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    Karaage Chicken (Japanese Fried Chicken)

    Introducing the iconic Chicken Karaage, Japan’s take on fried chicken that will leave you craving for more.

    Picture this: Crispy, bite-sized golden bites of chicken with an umami marinade, flavored with hints of garlic, ginger, and authentic Japanese seasonings. Now imagine that deliciousness encased in a feather-light, ultra-crispy shell.

    There my friends is Japan’s beloved fried chicken! Karaage Chicken!! Perfectly balanced, crispy, delicious. Trust me, once you try it, there’s no going back!

    Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) is super crispy and juicy, plus it's incredibly flavorful thanks to the marinade.

    Fried chicken is universally considered the ultimate comfort food. Who wouldn’t like to bite into perfectly cooked crispy fried chicken?

    This Japanese version is a very popular street food, and is on the regular menu rotation in many households.

    The next time you crave fried chicken, try these Japanese flavorings and cooking techniques. You are going to love this super simple appetizer, or relatively quick dinner recipe.

    Close up overhead shot of Japanese fried chicken.

    What is Karaage?

    Karaage is a popular Japanese cooking technique where ingredients are marinated and then deep-fried to golden perfection. The word “Karaage” (唐揚げ) translates to “Chinese fry,” referring to its historical roots in Chinese cuisine, though it has evolved to become distinctly Japanese.

    The marinade typically includes soy sauce, sake, mirin, and aromatics like garlic and ginger. Potato starch or corn starch is used as the coating, resulting in a lighter, crispier texture compared to Western-style fried chicken.

    Fried chicken was popularized in Japan during the post-war era, and Karaage, with its lighter, crispier coating and flavorful marinade, offered a uniquely Japanese take on this global favorite.

    Whether served as a snack, appetizer, or main course, Karaage is incredibly versatile. In Japan, it’s a popular izakaya (Japanese pub) dish, very common street food, a convenient bento box item, and a beloved comfort food.

    Angled shot of these fried chicken bites.

    Ingredient Notes

    Chicken Thighs – I love to use boneless and skinless chicken thighs, but skin-on boneless chicken thighs adds extra flavor and crispiness. Your call! We do not recommend using chicken breasts, as they would not be as moist and juicy as chicken thigh bites.

    Salt & Black Pepper – Simple seasonings.

    Ginger & Garlic – The aromatic duo that gives the marinade its kick.

    Soy Sauce – This is where your umami goodness comes from.

    Sake – Adds a unique taste to the marinade. Substitutions like Chinese rice wine or dry sherry work, but will slightly alter the authentic flavor.

    Mirin – A sweet Japanese rice wine that balances out the saltiness of the soy sauce.

    Cornstarch – The secret to that irresistible, light-as-air crispy coating. If you find potato starch, feel free to use it as that’s more traditional.

    Oil – Neutral oils like canola or vegetable oil are perfect for frying.

    To Serve:

    Lemon Wedges – A squeeze of lemon adds some tang to the fried chicken.

    Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise/Sriracha Mayo – Either option pairs gorgeously.

    Greens like Lettuce – For a refreshing crunch and to make the dish look even more inviting! You can wrap the Karaage Chicken in lettuce like chicken lettuce wraps.

    Japanese Fried Chicken Recipe

    1. Marinate the chicken: Pat chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle salt and black pepper over the chicken pieces. Mix well. Add in the minced garlic and grated ginger. Pour in the soy sauce, mirin, and sake.

    Ensure all pieces are well-coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.

    Chicken pieces marinating in a large bowl.

    2. Dredge the chicken: Bring the marinated chicken to room temperature. Generously coat each piece of chicken in cornstarch, shaking off any excess.

    Place the coated pieces on a dish or baking sheet.

    Cornstarch coated chicken pieces on a platter.

    3. Fry: Preheat oil in a deep pot to 325°F. Ensure the oil depth is about 1¼-1½ inches. Fry the chicken in batches for 5-6 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F and turns golden brown.

    Don’t overcrowd the pot, fry in batches for even cooking. Place the fried chicken on a paper towel-lined plate and let it rest for 3-4 minutes.

    Fried chicken pieces on a paper towel lined plate.

    How to Serve Karaage Chicken

    Give the chicken bites a sprinkle of coarse salt and serve with a few lemon wedges on the side. Some fresh greens like butter lettuce, shredded cabbage, or even some microgreens are nice on the side as well.

