Japanese cuisine is gaining worldwide recognition and for lots of good reasons. For one, it’s shaped by the culture and history of the different regions in Japan which makes their food interesting and flavorful.
But more than that, their dishes are versatile enough to cater to the different tastes and preferences of people all over the world. (*)
But here’s the catch: The cornerstone of this cuisine is rice, the biggest no-no in the ketogenic diet.
So, what’s a keto dieter like you need to do to enjoy this cuisine? Look for low-carb keto Japanese dishes!
Do you want to hear the good news? We’ve found plenty of low-carb options for you. Check out this article to know more!
Sushi may be the most popular option there is, but it’s not low carb or keto-friendly! So what can you at eat a Japanese restaurant?
Learn more: Is Sushi Keto Friendly?
For your information, there are plenty of other dishes at Japanese restaurants that don’t have rice! If you want to enjoy a great meal at a Japanese restaurant and stay on keto, here are some of the low carb options that can satisfy your craving:
1. Miso Soup
One of the best ways to start your meal is to try miso soup which you can find at most Japanese restaurants. The miso soup is a soup broth that is light and refreshing. The rich umami flavor of the miso soup is due to its fermented soybean paste content.
The best thing about the miso soup is it’s highly customizable. You can add other filling ingredients like tofu, cabbage, mushroom, and many others.
Since miso soup contains fermented food, it’s considered probiotic and delivers beneficial bacteria to your gut for better digestive health.
Eating this Japanese dish is as fun as saying its name. Shabu- Shabu is a DIY dish that consists of a hot bowl of broth, vegetables, mushrooms, and thinly sliced beef strips.
We said that it’s a DIY meal because you will cook the vegetables and beef on your own.
All that you need to do is place the vegetables in the boiling broth then dip the beef slices in the broth for a few seconds and you can already enjoy a bowl of hot soup that’s rich in fiber, protein, and fats.
3. Japanese Pickles
In Japan, these are called Tsukemono and are considered to be the best side dish for Japanese dishes.
Since these are also fermented food items, Japanese pickles also contain a good amount of good bacteria that are beneficial for your digestive system.
- Pro Tip: Pickled delicacies in Japan come in two types—fruits and vegetables. Since you’re on keto, you should avoid pickled fruits and go for pickled vegetables instead. The most popular pickled vegetables are cabbage, carrots, and cucumbers.
Eggs are one of the best ketogenic foods due to their low carb and high protein content. (2)
If you love eggs, then you should try tamagoyaki which is the Japanese version of an omelet. However, it’s a bit sweeter as it’s seasoned with a mixture of dashi (a flavorful broth) and mirin (rice wine).
It’s also a lot fluffier than the usual omelet.
Another great thing about this is it comes in bite-sized pieces so you can easily it this using a chopstick. This is truly a next-level egg dish that you need to try.
Sukiyaki is similar to shabu-shabu shabu in the sense that they are both DIY meals. It also comes with thinly sliced beef pieces. But along with that, sukiyaki also contains carrots, green onions, mushrooms, and other vegetables. Additionally, sukiyaki comes with a sweet and salty broth which tastes a lot different from the shabu-shabu broth.
- Pro Tip: However, please take note that sukiyaki comes with shirataki or potato starch. It only contains a small amount of sugar that would work well for a dirty keto diet. But it’s not a great option for people on a strict keto diet.
This is probably one of the simplest Japanese dishes that you can enjoy, but it’s one of the best Japanese dishes for keto. This is because Negamaki is comprised of thinly sliced beef wrapped around a vegetable, usually asparagus or green onions.
The beef roll is grilled which gives it that delicious smoky flavor. This dish is commonly enjoyed either as a meal or an appetizer.
7. Miso Black Cod
Black cod or sablefish is a Japanese delicacy fish and they refer to this as Miso Gindara. At Japanese restaurants, the fish is marinated in miso sauce that’s comprised of mirin, miso, sugar, and sake.
- Pro Tip: Since you’re on keto, ordering this at Japanese restaurants is not recommended since the sauce has added sugars. We recommend creating this dish at home and substituting the sauce ingredients with ginger, lemon juice, and vinegar.
8. Tonjiru / Butairu
Aside from miso soup, Tonjiro or Butairu is another delicious low-carb soup option that you may want to try. This is a hearty pork soup that contains different types of vegetables like carrots, burdock, daikon, and shiitake mushrooms. It’s topped with chopped scallions or onions.
- Pro Tip: When ordering this at a Japanese restaurant, ask the server to skip the starchy vegetables. Or better yet, make one at home using keto-friendly vegetables of your choice.
Sashimi is one of the most popular dishes worldwide. But if you’re not familiar with it, it’s sliced raw fish or seafood. The most common options are salmon, mackerel, and tuna. At Japanese restaurants, the slices are dipped in ponzu and soy sauce and a bit of wasabi.
Since Japanese restaurants use different types of fish and seafood for sashimi, the nutritional information of the dish may vary.
Let’s take a look at the most popular sashimi option—salmon. This fish is rich in selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and other antioxidants which is great for our immune system.
10. Grilled eel
The translation of this dish is unagi. The eel is marinated in a mixture of mirin and a bit of soy sauce and sake. The fish can be cooked in various ways, but the most flavorful way would be grilling over charcoal.
In addition to having high amounts of protein and fats, the fish also contains a good amount of omega-3 fatty acid which helps reduce the risk of heart diseases. (3)
- Pro Tip: The downside of ordering this dish is it often comes with rice. We suggest skipping the rice and opt for a stir-fry vegetable side dish instead.
Simply put, Yakitori is Japanese- style skewered chicken. The preparation of this dish is quite simple since it only involves skewering the meat on bamboo or steel sticks and grilling it over a charcoal fire.
Since it’s pure meat—no added sugars and ingredients, it’s low carb and perfect for the ketogenic diet.
But there’s one ingredient you should be wary about: the yakitori sauce which is loaded with sugar.
- Pro Tip: We recommend skipping this and topping your yakitori with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds instead.
If you love burgers, you certainly need to try their burger patty which they call Hamburg. It consists of ground beef, egg, and finely chopped onion. It’s more of a version of a Salisbury steak than a hamburger since it’s often served with rice at Japanese restaurants. You should skip since you’re on keto.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that some restaurants add breadcrumbs to their Hamburg mixture. If you’re on strict keto, you should ask the server to stay safe. An even better idea is to make your own steak at home.
13. Seaweed Salad
For a tangy and savory side dish, the seaweed salad is your best option. This low-carb salad contains only a few ingredients– seaweed of your choice, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, chopped scallions, and wasabi powder.
- Pro Tip: You can order this at Japanese restaurants but if you’re on a strict low carb diet, try making this recipe at home and replace the soy sauce with coconut aminos. The good news is this is one of the easiest recipes to make!
So, Is Japanese Food Keto Friendly?
Yes, of course! Just like its rich history and culture, their cuisine is interesting but, above all– versatile! There is more to their offerings than just sushi, and you can enjoy the fullness of their cuisine if you’ll try out all the dishes that we’ve mentioned in this list.
To enjoy this cuisine without worrying about getting kicked out of ketosis, we recommend skipping out on the sugary sauces (like their teriyaki sauce), researching the net carbs of the different Japanese food, and researching the menu of Japanese restaurants in advance. But the best option of all is to look for recipes so you can recreate these dishes at home.