Sep 15
Japanese Chicken Curry Rice

Last time we lived in Japan, I’d have a dinner meeting at work once a week.  The most popular dinner choice was “kare raisu” (カレーライス, i.e., curry rice)—a thick fragrant curry gravy with a hint of sweetness, mixed with a variety of vegetables and some sort of protein, either chicken, beef, or seafood, served over hot steamed rice.  It’s no wonder that this simple meal was a favorite.  After a long day at work, a helping of curry rice made for total comfort food.  Japanese curry is milder than many of the curries made in other countries.  In Japan, when made at home, curry is usually made from an instant curry roux that comes in blocks or powder packets.

Onion, ginger, potatoes, and carrots

Although this is an easy way to make curry, it also means that you’re getting preservatives and MSG that you could avoid by making it from scratch.  Although it takes a few extra minutes to make it from scratch, I think the extra minutes are worth it, because the results are even better!  The curry is more flavorful and very creamy.  In addition, the curry can be made gluten-free—my recipe uses cornstarch as a thickener instead of the wheat flour that is usually present in instant curries.  My method is a mix of methods I’ve seen and tried.  I made it most recently with chicken thighs and lots of veggies.  By the time I put dinner on the table, my girls had already been tugging the hem of my shirt for 30 minutes asking when they could have their curry.  It was no surprise that we only had a tiny bit left to eat as leftovers the next day!

Chicken Curry ready to eat

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Japanese Chicken Curry Rice

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs with skin on, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 teaspoons curry powder (I use S&B)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 large potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold), cut into chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 cups vegetable stock
3 cups water
1 teaspoon honey, if needed
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Hot steamed Japanese rice, for serving

1. Toss the chicken in the 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch saute pan. over high heat. Place the chicken skin side down in the pan, spread out in an even layer, and sear for 1 1/2 minutes. Flip the pieces over, skin side up, and let them brown for an additional minute.

2. Shake the pan, pushing the chicken to one side, and add the onion. Lower the heat to medium high and saute for about 3 minutes, or until the onions are aromatic and wilted. Add the garlic and ginger, then sprinkle the curry powder and kosher salt over the contents of the pan, then stir to distribute evenly.

3. Add 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock, stirring up any crusty bits that may be clinging to the bottom or sides of the pan. Then add the tomato paste, apricot jam, and rice wine vinegar then stir to combine.

4. Add the carrots, the rest of the vegetable stock, and the water, then bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and add the potatoes. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Taste, and if necessary, adjust the sweetness of the curry by adding the honey a few drops at a time.

5. Put the 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a small bowl then ladle some of the hot curry over it, and whisk to make a thick paste. Whisk the paste into the pan, and continue cooking the curry until it thickens. Remove from the heat and serve over hot steamed Japanese rice.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlynne September 15, 2011 at 11:11 am

Thanks so much for this recipe! I love Japanese curry but have never made it at home because I can’t stand the thought of eating all that sodium and preservatives in the pre-made mixes. Can’t wait to try this!


jenjenk September 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

MMMM….kare rice is my FAVORITE thing to eat during the winter [well, and spring…and fall…and summer…] :) Love this! will have to definitely give your recipe a try!!!! thanks!!


Kimiko September 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

This is perfect! I’ve been meaning to look for a Japanese curry recipe. I usually eat curry on my lunch breaks since I work in Torrance, where there are sooo many Japanese restaurants…but I’ve really wanted to try and make it from scratch, without the MSG. I can’t wait to try this recipe!


Amy Tong September 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Japanese Curry with chicken is one of my favorite dishes for dinner. So good especially with the cold weather! ;)


Amber September 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I love Japanese curry, but I always shy away from making it because of the MSG- thanks for posting this recipe!! I’ll have to make it ASAP!!


Katrina September 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm

What a yummy looking recipe!


Katherine September 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm

My mouth is watering as I type… thank you for this recipe! I love curry rice, but I always stop myself from buying the box version because of the MSG. Can’t wait to try this recipe!


Joy September 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm

That looks so good.


LiztheChef September 16, 2011 at 7:48 am

This has been printed out and I cannot wait to try it – perfect fall recipe – thanks so much…


Sarah @ Adventures in Life September 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I am attempting this tonight for dinner. I haven’t been able to find a real good Japanese curry place here in the states since I left Japan 5 years ago. I love the curry blocks from the Japanese market, but I’m eager to try this healthier less preservative way.


kankana September 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm

There was a time when I had to travel to Japan frequently for work and if only.. if only I knew of this curry at that time!
I like comforting curry meal with hot steam rice any time of the year and this is making me crave for it.


