Who doesn’t love crispy, juicy, fried pork?
Pork Tonkatsu is for everyone. If any of the following describe you:
- Grew up eating pork chops like I did.
- Enjoy Japanese food
- Enjoy pork
- Enjoy fried foods
Then you will probably love these Japanese Pork Cutlets. The katsu has a crispy panko crust that’s fried until golden brown. The meat is juicy, and pairs really well with katsu sauce and rice.
Pork Tonkatsu is actually a bit redundant, as “Tonkatsu” literally means “pork cutlet”. In fact you can also have chicken katsu or beef katsu.
Tonkatsu: a Japanese porkchop
We visited Japan back in 2019 and found Tonkatsu served almost everywhere. It’s something of a standard way to eat pork there. The Japanese apply the fried pork cutlet to a variety of dishes, including:
- Tonkatsu with rice and sides. Basically how this recipe prepares the meal.
Spicy Garlic Eggplant makes a great side for this meal, seriously I love eating these two together.
- Katsudon. A Japanese pork cutlet sliced and served over a rice bowl with egg. “Katsudon” translates roughly to “cutlet bowl”.
- Katsu and curry. Fried pork katsu served alongside a steaming pile of Japanese curry
- Tonkatsu in Ramen. A hearty bowl of ramen topped with sliced tonkatsu.
I’m sure it’s been served countless more ways.
Usually Tonkatsu is served pre-sliced for easier consumption with chopsticks.
How to use panko
Panko is simply a type of bread crumb originating from Japan. Unlike most other bread crumbs, it’s made from crustless white bread, and hence has a fairly uniform color, texture, and taste.
In my house, panko is often just my go-to breadcrumb for anything requiring bread crumbs. It’s too easy to just buy a huge container of it from Costco, and easily spiced if I want something closer to Italian bread crumbs.
Some people suggest that panko absorbs less oil than other bread crumbs while frying. I don’t see a lot of evidence for that, but I love Panko all the same.
Besides authenticity, you should use panko for this recipe because it’s so incredibly crispy that it will elevate this pork cutlet above any other pork chop.
Use Katsu sauce as the perfect drizzle
Katsu sauce is a wonderful savory but slightly sweet sauce that you can drizzle over your katsu. At its core, you could crudely call it Japanese ketchup (but don’t!).
Sometimes I can find bottles in the Asian section of my supermarket, but when I can’t its easy enough to make. I’ve always followed this recipe from Just One Cookbook.
In short, mix 1 Tbsp ketchup, 2.5 Tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1.5 Tsp Oyster sauce, and 1 Tsp sugar.
What kind of rice to use for Pork Tonkatsu?
If you’re eating Japanese Pork Cutlets with rice, and with chopsticks, give some consideration to what kind of rice you use. When eating plain rice with chopsticks, the Japanese use a kind of sticky rice they refer to as uruchimai. As you might guess, the rice is sticky after cooking and clumps well, making it easy to pick up with chopsticks.
This short grain sticky rice is the most common type of rice available in Japan, but in the US, sticky rice is far from the most common type of rice. If you look at an Asian grocery store or in the Asian aisle of a supermarket, you can find Calrose rice, which is approximately the same. Calrose is technically a medium grain rice instead of short, but it’s what most Japanese Americans use for sticky rice.
Below is a comparison between basmati rice grains on the left, and Calrose rice on the right. You’ll see the Calrose is a bit shorter and more rounded.
Tips for Frying Japanese Pork Cutlets
In this recipe, we’re frying a relatively thick cutlet and want to avoid burning the breading before the pork is finished cooking. I do this by using a lid and pouring a small amount of water into the hot pan to help steam the pork.
For pork, I like a temperature between 155F – 165F, but if you like your pork pink, you can take it as low as 145F.
If you do not have a lid for your pan, or feel uncomfortable pouring water into a hot pan, then you can fry each side of the pork until the crust browns and finish the tonkatsu on a pan in the oven. If cooking this way, bake for 10 minutes at 425F, or until the internal pork temperature is between 150F and 165F.
What if I want to bake Tonkatsu?
If you’re trying to avoid frying all together, then you can bake tonkatsu from scratch. Just as a caution however, it’s incredibly hard to beat the crust’s flavor and texture when fried.
After coating the katsu in panko, bake on a pan at 425F for 10 minutes on each side, until the internal temp is between 150F and 165F.
Let's fry up some Japanese Pork Cutlets
Pork Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)
- 1 Frying Pan with Lid
- 2 Pork Chops 4-6oz each
- ½ Cup Panko
- 1 Egg Large
- salt and pepper to taste
- Break egg into a bowl and whisk with a fork until well mixed.
- Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops.
- Dunk each pork chop in the egg so that it is completely covered in egg. Once covered, press the pork chop into the panko, then flip and press the other side into the panko. You may need to use your hands to cover each chop with panko.
- Heat a skillet and 1 tbsp of oil over high heat until very hot. Add pork chops into the oil and reduce heat to medium. Cook the pork chops for approximately 2 minutes. Use a spatula to lift them slightly and check that the panko has browned. If they have not thoroughly browned, let cook another 1-2 minutes until browned. Now flip, and repeat the process.
- Once the sides are both nicely browned, flip them so the best browned side is face up in the skillet. There should not be much oil left in the skillet, most will have been absorbed by the panko. With a properly fitting lid in hand, add ¼ cup water to the pan and cover immediately. Be prepared to lower the heat in case the pan begins to spray, but the lid should allow the pan to only release steam.
- Allow the skillet to cook while covered until the water is cooked off. You will notice the amount of steam reduces to nearly none, and you might smell fallen panko crumbs begin to burn. It should take about 3 minutes. At this point, remove the lid and use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature. If the pork has not reached your desired temperature, add another ⅛ cup of water and cover again. It should take another 3 minutes for the water to boil off again. Check the temperature again. If still not done, repeat the process, but mine were done after the first ⅛ cup of water had cooked off.
- Remove the pork chops to a cutting board. You can serve them as they are, or slice thin and serve for easier eating. Enjoy 🙂