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What is Takoyaki (Japanese Octopus Balls)?
Takoyaki (たこ焼き) is a type of Japanese street food snack. It’s a small dumpling made from a thin batter cooked in a special circular mold to become a round ball shape.
“Tako” (たこ) is the Japanese word for “octopus” and “yaki” (焼き) means to fry. In other words, takoyaki is a fried octopus ball.
It often contains other ingredients, such as tenkasu (pieces of tempura batter) and benishoga (red pickled ginger), which add great taste and texture. It is then usually topped with a delicious Worcestershire sauce-based sauce, mayonnaise, aonori (dried seaweed powder), and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). No wonder every bite is a taste sensation!
Although takoyaki is most commonly found at yatai (屋台) food stands during summer festivals and events, they can be found all year round in convenience stores, supermarkets and specialist takoyaki restaurants.
How I Developed This Recipe
In Japan, many people reach for a commercial Takoyaki flour mix for convenience when making Takoyaki at home. But let me tell you, making takoyaki from scratch isn’t as daunting as it might seem. In this recipe, I’ve embraced the traditional method, starting with basic flour to craft what I believe is the best Takoyaki possible.
The results far exceeded my expectations. The Takoyaki turned out to be so delicious, with a perfectly crisp exterior and a warm, gooey center, just bursting with flavor.
I’m excited for you to try making them yourself and experience the joy and satisfaction of homemade Takoyaki!
Ingredients & Substitution Ideas
- Worcestershire sauce – Worcestershire sauce is available worldwide, so you may use the one that is available in your area.
- Tsuyu sauce – By using tsuyu sauce instead of soy sauce, a light seafood essence is added. If you are looking for a premade one, I recommend Kikkoman’s tsuyu sauce made from katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). You can also use my recipe for tsuyu sauce if you want to make it at home.
- Ketchup – It is used to add sweetness, tanginess and thicken the sauce.
- Honey – It is used to add deep sweetness and thickening.
It’s quick and easy to make your own takoyaki sauce, but can skip this part if you have store-bought takoyaki sauce such as Otafuku Foods’ Takoyaki sauce.
- Dashi stock – For takoyaki, it’s essential to use dashi (Japanese soup stock) instead of water to add depth to the batter. The difference between using dashi and not using it is significant, so make sure to use dashi. You can choose from my favorite dashi, simple awase dashi, vegan dashi, or use instant dashi granules or dashi packets if pressed for time.
- Egg – Use eggs for deliciously fluffy texture.
- Cake flour – Also known as weak flour. The low gluten content in cake flour makes the texture light and soft.
- Tsuyu sauce – I used it for the sauce, but I also use the sauce for making batter.
- Sesame oil – For cooking and adding a nutty hint.
The ingredients for takoyaki batter can vary, but the basic elements remain the same. I prefer using cake flour to create a light and fluffy texture with a thinner batter.
However, if you use store-bought takoyaki flour, you won’t need to make the batter from scratch. In that case, I recommend Otafuku Foods’ takoyaki flour, which is the biggest manufacture in Japan.
- Boiled (or steamed) octopus – If using completely raw octopus, be sure to boil it before using it to make takoyaki.
- Benishoga (pickled red ginger) – It is used to add a slight sourness to takoyaki.
- Chopped green onion – The slight bitterness of the onion matches well with the flavor of the takoyaki.
- Tenkasu (tempura bits) – Tenkasu adds richness and umami to takoyaki, and also helps to make them crispy and beautifully baked. The oil from the tenkasu also makes it easier for the batter to peel off the plate. Simply use store-bought ones.
- Japanese mayonnaise – Regular mayonnaise is fine, but for a more authentic taste, Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise is recommended.
- Aonori (Dried green laver powder) – Otafuku Foods’ aonori is the most authentic.
- Katsuobushi (Dried bonito flakes) – Although it is optional, I like it with dried bonito flakes.
- Chopped spring onion – Adds fresh flavor and color, but also optional.
As you might guess from its name, takoyaki usually contains octopus. But if you can’t find octopus where you live, don’t worry! In this section, I’ll share some tasty alternatives to fill your takoyaki.
- Shrimp – One of the closest seafood alternatives.
