19 Traditional & Popular Japanese Appetizers

Enjoy fine dining with Japanese appetizers at home!

Claire Onidi By
Claire Onidi
Passionate about food and pastries since always, Claire spends most of her time in the kitchen to develop new recipes. She is French but lived many years abroad.
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Updated May 13, 2022

These tasty traditional Japanese appetizers aren’t just delicious. They’re also quick and easy to make at home!

So if you’re craving Japanese food, you’ve come to the right place. There’s nothing better than adding an appetizer like Gyoza, edamame, or Tsukune to compliment your sushi.

Japanese cuisine is all about flavors and seasonings. And with the right ingredients, you can enjoy the taste of Japan in the comfort of your kitchen.
Traditional Japanese Appetizers

Whether it’s traditional onigiri or tempura, these recipes will have your mouth watering for the main course. Ready to try some Japanese cooking?

01. Homemade Sushi

What’s better than a fresh roll of sushi? A homemade one!

Sushi is always a favorite Japanese appetizer. And the magic of homemade sushi is that you get the freedom to choose what you want to put in.

The key is using the right kind of seaweed that’s thick and perfect for rolling. Then, choose the ingredients you want (I love adding salmon or avocado), layer your rice, and start rolling.

It’s that easy! Enjoy all of your favorite ingredients in one bite with this recipe.

You can serve homemade sushi as a starter or side dish. Or go big and make it a main course.

02. Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings) Pork

Did you know you can make succulent Japanese dumplings in less than 30 minutes? Gyoza is a popular side dish in Japan, and now you can make it at home.

Take a bite of crisp, golden goodness filled with ground pork, pickled ginger, shiitake mushrooms, and cabbage. These Gyozas are salty, savory, and full of earthy tastes.

Season them with a pinch of salt and pepper and add a dash of soy sauce to finish. It’s quick as well as easy, and you’ll have a bundle of juicy and crispy dumplings ready in no time.

03. Edamame with Soy and Sesame Sauce

Edamame is a crunchy green vegetable packed full of flavor. It’s no wonder you’ll find it in most Japanese restaurants before the main dish.

This recipe combines nutty and savory taste for a result your tastebuds will love! And all it takes is a splash of sesame oil and soy sauce.

So you can enjoy an appetizing bowl with a few simple ingredients!

04. Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Rice Balls)

Get the ball rolling with these delicious grilled rice balls.

You might be used to Onigiri with salmon or pickled plums. But, do you know how succulent they are on their own?

These fluffy rice balls have a sweet and savory coating of soy sauce. But the crispy, smoky crust adds a layer of crunch to every bite too!

Served with a sweet or spicy dipping sauce adds an even bigger kick of flavor.

05. Tsukune Japanese Chicken Meatballs

Tsukune are tasty Japanese meatballs with a moist, tender filling.

Grilled with a sweet and tangy sauce, these finger-lickering Japanese chicken meatballs are a personal favorite!

You can boil the meatballs to help them keep shape and lock in the moisture. And serve on top of fluffy, soft rice if you want a bigger meal.

06. Japanese Deviled Eggs

You’ll be so egg-cited to make more of these once you try them!

Soy sauce eggs are a favorite go-to for Japanese dishes. And this recipe takes them outside of the box and adds a twist.

Enjoy a little crunch from the panko and a little kick from the wasabi paste for a delightful twist on traditional devil eggs. These eggs won’t last long on the plate.

07. Japanese Chilled Tofu – Hiyayakko

Tofu might not sound exciting to you. But it will after trying this dish.

Silken tofu’s smooth, velvety texture pairs perfectly with dried bonito flakes and green onions.

But add in fresh ginger and a touch of soy sauce, and you get a smooth and creamy Japanese appetizer that’s perfect for any dish.

Cool and refreshing, each bite of this chilled tofu will melt in your mouth.

08. Sunomono (Japanese Cucumber Salad)

Short on time? No problem!

This quick Japanese Cucumber Salad dish comes together in less than 15 minutes. But the taste will last much longer.

Enjoy marinated cucumber, and roasted peanuts tossed together in a salad bowl.

It’s crunchy, refreshing, and with flavorsome soy sauce, sesame seed oil, garlic, and brown sugar. When it comes to adding a bit of heat, try a sprinkling of red chili flakes.

09. Renkon Chips (Lotus Root Chips)

Think lotus root sounds fancy? Wait till you try these!

Made with lotus root, pink salt, and rice vinegar, these Renkon chips taste even fancier than they sound. This recipe is so simple to put together.

Its flower-like shape and lotus taste will be the star of the show. You can also add your favorite dipping sauce to this recipe for an extra hit.

