Tonkatsu is a classic Japanese dish of deep-fried pork cutlets. Crispy and golden brown, it is typically served with a side of cabbage and white rice. This 30-minute recipe will make you feel like a pro! Don’t skip the homemade tonkatsu sauce.

Crispy tonkatsu is served with homemade tonkatsu sauce and crisp cabbage

This Western-inspired Japanese pork cutlet dish, called tonkatsu, is one of our household favorites.

Typically served with rice and shredded cabbage, and often with a side of miso soup, tonkatsu is popular both at home and at restaurants.

My kids love tonkatsu and I’ve been making this crispy and crunchy pork with savory homemade tonkatsu sauce as long as I can remember.

What is Tonkatsu?

Ton (豚) = pork
Katsu (カツ) = cutlet (Katsu is an abbreviation of Katsuretu, カツレツ)

Tonkatsu is a Japanese version of European pan-fried meat, similar to a British cutlet (where the name came after), German schnitzel, or Italian piccata.

The Japanese pork cutlet version uses lean pork loin. Slices of pork are first pounded (to tenderize), then breaded with flour, egg, and Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). Then, it is deep-fried in oil instead of pan-fried.

Japanese tonkatsu must be accompanied by the savory tonkatsu sauce (either homemade or store-bought), along with a bed of shredded green cabbage, and of course steamed rice. A side of miso soup will complete the meal.

Tonkatsu is also a common item for bento (Japanese boxed lunch) and a popular base ingredient for a Japanese pork rice bowl dish called Katsu donburi or Katsudon.

crispy pork culet is sliced and served with homemade tonkatsu sauce

Tonkatsu Sauce

You can’t have tonkatsu without the savory sauce. Tonkatsu sauce gives a slightly sweet and tangy flavor and so delicious with the crispy port cutlet.

Making it homemade is super easy and quick with just a few basic everyday condiments. Based with Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and other flavorings are added. It has a thick consistency and is great for drizzling or dipping.

I recommend adding crushed toasted sesame seeds. It adds a toasty nutty flavor to the sauce.

Recipe tips

Before you get started, a few quick notes that you need to remember;

  • Pork: Use lean pork loin, about 1/2-inch thickness.
  • Pounding: Pounding helps tenderize the pork and stretch it out to a thin layer.
  • Panko crumbs: Moistened panko crumbs makes a crispier coating. Spray panko with water several times to moisten the crumbs, but not overly. Do not use western-style fine breadcrumbs.
  • Deep-frying: Double deep-frying makes the cutlet more crispy and ensures thorough cooking. Use enough oil to cover the cutlet so that it fries evenly.
  • Clean the oil in between batches: It’s important to remove the breadcrumb particles to keep the oil clean, so the oil does not turn dark and disrupt the results of the coating. Skim off the fried crumbs between batches with a fine-mesh strainer.
  • Shredded green cabbage: Soak them in cold water (or ice water) for 10 minutes. Soaking makes the cabbage come alive and really crisps up the texture.

How to make tonkatsu at Home

Grab these ingredients;

For cutlet

  • pork loin: 1/2-inch thick lean pork loin would be ideal
  • salt and pepper: to season the pork
  • flour, egg, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs): to coat the pork
  • oil for deep- frying: Use high smoking point oil. I use peanut oil

For quick homemade tonkatsu sauce

Mix the following ingredients all together.

  • ketchup
  • worcestershire sauce
  • soy sauce
  • brown sugar
  • dry mustard
  • onion powder
  • toasted sesame seeds – crushed

Step 1: Make tonkatsu sauce

  • Grind toasted sesame seeds roughly in a Japanese mortar and pestle. Do not grind them too fine. You will want to leave some unground.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine all the tonkatsu sauce ingredients and add a desired amount of ground sesame seeds; mix well and set aside. You can also add more sesame seeds just before you serve.

Step 2: Make slits and pound the pork.

  • Place pork on a working surface. Using a pair of scissor, make several slits on the connective tissue (white area) between the meat and fat. This will help prevent the pork from curling up during deep-frying.
  • Cover the pork with a piece of plastic wrap and pound both sides with meat hammer. (You can also use a rolling pin). The pork should become thinner and stretched out.
Pounded pork loin slices are seasoned with salt and pepper.

Step 3: Season the pork.

  • Season pounded pork pieces with salt and pepper lightly on both sides.

Step 4: Breading

  • Prepare breading, flour, egg, and panko. Spray panko with water a few times to moisten. Bread the pork slices with flour lightly, then coat with egg.
  • Cover the pork in panko by pressing the panko down gently on the meat. Remove excess panko. Set the pork aside for 5-10 minutes.

Make ahead tip: You can prepare the breading step ahead of time and keep the breaded pork in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.

