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Japanese curry is my version of soul food. It is thick, rich, and filled with umami flavors. The plethora of spices is bold yet mild enough for the whole family to enjoy. Meal-prepping Japanese curry is a breeze. You can pop it in the fridge or freezer for an easy dinner or a hearty grab-and-go lunch during busy weeks.
How to Meal Prep Japanese Curry
Japanese curry is great for meal prepping. The dish is quick and easy to prepare on busy nights and tastes even better a day later.
Tender bite-size pieces of protein – chicken, beef, or lamb – onions, potatoes, thick-cut potatoes, and carrots cooked in a rich, creamy, savory Japanese curry sauce. The curry is served with a portion of sticky or short-grain rice.
Japanese curry is perfect for refrigerating and freezing too. You can cook up a large batch and keep it in the fridge for about three to four days or store it in the freezer for up to three months.
Japanese Curry Recipe
Here’s how to make Japanese curry for meal prep. My recipe is for 8 servings – fortunately, the leftovers freeze well. Before I start, I’d like to mention that you can use an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker to save time.
Gather the following ingredients from your pantry or at the store.
For the Curry
- 1 pound protein (beef, boneless, skinless chicken things, or lamb) cut into 1-inch-thick pieces
- 2 medium or large onions cut into thick wedges
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots cut into rolling wedges
- 3 Yukon gold potatoes (you can substitute them for 2 russet potatoes) cut into quarters or 2-inch cubes
- 1 knob ginger (1 teaspoon grated ginger)
- ½ apple, grated
- 2 tablespoons neutral-flavored vegetable oil
- 4 cups chicken or beef stock
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
My family and I have never been a fan of overly salty dishes. So, I prefer using half water and half stock (2 cups water and 2 cups chicken broth) when using boxed Japanese curry to counteract the saltiness.
For the Roux
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons Japanese curry powder
- 2 tablespoon garam masala
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
The roux can take up to 30 minutes to make. I often rely on store-bought boxed Japanese curry to save time while meal prepping. I’m usually not a fan of boxed foods, but the S&B Torokeru and Kokumaro instant Japanese curry blocks are an exception. They are both available in mild, medium, and hot.
You can make the Japanese roux and use it immediately when making your curry dish or prepare it beforehand. Store the roux in 1-inch cubes in the fridge for 1 month or freezer for 3 months.
Making the Roux
- Toast the curry powder and garam masala in a small sauté pan for 2 minutes over medium heat. Switch off the heat and set it aside.
- In a small or medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
- Once melted, add the flour, and stir with a whisk to form a roux. Cook the curry for 15 to 20 minutes until the mixture turns deep golden brown.
- Add the curry powder and garam masala mixture. Cook and stir for another 30 seconds until the flavors meld.
- Switch off the heat and season with kosher salt and ground pepper to taste.
Making the Curry
- Gather your ingredients and prep them. Wash, peel, and cut your vegetables. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.
- Heat your oil over medium heat in a large pot and add the onion.
- Sauté the onions until they are tender and develop a golden hue. I highly recommend caramelizing the onions if you have some time to spare.
- Mix in the minced garlic and grated ginger.
- Add protein and cook until the outside is no longer pink.
- Add the stock or half water and half stock if you use store-bought curry roux.
- Add the grated apple, soy sauce, honey, and ketchup.
- Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer until you can poke a wooden skewer through the vegetables.
- Use a fine-mesh strainer to remove the scum from the broth’s surface.
- Turn off the heat, and add the roux to the curry. If you’re using prepped cubes, dissolve them in a ladle of cooking liquid to prevent clumps.
- Simmer the curry for 10 minutes, frequently stirring, until it thickens.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
I like to cut my chicken pieces diagonally and roll-cut my carrots to create more surface area. This allows heat to penetrate and cook the food faster. I also love the visual appeal it adds to my curry.
How to Properly Store Japanese Curry
Store Japanese curry in a glass, airtight container for a maximum of four days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer. Here’s how:
- Cool: Allow the curry to cool to room temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit) before freezing it. Placing warm food in the fridge or freezer can raise the temperature and put other foods at risk of spoilage. For safety measures, cool and store the food within two hours to prevent bacterial growth, per USDA recommendations.
- Split into portions: Split the batch of Japanese curry into serving-size portions. It will speed up the cooling and simplify defrosting.
- Store in airtight containers: Store the curry in glass, airtight containers. Glass containers ease cleaning, resist stains and odors, and reheat food more evenly.
- Label and freeze: If you plan to freeze the curry, label the containers before freezing to ensure you use it within three months.
How to Reheat Japanese Curry Safely
You can reheat your Japanese curry on the stovetop or in an oven or microwave. Ensure to reheat the curry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Only reheat meal prep as much as you plan to eat. The texture and quality of the curry decrease each time you reheat it.
Can I Make Vegetarian Japanese Curry?
You can substitute the meat in Japanese curry for tofu, tempeh, or mushrooms. You can also have protein-rich vegetables like chickpeas, beans, or green peas.
Tofu and tempeh are pre-cooked and only need warming. You can add them with the roux to warm as the curry simmers for 10 minutes.
What Can I Serve Japanese Curry With?
Japanese curry is typically served with Japanese short-grain rice or sticky rice. However, you can enjoy it with a dish of Udon noodles, other rice varieties, or naan bread.
How Long Is Japanese Curry Safe to Eat?
Like most leftover meals, Japanese curry is safe to eat within four days of refrigeration and 3 months of freezing if meal prep is stored properly.
Japanese curry is a fabulous dish for families with kids and is ideal for meal prepping. Ensure you store and reheat it properly. Personalize this recipe to enhance the flavors and match your family’s preferences.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.