A delicious Nikujaga (simmered meat and vegetable) recipe

by Best-Japanese Team
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One Instagram account that is a pleasure to follow is Okawari By Azusa. She frequently shares Japanese recipes that are not only simple to make but also nutritious and tasty, such as Yuzu jelly, Tarako (Cod roe) Cream Pasta, or Kabocha (Pumpkin) Nimono. The best part is seeing her family and children enjoying the whoesome dishes she makes too! Today we have asked Azusa to give us her Nikujaga recipe; it’s an incredibly popular stew of meat, potatoes and vegetables widely cooked in Japan.

Introduction to Okawari By Azusa

Azusa moved to the US 13 years ago, but was born and raised in a small fishing town in Shimane prefecture in the west of Japan. Growing up, seafood was a staple in their home, with meals cooked using locally-harvested sea kelp and seafood sourced by her grandfather.

It was at the age of 5 that she gained an interest in cooking, learning from watching and helping out in the kitchen with mom. Aspiring to try new recipes, she collected scraps of culinary ideas she came across in books or glossy magazines. Weekends saw the whole family gathered around the dinner table enjoying dishes made by Azusa – she began with traditional Japanese cuisine before experimenting with new ingredients and baked cakes. Then during her high school days, she would make tasty bento lunch boxes every morning for her dad, brother and herself.

Now Azusa is cooking for her family of five including her husband and their 3 children. They all have their own preferences when it comes to ingredients, cooking styles and portions, but Azusa tries to bring the same food to the table so they can enjoy eating meals together while sharing stories about their day.

Okawari by Azusa

What is Nikujaga?

A classic Japanese dish, Nikujaga (肉じゃが), sometimes written as “Nikujyaga”, combines meat, potatoes and onions and cooks them in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and sake or mirin. In Japanese “Niku” means meat and “jaga” is a shortened version of “jagaimo” which means potatoes. The typical ingredients are beef along with potatoes, onions and konnyaku, although there are regional variations which all add their unique twist to the recipe.

In fact, some recent survey show that Nikujaga made with beef is prevalent in Western Japan, but in Eastern Japan it is largely made with pork. Despite this, the core essence of it has remained constant: a comforting home-cooked dish that is often thought to be characterestic of “mum’s cooking” in Japan.

Nikujaga Pork Version
Pork Version of Nikujaga. Image by Subarasikiai

Nikujaga recipe

Servings: 5-6

Time: 40 mins


  • 4 pcs Potato
  • 2 pcs Carrot
  • 1 pc Onion
  • 15-20 pcs Green beans
  • 450 grams Beef (preferably thin sliced or shaved)
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Sake

How to make Nikujaga

Cutting the carrots
Cutting the onions
Cutting potatoes
Nikujaga 2
  1. Cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, but keep the potatoes in larger shapes. Place the potatoes in a bowl of water to soak and remove the starch.
  2. In a pan or a pot, stir-fry the beef until it starts to brown. Add the sake, sugar, and soy sauce, and continue cooking until the beef is cooked through.
  3. Add the sliced onion and carrot to the pan with the beef. Stir-fry them for a few minutes until they begin to soften.
  4. Drain the potatoes from the water and add them to the pan with the other ingredients. Place an Otoshibuta (drop lid) or a regular lid on top of the pan to cover the ingredients. Let it simmer for 20-25 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the potatoes are tender.
  5. While the Nikujaga is simmering, bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook them until they are tender but still crisp. Drain the green beans and set them aside.
  6. Once the simmering is done, add the boiled green beans to the pan with the cooked potatoes. Gently stir to combine all the ingredients.
  7. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, adding more soy sauce or sugar according to your preference.
Adding the soy sauce mix
Nikujaga 7
Adding the potatoes
Bringing it all together

Azusa’s Video of how to make Nikujaga

Watch all the steps on how to cook Nikujaga on Okawari by Azusa’s YouTube channel with her video below.

What to eat with Nikujaga?

One of the most beloved Japanese dishes, Nikujaga should be savored while it’s still piping hot. The ideal way to enjoy this hearty stew is with a side of steamed white rice and a bowl of miso soup, making for a comforting meal that can transport you to Japan. Everything about it exudes comfort and simplicity, which no doubt makes it so popular among Japanese households.

Where does Nikujaga come from?

The origin of Nikujaga or Nikujyaga is quite contested between the naval cities of Maizuru in Kyoto prefecture and Kure in Hiroshima prefecture. The popular story goes that Nikujaga was conceived by Admiral Togo Heihachiro when he returned from studying at the Portsmouth naval college in the UK to Japan in 1878. Supposedly, he enjoyed the hearty beef stew so much that he felt motivated to try and replicate the taste at home. As butter and wine were not readily available, his naval cooks adapted it to local ingredients.

However, according to some records, a catch with the story is that the Japanese navy had already established standards for cooking beef stew back in 1889, and Togo was not assigned to the Maizuru naval base until 1901. Regardless of the actual origins of Nikujaga, we do know that it was a regular dish served in the Japanese navy due to it having similar ingredients as Japanese curry,  which limited the number of  items that needed to be supplied.

From the 1960s onwards, Nikujaga gradually started to gain widespread recognition in Japan. As consumption of meat increased, Nikujaga steadily became a popular dish in many households across the country by the 1970s. Many now agree that the dish is one that represents how foreign recipes have been adapted in Japan to form part of modern Japanese cuisine that we know today. 

More Japanese recipes

We hope you found this recipe easy to follow. If you’re looking for more Japanese recipes, please check out our recipe section which we will updating regularly from now. We would also absolutely recommend checking out Okawari by Azusa’s website, Instagram, and YouTube channel for more Japanese cooking inspirations and recipes.

Did you try to cook Nikujaga following this recipe?

Please feel free to comment or upload photos of the Nikujaga you made using Azusa’s recipe in the comments section below. Also, if there are any Japanese recipes you would like to see in the future, please let us know.

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