What is Japanese Ketchup Rice (Chicken Rice)?
There are many kinds of chicken rice dishes across Asia (the most famous probably being Hainanese chicken rice popular in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. ), but the Japanese version differs greatly from the Southeast Asian version. In fact, “chicken rice” in Japan is recognized as ketchup rice with chicken.
Japanese ketchup rice is made of cooked rice stir-fried with chicken and vegetables, then seasoned with tomato ketchup. It is also a staple of the children’s lunch menu and is usually served in a mountainous shape with a small decorative flag on top. It is also a popular filling for “omurice,” fried rice wrapped in a yellow omelet.
However, in this particular recipe, I have modified the concept of Japanese ketchup rice in my own way to make it specifically more enjoyable for adults! So please note that you cannot really expect the typical Japanese ketchup rice for kids in this recipe.
If you want more kiddy-style Japanese ketchup rice, please check out my omurice recipe!
How I Developed This Recipe
With this recipe, I’m reimagining Japanese ketchup rice, traditionally seen as a child’s dish, and giving it a more sophisticated, adult twist.
While maintaining the core concept of ketchup rice, this version adds complexity and depth to appeal to adult palates. It’s a fresh take on a familiar favorite, proving that adults can enjoy ketchup rice.
I encourage you to try this recipe and experience a more grown-up version of this beloved dish.
Ingredients & Substitution Ideas
- Boneless Chicken Thigh: Ideal for this recipe, but chicken breast can also be used as an alternative.
- Vegetables and Portherbs: Include yellow onion, garlic, brown button mushrooms, green bell pepper, and parsley for a mix of flavors and textures.
- Cooked Japanese Short-Grain Rice: Best suited for donburi dishes. Refer to the How to Cook Japanese Rice Recipe for recommended rice varieties in the U.S. and cooking methods.
- Core Condiments: Enhance the dish with red wine, tomato ketchup, Chinese-style chicken bouillon powder, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
- Herbs & Spices: Combining salt, pepper, chili powder, nutmeg, cumin powder, rosemary, fenugreek, and paprika powder adds depth and complexity to the flavor.
- Unsalted Butter: Use unsalted butter to control the dish’s saltiness. If using salted butter, adjust the quantity of other salty ingredients accordingly.
- Optional Toppings: Fried egg and lemon wedges can be added for additional flavor and presentation.
Japanese ketchup rice is a versatile dish that can be adapted to suit your tastes. You can add, replace, or remove any ingredients to make your own best ketchup rice!
For inspiration, you can refer to the list below:
- Chicken breast (instead of chicken thigh)
- Sausage (instead of chicken thigh)
- Ham (instead of chicken thigh)
- Bacon (instead of chicken thigh)
- Any kind of mince (instead of chicken thigh)
- Prawns (instead of chicken thigh)
- Green peas (instead of green bell pepper)
Swap the chicken out for a vegetarian alternative, such as soy protein, and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock to make vegetarian ketchup rice! But these are just ideas! Feel free to customize the Japanese ketchup rice to suit you and your family!
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Visual Walkthrough & Tips
Here are my step-by-step instructions for how to make Japanese Ketchup Rice at home. For ingredient quantities and simplified instructions, scroll down for the Printable Recipe Card below.
Rather than using freshly cooked rice, it’s better to use cold or leftover rice so that it doesn’t clump together when frying. If you’re like me, I always make large batches of rice and keep it in Tupperware containers in the freezer. This is perfect for frying!
If you don’t have rice leftovers, cook your rice as usual and allow it to cool before frying it.
Rather than measuring out and adding each herb and spice while you’re cooking, measure them out before you start and mix them in a small bowl. Not only does this save time, but it also helps evenly distribute the spice mix through the rice when you add it.
Preheat a wok or large frying pan and melt a cube of butter.
Once the butter has melted, add finely diced onions and fry until translucent.
Frying the onions in butter adds a rich and slightly sweet flavor to the dish. Since the onions take the longest to cook, I fry them first and then add the other ingredients later.
Next, push the onions to the edges of the pan and add the chicken thigh, garlic paste, mushrooms and bell pepper. I recommend cutting everything small and thin so that it cooks quickly.
Once the chicken is sealed on the surface, add the red wine and spices you mixed earlier. Stir fry everything together for 1-2 minutes.
Because the rice is already cooked, it only needs reheating. You should cook the other ingredients well (especially chicken) before adding the rice.
Once the chicken is cooked through, add the rice, ketchup, and grated parmesan cheese.
Stir fry until heated all the way through, and the flavors are evenly distributed through the rice.
Ketchup rice and egg are a golden combination so I like to add a sunny side up fried egg to the dish, this is optional though.
Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and a wedge of lemon. I must say that adding a squeeze of lemon juice over the rice really makes the flavors pop, so don’t leave out the lemon if you can help it!Jump to Full Recipe Measurements
Ketchup, an essential ingredient in the Japanese version of chicken rice, was first sold in Japan in 1908. This means that ketchup rice did not exist in Japan before then. But around the same time, something called “ham rice” was popular, which was made by stir-frying chopped ham and rice seasoned with soy sauce, salt, and pepper.
It is not clear when they started using ketchup after that, but in 1931, “Shufu no Tomo” (Friend of Housewives) published an advertisement that said, “Mix ham, tomato sauce, onions, green peas, Ajinomoto, and other ingredients together.” Later, the ham was eventually replaced with chicken.
The first appearance of “ketchup chicken rice” in Western-style restaurants is said to have been around 1924, and it can be assumed that it became popular as a household dish around the 1930s based on the Friend of Housewives advertisement.
Japanese ketchup rice is hugely associated with omurice (omelet and ketchup rice). However, ketchup rice can be served on its own. It’s often referred to as “chicken rice” when it’s served on its own, and when the chicken rice is in an omelet, it’s often called ketchup rice.
I know it’s confusing, but that’s how we distinguish these two different dishes.
I hope you enjoy this Japanese Ketchup Rice recipe! If you try it out, I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a moment to let me know what you thought by giving a review and star rating in the comments below. It’s also helpful to share any adjustments you made to the recipe with our other readers. Thank you!
More Japanese Rice Recipes
Japanese Ketchup Fried Rice for Adults (Chicken Rice)
Japanese Ketchup Rice Spice Mix
- ½ tbsp Chinese-style chicken bouillon powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- ¼ tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp rosemary
- ½ tsp fenugreek
- ½ tsp paprika powder
Japanese Ketchup Rice
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 100 g yellow onion(s) finely diced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 200 g boneless chicken thigh(s) sliced or cut into small bitesize pieces
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp red wine
- 4 brown button mushroom(s) sliced
- 30 g green bell pepper(s) small dice
- 400 g cooked Japanese short-grain rice
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tbsp parmesan cheese grated
- 3 fried egg optional
- 1 tsp parsley finely chopped, optional
- 3 lemon wedges optional
- Mix the spices in a bowl and set aside for later.
- Heat a frying pan or wok on medium high and add 1 tbsp unsalted butter.
- Once the butter has melted, add 100 g yellow onion(s) and fry until transparent.
- Push the onion to one side of the pan and add 1 tsp olive oil. Add 200 g boneless chicken thigh(s), 1 tsp garlic paste and vegetables.
- Once the chicken is sealed, add 1 tbsp red wine and spice mix. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
- Add 400 g cooked Japanese short-grain rice, 2 tbsp tomato ketchup and 1 tbsp parmesan cheese. Stir fry until the rice is heated all the way through and the spices are well distributed.
- Serve with 3 fried egg, 3 lemon wedges and 1 tsp parsley.
- Squeeze the lemon juice over the rice before eating.