This gluten free okonomiyaki is a healthy twist on the savory Japanese cabbage pancake, which is a popular street food in Japan. Gluten free, grain free, soy free...nothing but good for you, healthy, ingredients! This delicious recipe is topped with bacon, scallions, and spicy mayo for an extra kick.
There's this restaurant here in Charleston called Xiao Bao Biscuit. It's housed in an old gas station, with picnic tables in the parking lot as an eating area.And it was at this gas station turned restaurant that I first encountered the food wonder that is okonomiyaki, otherwise known as a Japanese cabbage pancake.
They serve their okonomiyaki with some different topping options - it automatically comes with the spicy Sriracha mayo, but you can add a fried egg, crumbled bacon, or even candied bacon on top - and if you're feeling ambitious, you can go for all three.
Don't get me wrong -I love some candied bacon. And I'm all about finding balance. But I've learned over the years that my body is much happier when I go gluten free, and I want to eat these cabbage pancakes all day, erryday.
So, I decided to attempt my hand at a paleo okonomiyaki recipe. It took me quite a few tries, and like most of my recipe testing scenarios, I was a bit sick of okonomiyaki by the time I was done, but I finally got it nailed down.
And, this best part is that this recipe is completely paleo - gluten free, grain free, soy free...nothing but good for you, healthy, ingredients!
What goes in cabbage pancakes
Traditional okonomiyaki usually starts with a batter of cabbage, wheat flour, and yamaimo, or mountain yam. While mountain yam is gluten free, I haven't included it in this recipe as it's somewhat of a specialty ingredient and can be difficult to find.
It can have a slimy texture, and for okonomiyaki you have to shred it. I'd much rather buy shredded cabbage and call it a day, and I'm guessing you would too.
Now, make sure you get a paleo or at least a gluten free fish sauce - Red Boat fish sauce is my favorite brand. It's a little pricey, but it will last you forever because you use so little of it at a time.
For the toasted sesame oil, I buy mine at Trader Joe's. There's no need to pay a bunch of money for that, you can probably find an inexpensive bottle at your local grocery. I've also found it at places like Harris Teeter and Publix; and if all else fails I love Thrive Market for discount specialty grocery items - they have a toasted sesame oil here. (If you're not familiar with Thrive Market, check out my review here!)
You'll need a couple of gluten free flours as well - specifically, almond flour and coconut flour. I haven't tested this recipe with any other variations, so I can't say if anything else will work.
If you're interested in experimenting with substitutes like cassava flour and other dry ingredients as gluten-free alternatives, I recommend checking out my post on alternative flours here before doing so.
And you'll need cabbage and carrots, of course.
How to make gluten free okonomiyaki
This recipe for japanese savory pancakes ended up being easier than I expected. (I don't know why I expected it to be hard, but I did. It isn't.)
You're going to whisk all your batter ingredients together in a large bowl, then dump in your cabbage and carrots and toss them around to coat. Here's what your batter should look like, before the cabbage and carrots go in:
Once cabbage and carrots are added, you just scoop some out into a large skillet greased with hot oil (I prefer coconut oil), pat it down and spread it out into a flat, round, single layer, and let cook over medium heat to medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side until its golden brown and cooked through.
How to serve your Okonomiyaki
I served my gluten free okonomiyaki topped with bacon crumbles, green onions, and some Sriracha mayo.
Traditional okonomiyaki is often topped with okonomi sauce or okonomiyaki sauce. This is somewhat of a Japanese version of worcestershire sauce, but is sweeter and less salty.
You can buy it in a specialty grocery or make your own. I chose a spicy mayo instead, as this is similar to what the local restaurant uses and I found it to be a great way to increase the depth of flavor.
I skipped the fried egg this time, but adding one definitely steps it up a notch - especially with the bacon.
Get creative! The okonomiyaki itself doesn't have a super strong flavor, so you can feel free to top it with a variety of ingredients depending on what you're feeling like at the time. Other popular toppings include candied pork belly, spring onions, seaweed flakes, and more.
