When one thinks of Japanese cuisine, sushi comes to mind. But there’s more than just fresh fish to Japanese cooking. Much like the culture behind it, there are a variety of dishes that are all bursting with umami flavor and are waiting to be discovered by adventurous cooks.
And yet the cooking style can be intimidating because of its unfamiliar ingredients and because some of its cooking methods can take too long.
Reading a Japanese cookbook will easily change your mind. These days, Japanese cookbooks emphasize using fresh, local ingredients and quick shortcuts without necessarily losing the food's authentic delicious taste.
Most Japanese cookbooks will offer substitutes for those hard-to-find Japanese ingredients. And unless you’re a professional chef looking to expand your skill set with Japanese cuisine, a lot of these books offer accessible recipes that can be easily made in an American home kitchen.
Some cookbooks will specialize on certain aspects of the cuisine, like ramen or the Kyushu style of cooking. But if you want something practical, get a cookbook that offers a wide variety of recipes. The best ones will feature some meal planning which will be ideal for making Japanese-themed meals or feasts.
Another aspect of a good Japanese cookbook is that it gives you a view into the rich culinary history and landscape of Japan. Such a book makes for an interesting reading when it’s not being used as a recipe collection.
In this list, I picked the best cookbooks that showcase traditional and modern recipes. These are books that should be in any kitchen library for their easy recipes and their informative content on Japanese culture. Here are my top 10 Japanese cookbooks on Amazon.
Table of Contents
- Best Japanese Cookbooks
- 1. The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider Hardcover – Illustrated
- 2. Japanese Cookbook for Beginners: Classic and Modern Recipes Made Easy Paperback
- 3. Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese food for family and friends Hardcover – Illustrated
- 4. Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
- 5. Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata: Sixty Quick and Healthy Recipes Paperback
- 6. Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art Hardcover
- 7. Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors Hardcover
- 8. Japan: The Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- 9. Nanban: Japanese Soul Food: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- 10. Vegan Japan Easy: Over 80 Delicious Plant-Based Japanese Recipes Hardcover
- Top Pick
Best Japanese Cookbooks
- The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider Hardcover –
- Japanese Cookbook for Beginners: Classic and Modern Recipes Made Easy Paperback
- Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese food for family and friends Hardcover – Illustrated
- Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
- Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata: Sixty Quick and Healthy Recipes Paperback
- Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art Hardcover
- Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors Hardcover
- Japan: The Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- Nanban: Japanese Soul Food: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- Vegan Japan Easy: Over 80 Delicious Plant-Based Japanese Recipes Hardcover
1. The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider Hardcover – Illustrated
This is a collection of Japanese-American recipes from the chef-owner of Ivan Ramen. Most of the recipes here are what he prepares for his family at home but there are also some recipes that come from his popular restaurants. Samples of these include Pork and Miso-Ginger Stew, Stir-Fried Udon, Japanese Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, Bagels with Shiso Gravlax, and Tofu Coney Island (fried tofu with mushroom chili).
Each featured dish is accompanied with a short cultural introduction of its importance in a Japanese meal. The recipes are accessible and most use ingredients that are easily available in local stores. Particularly useful is its extensive list of American substitutes for Japanese ingredients.
Depending on what you think about culinary appropriation, the overall tone of the book may not be to your liking (and there might also be an occasional F-bomb in its pages). But if you’re here for delicious and easy recipes, the cookbook is a great showcase of fusion home cooking with flavors that authentically Japanese.
Recommended for anyone looking for easy Japanese fusion recipes to cook at home.
2. Japanese Cookbook for Beginners: Classic and Modern Recipes Made Easy Paperback
This cookbook introduces newbies to Japanese culinary basics like itameni (braising), itameru (stir-frying), and iru (dry-frying/pan-roasting). It includes more than 70 recipes here that range from meat-based to vegetarian dishes.
The book opens with a comprehensive guide to stocking your home kitchen with commonly used pantry staples in Japanese cooking. There’s also information on what essential Japanese utensils one must have and a primer on making dashi, katsu sauce, and many of the condiments one needs for making Japanese food.
