Tonkatsu, or Japanese fried pork cutlet, is a tender cut of pork that's breaded in panko and deep fried until golden brown. It's served with a sweet and tangy tonkatsu sauce and a mound of refreshing, crunchy, shredded cabbage.
What is your favorite Japanese dish?
Kyong absolutely loves tonkatsu, aka Japanese fried pork cutlet. They're a beautiful shade of golden brown with perfectly crunchy panko breading on the outside and juicy, tender pork on the inside. Paired with some sweet and tangy katsu sauce, oh it's so good!
For me, I love that we can repurpose leftover tonkatsu to make katsudon (my favorite!) and katsu curry.
What is tonkatsu?
Tonkatsu, also known as Japanese fried pork cutlet, is pork loin pounded out, coated in panko (Japanese bread crumb), and deep fried until golden brown.
It's a very popular dish and comes in different variations from this classic tonkatsu to curry tonkatsu and pork katsudon.
For this classic tonkatsu, you'd often see it served with tonkatsu sauce, rice, and shredded cabbage.
Tonkatsu vs tonkotsu
Tonkatsu and tonkotsu may be spelled similar, but they are completely different dishes!
"Ton" (豚) in Japanese translates to pork. "Katsu" (カツ) translates to cutlet and "kotsu" translates to bone in terms of food. So this makes "tonkatsu" pork cutlet and "tonkotsu," pork bone. Hence, tonkotsu ramen is known as a rich, pork bone soup ramen.
- Boneless pork loin - The most popular cut of pork for making Japanese fried pork cutlet because it is tender and less expensive than other cuts.
- All-purpose flour - For breading the pork cutlet. The flour will create a layer of protection for the cutlet when fried. This will keep the pork from becoming dry.
- Egg - Coating the pork cutlets in egg is the second step of the breading process. It gives the pork cutlets an additional layer of protection. It's also used as a binder to coat the panko.
- Panko - Also known as Japanese bread crumb. It's much coarser and airier than regular bread crumbs, which gives tonkatsu a much crisper fry that tastes less greasy.
- Salt and pepper - For seasoning the pork cutlet. Season according to your preference.
- Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, oyster sauce, and sugar - These ingredients are for making homemade tonkatsu sauce. If you prefer, you could use store bought tonkatsu sauce. We recommend the Bulldog brand.
- Oil (for frying)
Best cut of meat for Japanese pork cutlet
For Japanese pork cutlet, we recommend using boneless pork loins. Although you can use pork tenderloin and pork chops, regular pork loin is cheaper and comparably tender.
Whether you buy the whole pork loin to fabricate and portion yourself or get thick cut, boneless chops, your tonkatsu will taste amazing!
One note, if you don't like the chewiness of the silver skin (a thin membrane around pork loins and pork chops), trim it off before pounding.
How to make tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork cutlet)
Make the homemade tonkatsu sauce:
In a bowl, mix together the Worcestershire, ketchup, oyster sauce, and sugar until well combined. Set aside until needed.
Prepare fryer and breading station:
1. Preheat the fryer to 345°F or prepare pot with 2 to 3 inches of oil, heated to 345°F. Maintain the oil temperature and do not let it go below 335°F.
2. Prepare the breading station next to the frying station. Put the flour, egg, and panko, each in their own pan/plate/bowl.
🌟 Pro tip: Arrange the breading ingredients in the order of flour, egg, then panko, with the panko closest to your frying station. This will keep your station clean and help you easily coat the pork cutlet without having to cross over back and forth.
Prepare the pork loins:
3. On a cutting board, evenly pound each piece of pork loin to about ¼ inch to ⅜ inch thick using the flat side of a meat mallet. Then using a meat tenderizer tool to poke holes on both sides of the pork cutlets.
📝 Note: ¼ inch thick may seem a little thin for Japanese fried pork cutlet. But remember that meat shrinks a bit and become thicker when it cooks. So, pork cutlets be the perfect thickness after frying.
🌟 Pro tip: Use a sheet of plastic wrap to make pounding out the pork loin easier. The plastic wrap keeps the pork from sticking to the meat mallet. You can reuse the plastic wrap on the second pork loin as well.
4. Once the pork cutlets are evenly pounded out, season both sides of the cutlets with some salt and pepper to your preference.
Bread and fry the pork cutlets:
If your breading station and fryer/pot can accommodate two pork cutlets at a time, you can work on both of the cutlets. If not, just work with one at a time!
5. Place a seasoned pork cutlet onto the flour and coat both sides and the edges with flour. Dust off any excess flour. Dip the floured pork cutlet into the beaten egg and coat well on all sides. Place the pork cutlet into the panko and scoop some panko onto the pork. Gently pack the pork cutlet with panko.
6. Carefully place the breaded pork cutlet into the hot oil and fry the cutlet until golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Make sure to maintain the oil temperature between 335°F to 345°F. If you're frying multiple tonkatsu at one time, make sure the oil temperature doesn't drop drastically!
🌟 Pro Tip: When frying the pork cutlet, gently drop it into the oil AWAY from you. This will prevent you from getting burned if the oil should splatter.
7. Remove the tonkatsu from the oil and let it cool on a wire cooling rack for a couple of minutes. Repeat the breading and frying step with the other pork cutlet. Try to avoid stabbing the tonkatsu or ripping the breading!
8. Cut the tonkatsu into strips of your desired thickness and enjoy with the sauce while hot!
- Flatten the pork loin to ¼ inch to ⅜ inch thick. Try your best to pound the pork loin to ¼ inch thick. The thickness will affect the frying time.