What did you end up topping your okonomiyaki with? Let me know in the comments!
Frequently asked questions
What are bonito flakes, and why aren't you using them?
Bonito flakes are dried fermented fish filets. I used fish sauce in the batter in this recipe to achieve the umami flavor, so I didn't need the addition of bonito flakes in this recipe. These are a specialty ingredient and can be tough to find. You can read more about bonito flakes here.
Can I use japanese mayonnaise (kewpie) in this recipe?
You sure can. I prefer to just add some Sambal Olek to mayonnaise and mix well for ease of use. If you prefer to buy Kewpie and use it instead, you certainly can! If you're not familiar with this, Kewpie mayo incorporates yolks and yolks alone for a yellow color, an almost custardy texture, and distinctly rich and fatty mouthfeel. The store bought brands are again, typically at specialty shops, and can often contain ingredients like MSG. I recommend making your own to keep it clean!
Can I grease the pan with olive oil?
I wouldn't recommend it. Olive oil starts to lose it's nutrient profile when heated, and is best served cold. Additionally, it has a strong flavor. You want to aim for a neutral flavor or complimentary flavored oil, which is why I've used coconut oil. Avocado oil or bacon grease would be two great alternatives.
Can I use soy sauce?
Make sure you get a gluten free variety if you're going to use soy sauce. I love coconut aminos as a soy sauce substitute, and it is always gluten free!
Why does my gluten-free okonomiyaki have such a thick batter?
The batter for this japanese savoury pancake is going to be thicker than what you might think of when you think of a "pancake." It's a bit denser, and has the vegetables mixed in, which makes it thicker as well. This is normal! When you get it in the pan, you'll have to manually spread it out a bit to get it in a thin, "single layer" before cooking.
Gluten Free Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancake)
This recipe for Okonomiyaki ,or Japanese Cabbage Pancakes, is a gluten free and paleo version of a favorite. It's even Whole30 compliant!
- 2 large eggs
- 2 Tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup almond flour
- 1 Tablespoon coconut flour
- 3 Tablespoons water*
- 4-5 cups shredded cabbage, (10 oz bag)
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
- diced green onions
- diced bacon
- sriracha mayo
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs, aminos, sesame oil, vinegar, and fish sauce and whisk until smooth.
- Add the salt, almond flour, and coconut flour to the mixture and whisk again to combine.
- Add the water a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. You're looking to thin the batter out a bit, but not to make it runny. Different almond flours and coconut flours absorb liquid differently - you may not need all 3 tablespoons!
- Add the shredded cabbage and carrot to the batter, and toss to combine and coat everything. If it still feels to dry, add a bit more water.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add ½ tablespoon of the coconut oil to coat the pan.
- Scoop out ¼ of the batter into the pan, and using the back of your scoop or a spatula, spread it out into a single layer.
- Cook 3-5 minutes, then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more or until browned and batter is cooked through.
- Serve topped with bacon, green onions, and sriracha mayo, or with toppings of your choice - get creative!
*Don't add all your water at once! Add it a bit at a time until you have the batter consistency you're looking for.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 pancake
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 461Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 604mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 17gSugar: 24gProtein: 19g
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I also had trouble with these holding together during frying. I followed the recipe exactly and even weighed my cabbage. But I ended up having to add one extra egg at the end and while it helped a little I think I would need to start out with more batter or less veggies to begin with. Any luck figuring out a different ratio, anyone? Regardless they are very tasty!
I tried this with just almond flour and they did not hold together at all (even after 6 minutes on the griddle). I should have known: what I had wasn't really a batter, more like moistened cabbage. Adding two more eggs helped a little but I really think the coconut flour is what provides the best binding. I used pre-shredded cabbage that I chopped to make an even finer shred. The flavor was good though. 🙂
Hi LBL! I'm sorry you had trouble keeping these together. Coconut flour is very dry and absorbs moisture, so I'm not sure if that would help with the batter. I'll experiment a bit and see what helps. I'm glad you enjoyed the flavor!