    And don’t forget the sauce! Kaarage is commonly served with Kewpie mayo, but today we’re going with Sriracha Mayo for a little kick. Yum Yum Sauce would also go great.

    Another great option for a little more substantial meal is in a rice bowl. Place your fried chicken pieces on top of a bed of steamed jasmine or sushi rice. Add some veggies like edamame, shredded carrots, or cucumber slices. You can drizzle a little Teriyaki Sauce and sprinkle some sesame seeds or furikake for added flavor and color.

    Karaage drizzled with sriracha mayo.

    Recipe Tips and Tricks

    • Uniform Chicken Pieces: Cut the chicken thighs into uniform pieces so they cook evenly at the same time.
    • Longer Marinade: Aim for at least an hour of marination, but the longer (up to 4 hours), the better.
    • Sake: Sake is a Japanese rice wine, which not only add flavor to the marinade, but also help tenderize the chicken. You can find this in the Asian section of some supermarkets or in Asian grocery stores. If you don’t have, sub it with Chinese rice wine, dry sherry or simply omit it.
    • Cornstarch is Key: Cornstarch gives you that ultra-crispy, light coating that’s essential for Karaage. You can use potato starch if you can find it in your local store.
    • Dredge the Chicken Well: Make sure your chicken is well coated with cornstarch. This will give the chicken the crunch it’s known for. Shake off any excess before frying.
    • Perfect Oil Temp: Maintain your oil at a steady 325°F. Too hot and it’ll burn, too cold and it’ll soak up too much oil. If you don‘t have an instant read thermometer, insert a wooden chopstick into the oil. When small bubbles start to appear around the tip, the oil is hot enough to fry the chicken
    • Small Batches: Fry in small batches to maintain oil temperature, ensuring each piece is golden and crisp. Overcrowding while frying can lead to decrease in oil temperature.
    • Internal Temp: Use a food thermometer to make sure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F for safety.
    • Drain Properly: After frying, use a wire rack or paper towel lined dish for draining to keep that crispiness intact. Rest for 3-4 minutes before serving.
    A bowl full of this Japanese fried chicken.

    To Double Fry or Not To Double Fry?

    The double-fry technique is a topic of much debate when it comes to achieving that perfect crunch. For Karaage, however, double frying isn’t traditionally necessary. The potato starch or cornstarch coating usually deliver a satisfying crunch without the need for a second dip in the fryer.

    That said, if you’re after an extra-crispy exterior, a double fry can help you achieve that. Here’s how:

    1. First Fry: Fry the chicken until it’s just cooked through (for about 4 minutes), then remove and drain.
    2. Rest: Let the chicken sit for a few minutes (for about 3-4 minutes). This will help the coating set.
    3. Second Fry: Add the chicken back to the hot oil for a second, shorter fry (for about 1 minute, or till deep golden brown in color) to get that intense crunch.
    Karaage alongside lemon wedges and lettuce eaves.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What’s the difference between Karaage and Chicken Katsu?

    Karaage and Chicken Katsu are both beloved Japanese dishes, but they’re quite different in preparation and presentation.

    Karaage is made from marinated chicken pieces, usually boneless thighs, that are coated in cornstarch before being deep-fried. The result is a juicy, flavorful chicken with a light, crispy exterior.

    Chicken Katsu, on the other hand, involves pounding a chicken breast flat, then coating it in a layer of flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs before frying. The outcome is a flatter, crumb-coated cutlet that’s often served sliced and accompanied by a tonkatsu sauce.

    2. Why is my fried chicken not crispy?

    If your Karaage Chicken isn’t turning out as crispy as you’d like, there could be several factors at play:
    Oil Temperature. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the chicken can end up soaking too much of it, making it soggy. Aim for an oil temperature of around 325°F.
    Overcrowding. Putting too many pieces in the fryer at once can lower the oil temperature and result in less crispy chicken.
    Excess Marinade. Make sure to shake off any excess marinade before dredging the chicken in cornstarch. Too much liquid can compromise the crispiness.
    Cornstarch Coating. Ensure that the chicken is well-coated in cornstarch. An uneven or sparse coating can lead to inconsistent texture.

    3. What can I do with leftover Karaage?

    There are brilliant ways to repurpose Karaage for secondary meals. Use it in Sesame Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Orange Chicken, or General Tso’s Chicken.

