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!
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon and Dokodemo affiliate links. Sudachi Recipes earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. See disclaimer for more info.
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.
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 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.
- 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