it in the broth. The daikon is then drained and served with a sauce.
We haven’t had many Japanese chicken recipes on this list so far so it’s only right that we give you another one. Here we have a delicious chicken recipe called tsukune. Tsukune is a chicken meatball recipe that is usually made on a yakitori grill.
Luckily for us, this recipe shows us how to make the meatballs without a yakitori grill. Served on skewers, these meatballs are made by mincing up chicken breasts or thighs with various herbs and spices.
The meatballs are then shaped and grilled. They can then be served with a rich yakitori tare.
This sweet and sticky pork belly from Tiffy Cooks takes some beating. It’s sweet, meaty, delightfully sticky, and juicy. What more can we ask for?
A dish everyone will love, this tender and savory pork belly appetizer is packed full of flavor. Served best on a bed of rice, you’ll find your guests quickly coming back for more.
This appetizer will take longer to make than others so make sure you allow plenty of time. There’s also a long list of herbs and spices required so you’ll probably need to stop by the store first.
Some of you will be pleased to hear that Japanese cuisine has its very own coleslaw. If you’re a fan of this creamy dish, you’ll love what the Japanese version has to offer.
Offering an Asian twist on an absolute classic, this coleslaw recipe dresses cabbage up in mayonnaise, lemon, and soy sauce. The soy sauce and lemon combine beautifully to give this dish a light, refreshing flavor and texture.
The crunch of the cabbage and the tang of the vinaigrette is to die for.
20. Prawn Tempura
The final Japanese appetizer we have for you is prawn tempura. Crispy, juicy, and soft, prawn tempura is a great way to prepare Japanese prawns. Deep-fried in a tasty tempura batter, these prawns are perfect.
Battering them with tempura batter instead of breadcrumbs makes the prawns perfectly crispy and soft, unlike breadcrumbs which make the prawns too crispy.
Tempura prawns are served with a tentsuyu sauce made from mirin, dashi, and soy sauce. This sauce is strong and very flavorful.
Are any of the beach snacks on your list similar to Japanese appetizers?
When it comes to the best beach snacks, you might be surprised to find similarities with Japanese appetizers. For example, takoyaki, a popular street food in Japan, resembles crispy fritters that you can enjoy while lounging by the ocean. Munching on sushi rolls or yakitori skewers can also be reminiscent of beach snacks.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re serving your guest’s sushi, you have a wide range of tasty appetizers to choose from.
Aside from serving simple sauces like wasabi and soy sauce, you should serve something like tempura prawns, tempura broccoli, or edamame with sushi.
If you’re visiting Japan, you’ll see the word zensai in most restaurants. Zensai is Japanese for appetizers.
Sushi is a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer or main entree. It doesn’t really matter when you serve it because everyone loves it either way.
After making your way through our list, you should now know exactly what’s on offer when it comes to Japanese appetizers.
If you’re planning a Japanese-themed dinner or simply want to try something more authentic, you should now have plenty of excellent options to choose from.
In all honesty, we haven’t made it that easy for you because all 20 recipes on this list are delicious. Narrowing the list down to a select few to try first might be quite difficult, so good luck!