These 5 Easy Japanese Recipes Will Save You From Ordering Expensive Takeout

Updated 04/12/19

The Modern Proper

There’s a scene in the Salt episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat when Samin Nosrat is mesmerized by a historic process in Japan of turning seaweed into salt. “For most people, at least in America, salt is something that we buy in the store, and you don’t think about where it comes from,” she says. Truthfully, much of the highly-intricate cooking traditions of this Asian island country oppose the quick-and-easy mindset of American cooking, and maybe that’s why it's so intriguing. After all, Japanese cooking is all about simple, fresh ingredients that have been meticulously prepared, and that kind of focus is aspirational.

But if you question just how much patience you have to emulate Japanese precision in your kitchen, then we suggest starting small. These five easy Japanese recipes take the most central and recognizable flavors of the country’s cooking traditions—like miso, teriyaki, soba noodles, and rice—and blend them into dishes that can be recreated without much of a sweat. In fact, because patience isn’t honed overnight, most of these recipes can be made within an hour. Start with these five recommendations, and see where your interest in Japanese cooking takes you. You might end up following in Nosrat’s footsteps on a food journey to the country, too.

Miso Soup—Easy Japanese Recipes
Half Baked Harvest

Time It Takes: 40 minutes

What Makes It Easy: Inspired by the classic Japanese seasoning of miso, which is a thick paste of fermented soybeans, this heartwarming recipe from Tieghan Gerard at Half Baked Harvest includes white miso paste, freshly grated ginger, chopped onions, sliced squash, and shiitake mushrooms. It might take a little finesse to get the wonton wrappers just right for the dumplings, but once you get those down, all it takes is plopping those dumplings into a soup with the other fresh ingredients. 

Why We Love It: The fresh dumplings and rich miso flavor make this otherwise simple soup a dynamic meal. You can swap out the squash for other fresh vegetables when they're not in season, too. 

Caramelized Teriyaki Salmon—Easy Japanese Recipes
Half Baked Harvest 

Time It Takes: 30 minutes

What Makes It Easy: Once again, Tieghan Gerard at Half Baked Harvest relies on another Japanese sauce—this time, the more well-known teriyaki—to help caramelize salmon. The Japanese flavors of sake and soy sauce are present, too, which are whisked together with other ingredients and cooked with seared salmon. This recipe mostly involves stirring ingredients together, so the challenge comes with cooking everything until it's all perfectly done. 

Why We Love It: While the buckwheat adds a nice texture to the salmon, Gerard also recommends swapping it out for soba noodles, which are another delicious Japanese ingredient. In fact, soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat.

Miso Soba Noodle Soup—Easy Japanese Recipes
Stuck in the Kitchen

Time It Takes: 30 minutes

What Makes It Easy: In this recipe from Sara Tuck at Stuck in the Kitchen, soba noodles are used front and center in Japanese-inspired ramen that also mixes in miso paste, sliced ginger, Swiss brown mushrooms, sesame seeds, and tofu. 

Why We Love It: This recipe involves a simple combination of flavors and textures, and the hardest thing to do is to wait for the ingredients—namely, the dried mushrooms and ginger—to steep in boiling water. Once they're ready, the other ingredients are layered in. 

Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice—Easy Japanese Recipes
The Modern Proper

Time It Takes: 20 minutes

What Makes It Easy: Holly Erickson at the Modern Proper takes the Japanese dietary staple of rice and combines it into the flavorful recipe that includes sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions, rice vinegar, chopped ham, pineapple juice, and eggs. There are a lot of ingredients here, but the prep and cook time is easy: Start things off with hot oil, add the vegetables, then the eggs, then the ham, and then the rice. All the flavors will combine in minutes. 

Why We Love It: Rice is a given at pretty much any Japanese meal, and this recipe makes it a show-stopping ingredient with plenty of color and texture. 

Sushi Bowl—Easy Japanese Recipes
The Modern Proper

Time It Takes: 20 minutes

What Makes It Easy: Once again, Holly Erickson at the Modern Proper serves up bold, healthy Japanese flavors with this sushi bowl, which features seasoned rice with nori, teriyaki chicken, cucumber wedges, and sesame seeds. Most of the hard work in this recipe comes from the prep—as in, seasoning the rice, creating the teriyaki marinade, and whipping up the sriracha mayonnaise. But the flavors that come together give a modern spin on Japanese cooking that's worth the wrist work. 

Why We Love It: This recipe uses nori, or seaweed, as part of the dish, adding extra crunch between the rice, chicken, and cucumber. And it's easy to accommodate other ingredients into the bowl as it becomes a part of your cooking routine. 

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