This vegan katsu curry is sweet, savory, and satisfying! It’s a hearty Japanese curry loaded with tender potatoes and carrots, then topped with crispy panko-coated tofu.

Bowl of katsu curry with tofu, garnished with cilantro, scallions, and lime slices

Food, culture, and history are closely intertwined, and one of the things I love most about cooking is seeing how a dish from one locale can be tweaked and transformed to create something entirely different in another place.

Curry is a great example—it’s a dish that originated in India (see: Aloo Gobi Masala), but you’ll find spins on it throughout Southeast Asia (like Thai Red Curry), here in the Caribbean, and even in Europe. One of the most unique forms of curry I’ve tried is Japanese katsu curry.

What Is Katsu Curry?

Katsu curry can be traced back to Meiji-era Japan, when English merchants brought Indian curry powder to Japanese port cities as they passed through. It’s thick and stew-like, with a combination of sweet and savory flavors, and it’s usually served with a fried panko-coated pork cutlet (or katsu) on top, along with white rice. 

This vegan katsu curry has all of the flavor of the original, but instead of being served with a pork cutlet, it’s topped with a crispy slab of tofu. 

Overhead view of vegan katsu curry ingredients with labels

Notes on Ingredients

Please note that this is important information on the ingredients and instructions and the FULL recipe with amounts and details can be found DOWN BELOW (scroll to it) in the recipe card.

  • Firm tofu – Learn more: How To Cook Tofu 101 + Best Tips on Making the Most Delicious Tofu
  • Vegan butter or oil – You can use homemade vegan butter or store-bought.
  • Yellow onion
  • Potato
  • Carrots
  • Garlic 
  • Curry powder or Japanese curry cubes – I really recommend the Japanese curry cubes for added thickness and deeper more authentic flavour,
  • Water
  • Ground black pepper
  • Ketchup – This is optional, but it will add that signature sweetness that katsu curry is known for.
  • Soy sauce or sea salt – For seasoning.
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Flour
  • Vegan milk – Use an unsweetened, unflavored variety.
  • White rice
  • Sesame seeds
  • Scallions

What Is the Difference Between Japanese Curry Powder and Indian Curry Powder?

Japanese curry powder has a more mild, umami flavour than Indian curry powder, which is full of bold spices. Japanese curry powder typically contains turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves, among other ingredients. The most well-known brand of Japanese curry powder is S&B, which you can purchase online or in many Asian grocery stores.

How to Make Vegan Katsu Curry 

Ready for the coziest curry you’ve ever had? Here’s how to make katsu curry with tofu!

Sauté the onion. Heat the butter or oil in a pan set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they’re softened and translucent.

Add the veggies. Stir in the potato, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the curry powder. (If you’re using curry cubes, hold off! You’ll add those in the next step.)

Simmer. Pour the water into the curry and add the curry cubes, black pepper, and ketchup. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes with the lid off, or until the vegetables are tender and the curry cubes are dissolved.

Overhead view of katsu curry in pot

Finish the curry. Stir and add more water to thin out the sauce (note that katsu curry should have a nice, thick sauce, so you don’t want to thin it too much), then taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Make the tofu:

Create a dredging station. Whisk the flour and milk in one wide shallow bowl, and pour the panko into a second bowl; season the panko with salt and pepper.

Process of dredging tofu cutlets in milk mixture and panko

Dredge the tofu. Cut the tofu into two pieces. Dip it in the milk mixture, then press it into the panko, making sure it’s well-coated on all sides.

Two tofu katsu cutlets in frying pan

Pan-fry the tofu cutlets. Heat 2 to 4 tablespoons of oil in a pan set over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cutlets and fry them until they’re nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the tofu to a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Bowl of vegan katsu curry garnished with cilantro and lime, with chopsticks on top

Assemble. Slice the tofu into strips. Add rice to one half of the bowl, and fill the other half with the curry. Top this with the sliced tofu and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

What Is Traditionally Served With Katsu Curry?

Shredded cabbage, short-grain white rice, and tonkatsu sauce are the traditional pairings with katsu curry. Tonkatsu sauce is often vegan, as it’s usually made with a combination of vinegar and fruit and vegetable purees, so if you want to give that a try, go for it!

Tips for Success

These hints and tips will help you make perfect vegan katsu curry—and give you ideas for making it your own!