- Maintain the frying temperature between 335°F and 345°F. If the oil is too hot, the tonkatsu will brown too fast. Too low temperature will cause the tonkatsu to absorb more oil, making it greasy. It'll also take longer for the pork cutlets to fry.
- Don't fry too many pork cutlets at a time. If you are deep frying in a smaller amount of oil, the oil tends to drop its temperature easily. In this case, only work with one pork kastu at a time.
- Let the tonkatsu rest for a couple of minutes before cutting. Just like cooking steak, it is best to let the pork cutlet rest for 2 to 3 minutes after frying. This allows the moisture from the pork to get reabsorbed to keep the pork moist and the bread crispy.
- Avoid stabbing the tonkatsu or breaking the breading. This will cause oil to leak into the breading, making it greasy. It also tends to make the breading soggy due to the pork's juices leaking out.
What to eat with tonkatsu?
Classic tonkatsu is usually served with a sweet and tangy tonkatsu sauce, steamed white rice, and a mound of shredded cabbage. You can also enjoy tonkatsu with miso soup and a bowl of curry as well.
How to shred cabbage for tonkatsu?
There's a couple of ways to thinly shred cabbage for tonkatsu.
The first couple ways use a knife to thinly cut the cabbage. You can either cut the cabbage into a manageable wedge, with the core removed, and thinly slice the cabbage. Or you can peel the cabbage leaf by leaf, stack it up, and cut into thin shreds.
The other option is to use a cabbage shredder/ shaver. It looks like a wider vegetable peeler. Just cut the cabbage in half or quartered and grate the cabbage along the cuts like peeling vegetables.
If you have left over fried pork cutlets, let them cool completely before storing. Keep them in air tight containers and keep chilled in the fridge for up to 1 week but best within 3 days.
If the tonkatsu is still whole (not cut), you can freeze it for up to 3 to 4 weeks.
The tonkatsu sauce will can be stored in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 1 week.
How to reheat tonkatsu
You can reheat tonkatsu using the air fryer or oven. Preferrably, keep the fried pork katsu whole for reheating. This will prevent extra moisture lost.
To reheat refrigerated tonkatsu using an air fryer, place the pork cutlet into the air fryer basket and air fry at 350°F for about 5 minutes or until heated through and crispy. For frozen ones, reheat for about 7 to 8 minutes.
If you're using the oven, place the tonkatsu on an oven safe rack and bake at 375°F in a preheated oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. Frozen tonkatsu will take about 15 minutes.
*Do note that the reheating time is based on uncut fried pork cutlets. Reheated tonkatsu will not taste as juicy as the fresh ones, but should be just as crispy.*
We recommend using boneless pork loins to make Japanese fried pork cutlets. You could also use pork tenderloin or thick cut pork chops instead. Just make sure to remove the bone!
For our recipe, we recommend frying tonkatsu at 345°F and no lower than 335°F. This gives the pork cutlet time to cook and the breading to become perfectly golden brown.
Tonkatsu is a sweet and tangy sauce made of Worcestershire, ketchup, oyster sauce, and sugar. It's perfect for Japanese fried pork cutlets as it helps balance the pork cutlet's fattiness.
Tonkatsu is often served with cabbage because the fiber in the cabbage helps protect the stomach lining and is supposed to prevent heartburns as well. In addition, the raw cabbage serves as a palate cleanser in between each bite.
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Tonkatsu (Japanese Fried Pork Cutlet)
For the tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet):
For the tonkatsu sauce:
Optional garnish and sides:
- 2 cups cooked white rice
- ¼ small green cabbage thinly shredded
For the tonkatsu sauce:
- Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce together until well combined. Set aside until needed. You can also make up to 1 week uphead of time, properly stored and kept chilled in the fridge.
For the tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet):
- Preheat the oil and prepare the breading station:Preheat the fryer to 345°F or prepare a pot with 2 to 3 inches of oil, heated to 345°F. Also setup the breading station next to your frying area. Prepare one pan/plate/bowl for each ingredient: flour, egg, panko.
- Prepare the pork loin:Using the flat side of the meat mallet, evenly pound both of the pork loins into ¼ inch to ⅜ inch thick. Then use a meat tenderizing tool and poke holes on both sides of each pork poin.*The pork loins will shrink a little and become thicker when fried. So it is very important that they're pounded to the right thickness. Also, the thickness will also affect the frying time.*
- Season both sides of the pork loins with some salt and black pepper (to your preference) and gently pat on both sides to help the seasonings stick.
- Bread and fry the pork cutlet:Place a seasoned pork cutlet onto the flour and coat well on both sides and the edges. Dust off any excess flour. Dip the floured pork cutlet into the beaten egg and coat well on all sides. Place the pork cutlet into the panko and scoop some panko onto the cutlet. Gently press the panko into the pork cutlet to help the panko stick.
- Carefully, place the breaded pork cutlet into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the pork cutlet from the oil and let it rest on a wire cooling rack or paper towels for a couple of minutes. Repeat with the other cutlet.*If your fryer and breading station allows, you can bread and fry both of the cutlets at the same time.*
- Serve the tonkatsu:Once the fried pork cutlets have rested for a couple of mintues, cut the cutlets into strips.
- Serve the tonkatsu with the prepared sauce, steamed white rice, and a bed of shredded cabbage if you wish. Enjoy while hot!
- The serving size and estimated nutritional calculation is based on the pork cutlets and sauce only.
- Leftover panko and flour can be stored in an airtight container and frozen for another use.
- Egg - We found that 1 large egg is almost perfect for 2 pork katsu. You'll have just a little left over.
- Boneless pork loin - You can also use a thick cut pork chop, just trim off the bones.
- Fabricate the pork loin - You can trim off the silver skin (the thin membrane on the loin) if you don't like the chewy texture around the edge.