- Squid – One of the closest seafood alternatives.
- Sausage – This is a popular option among kids in Japan.
- Cheese – Ball-shaped processed cheese would work the best.
- Beef – Not so well-known but cubed beef steak with moderate fat content would work well!
- Mushrooms – As a vegetable alternative.
- Kimchi – A fusion dish with a completely different taste, but it is a popular option in Japan these days.
Remember that takoyaki doesn’t take long to cook so your fillings should be precooked. (The octopus in takoyaki is always pre-boiled.)
Curious about the exact brands and products that bring my recipes to life? Discover the brands and ingredients behind my recipes at the Sudachi Amazon Storefront. Explore my handpicked pantry essentials and find your next kitchen favorites!Jump to Full Recipe Measurements
Equipment: How to Choose Takoyaki Pan/Maker
Unfortunately, you will need some specialized equipment to make takoyaki at home. The equipment in question is the “takoyaki pan” known as called takoyaki-ki (タコ焼き機) in Japanese.
A takoyaki pan is basically a cooking mold made up of small hemispherical grooves. The batter is poured into the mold and then turned occasionally with skewers to make a ball shape.
The electric takoyaki pan in the picture above is from my family home and is quite typical among Japanese families. (I don’t know the brand.) These are great for sitting in the middle of the dinner table and making a fun activity out of “takoyaki night”. These days, I personally use an Iwatani Takoyaki Grill Pan on a gas stove since it takes up less room in my kitchen and it’s easier to clean. (You could even take it camping!)
It’s not too difficult to find electric takoyaki pans online these days, just bear in mind that if you are buying electrical products from Japan, contact the seller and ask about the outlet and voltage compatibility to make sure it will work in your country.
I’ve also heard of people using Danish Aebleskiver pans, I’m not sure how big they are, but the shape looks perfect for making takoyaki.
Visual Walkthrough & Tips
Here are my step-by-step instructions for how to make Takoyaki at home. For ingredient quantities and simplified instructions, scroll down for the Printable Recipe Card below.
1. Prepare Ingredients & Make Batter
Mix the Worcestershire sauce, tsuyu sauce, ketchup and honey in a small bowl and set aside for later.
The octopus should be cut into bitesize pieces so that you can fit one in each of the grooves of the takoyaki pan. The rest of the ingredients should be finely chopped or diced so it’s easy to scatter them across the batter.
Mix the egg, tsuyu sauce and dashi together in a bowl or jug. The dashi should be cold or lukewarm at the most (not hot!) to avoid accidentally cooking the egg.
In a separate bowl, add the flour and make a well in the middle. Pour the dashi and egg mixture into the well while whisking.
The batter should be smooth and thin; the consistency is thinner than the pancake batter and easy to pour.
2. Cook Octopus Balls in a Takoyaki Pan
Preheat the takoyaki pan on a medium heat. Once hot, pour oil generously across the top and use a brush to evenly coat each groove. This will ensure that the takoyaki doesn’t stick.
Pour the batter over the molds, filling each one about halfway. Don’t worry if some batter goes outside of the mold, it will all be rolled into the takoyaki later.
Place a piece of octopus in each mold.
Pour more batter over the top so that the surface is completely covered, even the surface around the edges.
Then sprinkle the tenkasu (tempura bits) evenly over the surface.
Followed by the benishoga and chopped spring onion.
Once the batter starts to cook and firm up a little, use a bamboo skewer to draw lines between each mold to divide it into squares.
Use the skewer to scrape the edge of the slot in a circular motion to turn the takoyaki over about halfway. The reason we don’t turn it all the way is so that we can push the messy parts into the middle of the takoyaki.
Leave it to cook for a few minutes. Once browned underneath, roll again to cook the bottom of the takoyaki and tuck any messy bits underneath. This will help make them perfectly round.
Once all the takoyaki are round, drizzle with another layer of sesame oil and continue turning them occasionally.
Turning the takoyaki will help them cook evenly all over.
If there appears to be some takoyaki that are paler than others, you might have heat spots. This is a common problem that is easily solved; simply swap the pale takoyaki with the darker ones. This will ensure all the takoyaki are evenly cooked and browned.