Oh these were so good!!! My fresh cabbage was pretty wet so I made my batter thick and it held together beautifully. I was bringing these to a potluck so I made mine small (5"). Served with GF Bulldog Sauce (Asian aisle in grocery store) and bonito fish flakes, Kewpie mayo, bacon & green onions. It was a huge hit!!!
Yum, that sounds amazing!
Is there a way to make these egg free? We just found out my littlest has a severe egg allergy so looking for new breakfast ideas and this looks like one my man would enjoy!
Hi Elizabeth! I'm sorry to hear about your son's egg allergy, that must be tough. A typical egg substitute is what is called a flax egg, which is 1 Tbsp of flax meal mixed with 2.5 Tbsp of water. You would pre mix these together to make the "egg" and then use it as you normally would.
As a disclaimer, I have not tried using a flax egg in this recipe, so I don't know how it will hold up, or if it will hold them together, but it is certainly worth a shot!
Hi! Have you ever tried storing the batter/veggie mix in the fridge and just making a couple at a time? I love these so much!
Hi Anna - I have done this! I've actually made the batter and mix the night before and then made them the next day. It should be fine for a few days!
I love this recipe, worked a treat for me
I didn't have your topping ingredients at home though, so used a lemony cashew sauce and finely chopped tomatoes from the garden. Not very traditional, but delish 🙂
Rose, that sounds delicious! So fresh and bright. I can't wait to try it out!
I made these last week and they were soooooo delicious! I didn't make the pancake small enough so it ripped when I tried to flip it, but it still tasted super yummy. My partner said it was the best meal I made all year : )
Hi Hanna, so glad you guys enjoyed it! They are one of our favorites too. 🙂
How awesome to have found this after eating at xiao bao and wanting to recreate a healthier version! I'm excited to try this!
Yay! So glad I could help. I love love love xiao bao but needed a gluten free pancake. Let me know how you like it!
Well I got a stir fry instead of a pancake! Haha. I don’t think I shredded my cabbage fine enough maybe? It still tasted delicious though 🙂
Hi Amy - I could see if the cabbage strips were too thick how it might not hold together. I have had a couple of other people mention this as well, but I haven't been able to recreate the issue. I usually use pre-shredded bagged cabbage, because I am lazy and short on time. I'll try these again and see if I can duplicate the issue. The egg batter should hold them together once fully cooked!
Do you happen to have nuturitnal information? particularly calories?
Hi John! I've added the Nutrition Facts to the recipe. Please note that these are approximate and if you need exact numbers it is best to do the calculation manually. Happy eating! 🙂
I'm a huge okonomiyaki fan and have made it quite a few times, and was excited to try a paleo version! However, it didn't turn out for me at all - it just wouldn't hold together or cook in the same way it has with regular flour. Have you ever had any challenges with that? Wondering what might have gone wrong.
I'm sorry you had that experience! I had a friend make them who had the same issue, but I haven't been able to re-create it. Another reader made them and said her first one fell apart. She discovered she just didn't cook it long enough, and after she gave the additional batches more time in the pan, they held together fine. So, perhaps try and increase your cooking time before flipping and see if that helps!
I came across your website while looking for GF okonomiyaki...Jessica, they taste absolutely delicious. Thank you for an amazing recipe!!!! I was planning to take some to work as well...but I ended up eating the entire batch 🙂
Hi Yana, I'm so glad you like them! One of my favorites, and I really wanted a gluten free version. Thanks for stopping by!
These look great! How much almond/coconut flour should be used?
Hi Kira, thank you so much for pointing that out! I changed it when I was doing recipe testing and looks like I forgot to go back in and fill in the blanks. 🙂 It's 1/2 cup of almond flour and 1 Tablespoon of coconut flour. I've gone ahead and updated the recipe. Hope you enjoy them!