Takoyaki is an iconic Japanese street food that you can enjoy making at home. Light, crispy outside with soft chewy centre, filled with octopus, pickled ginger and topped with a variety of tasty toppings, these authentic, festival style takoyaki are totally addictive and perfect for parties or fun family dinners!
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What is Takoyaki?
Takoyaki is a type of Japanese street-food snack. It's a small dumpling, made from a thin batter and cooked in a special circular mold so that it becomes 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.
Where did Takoyaki come from?
Takoyaki first appeared in Osaka, Western Japan. It was created in the 1930's by a man called Tomekichi Endo, who opened a store called "Aizuya" (会津屋). Although this was the birthplace of takoyaki as we know it today, takoyaki started its journey as something quite different.
When Endo first opened Aizuya, he was selling a dumpling called "rajioyaki". This name was inspired by "radio", which was a new technology at the time and became a word often used to name new trendy items.
Rajioyaki (ラジオ焼き) was made from a wheat flour batter and filled with pickles, konjac and beef. Then, one day, a customer from the city of Akashi (about 1 hour west of Osaka) mentioned eating dumplings with octopus inside instead.
The dumpling that the customer was referring to was "Akashiyaki" (明石焼き), also known as tamagoyaki (卵焼き) to the locals. Akashiyaki is made from an egg batter and octopus, which is then dipped in a dashi broth before eating.
Endo switched from beef and konjac, to boiled octopus... and the rest is history!
There are actually loads of different ingredients you can use to make takoyaki, so I'm going to break it down into the batter, the fillings and the toppings. Let's look at each element in detail!
Takoyaki batter is usually made with a few basic ingredients.
- Dashi broth
- Weak Flour (also known as cake flour)
- Tsuyu (or soy sauce)
Although the ratio of the ingredients vary from recipe to recipe, these are the fundamental elements of takoyaki batter. I like to use weak wheat flour (cake flour) in my recipe so the batter becomes light and fluffy, my batter is also quite thin.
Actually, when families make takoyaki at home, they usually buy a "takoyaki kit" that contains takoyaki flour, tenkasu, aonori and benishoga. All you need to add is egg, water and octopus! You can buy this Takoyaki Kit on Amazon.
If you want to learn how to make your own dashi, check out my post here! And if you want to make takoyaki without meat or seafood, I also have a vegetarian dashi recipe here.
As you can expect, the most common and popular filling for takoyaki is of course, octopus. They also usually contain spring onions, benishoga (pickled ginger) and tenkasu (tempura bits) too.
If you can't or don't want to use octopus, there's a number of other fillings you can use instead!
- Spring onion
Keep in mind that takoyaki doesn't take long to cook so your fillings should be precooked. (The octopus in takoyaki is always pre-boiled.)
Here are some of the most common sauces and toppings you can add to takoyaki!
- Takoyaki sauce (recipe below)
- Chopped spring onion
- Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
- Aonori (dry seaweed powder)
- Ponzu (A soy based citrus sauce)
- Grated daikon radish
Unfortunately, in order to make takoyaki, you need a takoyaki pan (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.
I personally use this Iwatani Takoyaki Grill Pan (Amazon affiliate link) on a gas stove and the picture above is the electric takoyaki pan from my family home. (I don't know the brand.)
It's not too difficult to find electric takoyaki pans online these days, just bear in mind that if you are buying electrical products, 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.
Tips for making the perfect Takoyaki
Making perfectly round takoyaki takes a little bit of practice, but if you follow these tips, you'll have it in no time!
- Use plenty of oil - This will ensure that the outside gets a bit crispy and the takoyaki doesn't get stuck to the pan when you're turning it.
- 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 when it starts to cook and firm up, push the excess batter into the mold and turn it.
- Use picks or bamboo skewers to turn them - It's easy to use a pick to turn each takoyaki.
- Swap places - Usually the heat isn't 100% evenly spread across the takoyaki pan. Swap the positions of pale ones with golden ones to ensure they're all evenly cooked.
Friends and families often enjoy having takoyaki parties! Show off your skills and have fun making this street-food favourite at home!
4 different versions of takoyaki at home
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 takoyaki shop in Japan, I'm sure you must have seen extensive menu more than just "sauce takoyaki."
So here, I will share 4 ideas you can use at home to create takoyaki with twist!
Soy sauce (shoyu takoyaki)
The biggest competitor against sauce takoyaki is soy sauce takoyaki!
There is this old school takoyaki shop 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 ½ tsp per 8 balls
- Recommended: For a saltier flavour
Grated daikon + ponzu (a.k.a negipon)
Refreshing flavour from a mountain of grated daikon and sourness from a citrus soy sauce called "ponzu"? This is another Japanese favourite!
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 large amount of grated daikon, ponzu and chopped spring onion
- Amount: desired amount of grated daikon, 1 tbsp ponzu and 1 tbsp spring onion
- Recommended: For refreshing flavour
Ponzu + Shichimi chilli powder
Do you like spicy flavour? Then this can be the topping variation for you!
