Try your hand at my pork tonkatsu for a simple weeknight dinner that is sure to please. Tender pork cutlets are panko-crusted, pan-fried, and drenched in delectable, sweet-and-sour tonkatsu sauce.
Pork tonkatsu, also called pork katsu or simply tonkatsu, is one of those recipes that delivers an insane amount of flavor with very little effort. In fact, this entire meal can be made in just under 20 minutes. Who knew Japanese cooking could be so easy!?
A light batter and panko breadcrumbs give the pork an intoxicating crunchiness while keeping the meat inside succulent and moist. And if that wasn’t enough, this pork tonkatsu recipe comes to life when we add the homemade katsu sauce. Sweet, salty, savory, and sensational!
Table of Contents
- Pork – Pork chops or pork loin cutlets are both great options, ideally ½ inch in thickness. If yours are thick, butterfly cut them for 2 cutlets!
- White Pepper – Brings a spicy, earthy, and peppery flavor without as much sharp heat as you find in black pepper. Feel free to substitute in black pepper if desired.
- Batter – Pork tonkatsu batter is a simple combination of eggs, all-purpose flour, kosher salt, white pepper, and garlic powder. It has a pungent, savory flavor and rich texture. You can use a gluten-free alternative to flour if needed.
- Panko Breadcrumbs – These delightfully airy breadcrumbs add a major crunch without any heaviness. For a true pork katsu, be sure to use panko and not regular breadcrumbs.
- Vegetable Oil – For frying the cutlets, you’ll want to use vegetable oil with a decent smoke point. For this recipe, I like peanut, canola, or sunflower oil.
- Tonkatsu Sauce – Turns ordinary fried pork into tantalizing tonkatsu with its scrumptious savory-sweetness. Try this DIY version or look for it in the international foods aisle.
Katsu vs. Tonkatsu
Although katsu and tonkatsu are very closely related, and the terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the exact same thing. A brief breakdown of terms is a helpful tool here.
For starters, katsu is a shortened form of the word katsuretsu. This Japanese term is actually a derivative of the English word cutlet, which is what it translates back to.
Ton is the Japanese word for pig. When we put that together with the suffix katsu we get tonkatsu, which translates literally to mean pork cutlet. Simply put, tonkatsu is pork katsu.
- Prepare the Pork. Use the back of a kitchen knife to pound and roughly tenderize the pork. To prevent the meat from curling when frying (see image above on tray), cut a slit through the outer fat or any visible fat. Season with white pepper and a bit of salt.
- Mix the Batter. Whisk together the egg, flour, garlic powder, kosher salt, and white pepper in a large bowl. Put the panko in a separate bowl or tray to prepare for dredging.
- Batter & Dredge. Give each piece of pork a dip in the batter, shaking off any excess as you go. Then, dredge each piece in panko, taking care to coat all sides. Repeat the process with the rest of the pork.
- Heat the Skillet. Place a large skillet over medium heat along with an inch of vegetable oil. You want the heat to reach 350 degrees F.
- Fry and Feast. Carefully transfer the cutlets to the hot oil, frying each for about 3-4 minutes. You want the panko to be a nice golden brown and for the pork to reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Serve your pork tonkatsu with katsu sauce and enjoy!
I’ve already touched on katsu vs. tonkatsu, but there are a few other differences to note.
While all tonkatsu is katsu, not all katsu is tonkatsu. However, since pork tonkatsu was the first katsu dish on record, the terms are often used interchangeably.
Any type of meat, vegetable, or even tofu can be used to make katsu dishes. As long as the cutlets are breaded in panko, pan-fried, and drizzled with savory sweet katsu sauce. Some popular varieties include:
– Chicken (Tori Katsu)
– Minced Meat (Menchi Katsu)
– Salmon, Oysters, or Other Seafood Katsu
– Beef (Gyukatsu)
– Vegetable or Tofu Katsu
As an appetizer or snack, this dish is perfect all by itself with just a side of signature katsu sauce for dipping. I like to serve these yummy little cutlets with a selection of other appetizers like Spring Rolls, Egg Rolls, and Crab Rangoon.
Pork katsu also pairs perfectly with lots of different Japanese-inspired side dishes. For a simple yet sensational meal, serve pork tonkatsu with a refreshing Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono Salad) or these zesty Asian Green Beans, a heaping pile of Steamed Rice, and a savory bowl of Miso Soup. Finish th emeal with one of my favorites, Japanese Jiggly Cheesecake!
For the best results, reheat leftover pork in either an air fryer or in a hot oven. Both of these methods will keep the meat tender and juicy while crisping up the panko crust.
If using an air fryer, about 5 minutes at 350 degrees F should do the trick.
For the oven, preheat to about 425 degrees F. Arrange your pork katsu on a baking sheet and cook for 12-15 minutes, until warm and crispy.
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Pork Tonkatsu (Katsu)
- Roughly tenderize the pork cutlets using the back of a kitchen knife. Make a slit through the outer fat (if any or using pork chops) every inch around pork so they don’t curl when frying. Season with a pinch of salt and white pepper.
- In a bowl whisk together the batter ingredients and set up dredging station with panko in another bowl or tray.
- Dip each piece of pork in the batter, shaking off extra and then coat both sides in panko. Repeat with remaining pork.
- In a deep skillet add enough vegetable oil to fill by 1-inch. Heat to 350°F.
- Fry each cutlet for 3-4 minutes or until internal temperature registers 145°F and tonkatsu is a deep golden brown. Serve with tonkatsu sauce.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.