Chapters are arranged by meal type: staples, snacks and salads, vegetarian, rice and noodles, seafood, and meat and poultry. Measurements are in US standard but there’s a metric conversion chart for the reader’s convenience.
Recipes are easy to follow and are labeled as nut free, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, one pot, and under 30-mins. Prep, yields, and variation tips are included at the end of each recipe.
Despite being an entry-level cookbook, there are not enough photos to satisfy beginners. Nevertheless, readers found this book useful for its selection of easy and quick recipes fit for everyday home cooking.
Recommended for anyone looking for easy traditional Japanese recipes.
3. Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese food for family and friends Hardcover – Illustrated
Harumi is Japan’s most popular cookery writer and in this book she presents more than 60 of her favorite home-style recipes which are easy to prepare in a home kitchen.
Recipes are straightforward with step-by-step instructions on cooking techniques. They all use the following Japanese pantry staples: mirin, soy sauce, dashi, katsuoboshi, and sake. Each one comes with a photo of the finished dish.
Readers found this a good introduction to Japanese cuisine beyond the usual sushi, yakitori and the like for everyday home cooking. Samples of the featured dishes include Ginger Pork, Salmon Nanbanzuke, Rice with Soy-Flavored Pork and Carrots, Green Pea Rice, and Rice with Fresh Ginger.
Recommended for average to expert home cooks looking for variety in Japanese food.
4. Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
Written for a foreign audience, this cookbook features recipes that make do with the most basic Japanese ingredients. There are more than 100 recipes here that are a mixture of familiar favorites like ramen, soba, udon, and tempura and lesser known classics like wafu pasta (spaghetti with bold, fragrant toppings like miso meat sauce) and tatsuta-age (fried chicken marinated in garlic, ginger, and other Japanese seasonings).
Recipes are short but concise and those that require specific techniques are accompanied with step-by-step photographs. The food photos are also enticing. There are also recipes for making traditional sauces from scratch.
Some readers might find issue with how the food recipes are laid out in the book. A recipe is broken down into its components, with each one having its own sub-recipe that’s referenced in another part of the book. This will require a lot of page-flipping. If this doesn’t bother you, then you’ll enjoy the book’s fine selection of easy-to-follow Japanese comfort food recipes.
Recommended for anyone interested in non-sushi Japanese soul food.
5. Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata: Sixty Quick and Healthy Recipes Paperback
Written by a master chef, this cookbook presents a range of recipes from restaurant favorites like yakitori, tempura, shabu shabu to classic home cooked dishes like onigiri (rice balls), miso soup, and tonkatsu fried pork cutlets.
The recipes are easy to follow and use ingredients that are readily available. For instance, instead of using traditional Japanese dashi stock, the book suggests high-quality commercial chicken broth. This may put off food lovers looking for more authenticity in their Japanese food but for the average home cook, the style will be very convenient.
Recipes are accompanied by many gorgeous photos since food presentation is an essential component in Murata’s cuisine. There are also some “how-to” photos to illustrate some Japanese cooking and assembly techniques.
Recommended for anyone who has never tried cooking Japanese food.
6. Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art Hardcover
This is the anniversary edition of a classic Japanese cookbook that has been credited with making Japanese cuisine mainstream in the Western culinary world. There are 230 traditional recipes here with over 500 illustrations and eight pages of new color photos.
It includes detailed explanations of cooking techniques and other cultural aspects of Japanese cuisine. It also teaches the reader how to select ingredients, how to prepare them, and then present them beautifully. Some of the required utensils and equipment may not have any Western equivalent but these can be easily sourced online.
The majority of the recipes are straightforward and use familiar ingredients. Most use seafood, with a few meat and poultry recipes. There’s an equal mix of simple and multi-step recipes but overall, this is not a cookbook for beginners.
Recommended for experienced home cooks looking for a comprehensive reference cookbook for authentic Japanese cuisine.
7. Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors Hardcover
This cookbook is a full course on the fundamentals of Japanese home style cuisine. As such, the 100 recipes featured here require much prepping. There are no quick recipes here for a busy weeknight meal. Samples of these recipes include Kenchin-jiru (Hearty Vegetable Soup with Sobagaki Buckwheat Dumplings), Temaki Zushi (Sushi Hand Rolls), oden (Vegetable, Seafood, and Meat Hot Pot), First Garden Soba Salad with Lemon-White Miso Vinaigrette, and Amazake (Fermented Rice Drink) Ice Pops with Pickled Cherry Blossoms.
It begins with an introduction to the essential pantry staples before presenting basic recipes for dashi and pickles which are the building blocks of any Japanese meal. There is also a section exploring the different cooking techniques and correct methods for making noodles or cooking rice.
Recipes are organized by meal types with beautiful photos of the dishes. They’re written clearly and use ingredients that are easy to find in local stores or Asian specialty markets. At the back of the book is a useful guide to buying specific Japanese ingredients and cooking items in the USA.
Recommended for experienced cooks and those looking to make artisanal home style Japanese meals.
8. Japan: The Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
This is a comprehensive cookbook that features more than 400 authentic Japanese recipes. They are organized by preparation method and are accompanied with beautiful photos and insightful notes about each aspect of Japanese cooking.
Recipes are easy to follow and written for the foreign reader who is unfamiliar with the cuisine. As such, some traditional ingredients need to be substituted with local alternatives in order to build the dish’s authentic Japanese flavor. There is lots of information about ingredients, preparation methods, cooking equipment and meal presentation. A glossary is also included at the back of the book for easy reference.
There is also a directory of Japan-based chefs included in the book which will be useful for anyone moving to Japan to study its cuisine.
Useful for professional chefs and experienced home cooks, and also recommended for anyone looking for a reference cookbook on Japanese cuisine.
9. Nanban: Japanese Soul Food: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
Nanban is a Japanese soul food restaurant in the United Kingdom and this cookbook features slightly fancy interpretations of Southern Japanese soul food. Featured recipes include Hiyajiru (Chilled Miso Soup), Basashi (Horse Sashimi), and a Miyazaki MaiTai.
It includes a primer on Japanese ingredients and substitutions as well as useful tips on how to create flavor bombs and use them to elevate the flavor of the dishes.
Recipes are a mix of easy and labor-intensive ones. There are gorgeous food photos. There is also an entire section on ramen noodles. Most recipes are accessible once you've stocked your kitchen with the basics.
Recommended for skilled cooks looking to expand their culinary repertoire and fans of the Nanban restaurant.
10. Vegan Japan Easy: Over 80 Delicious Plant-Based Japanese Recipes Hardcover
This cookbook taps into Japan’s diverse collection of recipes that are vegan or nearly vegan. The dishes still retain the distinct umami flavor of the original recipes despite not using meat. Its solution to replacing the fish component in dashi is clever: it uses a seaweed and mushroom-based version that’s as flavorable as the original.
Recipes are easy to follow and feature a lot of sauces and seasonings that can also be used for non Japanese cuisine. But some skilled cooks might find the selection too simple for their tastes. Measurements are in metric and US standards. Design-wise, the book’s gold and purple motif pages are a delight.
Some readers were put off by the fact that the author isn’t a vegan himself. But this book isn’t about making vegan substitutes in Japanese dishes. Instead, it focuses on Japanese food that’s already plant-based. If you don’t have a problem with the approach, you’ll be fine with this book.
Recommended for beginner cooks, vegan eaters and collectors of artfully designed books.
JAPANESE COOKBOOK FOR BEGINNERS: CLASSIC AND MODERN RECIPES MADE EASY by Azusa Oda
Learning an ethnic cuisine isn’t easy especially when there’s an entire philosophy behind its different components. This cookbook makes the process easy for any one who wants to learn the basics.
It features helpful shortcuts to making quick dishes that can be made for every day meals. It streamlines complex cooking techniques without sacrificing flavor. The tip boxes which are scattered all over the book is a user-friendly design to help out beginners.
Overall, this is a great beginner cookbook for building one’s confidence in trying out Japanese cuisine in one’s home kitchen.