This homemade vegan Japanese curry is rich, hearty comfort in a bowl. It’s healthier than boxed roux but still deliciously addicting.
Curry is a staple in Japanese home cooking because it is delicious, filling, and can be made easily with boxed roux. While boxed roux is very convenient and, I’ll admit, delicious, it’s also quite high in sodium and oil and usually many ingredients that no one’s ever heard of or can pronounce (mainly preservatives). Also, some brands include dairy (typically whey protein/milk powder) or other animal products. So I decided to test out making my own Japanese curry from scratch, with all plant-based ingredients. (That being said, if you are short on time but want to enjoy a delicious bowl of curry, S&B makes a boxed roux that doesn’t contain animal products and has a shorter ingredients list than other popular brands.)
To start off, we make the roux by toasting flour in oil until it becomes a nice dark brown. This typically takes 15-20 minutes, and you need to stir constantly because the flour will burn very easily. I recommend all purpose flour (gluten-free all purpose also works), as well as the S&B brand curry powder. Other curry powders contain different ratios of spices so will not necessarily produce that Japanese curry flavor, so use a mix that you like. You will also need:
- Japanese Worcestershire sauce, I prefer the Chuno style for it’s thickness. Be aware that some brands may contain fish extract, so check the ingredients list if you are strictly vegan. If you can’t find Japanese Worcestershire sauce, I recommend using a vegan Worcestershire sauce instead, and adding a bit more applesauce/sugar to sweeten.
- ketchup or tomato paste
- applesauce, or grate 1 apple into the curry instead
- soy sauce or tamari
- green beans (can be left out)
- red lentils, or replace with any other protein of choice
- maple syrup/coconut sugar for extra sweetness, if needed
Once the roux turns a nice dark brown, add in the curry powder and mix briefly to combine, about 30 seconds, then take off from the heat and set the roux aside to use later. You can make the roux in a small pan or the same pot you will use for the curry. Add in your onions and carrots, and garlic too if desired, and cook until onions turn translucent. You can also add chopped potatoes here, a common ingredient in Japanese curry (but not my favorite haha).
Add in green beans and lentils along with the roux and 2 cups of water or vegetable broth. Then add in the rest of the ingredients.
Bring to a boil and simmer covered until thickened, checking after 10 minutes. You can add more water/vegetable broth if you want it thinner.
Taste the curry and add a little bit of sugar/maple syrup if you want it sweeter. Serve hot over rice and dig in! Store leftovers in the fridge. This makes about 4-6 servings, depending on how much you eat (my boyfriend and I finish it all over 2 separate meals — dinner and lunch the next day hehe).
Check out these other plant-based Japanese dishes!
- Japanese Jackfruit Curry
- Sesame Miso Soup
- TVP Hamburger Steak
- Air-Fryer Vegan Karaage
- Sesame Green Beans (Goma-ae)
- Kinpira Gobo (Braised Burdock Root)
- Miso Dengaku Tofu Katsu
If you try out this recipe (and I really hope you do!), please let me know what you think in the comments down below, and tag me in your recreations on instagram @ellielikes.cooking! It always makes my day to see you recreate my recipes 🙂 Happy cooking!
Vegan Japanese Curry with Lentils
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp S&B curry powder
- 1 onion sliced
- 2 carrots chopped
- 1 zucchini sliced
- 1 cup trimmed green beans cut in half
- ½ cup red lentils
- 2 tbsp Japanese Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- salt to taste
- ½ cup applesauce
- 3 cups water or vegetable broth
- a pinch of cayenne or red chili pepper optional
- Heat oil in a pan over medium low heat. When hot, add in flour and stir constantly until it turns a light brown, about 15-20 minutes.
- Once brown, add in curry powder and mix briefly, about 30 seconds. Take off from the heat and set aside the roux.
- Add onions and carrots to a large pot with oil or a splash of water. Cook until onions turn translucent.
- Add zucchini, green beans, red lentils, water/vegetable broth, roux, and the rest of the seasonings/spices. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally until curry thickens and lentils and veggies are cooked. Taste and add sugar, a teaspoon at a time, if not sweet enough. Serve hot with rice.
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