Step 5: First deep fry

  • Heat a batch of oil in your pot or pan to reach to 330ºF (170ºC) over medium heat. You can also test by dropping one piece of panko into the oil: if it sinks down but immediately comes right up and bubbly, then the oil is ready.
  • Deep fry once slice of pork at a time so that you don’t drastically lower the oil temperature. Gently put one pork cutlet into the oil and cook – without flipping it – for 1-2 minutes. Then, turn the pork to the other side and deep-fry another 1-2 minute (again without flipping it). The coating should be lightly golden.
  • Using tongs, take the pork out and remove excess oil by holding the cutlet vertically and slightly shaking it off. Place on a wire rack or paper towel and let it sit until the rest of the batch is deep-fried.
A fine mesh strainer is skimming  off the floating fried crumbs in between deep-frying.

Step 6: Remove any floating crumbs in between batches.

  • Make sure to scoop up any floating fried crumbs from the oil with a fine fat skimmer in between batches. You can lower the heat while doing this.
  • It’s very important to keep the oil clean so the oil does not get darker with burnt crumbs. Return the heat to medium and bring the oil back to 330ºF (160ºC).

Step 7: Second deep-fry

  • Prepare for the second deep-frying. Raise the oil temperature to 350˚F (175˚C). Fry the pork again for 1-2 minutes on both sides until deep golden brown. If the coating darkens too quickly, reduce the heat slightly.

Serving suggestion

Slice tonkatsu into wide strips. Serve immediately with homemade tonkatsu sauce, crisped shredded green cabbage, and rice.

Drizzle tonkatsu sauce directly over the cutlet, or dip the cutlet pieces into the sauce. You can also drizzle the sauce over the cabbage and serve together.

More Japanese Recipes

If you love Japanese dishes, Here are a few of my favorites that I recommend you to try:

Sliced Tonkatsu that are topped with sauce and shredded cabbage slices are showing the moist meat inside.

This recipe was originally posted in September 2010. I’ve updated the recipe with a few changes, new photos, and more information.

Crispy tonkatsu is served with homemade tonkatsu sauce and crisp cabbage

30-Minute Crispy Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)

Crispy and golden brown, tonkatsu is a popular Japanese dish made from a deep-fried, breaded pork cutlet. Don't skip homemade tonkatsu sauce. This easy 30-minute recipe will make you feel like a pro!
5 from 1 rating

Ingredients

For pork cutlet

  • 1 1/4 lb pork loin, 3/8-1/2 inch thick slices
  • salt and pepper , to season
  • flour, to coat
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cup panko
  • water spray
  • 2 cups oil, for deep-frying

Quick homemade tonkatsu sauce

Equipment

Instructions 

To make tonkatsu sauce

  • Grind toasted sesame seeds roughly in a Japanese mortar and pestle. Do not grind them too fine. You will want to leave some roughly ground.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine all the tonkatsu sauce ingredients and add a desired amount of ground sesame seeds; mix well and set aside. You can also add the sesame seeds just before you serve.

For the breading of pork cutlet

  • Place pork on a working surface. Using a pair of scissor, make several slits on the connective tissue (white area) between the meat and fat. This will help prevent the pork from curling up during deep-frying.
  • Cover the pork with a piece of plastic wrap and pound both sides with meat hammer. (You can also use a rolling pin). The pork should become thinner and stretched out. Season with salt and pepper lightly on both sides.
  • Prepare breading, flour, egg, and panko. Spray panko with water a few times to moisten. Bread the pork slices with flour lightly, then coat with egg. Cover the pork in panko by pressing the panko down gently on the meat. Remove excess panko.

For the deep-frying

  • Heat a batch of oil in your pot or pan to reach to 330ºF (170ºC) over medium heat. You can also test by dropping one piece of panko into the oil: if it sinks down but immediately comes right up and bubbly, then the oil is ready.
  • Deep fry once slice of pork at a time so that you don’t drastically lower the oil temperature. Gently put one pork cutlet into the oil and cook – without flipping it – for 1-2 minutes. Then, turn the pork to the other side and deep-fry another 1-2 minute (again without flipping it). The coating should be lightly golden.
  • Using tongs, take the pork out and remove excess oil by holding the cutlet vertically and slightly shaking it off. Place on a wire rack or paper towel and let it sit until the rest of the batch is deep-fried.
  • Make sure to scoop up any floating fried crumbs from the oil with a fine mesh strainer in between batches. You can lower the heat while doing this. It's very important to keep the oil clean so the oil does not get darker with burnt crumbs. Return the heat to medium and bring the oil back to 330ºF (160ºC).
  • Prepare for the second deep-frying. Raise the oil temperature to 350˚F (175˚C). Fry the pork again for 1-2 minutes on both sides until deep golden brown. If the coating darkens too quickly, reduce the heat slightly.
  • Slice tonkatsu into wide strips. Serve immediately with homemade tonkatsu sauce, crisped shredded green cabbage, and rice. Drizzle tonkatsu sauce directly over the cutlet, or dip the cutlet pieces into the sauce. You can also drizzle the sauce over the cabbage and serve together.

Notes

Make ahead tip: You can prepare the breading step ahead of time and keep the breaded pork in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.
Calories: 634kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 40g, Fat: 40g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 171mg, Sodium: 807mg, Potassium: 779mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 168IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 133mg, Iron: 4mg
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