The sourness of ponzu and hint of spiciness from shichimi chilli 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 ¼ tsp shichimi chilli powder
- Recommended: For some sour / spicy kick
Salt + Mayo
Whether you believe it or now, one trend in Japan is "salt takoyaki"
The idea is, by removing fancy flavoursome sauce, you can enjoy every bit of takoyaki balls themselves.
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 beyond 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 flavour!
- How to make differently: Sprinkle with salt
- Amount: 2 pinches
- Recommended: To enjoy takoyaki as it is to the fullest
Lemon juice, salt and chopped spring onions
Looking for 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 and 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 ½ 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 this sounds good to you, you'll 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 to the others as it's takoyaki with dipping sauce!
It's a homage to takoyaki's descendant "akashiyaki" and you can experience something different.
For dashi tsuyu, you can simply use the same sauce as kake udon soup or premade tsuyu sauce mixed with water.
- How to make differently: Prepare dashi tsuyu and dip takoyaki
- Amount: 100ml dashi tsuyu (if you wanna make it from scratch, you can refer to kake udon recipe)
- Recommended: To try something completely different
Step by step recipe
Takoyaki (Japanese Fried Octopus Balls)
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 2-3 portions 1x
How to make delicious, light and flavourful authentic Japanese Takoyaki octopus balls. (Makes approx 30 takoyaki, serves 2-3 people)
- 1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tbsp tsuyu sauce
- ½ tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp honey
- 500ml dashi
- 1 egg
- 100g cake flour
- 1 tsp tsuyu sauce
- Sesame oil (for cooking)
- 120g boiled octopus (see post/note for alternatives)
- 4 tbsp benishoga (pickled ginger)
- ½ cup chopped spring onion
- ½ cup tenkasu (tempura crumbs)
(Add according to preference)
- Japanese mayonnaise
- Aonori (Dried seaweed powder)
- Katsuobushi (Dried bonito flakes)
- Chopped spring onion
- First, make the sauce by pouring 1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce, ½ tbsp tsuyu sauce, ½ tbsp ketchup and 1 tbsp of honey in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside for later.
- Next, take a mixing bowl, pour in 500ml of dashi and crack in one egg. Whisk well.
- Once it's whisked together, add 1 tsp of tsuyu sauce.
- Add 100g of cake flour (no need to sift) and whisk well until smooth.
- Cut octopus into small pieces (approx 1 inch / 2.5cm) and finely chop the benishoga.
- Heat up the takoyaki pan and generously coat the mold with sesame oil. (I recommend using a brush. If you don't have one, spread the oil using kitchen paper.)
- Once the takoyaki pan is smoking, pour the batter into the mold, filling it half way.
- Add the octopus pieces to each slot and then pour more of the batter over the top, making sure the surface is completely covered. (Even the surface around the slots.)
- Sprinkle the chopped spring onion, tenkasu and benishoga generously over the top of the wet batter and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Using wooden chopsticks or a long bamboo skewer, draw lines between the slots to evenly divide the batter on the surface around each takoyaki.
- Roll the takoyaki once by scraping the bamboo skewer around the edge of the slot and 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 your takoyaki is round enough, brush with another layer of sesame oil and keep rolling the takoyaki one by one.
- Swap the placement of any white takoyaki with the more golden ones to ensure even cooking.
- 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 on a plate and brush the takoyaki with sauce, drizzle with mayonnaise and sprinkle with aonori, katsuobushi and chopped spring onion.
- Repeat until the ingredients are finished.
It takes time to perfect the shape, practice makes perfect!
Cooking time depends on the pan you use and the size of the molds.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Street food
- Method: Fry
- Cuisine: Japanese
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After reading the part about the takoyaki pan and its possible alternatives, I felt I needed to leave a comment on this article.
I am not familiar with the takoyaki pan or this Dutch Aebleskive pan. Why this pan is called Dutch aebleskive pan in English, I don't know, because this is something Danish and I haven't seen it in the stores here in the Netherlands.
Because I am Dutch, but here in the Netherlands we have another traditional dish called "poffertjes" - who are best described as miniature pancakes - and they are baked in a similar pan as the takoyaki pan. Therefore, takoyaki is always descriped as "savoury japanese poffertjes" here. Some TV cooks even mention that they can be made in a poffertjes pan.
But by the looks of it, a takoyaki pan is not entirly the same as a poffertjes pan. I have the impression that the wells of a poffertjes pan are a bit shallower. I have measured the wells and they are 2,4 cm in diameter and 1 cm deep, for references. Therefore I think that if you were to use these, you need to chop your filling a little bit smaller, but I haven't been able to try it so far.
Hi Laura, thank you for your comment and bringing this to my attention. Actually aebleskiver are Danish and as you mention, poffertjes are Dutch. I remember reading about both when I was writing this article and must of gotten them mixed up. I'm sorry about that! I appreciate you pointing this out and I've updated the article.
I agree that poffertjes look smaller than aebleskiver and takoyaki, it might be difficult to make takoyaki in a poffertjes pan because the octopus would need to be cut very small. I'd love to hear if it works though, please let us know if you try it.