The completed takoyaki should be golden, lightly crispy on the outside, soft, and a little runny on the inside.
Once cooked, transfer the takoyaki to a serving plate and top with your choice of toppings. In this case I added the sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and chopped spring onion.
And enjoy your delicious homemade takoyaki that tastes like it’s straight from a Japanese street food stall!Jump to Full Recipe Measurements
Tips & Tricks
- Overfill the mold – If you just fill each mold with a small amount of batter, you will find that either the takoyaki becomes quite small or they’re not round enough. You need to overfill it and then push the excess batter into the mold and turn it when it starts to cook and firm up.
- Use picks or bamboo skewers to turn them – It’s easy to use a pick to scoop around the edges and turn each takoyaki.
- Swap places – Usually, the heat isn’t 100% evenly spread across the takoyaki pan, even with high-quality ones. That’s why it’s good to occasionally swap the pale ones with golden ones to ensure they’re all evenly cooked.
How to Store
Of course, takoyaki is always best when it’s freshly cooked, so I don’t recommend making them in advance, but how about leftovers? Can they be stored? If so, for how long? How can I reheat them? I will answer all these questions here!
Takoyaki can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Store without sauce and toppings and add them after reheating for best results. (See more about reheating below!)
Takoyaki can also be frozen and has recently become a popular freezer food in Japan. Allow them to cool completely when freezing and then place them on a tray spaced apart. Freeze for about 30 minutes and then transfer to a sealable freezer bag or container. This will stop them from sticking together. Takoyaki can be frozen for about 2 weeks.
Whether chilled or frozen, it’s better to reheat takoyaki after storing. I recommend using an over or toaster oven, but air friers and even a frying pan will work. Avoid microwaving, as it makes them soggy and unevenly heated.
- Oven or toaster oven: Preheat to 350°F (175°C). Place takoyaki on a parchment-lined baking sheet and heat for 10-15 minutes until warm and crispy.
- Air fryer: Preheat to 350°F (175°C). Cook takoyaki in the basket for 5-8 minutes until heated and crisp.
- Pan-fry: Heat a nonstick skillet or takoyaki pan with a bit of oil. Cook takoyaki, turning occasionally, until heated and crisp.
Some people heat them in the microwave for a short time to heat the middle and then finish off in the oven or toaster to crisp up the outside. This is an option for frozen takoyaki, but I don’t recommend it for chilled.
While takoyaki sauce, mayo, katsuobushi, and chopped spring onion are the most standard toppings, there are many more variations of toppings for takoyaki!
If you’ve ever been to a takoyaki shop in Japan, I’m sure you must have seen an extensive menu of more than just “sauce takoyaki.”
So here, I will share 8 ideas you can use at home to create takoyaki with a twist!
Soy Sauce (Shoyu Takoyaki)
The biggest competitor against sauce takoyaki is soy sauce takoyaki! This old-school takoyaki shop is near my house, and they only serve sauce takoyaki and soy sauce takoyaki. That being said, this is a classic twist.
All you need to do is replace “takoyaki sauce” with soy sauce, but be careful with the amount, as adding soy sauce is much saltier.
- How to make differently: Use soy sauce instead of takoyaki sauce. I also remove mayo and chopped spring onion for this
- Amount: 1 – 1 1/2 tsp per 8 balls
- Recommended: For a saltier flavor
Grated Daikon & Ponzu (a.k.a Negipon)
Refreshing flavor from a mountain of grated daikon and sourness from a citrus soy sauce called “ponzu”? This is another Japanese favorite! I love how takoyaki can be transformed into a refreshing dish like this!
It’s also known as “negipon” in Japan, and when something has a loveable nickname, it must be good right?
- How to make differently: Top with a large amount of grated daikon, ponzu, and chopped spring onion
- Amount: the desired amount of grated daikon, 1 tbsp ponzu, and 1 tbsp spring onion
- Recommended: For refreshing flavor
Ponzu & Shichimi Chili Powder
Do you like spicy flavor? Then, this can be the topping variation for you! The sourness of ponzu and the hint of spiciness from shichimi chili powder are a great combo!
