Easy Japanese Chicken Curry makes a quick and delicious weeknight meal that is super satisfying with chunks of tender chicken and pieces of carrot, potato, and onion all simmered in a savory, flavorful curry sauce. The leftovers are even better the next day!
Eating chicken for dinner too often can get boring unless you change it up from time to time! Some of our other favorite ways to change up our standard chicken dinner are Chicken Flautas, White Chicken Chili, and Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo.
My oldest daughter's best friend's mom is from Japan and came to the U.S. to go to college. So while we were at the park one day I asked her what was one of her favorite Japanese foods that she made for her kids. Without hesitation she told me it was Japanese curry and said she would bring me a couple of boxes of the curry base that she uses.
She was very specific about needing both the mild and medium hot boxes of curry base in order to get just the right amount of heat and flavor, so I stuck close to her instructions and we all loved this easy, delicious curry! The kids were asking for second helpings and the leftovers made a fantastic lunch the next day as well.
Japanese curry is less spicy and a little sweeter than the Indian and Thai curries that I am more familiar with. It also has a thicker gravy or sauce than, say, Thai yellow curry (my personal favorite of all curries).
I left the potato and carrot chunks fairly large so they didn't get lost in the flavorful curry gravy and the chicken was tender and delicious. We served it with white rice and it made a filling and wonderful meal that is going to have to go into our regular rotation.
I can see why this dish, known as Kare Raisu or "curry rice" in Japan, is a popular choice for many mom's in Japan because it's a quick and easy dish that's hearty, satisfying, and kid-friendly. All mom's want their kids to eat well, no matter what culture we come from!
- Japanese curry roux mix: You can make Japanese curry from scratch (it's basically just butter, flour, curry powder, garam masala, and cayenne pepper), which I would love to try someday, but my friend Yuko was adamant that nobody in Japan does that when I questioned her about that approach. Instead the most common approach is to use a curry roux mix that comes in blocks or squares that are solid and similar in appearance to bars of chocolate. They come in varying degrees of intensity, but Yuko said combining mild and medium gives the perfect balance.
- Potatoes: You can use russet or yukon gold potatoes in your curry, although I prefer how russets break down a bit more for this one. Be sure to peel your russets and cut them into large-ish, maybe 1 ½-inch chunks.
- Carrots: There is a special way of cutting carrots in Japan known as "rangiri" where you slice diagonally, then rotate the carrot a quarter turn for your next slice, etc. This provides more surface area for better flavor absorption and perfectly sized bites of vegetable. Sure you could just slice your carrots into little logs or discs, but why not go for the authenticity factor by trying a new technique?
- Onions: You will want to cut the onions into wedges rather than chopping them. This is easily done by slicing off both ends of the onion and peeling the outer skin off. Then set the onion on one of it's sliced flat sides and simply cut it into sixths or eighths, depending on how big your onions are.
- Garlic: Just a couple of minced cloves will do since there is already a lot of flavor in the curry mix.
- Chicken broth and water: Japanese curry can be very salty so a mix of chicken broth and water keeps the sodium down a bit. You could even just use all water or go for a low-sodium chicken broth.
- Chicken: I used chicken breasts since I happened to have some on hand, but next time I'm going to try thighs, which I think would be even better in this curry.
- Oil: Just a little bit to help saute the onions and sear the chicken in the pan.
- Salt & pepper: This is just for seasoning the chicken before searing to help develop the levels of flavor in the dish.
Pro Tip: I have seen a number of different Japanese curry brands in the Asian section at my local grocery store, but my friend Yuko specifically said this Tasty Curry brand is their favorite. Other popular brands I have seen are Golden Curry, Vermont Curry (I'm so curious about the name for this one!), and Java Curry. Just look for one box of "mild" and another that is "medium" heat. You will use half of each box for a single recipe so you will be able to make this curry twice.
