Introducing the iconic Chicken Karaage, Japan’s irresistible take on fried chicken that will leave you craving for more.
Picture this: Crispy, bite-sized golden nuggets of chicken bursting with an umami-rich marinade, delicately 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, sinfully crispy, and unforgettably delicious. Trust me, once you try it, there’s no going back!
Fried chicken is universally considered the epitome of comfort food. Who wouldn’t like to bite into perfectly cooked crispy fried chicken?
This Japanese style fried chicken 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.
Karaage Chicken is Hugely Popular in Japan, Why?
- Flavor Depth: The marinade is a sublime mix of Asian sauces, ginger, and garlic, infusing the chicken with umami and aromatic goodness that’s hard to resist.
- Crispy Perfection: That cornstarch coating creates a texture that’s the perfect balance of lightness and crunch. It’s the kind of crispy that you hear in every bite! Despite being deep-fried, Karaage chicken is very light and it isn’t greasy.
- Juiciness: The marinating and frying techniques used in Karaage ensure that the chicken inside stays tender and juicy. Every bite is a burst of succulent flavor!
- Versatility: Whether it’s a casual snack, an appetizer, or even a main course, Karaage fits the bill. Plus, you can customize it with various dips and sides like Kewpie mayo or Sriracha mayo, making it even more appealing.
- Perfect for Sharing: Its bite-sized nature makes it the perfect communal dish. Whether you’re at a party, family gathering, or a cozy date night, Karaage is always a hit!
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, imparting deep flavors into the meat. Potato starch or corn starch is often used as the coating, resulting in a lighter, crispier texture compared to Western-style fried chicken.
What sets Karaage apart is its tantalizing interplay of flavors and textures. The marinade infuses the chicken with umami richness and aromatic complexity, while the quick, hot frying locks in moisture, ensuring each bite is juicy and tender. Finally, the exterior is irresistibly crispy, offering that satisfying crunch that makes this dish an addictive delicacy.
Originally, the Karaage technique was not limited to chicken but was applied to various ingredients, including fish and tofu. However, chicken Karaage that has won hearts globally.
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.
Chicken Thighs – Boneless and skinless chicken thighs offer the easiest eating experience, but skin-on boneless chicken thighs adds extra flavor and crispiness. Your call! We do not recommend using chicken breast as they would not be as moist and juicy as chicken thigh bites.
Salt & Black Pepper – The basics that help to bring out the flavors in the chicken.
Ginger & Garlic – The aromatic duo that gives the marinade its kick. Fresh is always best for maximum flavor!
Soy Sauce – This is where your umami goodness comes from.
Sake – Adds a unique, nuanced 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 and adds a subtle sweetness.
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.
Lemon Wedges – A squeeze of lemon gives the fried chicken a zesty brightness.
Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise/Sriracha Mayo – Either option pairs gorgeously, whether you’re into creamy subtlety or a spicy kick.
Greens like Lettuce – Adds a refreshing crunch and makes 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- What Cut of Chicken to Use: 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 as they wouldn’t be moist and juicy like chicken thighs.
- 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.
- Shake Off Excess: Before dredging in cornstarch, make sure to shake off excess marinade for the ultimate crispiness.
- 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, which is not optimal for deep frying.
- Internal Temp: Use a food thermometer to ensure 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.
To Double Fry or Not To Double Fry?
The double-fry technique is a topic of much debate when it comes to achieving that coveted 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:
- First Fry: Fry the chicken until it’s just cooked through (for about 4 minutes), then remove and drain.
- Rest: Let the chicken sit for a few minutes (for about 3-4 minutes). This will help the coating set.
- Second Fry: Reintroduce the chicken 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.
So, whether to double fry or not comes down to your personal preference for crispiness. If you’re a crunch aficionado, give it a try. If you’re more of a traditionalist, a single fry should do the trick.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
For frying Karaage Chicken, it’s best to use oils with a high smoke point to ensure stability at high temperatures. Canola, vegetable, and grapeseed oil are great choices because they can withstand the heat without breaking down, resulting in a cleaner, crispier fry. These oils also have a neutral flavor that won’t overshadow the taste of your delicious Karaage.
Leftovers and Storing Tips
- Cool Completely: Let the Karaage come to room temperature before storing to prevent condensation, which can make it soggy.
- Airtight Container: Use an airtight container to seal in the flavor and prevent moisture loss.
- Fridge Time: Stored properly, Karaage can last in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- Freezer-Friendly: 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.
And there you have it, folks, the ultimate guide to mastering how to cook Karaage Chicken! From the perfect marinade to the crispiest fry, and even how to store and repurpose this Japanese culinary gem, 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 delight… Japanese Fried Chicken!!
Kaarage Chicken, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 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
- Lemon wedges
- Japanese kewpie mayonnaise or sriracha mayo
- some greens like lettuce leaves
- Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel. Place them in a bowl and season them with salt and pepper, and mix well.
- 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.
- 30 minutes prior to frying, remove the chicken from the refrigerator to come to room temperature.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve with a few sprinkles of coarse salt along with Japanese kewpie mayonnaise or sriracha mayo, lemon wedges, and greens like butter lettuce.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cut the chicken thighs into uniform pieces so they cook evenly at the same time.
- 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 InformationYield 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.
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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