- How to make differently: Top with ponzu, chopped spring onion, and shichimi chilli powder
- Amount: 1 tbsp ponzu, 1 tbsp spring onion, and 1/4 tsp shichimi chili powder
- Recommended: For some sour/spicy kick
Salt & Mayo
Whether you believe it or not, one trend in Japan is “salt takoyaki.” You can savor every bit of takoyaki balls by removing fancy flavorsome sauce.
While it seems like going backward, this is actually very, very good.
- How to make differently: Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with Japanese mayo, finish with chopped spring onion
- Amount: 2 pinches of salt, 1 tbsp mayo, and 1 tbsp spring onion
- Recommended: To enjoy more “authentic” taste of takoyaki
This one goes even further as it’s a pure takoyaki with pinches of salt. You might think it’s too boring, but this is the best way to enjoy deep dashi flavor!
- How to make differently: Sprinkle with salt
- Amount: 2 pinches
- Recommended: To enjoy takoyaki as it is to the fullest
Lemon Juice, Salt & Chopped Green Onions
Looking for a refreshing kick in takoyaki? If so, this is a kind of takoyaki you should try! Simply pre-mix chopped spring onion, salt, and lemon juice, then put it on!
- How to make differently: Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, spring onion mixture
- Amount: 1 tbsp chopped spring onion, pinch of salt, and 1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice
- Recommended: To make takoyaki refreshing
Wanna try something completely different?
This topping is made from a pickled spicy cod roe called “mentaiko” mixed with Japanese mayonnaise. You can often see this topping at some takoyaki stalls as well! It might not be for everyone, but if you like mentaiko, you’ll definitely love it!
- How to make differently: Add mentaiko and mayonnaise mixture topped with chopped spring onion
- Amount: 40g mentaiko and 2 tbsp mayonnaise (mix together) and sprinkle with 1 tbsp chopped spring onion
- Recommended: To try something completely different
With Dashi Tsuyu
This is surely something different from the others as it’s takoyaki with dipping sauce! It’s a homage to takoyaki’s descendant “akashiyaki” and you can experience something different.
- How to make differently: Prepare dashi tsuyu and dip takoyaki
- Amount: 100ml dashi tsuyu (if you want to make it from scratch, you can refer to kake udon recipe)
- Recommended: To try something completely different
When you think of Osaka’s street food, takoyaki often comes to mind along with okonomiyaki. Its origin traces back to “choboyaki (ちょぼ焼き),” a popular kids’ snack sold at candy stores and fairs during the late Meiji (1868-1912) to Taisho (1912-1926) periods. Choboyaki contained konjac, dried shrimp, and takuan (pickled radish) with soy sauce in a batter made from udon or wheat flour.
In the late Taisho period (1912-1926), “radio yaki” emerged, made by baking a mix of konjac, red ginger, and sinew in a round, soy sauce-flavored batter. Its name came from the modern image of radios, which were becoming “the big and new innovative thing” at that time. In 1935, Mr. Endo, founder of “Aizuya” in Osaka, replaced sinew with octopus after hearing about a similar dish “akashiyaki” from a customer. Akashiyaki is a local dish of Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture, where octopus is baked in batter and dipped in dashi sauce.
Initially, takoyaki was eaten without sauce. But after WW2, thick sauces like tonkatsu sauce were created, leading to a modern way of serving takoyaki. These days, takoyaki is topped with sauce, aonori (green laver), and bonito flakes, served on a boat-shaped plate with toothpicks. As an Osaka specialty, takoyaki has become a beloved street (yatai) food for many people.
A basic takoyaki consists of the following ingredients
Takoyaki dough: wheat flour, water, dashi stock (often from kelp or dried bonito flakes), eggs.
Fillings: octopus (steamed or boiled), finely diced benishoga (red pickled ginger), tenkasu (tempura bits) and thinly sliced green onion
Sauce: takoyaki sauce (Worcestershire sauce based), mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), aonori (seaweed)
Takoyaki is made using a special takoyaki maker/cooker, which can be gas-fired or electric. Professional restaurants or stalls use large gas-fired cookers, while at home, people often use smaller electric appliances or cast-iron pans that sit on a gas stove.
