Crispy chicken katsu on a bed fluffy rice, drizzled with an umami-rich sauce and topped with briny pickled veggies. I mean, is there anything better?
I’ll show you how to make the perfect golden brown chicken katsu, both the traditional way and in the air fryer. Then, we’ll make it a bowl, complete with steamed rice, a homemade katsu sauce and crunchy veggies on top.
It’s the best kind of takeout at home!
What is katsu?
The word “katsu” in Japanese actually comes from the English word “cutlet”. And that’s basically what it is. Katsu is Japanese fried chicken, prepared very much like classic chicken cutlets, only with panko breadcrumbs instead of regular breadcrumbs.
Katsu is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine and is often made with pork cutlets in addition to chicken. There’s even a vegetarian version now called tofu katsu.
Ingredients for this Chicken Katsu Bowl
There are three main components to these delicious rice bowls: the chicken, the sauce and the pickled vegetables.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breast. If you like dark meat, you can absolutely use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Panko breadcrumbs. The use of panko instead of regular bread crumbs is what makes katsu katsu. Panko bread crumbs can be easily found in regular grocery stores.
- All-purpose flour. If desired, gluten free flour can be substituted.
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
The Katsu Sauce
The sauce we’re making for this katsu bowl is not a traditional tonkatsu sauce that is made with Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and other ingredients.
This sauce is more of a broth. It’s so good when it soaks into the rice! Here’s what you’ll need:
The Pickled Vegetables
- Rice Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
How to Make Crispy Chicken Katsu Bowls
Let’s go through the components one by one:
Making Chicken Katsu the Traditional Way
When you order katsu at a restaurant, chances are they’re deep frying it. We’re going to pan fry it in a half inch of oil, which will get the chicken fried to crispy perfection, just like it would be if you deep fried it.
Start by setting up an assembly line on your kitchen counter. You’ll have three bowls: the flour, the egg and the panko bread crumbs.
Dredge the chicken in each bowl, in that order, and then fry it in a pan.
The secret to perfectly cooked chicken cutlets is to cook them low and slow. This means that it could take up to 10 minutes per side to get the chicken golden brown on the outside and also tender and juicy on the inside. Take your time!
Making the Chicken Katsu in an Air Fryer
If you thought that air fryer recipes were only for foods without breading, you thought wrong. You can totally do this air fryer chicken katsu recipe with the panko breading and have that crispy coating come out amazing, with so much less oil!
Go through the dredging, just like in the traditional method.
Then, place the chicken cutlets into the air fryer basket in a single layer. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your air fryer.
Give the chicken a generous spray of nonstick cooking spray and let the air fryer do its thing. You’ll want to flip it half way through cooking, just like you would if you were pan frying it.
See the full instructions in the recipe card below.
Making the Katsu Sauce
This is not a traditional homemade tonkatsu sauce. It’s more of a broth, made rich with onions, garlic and ginger. This sauce is one of my favorite things about katsu bowls!
It’s super easy: simply put all of the ingredients into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower it down to a simmer. Let it simmer while you cook the chicken pieces.
Pickle the Vegetables
This is a very easy step too. Make ribbons out of the cucumber and carrot using a vegetable peeler. Then let them chill in the pickling liquid in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the katsu bowls.
Make Ahead Instructions for Chicken Katsu Bowl
Making traditional or air fryer chicken katsu is easy to do ahead of time.
Make the chicken and keep it covered at room temperature for up to 1 hour. If you need to make it further ahead of time, store the chicken in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Reheat it in the oven at 400 degrees for 2-4 minutes.
The rice, katsu sauce and pickled vegetables can also be made in advance. Then, simply assemble the bowls when you’re ready to enjoy them.
How to Store Leftover Chicken Katsu
Store leftover chicken katsu separately from the other components of the katsu bowl. Wrap the chicken in aluminum foil or place it in an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Store the sauce and pickled veggies in separate containers in the refrigerator as well.
Reheat the sauce in the microwave and the chicken in the oven so that it won’t lose its crispiness.
When you make this Chicken Katsu Bowl recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more Japanese-inspired recipes, try these:
- Spicy Tuna Mayo Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
- Crunchy California Roll
- Sushi Bake Recipe with Spicy Tuna
For more chicken recipes, try these:
- Herb Crusted Chicken Recipe (Texas Roadhouse Style)
- Easy One Pan Chicken Piccata
- Chicken Bibimbap Recipe (Easy Korean Rice Bowl)
Chicken Katsu Bowl Recipe with Air Fryer Instructions
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced or pounded thin
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 cup scallions diced
- 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 4 cups cooked white rice
- vegetable oil for frying
The Katsu Sauce
The Pickled Vegetables
- 1 cucumber
- 1 carrot
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- Using a vegetable peeler, make long ribbons of the cucumber and carrot. Place the cucumber in a colander and toss with salt. Allow to drain for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Place carrot and cucumbers into the bowl and combine well. Cover and refrigerate.
- In a saucepan, combine the chicken broth, onions, soy sauce, mirin, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, 1 tsp. sesame oil and red pepper flakes.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, while you cook the chicken.
Stove Top Instructions for Chicken
- Line up 3 shallow bowls. In the first shallow bowl, combine the flour, kosher salt and pepper. Beat the eggs and water in the second bowl. In the third bowl, place the panko bread crumbs.
- Fill a large frying pan with 1/2 inch of vegetable oil and heat to medium. Pound the chicken breast thin using a meat mallet. Alternatively, slice each breast crosswise so you create 2 very thin cutlets. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture, then the egg, then the panko.
- Fry until chicken is golden brown and easily pierced with a fork, about 9-10 minutes on each side. (Chicken should always reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees). Remove chicken onto a paper towel-lined plate. Slice into strips.
Air Fryer Instructions for Chicken
- Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees.
- Line up 3 shallow bowls. In the first bowl, combine the flour, kosher salt and pepper. Put the beaten egg and water in the second bowl. In the third bowl, place the panko bread crumbs.
- Place the chicken into the air fryer and make sure they are not touching each other. (You may have to do it in batches). Coat the tops of the chicken generously with nonstick cooking spray. Air fry for 9 minutes.
- Flip the chicken over. Coat generously with nonstick cooking spray. Air fry for an additional 8 minutes. Extend the time by 2-3 minutes for larger pieces of chicken. Slice chicken into strips.
Assemble the Bowls
- Heat the sesame seeds over medium-low heat in a small frying pan. Constantly moving them around, toast the seeds until they start to brown slightly and become fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Divide the cooked rice among four bowls. Pour katsu sauce over the rice, then top with chicken strips, pickled vegetables, diced green onion and toasted sesame seeds.