    Leftovers and Storing Tips

    Let the Karaage come to room temperature before storing to prevent condensation, which can make it soggy. Store it in an airtight container, then refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.

    For longer storage, place the Karaage in a zip-top bag, squeeze out the air, and freeze. It can last up to a month this way.

    Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) is super crispy and juicy, plus it's incredibly flavorful thanks to the marinade.

    And there you have it, folks, the ultimate guide to mastering how to cook Karaage Chicken! From the perfect marinade to the crispiest fry, you’re now all set to impress.

    So go ahead, treat yourself and your loved ones to a batch of this irresistibly crunchy and flavorful treat… Japanese Fried Chicken!!

    Karaage Chicken, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    Serving of karaage chicken in a bowl atop the Gypsy Plate.

    More great Japanese recipes:
    Japanese Beef Curry
    Katsu Pork
    Hibachi Chicken
    Teriyaki Chicken
    Katsudon
    Katsu Curry

    Featured image for Karaage Chicken recipe.

    Karaage Chicken (Japanese Fried Chicken)

    Yield: 4 servings
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 25 minutes

    Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) is super crispy and juicy, plus it's incredibly flavorful thanks to the marinade.

    Ingredients

    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see note 1)
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp black pepper
    • 2 tsp grated ginger
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sake (see note 2)
    • 1 Tbsp mirin
    • ½ cup cornstarch
    • oil for deep frying

    To Serve

    • Lemon wedges
    • Japanese kewpie mayonnaise or sriracha mayo
    • some greens like lettuce leaves

    Instructions

    1. Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel. Place them in a bowl and season them with salt and pepper, and mix well.
    2. Add in minced garlic and grated ginger along with soy sauce, mirin and sake. Mix well so all the pieces get well coated with the marinade. Wrap bowl with cling wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.
    3. 30 minutes prior to frying, remove the chicken from the refrigerator to come to room temperature.
    4. Heat enough oil in a deep pot or pan to 325°F (see note 3).The depth of the oil should be about 1¼-1½ inches.
    5. While you wait for the oil to heat up, dredge the marinated chicken (shake off excess marinade) in cornstarch to coat each piece evenly from all sides, and set the pieces of coated chicken on a dish or baking sheet.
    6. When the oil is ready, fry the coated chicken in batches for about 5-6 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°F, and chicken is golden crispy brown. Don't overcrowd the pot, cook in batches. Keep moving the pieces from time to time as to fry evenly from all sides. Remove the fried chicken to a paper towel lined dish and rest for 3-4 minutes.
    7. Serve with a few sprinkles of coarse salt along with Japanese kewpie mayonnaise or sriracha mayo, lemon wedges, and greens like butter lettuce.

    Notes

    1. Using skin on boneless thighs is excellent for this recipe, if you want crispy fried skin on chicken. They are hard to find. You can cut the pieces out of bone-in chicken. Chicken breast is not recommended for this recipe.
    2. Sake is a Japanese rice wine, which not only adds flavor to the marinade, but also help tenderize the chicken. You can find this in the Asian section of some supermarkets or in Asian grocery stores. If you don't have, sub it with Chinese rice wine, dry sherry, or simply omit it.
    3. A good thermometer is great to check the temperature of the hot oil. If you don‘t have an instant read thermometer, insert a wooden chopstick into the oil. When small bubbles start to appear around the tip, the oil is hot enough to fry the chicken.
    4. Cut the chicken thighs into uniform pieces so they cook evenly at the same time.
    5. To maintain the temperature of the oil, do not overcrowd the pan with too many chicken pieces. Cook in batches, with no more than 6-7 chicken pieces at once.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 4 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 364Total Fat 17gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 13gCholesterol 139mgSodium 771mgCarbohydrates 23gFiber 3gSugar 3gProtein 30g

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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      3 thoughts on “Karaage Chicken (Japanese Fried Chicken)”

      • This sounds marvelous, hoe=wever we do not deep fry foods. Is there a way to make this in the oven, or sauteed? I love your site and your recipes, thank you so uch for that!

        • Hi Barbara. I haven’t tried cooking this any other way, as deep frying is what’s traditional. If you do try baking it, I would probably recommend a pretty high temperature. Probably you best alternative would be an air fryer. However you try it, let me know how it turns out. It would be great to know for future reference.

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