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GLUTEN-FREE TONKATSU (Japanese Fried Crumbed Pork)
Tonkatsu, also known as Katsu pork, is a crispy, panko-crumbed, Japanese fried pork served sliced over a bed of crisp shredded cabbage and drizzled with Tonkatsu sauce.
Nothing is more tempting and comforting than enjoying a tender juicy pork coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs and fried until golden brown & crunchy.
What gives Tonkatsu that crispy coating?
The magic ingredient is Japanese panko breadcrumbs. Due to their coarse and flaky texture, the panko breadcrumbs crisp up impressively and protect the coated food from absorbing too much oil, hence a healthier coating than the regular, fine-textured breadcrumbs. Once fried, they bring an amazing crunch that standard breadcrumbs simply cannot deliver.
If you have trouble finding store-bought panko breadcrumbs, head to my homemade gluten-free recipe here.
What pork cuts are best for Tonkatsu?
Boneless pork loin cutlets are my first choice when making Tonkatsu, as they are the classic pork cut used in this dish plus there is the perfect amount of fat in these cutlets to give it a juicy, tender finish. Just make sure the cutlets are free of any bone or fragments and that they are no thicker than 2 cm or it will take too long to cook properly and make the crumb soggy instead of nice and crisp.
Pork fillet or schnitzel cuts are much thinner and have very little or no fat on them. They are leaner to eat and fry or bake much faster than pork loin cutlets. This is not a traditional pork cut used for Tonkatsu, but if you prefer a thinner style and faster fry, then this cut is perfect for you as shown in the photo below.
Kurobuta is the very best tonkatsu cut used in Japan and is considered the Wagyu of pork. It comes from the Japanese black Berkshire pig and is known for its exceptional balance of tender meat and fat distribution. This cut can be found in a few countries and some have started rearing these pigs for their prized meat.
According to an article by Food Republic, they describe Korobuta:
“Defining characteristics of Kurobuta pork include a high amount of marbling that produces fat with lower melting points, resulting in a succulent buttery taste with tinges of sweetness. The marbling also helps the meat cook faster and more evenly at higher heat. A natural smooth texture and tenderness in the pork come from short muscle fibers, while a relatively high pH balance facilitates a firmness that helps retain fluids, resulting in juicy flavors.”
Berkshire Pork is the same cut as Kurobuta. This breed originated in the British county of Berkshire, hundreds of years ago. In the 1860’s they were exported to Japan where they were named Kurobuta, meaning black pig in Japan.
This thick Japanese sauce is a mixture of Worcester, sweet BBQ or tomato sauce with fruity, tangy and umami notes. As a condiment, it is traditionally served with fried food, notably Tonkatsu pork.
This sauce can be bought in Asian stores. The most well-known brand is Bull Dog Vegetable & Fruit Sauce, but as it contains gluten ingredients, Worcester and yeast extract, the only solution is to make a homemade gluten-free Tonkatsu sauce.
While there are many variations for tonkatsu sauce, the main ingredients are Worcester sauce and tomato ketchup/sauce.
My Tonkatsu sauce recipe includes the following ingredients:
Using either store-bought or homemade will add that unique umami flavour to the sauce.
Tomato Ketchup or BBQ sauce
This addition is the main ingredient in the sauce, giving it that classic fruity tanginess. As with all store-bought condiments, double-check the label to ensure it is “gluten-free safe”. If you are a keen “condiment maker”, then using your homemade ketchup or BBQ will improve the quality of this sauce.
Tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
Soy sauce is another effective umami contributor to the sauce. Luckily, both Tamari and gluten-free soy sauce are easy to source now in most countries.
Freshly grated ginger
This sharp, pungent and sweet spice gives the sauce an additional tanginess and depth in flavour. If you are a fan of ginger, increase the quantities in the recipe for a stronger ginger taste in the sauce. Cooking down the sauce will mellow and break down the ginger slightly.
Mustard gives any sauce or vinaigrette an impressive boost in tangy, spicy and aromatic flavours. I have used Dijon mustard in my recipe, but if you are able to find Japanese mustard, this is more traditional in Tonkatsu sauce.
Garlic powder & brown sugar
Both these ingredients help increase the sweet & spice flavour of the sauce.
Gluten-Free Tonkatsu (Japanese Fried Pork Katsu)
- Large wide frying pan to fry the pork katsu
- Small pan for making the Tonkatsu sauce
Gluten-Free Tonkatsu ((Japanese Fried Pork Katsu)
- 4 boneless pork loin cutlets or fillets (please note that fillets/schnitzels are thinner and will cook faster than the other cut)
- 40 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour blend
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp water
- 200 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free panko breadcrumbs
- Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
Gluten-Free Tonkatsu sauce (this quantity makes enough for the pork servings)
- ½ head white cabbage, finely shredded
- A few sprinkles of sesame oil (optional)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- 4 wedges lemons, to squeeze over the fried pork
- 2 spring onions, sliced thinly, to garnish
- black sesame seeds, to garnish the cabbage
Gluten-Free Tonkatsu (Japanese Fried Pork Katsu)
- Prepare the crumbing station by placing three wide bowls to hold the flour, salt & white pepper; beaten eggs & water and panko breadcrumbs separately.
- Gently pound the cutlet or fillet with a meat mallet and pat any moisture with a paper towel. Pound the chop slightly more if the pork measures more than 2 cm thick.
- One by one, toss the pork in the flour, shaking off any excess flour.
- Transfer the pork to the egg mixture and coat it well.
- Finish off by dredging the pork in the panko breadcrumbs, turning it several times and patting down the pork into the crumbs to coat thoroughly.
- Place the crumbed pork onto a clean plate and either chill them until frying time or start heating the pan with the oil to fry them. TIP: Chilling them uncovered for at least one hour will make them extra crisp when frying.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F if you are making a large batch of Tonkatsu.
- Heat 2 cm of oil to medium-high and start frying the pork in batches, so not to overcrowd the pan.
- Turn the pork cutlets over several times for about 10-15 mins. The crumbs should look golden and crisp. Please note that fillet/schnitzel cuts are thinner and will cook faster than pork cutlets.
- Either keep the pork warm in the preheated oven if making a large batch while preparing the remaining pork or place them on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
- Check to see if the pork is cooked through by slicing a small section. It should still be juicy and very slightly pink.
- Allow the pork to cool down for 5 minutes before slicing diagonally into 2 cm slices.
- Finely shred the cabbage and place it in a bowl with iced cold water to crisp up. Set aside for 5 mins or more.
- Drain the cabbage and place on the serving plate. If you prefer more flavour, sprinkle the cabbage with some sesame oil and *toasted sesame seeds. *To make your own toasted sesame seeds, simply dry-fry white or brown sesame seeds on low heat, stirring often until toasted and fragrant.
Gluten-Free Tonkatsu sauce
- In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 mins.
- Remove from heat to cool down.
- Pour into small bowls for each serving or into a squeezy bottle to drizzle over the pork katsu. Any leftover sauce can be covered and chilled for several weeks.
- Place the crisp cabbage on the side of each plate and arrange the pork slices along the other side.
- Serve with the Tonkatsu sauce drizzled over the top or on the side in a small dipping bowl.
- Garnish with sliced spring onions, black sesame seeds and a lemon wedge on the side.
- Serve with one or all of the serving suggestions mentioned below in the notes.
- Pork katsu keeps chilled for 2 days.
- Uncooked crumbed pork katsu is suitable to freeze.
- Tonkatsu sauce keeps for several weeks chilled in a sealed jar or can be frozen in small portions.