Home Appetizers 17 Popular Japanese Appetizers

17 Popular Japanese Appetizers

Gyoza, tsukune, and salted edamame are just a few of the tasty Japanese appetizers I’m sharing with you today.

Most of them share similar ingredients and seasonings, but each is uniquely delicious. 

And all of them will make your mouth water. 

Japanese Fried Dumplings or Gyoza
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Are you crazy about Japanese food? Same here! Japanese cuisine is all about umami flavors, which basically equate to ultimate deliciousness. 

What’s better than having sushi and tempura for lunch? Having an equally delectable appetizer to complement their flavors! 

In this list, I have it all, from the traditional onigiri to a Westernized chicken salad.

These Japanese starters are guaranteed to get your taste buds ready and excited for the main course.

Are you ready for a fun food trip to Japan? Let’s get the party started. 

1. Vegetable Gyoza 

Let’s get the ball rolling with these dumplings! Gyoza is a meat-filled pan-fried potsticker traditionally served as an appetizer or side dish in Japan.

The crisp-bottomed golden dumpling usually contains ground pork or beef, but we’re switching it up to make the dish vegetarian-friendly.

With this recipe, everybody gets to enjoy the goodness of gyoza.

With the combination of tofu, shitake mushrooms, carrots, and cabbage, this gyoza is salty, savory, and earthy in one bite. It’s so flavorful, you won’t even miss the meat!

2. Sweet and Spicy Soy Glazed Edamame

Japanese restaurants typically serve this crunchy green vegetable as a meal-starter.

Normally, edamame is flavored with a simple sprinkling of salt, but in this recipe gives it a bit more flavor.

The secret weapon is a glaze made of soy sauce – a salty condiment popular in many Asian countries.

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This blend of soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger makes edamame even more addicting.

The best part is it could not be easier to make. It’s done in less than 10 minutes!

3. Japanese Chilled Tofu 

Tofu doesn’t really sound that exciting, but wait until you try this dish.

Called hiyayakko, this appetizer is made of silken tofu topped with dried bonito flakes, green onions, and freshly grated ginger and drizzled with a bit of soy sauce. 

The tofu itself is like no other. It’s insanely smooth and creamy, and it melts in your mouth.

Together with the toppings and the sauce, it makes for a refreshingly delightful appetizer that’s perfect for the summer. 

4. Japanese Pickled Cucumbers with Soy Sauce

Pickled cucumbers are another staple in Japanese meals. It’s a popular appetizer, but you can also have it for an afternoon snack. 

Try dipping it in hummus. I’m telling you, it’s so good you’ll forget your name.

You can even add it to salads and sandwiches for a refreshing bite. 

But my absolute favorite is to cook these cukes in a marinade of soy sauce and ginger.

It’s a crunchy, sweet, and tangy appetizer with a bit of a kick. It’s simply amazing.

5. Harumaki (Japanese Spring Rolls with Pork)

Harumaki is a delightful appetizer comprising a crisp golden shell filled with a medley of pork, vegetables, and mushrooms.

It’s an infusion of Chinese and Japanese cuisines, and your American palate will love it.

As if it couldn’t taste any better, the filling is also cooked with soy sauce, ginger, scallions, sesame oil, and mirin.

It’s flavor-packed on the inside and insanely crunchy on the outside: a perfect combination, as I like to call it.

6. Gyoza Sauce 

As tasty as gyoza is, it’s not complete without the dipping sauce.

If you’re making the first recipe on this list, you may want to serve it with this ridiculously delicious gyoza sauce.

It’s a four-ingredient sauce that’s easily customizable to suit your taste. The base is a simple blend of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili flakes. 

It’s pretty fantastic on its own, but you can also add sugar, garlic, and ginger for more flavor.

7. Japanese Miso Eggplant

Besides cucumbers, eggplant is another staple vegetable in Japanese cooking. It’s used as an ingredient in many entrees, but in this appetizer, it’s the star.

Flavored with miso – a soybean-based condiment – this appetizer is sweet, salty, and super refreshing.

Serve it hot or warm – it doesn’t matter. It’s wonderful regardless.

Pro-tip: do not let this dish sit at room temperature for a long period. Eat it right away to prevent it from turning soggy.

