When did katsu curry become such a big craze? I remember the first time I tried it in Wagamama’s (so authentic…) and it was filthy delicious. The crispy coating on the meat, the subtly sweet and salty curry sauce, served with a portion of steamed rice in an oval shape (aside: does anyone know why it’s shaped like that?).
Unfortunately for all y’all coeliacs and even more so for all y’all coeliac vegetarians/vegans, not many places (if any!) offer a gluten-free vegan katsu curry on their menu. Shocking.
I bought a recipe book for Michael a year or so ago from Urban Outfitters which featured some of the world’s spiciest dishes. For Japan, these was katsu curry! I was shocked by how easy it was to make. There’s loads of recipes floating around, but this is by far my favourite, and one of the simplest to make. You’ll never sigh in despair as you scan a Japanese restaurant menu for something you can actually eat, sadly glancing past the katsu curry that is so far from your reach.
The sauce for this vegan katsu curry comes together in a mere 15 minutes. You could even batch cook it and freeze it to save you even more time the next time the katsu mood strikes you. I have tried to simplify this recipe as much as possible, so there’s no garlic or ginger in this sauce (which is a big step for me – I chuck garlic in everything!). It has a straightforward base of carrots, onions, spices, sweetener of your choice, and a dash of tamari.
This recipe uses a very basic set of spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and fennel seeds. I feel that the fennel seeds are crucial in this recipe, lending an almost aniseed-y flavour to it, differentiating it from normal curry sauces, giving it that real katsu feel.
I accidentally picked up smoked tofu in the supermarket for this recipe, but it was one of the best accidents I could have made with my shopping list! I tried vegan fish and chips at Mono in Glasgow once and they used smoked tofu, so I knew it would work well with this recipe.
The smokiness of the tofu eliminates some of the odd natural tofu taste that puts many people off of it, so if you’re a tofu novice, this is a great meat substitute to start off with! Just make sure that you press it veeeeeery well or you’ll have a bit of a soggy, flimsy mess to work with.
You don’t need to blend this sauce but I would recommend it. I could never be bothered blending sauces in the past and always had this katsu sauce in its much chunkier form. By blending it, I think that the flavours mix together far better. Each mouthful is consistently spiced – no overpowering fennel-infused mouthfuls!
I recently invested in a 3-in-1 Nutri Ninja and it honestly is my favourite kitchen appliance. The nutribullet is fantastic for easily blending sauces. Just don’t try to blend it when your sauce is too hot. I have made that mistake for you. The hot liquid will cause a vacuum to form around the lid, making it incredibly difficult to remove. Mine pretty much started spraying out of the gaps as I slowly unscrewed the lid… don’t lose any of that delicious vegan katsu curry sauce!!
You’ve seen this breading process on the blog before. Dip in cornflour, then liquid, then breadcrumbs. Flash in the pan. You could season the breadcrumbs with some spices like garam masala or curry powder to heighten the flavour a little. Don’t worry about coating your tofu slabs completely in breadcrumbs, it is quite difficult. I certainly didn’t worry too much! You’re just going to slather it in katsu sauce anyways.
You could bake this tofu too. I’d say maybe 200 degrees C for 20-25 minutes if you wanted to try it, but frying it will be much quicker and more authentic. You want that lovely crispy crunch and this is the best way to achieve it.
So there you go! My gluten-free and vegan tofu katsu curry! Easy enough to whip up on a weeknight but also a great treat for the weekend too. I always serve mine with green veg for a little punch of colour, drizzled with sriracha sauce, of course (not authentic though…). Let me know how you get on!
- 2-3 tbsp oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds (or sub ground coriander)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (or sub ground cumin)
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 2-3 tbsp tamari
- 1 tsp sweetener (I used agave syrup)
- 150ml water
- 1 tbsp cornflour (mixed into a paste with a splash of water)
- 400g smoked tofu
- 2-3 tbsp cornflour
- 2-3 tbsp non-dairy milk (or aquafaba)
- 100g gluten-free breadcrumbs (check it is vegan if needed)
- Remove the tofu from the packaging and pat dry. Wrap in a clean tea towel and press it with a heavy object like a frying pan. Do this for at least 1 hour.
- In a small saucepan, fry off the onion and carrot in oil on a medium heat until softened, adding water when it starts to become too dry.
- When softened, add the spices in and combine. Add the water and cornflour/water mixture and cook for a few minutes until thickened slightly. Set aside to cool.
- Add cornflour to one small dish, non-dairy milk to another, and the breadcrumbs in the final dish. Slice your pressed tofu into ½-inch thick slabs.
- Coat the tofu pieces in cornflour, then milk, then breadcrumbs, ensuring they are all evenly coated.
- Heat a frying pan with the remaining oil on medium high. When hot, add the tofu pieces, cooking for 4-5 minutes on each side until crispy.
- Meanwhile, blend your curry sauce until smooth, then return to the saucepan to heat through.
- When the tofu is ready and the sauce is heated through, serve with rice and your choice of vegetables or salad.