10. Tamagoyaki (Japanese Rolled Omelette)

One bite of this rolled omelette, and you’ll feel like you’re in Japan.

Either hot or cold, Tamagoyaki is a popular staple on sushi menus at Japanese restaurants. Delicate and also rich, it has all the best savors of traditional Japanese cuisine.

You might need to hunt for a rectangular pan to perfect the recipe. But let me tell you it’s worth it.

11. Yakitori (Japanese Skewered Chicken)

Skewered chicken always goes down well before the main dish. And this is no exception with Japanese food.

Cook on a charcoal grill with sweet soy sauce for an effortless taste of Japan at home. Or you can try mixing it up with teriyaki sauce.

These Yakitori chicken skewers are so yummy, you might be wishing they were the main meal.

I like to make extra dipping sauce using the sweet soy sauce. It adds even more of that delightful taste of Japan to every bite.

12. Harumaki (Japanese Spring Rolls)

Hosting a Japanese-themed dinner? Make some room on the table for these Harumaki spring rolls.

They’re a popular Japanese appetizer all your party guests will love.

Roll with bamboo shoots, minced pork, and shitake mushroom inside a crispy crust shell with rice vermicelli. Or you can also add your own recipe of various vegetables and fillings to suit your taste.

The bold flavors from the oyster sauce, as well as the spicy tang from the Japanese mustard, create a taste explosion on your tongue.

13. Japanese Coleslaw

Here is a classic take on a bright and refreshing Japanese coleslaw mix. It’s an appetizer you can’t go wrong with.

With a touch of oil, rice vinegar, and toppings of sesame seeds, shredded cabbage will never taste so good.

The process is also quick and easy. Simply mix all the ingredients and toss to enjoy a light and delicious bowl of crunch.

14. Prawn Tempura with Wasabi Mayo

I think it’s safe to say that tempura is a favorite when it comes to Japanese cuisine.

Enjoy prawn tempura dressed in a creamy egg-free wasabi mayo for a flavor kick you’ll love.

Because I know you’ll be wanting more — try preparing a big batch of wasabi Japanese mayo in advance.

You can keep it in the fridge for up to 1-week to enjoy as many bowls of tempura as you wish.

15. Takoyaki

Crispy golden takoyaki is a classic Japanese starter. It’s a personal favorite of mine because you can tweak it to suit your cravings.

Traditional takoyaki balls are made with octopus. But it’s easy to adapt if you don’t like octopus.

It’s fun to play around with different ingredients to try a new taste each time. The batter is easy to make with just flour, cornstarch, and a hint of dashi stock.

16. Japanese-Style Karaage (Fried Chicken)

A crispy, golden crunch with a soft, tender middle Does anything sound better than that?

Nope! This Japanese-style Karaage is as exquisite as it gets.

The chicken wings are marinated in a thick glaze and then battered for ultimate Japanese taste goodness.

It’s one of the easiest and also the tastiest popular Japanese appetizers to make. With hints of garlic, ginger, and soy sauce, you won’t be able to stop eating this fried chicken.

17. Japanese Potato Salad

Not just any potato salad, this Japanese take on mashed potatoes adds a world of flavor.

How? With Japanese mayonnaise, rice vinegar, and hot mustard!

It also has cucumber, carrot, green onions, eggs, and scallion for a full tasty kick. And the secret trick is in the mashing.

Unlike regular potato salad, you mash the potatoes to form small lumps that create a smooth, chunky texture. This popular appetizer is simply incredible.

18. Miso Soup with Shrimp and Tofu

Miso soup is quick and also easy to make. And you can enjoy it served hot or cold, depending on how you feel.

Think chunks of greens, shrimp, and tofu, surrounded by a warm bowl of earthy miso paste seasoning. It’s sweet, salty, and a taste everyone will love.

You can also use deep fried tofu, leftover chicken or whatever you have in place of the shrimp.

19. Japanese Sweet Potatoes (Yaki Imo)

This oh-so-sweet Japanese appetizer tastes just like a dessert.

Known as Yaki Imo in Japan, these baked sweet potatoes have a soft, perfect texture that melts in your mouth. It’s creamy, sweet, and tastes too good to be a vegetable.

You can bake, roast, or pan-fry these sweet potatoes. And season to your liking!

19 Traditional & Popular Japanese Appetizers


  1. Choose one of your favorite Japanese appetizers from our list of recipes!

  2. Gather all the ingredients you need.

  3. Create a delicious Japanese snack in under an hour!

  4. Enjoy your new favorite dish in the comfort of your own home.

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