We love making Japanese curry, and we’ve had several iterations of Vegan Japanese Curry here on Vegan Miam. This vegan Japanese curry is a more traditional take on our popular Japanese Kabocha Curry recipe. We’ve substituted potatoes for the slightly seasonal kabocha squash, making this a more accessible and year-round vegan Japanese curry.
Japanese curries are incredibly popular in Taiwan and were a staple of my childhood. My mother would always make quick curries using S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix, but I was never particularly fond of them. Most of these packaged curry sauces aren’t vegan (though a few are) and they generally contain additives and ingredients that many of our readers would prefer to avoid.
Making your own homemade vegan Japanese curry is surprisingly simple and immensely satisfying. With its rich, hearty flavors and chunky vegetables; this is humble and delicious comfort food. To help make this recipe even easier, we’ve included notes on which curry powders to use as well as instructions for a gluten-free option. Traditionally Japanese curry is sweeter and thicker than other types of curry and typically served with rice.
Vegan Japanese Curry
3-4 servings, serve with cooked rice or udon noodles
For the Roux (see GF option in Notes)
- 3 tbsp neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower
- 32g (4 tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour* (See Notes for gluten-free option)
- 10g (2 tbsp) Oriental curry powder or garam masala* (see Notes if using garam masala or different curry powder)
For the Curry
- 1 tbsp neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower
- 1 small or ½ medium sweet onion, thinly sliced*
- 170g carrots, peeled and bias-cut into ½-inch coins*
- 340g Yukon gold potatoes, or other waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks* (see Notes)
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced (about 1½ tsp)
- ½ tbsp organic ketchup or tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Oriental curry powder or garam masala* (see Notes if using garam masala or different curry powder)
- 750ml (3 cups) vegetable or vegan beef broth* (see Notes)
- 1 medium Fuji or Gala apple (227g); peeled, cored and finely grated to an apple sauce consistency * (see Notes)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar (optional)
- 70g (½ cup) frozen edamame or peas, thawed
Make the roux. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over low heat. Add the flour, stir to combine and cook for 5-7 minutes until slightly browned. Add the curry powder, stir to incorporate and continue cooking for 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Make the curry. Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onions. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add the carrots and potatoes and continue to stir for another minute. Add ketchup and curry powder and cook for another minute, stirring to combine.
Add broth and increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a gentle boil (this should only take a few minutes), then cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 7-10 minutes. The vegetables should be firm, yet tender. Remove the lid and, optionally, remove any foam that has formed on the top.
Add grated apple, soy sauce and the optional agave nectar and cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add the edamame or peas and stir to combine.
Add the cooled roux mixture to the pot, constantly stirring gently with a wooden spatula or whisk until the curry is smooth.
Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring often, for about 5 more minutes until the curry thickens and the vegetables are tender. Just before serving, season with salt or soy sauce to taste. Serve over rice with scallions and sesame seeds.
We weigh our ingredients using a digital scale and write our recipes in grams for better accuracy.
Advance Preparation: The curry is best served the day it’s made but it can be refrigerated for a couple of days. Make sure you add a bit of water before heating the curry since it will thicken after being refrigerated. You may want to add salt to taste after adding the water. The roux can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Apple: Use a microplane or an immersion blender to achieve an apple sauce consistency. Alternatively, use ½ cup of unsweetened natural apple sauce.
Broth: I like to use the gluten-free Edward & Sons Not-Beef Bouillon for the broth, it provides a lovely dark caramel color and a rich flavor. I also use Better than Bouillion (Vegetable Base), but any vegan vegetable broth or bouillon will work in this recipe. If you prefer to use water or low-sodium broth, the curry will have a more pale color.
Curry powder: I use non-organic Morton & Bassett Curry Powder or S&B Oriental Curry Powder. Garam masala also works well in this recipe in place of curry powder. Just add ¾ teaspoon of ground turmeric in your garam masala (before adding them to the roux and curry) and 3 tablespoons unsweetened soya or coconut milk in the end to balance the spice and dilute the color. Garam masala will make the curry darker and spicier than the curry powder I used in the recipe. When purchasing a curry powder or garam masala, do not choose one that lists cumin as the first ingredient (e.g. Trader Joe’s). This type of curry powder is not the flavor you want for this dish. An ideal curry powder will have turmeric, fenugreek or coriander among the first few ingredients.
Gluten-free option: Use 36g (4 tbsp) mochiko sweet rice flour (mochiko) in place of all-purpose flour, gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce and tomato paste in place of ketchup. For the roux, cook the sweet rice flour over very low heat for about 4 minutes, bubbles will form and starts to clump together. Do not burn or brown the roux. The color of the roux will stay pale. If you are unable to find sweet rice flour, try King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour.
Potatoes: Peeled potatoes should yield about 300g (10.6 oz). To cut potatoes, slice each potato in half lengthwise. Slice the two pieces in half again lengthwise. You should now have 4 long pieces of potato. Slice each piece horizontally three to four times to produce approximately 1-inch chunks.
Spicy version: Garnish the curry with a dash of our favorite Japanese chili flakes: ichimi togarashi. Or add ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes or 2 chillies (seeded & finely chopped) to the roux.