How to Make Japanese Curry
- Prep all of the ingredients: The hardest part about this recipe is prepping the ingredients, and even that isn't difficult, especially if you have some knife skills. Start by peeling and chopping the potato into large-ish but still bite-size chunks. Toss them in a bowl of cold water to soak, which will help remove some of their starchiness while you work on peeling and slicing the carrots and onions. Cut the chicken (or protein of choice) into bite-size pieces and season with a sprinkle of kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
- Saute the onions: Add the oil to a large dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan and heat over medium-high heat. Then add the onions and stir them around for a few minutes until they start to soften a bit. Add the garlic, and ginger during the last minute. Transfer the onions, garlic, and ginger to a plate and set aside.
- Sear the chicken: Add the chicken pieces to the same pot and let them sear for a few minutes without moving them so they can develop some color on one side. Then use a wooden spoon to move the pieces around a bit so they can sear on the other sides as well. The chicken doesn't need to cook through at this point. It's more about developing and sealing in flavor with the searing process.
- Add vegetables and liquid: Return the sauteed onions to the pan along with the chopped carrots and potatoes, discarding the water the potatoes were soaking in. Cover with chicken broth and water and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are tender but not falling apart and the chicken is cooked through.
- Add the curry: Place the half of the box of mild curry mix and half of the box of medium curry mix into a bowl, then ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth in with them and mix until smooth. Add this to the large pot, stirring until combined.
- Serve with rice: Because Japanese curry can be fairly salty, it is typically served with rice, which cuts down on the saltiness factor.
- Other proteins: You can make this same recipe using beef instead of chicken. Or use cauliflower instead of chicken to make it meatless.
- Variations: Many people who make Japanese curry like to add extra ingredients to make it their own. Combining different brands or levels of spiciness like we do here is a common approach, but so is adding a grated apple to increase sweetness. Adding some honey or mirin is another way of boosting the sweetness which goes well with the saltiness of this dish.
I always do my best to research recipes from other cultures thoroughly to represent them as best I can. If this recipe is from your country or culture and you have suggestions for how I can improve its authenticity, please let me know in the comments below! It's important to us to share beloved foods of other cultures with as much accuracy as possible, while also considering things like accessibility of ingredients and ease of preparation for most home cooks.
More Easy Dinner Recipes
- Yakitori (Japanese Chicken Skewers)
- Chicken Stroganoff Recipe
- Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos
- New Orleans-Style Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- Russian Chicken
- Orange Chicken
Did you make this recipe?
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- 1 ½ pounds chicken breasts or thighs cut into bite-size pieces
- 2-3 russet potatoes or 3-4 yukon gold, peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 2 onions peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 carrots peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- ½ package mild Japanese curry mix
- ½ package medium hot Japanese curry mix
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Slice chicken into bite-size pieces and season with a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Peel and chop potatoes into 1 ½-inch pieces, then cover with cold water in a bowl to soak while preparing the rest of the dish. Peel and slice carrots on the diagonal, rotating a quarter turn between each cut to make 1-inch wedge-shaped pieces. Peel and slice onions into wedges. Mince garlic and grate ginger.
- Heat a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until softened. Add garlic and ginger during the last 30 seconds or so. Transfer the onions to a plate and set aside.
- Add the chicken to the dutch oven and let sear on one side without moving for a few minutes. Use a wooden spoon to turn chicken pieces, continuing to cook until seared on all sides, but not cooked through.
- Return the onions to the pot along with the drained potatoes and carrots. Cover with chicken broth and water, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes and carrots are softened and chicken is cooked through.
- Add both types of Japanese curry mix to a bowl along with 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid. Mix until combined, then add to the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Cook and stir until combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Or if you feel like it needs additional sweetness, you can add a little honey.
- Serve with rice.
- For added sweetness, you can peel and grate an apple to add with the garlic and ginger. Or add about 1 tablespoon of honey at the end with the curry mix.
- If using Yukon Gold potatoes, there is no need to peel them first.
- Beef can be used in place of chicken in this recipe.
- Leftovers will keep in the fridge for about 5 days, or you can freeze them for 2-3 months and reheat on the stovetop with a little additional water to loosen the curry, if needed.
Recipe adapted from my friend Yuko's instructions, the back of the box of Japanese curry mix, and Just One Cookbook.