8. Japanese Izakaya Style Salted Cabbage

Izakaya isn’t a dish; it’s the Japanese term for a pub. Confused? Let me explain. 

While in the US, we like to pair beer with onion rings and chicken wings, the Japanese drink their sake with cabbage.

It may not sound enticing, but trust me, the crunchy-salty appetizer is seriously addictive.

It’s so good, you’ll want to ask for more. Fortunately, most izakayas will refill your plate for free!

Even better, you can make it at home with very little effort and at a fraction of the cost.

9. Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) 

Onigiri is hands down, my favorite Japanese appetizer. These rice balls are to die for!

No matter the shape – triangular or oval – I don’t care. I’ll eat them. I’ll eat them all!

Onigiri is usually filled with salted salmon or pickled plums and wrapped in nori, but it’s perfectly delicious even without it. 

In this recipe, you’ll make onigiri sans the filling, but you’ll brush it with soy sauce. It’s also grilled to give it a wonderfully crisp exterior. Yum.

10. Simmered Daikon 

Daikon, or white radish, is simmered in a soy-based broth for a light appetizer. It’s probably the simplest recipe on this list, but don’t underestimate its flavor!

With a dash of wasabi, simmered daikon turns into a phenomenon.

This recipe uses the fukumeni method, which calls for cooking the daikon in a light-flavored broth.

The idea is to let the authentic taste and color of the daikon shine, but give it a bit of flavor at the same time.

11. Japanese Chicken Salad 

This next appetizer can’t really count as authentic, but it will definitely remind you of Japanese flavors. 

At a glance, it looks like just like any other salad with chopped cabbage, onions, chicken, and almonds.

But if you look closely, you’ll understand completely what makes it Japanese.

You see, those thin wavy strands are none other than ramen noodles!

Aside from the unique crunch, the seasoning that comes with it also adds flavor to the dressing. Genius, right?

12. Japanese Cucumber Salad

Sunomono is a crunchy and refreshing salad with delectable Asian flavors.

Cucumbers are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and sugar.

Red chili flakes give it a touch of heat, while roasted peanuts add a nice umami crunch.

You can serve Japanese cucumber salad as an appetizer or a side dish for sandwiches and burgers. 

13. Japanese Watercress Salad 

Watercress is a crunchy, leafy vegetable commonly used in Japanese cooking. Just like spinach, it has soft leaves, crunchy stems, and a lot of vitamins.

This salad is very simple – just watercress, no other ingredients – but man, it’s delicious. 

What makes it stand out is the dressing, which is made of soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, and salt.

It’s sweet, nutty, salty, tangy, and savory all at the same time.

14. Tsukune (Japanese Chicken Meatballs) 

Meatballs are usually made with ground pork or beef. These chicken meatballs, however, are just as impressive.

Aside from being super tender and juicy, what makes this appetizer so good is the glaze. Made from a soy sauce-base, it’s sweet, salty, and umami-rich!

It’s sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds for extra crunch and flavor.

They’re best served as an appetizer, but I wouldn’t mind serving this as a main course with a bowl of rice.

15. Salted Edamame 

You can’t go wrong with a simple yet flavor-packed appetizer. Edamame is perfectly delicious as it is, and there really is no need to dress it up further.

All it takes is a bit of salt and boom, these soybeans are ready.

Ready your biggest pot! When it comes to edamame, you’ll definitely need to cook a lot. Don’t worry, it is 100% guilt-free.

16. Japanese Coleslaw 

Japanese coleslaw is a bright and crunchy appetizer perfect to start any meal.

While we usually dress up shredded cabbage with mayo, the Japanese prefer soy sauce and lemon. The result is an ultra-light and refreshing dish.

Once you’ve had a taste, you’ll get hooked! The crunch from the cabbage and the tanginess from the vinaigrette make such a tasty pair.

It’s good as it is, but try it with bonito flakes, too! The added umami flavor is fantastic.

17. Japanese Rice Paper Roll

This Vietnamese-inspired Japanese dish is a beautiful mash-up of cuisines.

Glutinous Vietnamese rice paper is used to wrap prawns, bean sprouts, carrot sticks, avocado, and lettuce. 

With a sweet and spicy dipping sauce, these rolls are refreshing, flavorful, and truly sensational. Bet you can’t stop at one!

17 Popular Japanese Appetizers


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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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