Hello Yuto and other curious readers,
Yesterday I tried making takoyaki in the poffertjes pan. Although I had to make it with cultivated mushrooms, as octopus is not easy available here. I wasn't unhappy about the result, but it wasn't picture worthy (most of them looked more like failed Kaiserschmarrn). But I think that had more to do with my own skills then that it doesn't work.
I used my moms heavy traditional cast-iron pan that need to be put on a (gas) stove, as I do not have access to my own untill around christmas. The difference with my own is, that I have an electric waffle iron with excangable non-stick plates - including a poffertjes plate. This requires a bit different technique in the baking process.
As such, I had difficulties in estimating how much oil I need to use per well, meaning that some were more deepfried, whereas others did not want to release from the well.
I had taken into account that I need to cut the filling smaller, but I hadn't taken it into account that a smaller well also means that the batter becomes faster solid. As a result, I didn't add all the filling (mushroom and spring onion) fast enough. I.e. the filling didn't go deep enough in the batter anymore.
Therefore I think next time, I would even cut the fillings smaller and mix them together before starting. This way I can take a "pinch" of the filling and hopefully add them all at once fast enough.
As for the turning them around, I did this as I would do for poffertjes, meaning they are only turned around once. I didn't think that there would be any point trying to get them spherical, as a poffertje-well is mathematically roughly 1/75 of its sphere in volume, and therefore just the cap. The problem here is that I could not turn them around untill the batter wasn't liquid anymore, but then the surface that was up before could not go properly in the well to get baked aswell.
Therefore I really would like to try to make the takoyaki in my own waffel/ poffertjes iron. Because here I would fill the well, and close it so it gets bottom and top heat at the same time. Beside this, the manifacturer recommends turning the machine upside down (the machine is designed that way) immediatly after closing, so that the batter can divide properly, and turning it staight later in the baking process.
Furthermore, the traditional poffertjes batter contains yeast and the non-traditional one bakingpowder, meaning it would rise during baking. In addition, the water/flower ratio is different and therefore easier to turn around when it is semi-liquid, allowing it to be more flexible and filling the well after turning it around.
As a result, it wasn't really clear to me if the cakeflower you use contains baking powder or anything else to make it rise while baking. The recipe I have to make cakeflower is 82-87% flower, 10-15% starch (potato or corn) and 3% bakingpowder. This resulted in 3 gram baking powder.
I also have another question. As far as I can tell, tsuyu sauce is not available, and also the ingredients aren't very easy to get here. The Asian cuisine here is heavely dominated by chineese and indonesian influences. As you were stating that tsuyu sauce is mainly soysauce with a taste of sweet and umami, I was wondering if tsuyu sause can be (sometimes) replaced - in your opinion - by ketchap manis, maybe with some extra mushroom. For now, I just used soysause (by the way, japanese soysause is available here and I know how to make ketjap manis myself, so I could leave out/ add things/ change ratio if I want to).
In addition, sake is more easy available then mirin, as making sushi is on the rise here. But from my "Aroma" book I didn't get any wiser then that sake contains a higher alcohol percentage then mirin, but both taste great with fish. Therefore I was also wondering wheather or not they can be exchanged with each other.
To make a long story short, I am definitly going to try it again around christmas with my own waffel/ poffertjes iron. For comparison I will "tweak" the poffertjes batter to obtain takoyaki flavour, and see what happens (I like appologise to poffertjes/ takoyaki traditionalist before hand, but I just like an experiment). So, to be continued...
Thank you so much for sharing your results with us!
Takoyaki takes some practice to get a nice shape, I had to practice many times too.
To be honest, it's better to use more oil so that it's easier to turn. The outside also becomes crispy, it's okay if it has a deep fried effect. (Although this is my personal preference.)
The poffertjes pan seems to be smaller than I thought, I think that adding the ingredients to the batter is a great idea in this case, seeing as it cooks too quickly to add it in later.
The cake flour I use doesn't contain baking powder, the main reason to use cake flour is due to the low gluten content which makes the takoyaki lighter and a bit airy. We don't really need it to rise because we turn it as it cooks. (Although, if it does rise a little, I don't think it would cause problems. The eggs would add a little rise anyway.)
As for tsuyu sauce, this recipe only uses a little and I think soy sauce is a fine substitute. I've never used ketchap manis, but I do have a recipe for homemade tsuyu sauce here > http://sudachirecipes.com/multipurpose-tsuyu-sauce/
This recipe doesn't require sake or mirin (unless you decide to make your own tsuyu sauce.) Sake and Mirin are both kinds of rice "wine" but sake has a higher alcohol content and mirin is sweeter (a natural sweetness develops during the fermentation process.) They taste quite different and I wouldn't suggest exchanging them with each other, many Japanese recipes use them both because they have different qualities.
Some people use a small amount of sake and then increase the sugar in place of mirin, this works for things like teriyaki sauce, but I haven't tried it with tsuyu sauce. Hope this helps and I wish you all the best with your takoyaki making journey!