Sarah September 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Curry is one of my favorite things… so thanks for posting a link to your curry powder recommendation. The first time I tried making curry at home the recipe called for making your own mixture of seasonings and it just wasn’t the same. I think it was a very simplified mix of what is in a good curry powder and it bummed me out to taste the final dish. I’ll be heading to the Japanese market this week and can’t wait to try out your recipe.


scrapper al September 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Thanks for the recipe! I do buy the curry blocks on occasion, but am unhappy about all the MSG in them. Do you have any substitutes for the apricot jam or that essential for the right taste? I generally have all the other ingredients on hand, but I’d never be able to use up a whole jar of apricot jam.


Fuji Mama (Rachael) October 17, 2011 at 7:12 am

@scrapper al, A peach jam, or even orange marmalade would work nicely as well! The fruity flavor really adds an extra dimension that reminds me more of the flavor of the curry blocks.


Jessica September 19, 2011 at 8:55 am

omg….. i want this right now!


booglevy September 28, 2011 at 6:36 am

omg what a lovely, delicious photo … I’m a big fan of kare rice!!


bacagirl October 13, 2011 at 2:25 am

I just made this recipe last night and it was delicious. I didn’t have carrots or potatoes on hand so I used bell peppers and red onions instead. Also no apricot jam but I think the honey was just fine for sweetness. Thank you for posting this wonderful recipe! I will definitely make this for my family again.


Fuji Mama (Rachael) October 17, 2011 at 7:11 am

@bacagirl, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!


Angela December 24, 2011 at 12:49 am

Hi – thanks for this – we used to have a Japanese student living with us who made this curry – this tates just like what he used to make – my kids love it – great recipe!


Kimiko January 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Hi! Just wanted to let you know I made this recipe last night, and it was great! I’m so thrilled to be able to make this at home now, instead of going to Curry House all the time (plus I never touch those instant curry blocks at the market!). My boyfriend said he didn’t like curry, even though he’s never tried Japanese curry. I made it anyway, and not only did he eat it last night, but he got up and got a second helping! Thanks, Rachael! :)


Michelle W. April 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Thank you so much for this recipe! I’m Japanese-American and so have had a lot of curry rice but mostly from a “curry cube”. I never really cared for it but I thought I would try this recipe and give Japanese curry one more try. Not only did my husband and I both love it, I switched out the chicken for ground turkey and so it gave me one more thing to do with ground turkey. Thanks a lot – I love your recipes!


Colleen July 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Just wanted to let you know that I made this for my husband last night. He grew up in Japan and only had curry made from the cubes. He almost shed a tear after eating this. Thanks so much!


Johanna October 29, 2012 at 3:56 am

Mmmm! I used to live in Japan and I really miss this stuff. The homemade version will be even more delicious and I can’t wait to make it!


Michelle March 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I have never made kare from scratch mostly because my mom never did either… but I am excited to try. Looks easy enough and I love the idea of not using the preservatives. Quick question – is this recipe spicy? I have two little ones and always used the mild kare packs so I want to make sure they will be able to eat this version.


Sarah May 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm

This is almost exactly how I make my curry rice, but instead of apricot, I use apple sauce, and no vinegar, although next time I’ll try it. I’ve always wanted to try the ready roux blocks, but since this version is tastier, I’ll stick to the same method. Plus it’s healthier.


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm

@Sarah — Yes, that sweetness, whether it be from apple sauce or apricot jam, is key in Japanese curry!


Sarah December 11, 2013 at 10:19 am

Japanese curry is not popular here in America, and my husband and I cannot figure out WHY that is. When we left Japan, we were saddened that we would have to say goodbye to this delicious favorite we enjoyed so much.

I looked up a recipe for Japanese Curry and found this blog. I decided to give it a try, not expecting much (I usually find that without the ingredients I can get in a Japanese grocery store, the flavor falls short).

We were SO surprised by the result. It was exactly what we remember eating on a weekly basis in Japan, only this is fresher and made from scratch! We used orange marmalade instead of apricot jam and it worked perfectly.

My tip: fry an egg and put it on top of your serving. The runny yolk is a major flavor enhancer.

Now if only I could find the thinly sliced beef strips we used to make our curry while in Japan…

Thank you for the recipe!!


Fuji Mama (Rachael) December 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

Sarah I am so glad you enjoyed it! That is exactly why I developed this recipe. I missed Japanese curry so badly, and was sick of using the packaged blocks of roux that contain all kinds of preservatives, etc. I’m with you on the thinly sliced beef strips. I also miss having easy access to quail eggs, another one of my favorite curry ingredients!


Ahmed Mukhtar September 28, 2014 at 11:39 am

Hey I m from pakistan I see doraemon cartoon doraemon is eating curry rice so I think that I was also try japanese dishes


Laura February 19, 2019 at 8:15 pm

This is a great recipe–very simple to follow, and made from ingredients that would be easily accessible to most people. Also, I didn’t have apricot jam in the house and substituted marmalade instead and it worked just as well!


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