Besides takoyaki, okonomiyaki is another popular soul food and street food in Osaka. It’s a savory pancake, but you might wonder if there’s a difference between the sauce used for okonomiyaki and takoyaki.
They look almost identical, and even many people in Japan don’t know the difference. The differences between takoyaki sauce and okonomiyaki sauce can vary depending on the company that makes them, so there isn’t a specific difference. However, generally, takoyaki sauce tends to be sweeter and not as thick as okonomiyaki sauce.
For instance, Otafuku Foods, a leading sauce manufacturer, makes their takoyaki sauce sweeter with the addition of apples and sugar and adds scallops and seafood broths to complement the octopus flavor.
But keep in mind each company has its unique recipe, so it’s difficult to make a general statement about the difference between them.
Brown flakes, called bonito flakes (katsuobushi in Japanese), come from dried, fermented, and smoked bonito. They add a smoky, umami flavor and are one of the key elements of the dish.
Takoyaki is cooked with a batter of flour, water, dashi stock, and eggs. It has a crispy exterior and gooey interior, served with toppings and sauces.
Let it cool, use a toothpick or chopsticks, take small bites, and blow on it. These tips help you enjoy takoyaki without burning your mouth.
Try okonomiyaki sauce or mix Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, and sugar for an extremely simplified homemade version.
Yes, runny batter helps it flow into the mold, creating a soft and gooey inside.
I hope you enjoy this Takoyaki 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 Street Food Recipes
- Yakisoba (Japanese Stir-fried Noodles)
- Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki (in a frying pan)
- Osaka Style Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savory Pancake)
- Chicken Karaage (Crispy Japanese Fried Chicken)
Check out my Street Food Recipe Roundup post for more Japanese street food ideas!
Japanese Fried Octopus Balls (Takoyaki)
- 1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tbsp tsuyu sauce
- ½ tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tbsp honey
- 120 g boiled octopus see post/note for alternatives
- 4 tbsp red pickled ginger (benishoga)
- 50 g green onion(s) chopped
- 30 g tempura flakes (tenkasu)
- First, make the sauce by adding the 1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tbsp tsuyu sauce, 1/2 tbsp tomato ketchup and 1 tbsp honey to a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside for later.
- Next, take a mixing bowl, pour in the 500 ml dashi stock and 1 tsp tsuyu sauce. Crack 1 medium egg(s) into the bowl and whisk until combined.
- Add 100 g cake flour to a separate bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the dashi mixture into the well while whisking until it forms a smooth batter.
- Cut 120 g boiled octopus into small pieces (approx 1 inch / 2.5cm) and finely chop 4 tbsp red pickled ginger and 50 g green onion(s).
- Heat up the takoyaki pan and generously coat the mold with sesame oil. Brush the oil into each crevice until evenly coated. (If you don't have a brush, spread the oil using kitchen paper.)
- Once the takoyaki pan is hot (almost smoking), pour the batter into the mold, filling the crevices half way.
- Place a piece of octopus in each slot and then pour more of the batter over the top, making sure the surface is completely covered, even the surrounding surface.
- Sprinkle the chopped green onion, chopped pickled ginger and 30 g tempura flakes generously over the top of the wet batter and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Using a long bamboo skewer (or similar), draw lines between the slots to divide the batter around each takoyaki.
- Roll the takoyaki about half way by scraping the bamboo skewer around the edge of the slot in a circular motion with your wrist. It’s okay if the shape is still messy at this point. Leave to cook for a few minutes.
- Roll the takoyaki again, tucking any messy parts into the bottom to shape it nicely. After the second roll it should already be more or less round.
- Once the takoyaki is round enough, brush with another layer of sesame oil and keep rolling the takoyaki one by one.
- Swap any pale takoyaki with the more golden ones to ensure even cooking. (This is due to the inevitable heat spots on the pan, generally the ones in the middle directly over the heat source cook faster.)
- Once the outside looks golden and crisp, remove the takoyaki from the pan. (The middle is still usually a bit runny, this is normal and you don’t need to cook it until it’s firm all the way through.)
- Place the cooked takoyaki on a plate and brush the with the sauce from earlier. Drizzle with mayonnaise and sprinkle with your choice of toppings.
- Repeat until the all the batter and ingredients are used up.