  • Use Japanese curry powder. While you can use Indian curry powder in this recipe, I highly suggest using Japanese curry powder.
  • Swap out the protein. A seitan “chicken” cutlet can be used instead of tofu if you’d like. You won’t need to press it, but you’ll still bread it, pan-fry it, and slice it.
  • Switch things up. Diced mangoes and apples can be added to katsu curry to play up its sweetness. For a subtle heat, add minced or sliced ginger root, and for a bit of a crunch, serve your curry bowls with a handful of thinly sliced raw cabbage.
Bowl of vegan katsu curry garnished with cilantro and lime

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

While the curry itself stores and reheats beautifully, the tofu cutlets in this recipe are best eaten fresh, when they’re perfectly crispy. If you need to store leftovers, I suggest keeping the tofu and curry in separate containers (or in a storage container with separate compartments) to keep the cutlets from getting soggy.

The curry can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop. The tofu can also be microwaved, but the best way to restore some its crispiness is to pan-fry it in a splash of oil or warm it up in a 350ºF oven.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

I don’t recommend freezing the tofu, but the curry can be frozen in an airtight storage container for up to 3 months. You can reheat it from frozen, or let it thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

Picking up slice of tofu katsu cutlet with chopsticks

Enjoy friends! If you make this vegan katsu curry recipe, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!

Bowl of katsu curry with tofu, garnished with cilantro, scallions, and lime slices

Vegan Katsu Curry

A hearty Japanese curry loaded with tender potatoes and carrots is topped with crispy panko-coated tofu to create this flavorful plant-based meal.
5 (from 4 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb block firm tofu, pressed for 30 minutes – to press tofu, use a tofu press, or wrap in kitchen towels and stack a heavy pan or books on top to squeeze out excess liquid
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter or oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch equal cubes
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 to 4 Japanese curry cubes, or 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup, optional, but I love adding it
  • optional: soy sauce or sea salt

Ingredients for dredging station:

  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Flour
  • Vegan milk

Instructions 

  • In a pan over medium heat, melt the vegan butter or heat the oil.
  • Once hot, add in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened and translucent.
  • Add in the potato, carrots and the garlic. Stir to combine and allow to cook for another 5 minutes until fragrant.
  • If using curry powder, add in now and stir into the vegetables.
  • Add in the water, stir to combine, and then add in the curry cubes using that instead, the ground black pepper and the ketchup (optional). Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer (with the lid off) over medium low heat.
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes with the lid off until the veggies are soft and the curry cubes are completely dissolved.
  • Stir to combine and feel free to add more water if you want your sauce slightly thinner. The sauce should be nice and thick.
  • Taste test and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  • Allow to cool
  • Serve with rice, tofu, scallion, sesame seeds
  • Cook and prepare rice separately

PREP THE TOFU:

  • Remove the pressed tofu. Cut the tofu in half in the middle of the block (along the depth of the tofu) for two pieces.
  • Prepare a dredging station: one bowl with panko breadcrumbs (seasoned lightly with sea salt and black pepper), and the other with 1/2 flour and 1/2 vegan milk to create a thick batter.
  • Bread the tofu in flour milk seasoned mix, then seasoned breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs on very firmly.
  • Heat 2-4 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Then fry in a pan until both sides are evenly browned, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Remove tofu and allow it to rest on a paper towel to absorb excess oil and to cool slightly.
  • Using a very sharp knife, cut the tofu diagonally into strips.

PREP YOUR BOWL:

  • To serve your bowl, add your rice into one half of the bowl. Add the Katsu curry with veggies into the other half. Top with the tofu, and then with sesame seeds and green scallions on top. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Calories for this specific recipe are calculate without the dredging station.
How to store: I suggest keeping the tofu and curry in separate containers (or in a storage container with separate compartments) to keep the cutlets from getting soggy. The curry can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop. The tofu can also be microwaved, but the best way to restore some its crispiness is to pan-fry it in a splash of oil or warm it up in a 350ºF oven.
How to freeze: I don’t recommend freezing the tofu, but the curry can be frozen in an airtight storage container for up to 3 months. You can reheat it from frozen, or let it thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
Calories: 142kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 151mg, Potassium: 268mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 3770IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 118mg, Iron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.