Crispy Japanese Tonkatsu: The Ultimate Comfort Food

Easy Japanese Tonkatsu & Chicken Katsu Recipe - Crunchy Breaded Pork or Chicken Cutlets

Discover how to make irresistibly crispy, juicy Japanese tonkatsu (breaded pork or chicken cutlets) in your own kitchen. This beloved comfort food staple brings the flavors of Japan straight to your plate!

Imagine biting into a perfectly golden-brown cutlet, hearing the satisfying crunch of panko breadcrumbs giving way to tender, succulent meat inside. That’s the magic of tonkatsu! Whether you choose pork or chicken, this dish is sure to become a family favorite. Plus, it’s easier to make than you might think!

Tonkatsu has become as ubiquitous in Japan as pizza is in the US. You’ll find it everywhere from high-end restaurants to bustling food courts. But why settle for takeout when you can create restaurant-quality tonkatsu at home? Let’s dive into the art of crafting this Japanese classic.

The Secret to Authentic Tonkatsu

Two elements set tonkatsu apart from other breaded cutlets: the use of panko breadcrumbs and the accompanying tonkatsu sauce. Panko creates an unparalleled crispy texture, while the sweet and tangy sauce completes the flavor profile. For the most authentic experience, look for Bull-Dog brand tonkatsu sauce – it’s the gold standard in Japan!

Choosing Your Meat

While pork is traditional, chicken is an excellent alternative. Here’s what to look for:

For Pork Tonkatsu:

  • Opt for pork sirloin cutlets or loin cutlets from near the shoulder or sirloin
  • Look for cuts with good fat marbling to ensure juicy results
  • Aim for 4-5 ounce portions, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

For Chicken Katsu:

  • Use either chicken breasts or thighs
  • Chicken thighs are more forgiving and less prone to drying out
  • If using breasts, consider brining them for 3-4 hours for extra juiciness

Mastering the Breading Technique

The key to perfect tonkatsu lies in the three-step breading process:

  1. Dredge in flour
  2. Dip in beaten egg
  3. Coat thoroughly with panko breadcrumbs

Don’t skip the flour! It acts like a primer, ensuring even coating and preventing the breading from slipping off during frying. Your efforts will be rewarded with a uniformly crispy, golden exterior.

Frying to Perfection

Achieve tonkatsu nirvana by following these frying tips:

  • Use a neutral oil with a high smoke point (canola, vegetable, or peanut oil work well)
  • Maintain an oil temperature between 300°F to 325°F (150°C to 160°C)
  • Flip the cutlets multiple times for even browning
  • Cook pork and chicken breast to an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C), and chicken thighs to 150°F (66°C)

Tonkatsu or Chicken Katsu Recipe


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 8 ounces (225g) each; or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 4 to 5 ounces (110 to 140g) each; or 4 boneless pork sirloin cutlets, 4 to 5 ounces (110 to 140g) each
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (about 5 ounces; 140g)
  • 3 large eggs, thoroughly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Japanese-style panko bread crumbs (about 5 ounces; 140g)
  • Vegetable, canola, or peanut oil, for frying

To Serve:

  • Finely shredded green cabbage
  • Lemon wedges
  • Cooked short-grain white rice
  • Japanese-style pickles (sunomono), optional
  • Homemade or store-bought tonkatsu sauce


  1. If Using Chicken Breasts: Cut each breast half into 2 cutlets. Place them, one at a time, in a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and pound gently to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat pounder or the bottom of a heavy 8-inch skillet. Season generously with salt and pepper. For best results, let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight after seasoning. Proceed to step 3.
  2. If Using Thighs or Pork Cutlets: Place thighs or cutlets, one at a time, in a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and pound gently to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat pounder or the bottom of a heavy 8-inch skillet. Season generously with salt and pepper. Proceed immediately to step 3.
  3. Fill 3 wide, shallow bowls or high-rimmed plates with flour, beaten eggs, and panko, respectively. Working with one thigh or cutlet at a time, dredge in flour with your first hand, shaking off excess. Transfer to egg dish, then turn thigh or cutlet with your second hand to coat both sides. Lift and allow excess egg to drain off, then transfer to bread crumb mixture. With your first hand, scoop bread crumbs on top of thigh or cutlet, then gently press, turning to ensure a good layer of crumbs on both sides. Transfer thigh or cutlet to a clean plate and repeat with remaining meat. If this is done properly, your first hand should touch only dry ingredients, while your second hand should touch only wet, making the process less messy.
  4. Fill a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet with 1/3 inch oil. (To speed things up even more, use 2 skillets simultaneously.) Heat over high heat until shimmering and just shy of smoking, about 350°F (175°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
  5. Using tongs or your fingers, gently lower cutlets into hot fat, laying them down away from you to prevent hot fat from splashing toward you. (Work in batches if necessary.) Fry, gently swirling pan and rotating cutlets for even browning, and adjusting heat as necessary for a steady, vigorous bubble (around 300 to 325°F; 150 to 160°C), until bottom side is set, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip cutlets and fry until other side is set, about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Continue cooking, swirling frequently and flipping occasionally, until well browned on both sides, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt right away. Repeat with remaining cutlets.
  6. Slice katsu into thin strips and serve immediately with shredded cabbage, lemon wedges, white rice, Japanese pickles (if desired), and tonkatsu sauce.

Pro Tips for Tonkatsu Success

  • For extra crispy results, let the breaded cutlets rest in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes before frying
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan – fry in batches if needed to maintain oil temperature
  • Serve immediately for maximum crispiness
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
627 Calories
27g Fat
52g Carbs
43g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 627
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 35%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 192mg 64%
Sodium 828mg 36%
Total Carbohydrate 52g 19%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 43g
Vitamin C 45mg 223%
Calcium 122mg 9%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 656mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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