Japanese cuisine contains some of the world’s most famous – and delicious – dishes.
From sushi to ramen to wagyu beef, a culinary journey through Japan promises to be a treat. But those are all main dishes.
What if you’re looking for a smaller dish with a Japanese flavor, something you can serve alongside a larger dish? Don’t worry, Japan has plenty of dishes like that too!
We’ve compiled a selection of the best Japanese side dishes, so you’ll have something that will go well with any meal.
Read on for some wonderful Japanese side dishes!
Shiraae is a mashed tofu salad with beans, sesame seeds, and miso. As a bonus, this makes it a vegan dish, so anybody can eat it.
In fact, it’s a famous dish from the cuisine of Japanese Zen Buddhism, so it even has the approval of Buddhist monks!
The wonderfully savory miso dressing, combined with soy sauce and a little sugar, gives a delicious flavor to the beans, though you can substitute in other vegetables if you have them – asparagus would work well, for example.
These delicious Japanese spring rolls are stuffed with a tasty mixture of pork, chicken, shrimp, shiitake mushroom, carrots, and vermicelli.
Served on a bed of lettuce and with a soy sauce and rice vinegar dip, they make perfect appetizers or side dishes to something like a bowl of steaming hot ramen.
If you want, you can experiment with the fillings a bit, too, since it’s common to adjust them to personal tastes in Japan.
The irresistible crunch of the crispy rolls will have you coming back for more!
This is potato salad, but not as you know it. This potato salad is a great side dish, but it’s so good that you might be tempted to eat it on its own as well!
The consistency of the potatoes in this salad is closer to mashed than the chunks you might be used to.
One of the main components of its unique flavor is karashi, a spicy Japanese mustard.
It’s not the same thing as wasabi, so don’t use that instead (or if you do, make sure you know what to expect).
This delicious crab salad couldn’t be easier to make and the incredible taste will make you amazed that something so delicious could be so simple.
It has panko breadcrumbs for a satisfying crunch and a homemade spicy mayonnaise dressing for an addictive flavor.
It’s a bit non-standard but the recipe is also very well suited to shrimp, so if you’re a shrimp lover, you could try that instead of (or in addition to) the crab meat.
This is a common Japanese staple that goes well with various different dishes.
The bamboo is in the form of bamboo shoots, which are a lovely accompaniment to the rice – soft but with a slight firmness to its texture that gives the dish a bit of bite.
It’s flavored with soy sauce, mirin, and dashi for an authentically Japanese taste that makes it an ideal side dish for any Japanese themed dinner.
These marinated Japanese eggs go perfectly both in a bowl of ramen or as a snack by themselves.
The marinade rests on those two Japanese flavor staples of soy sauce and mirin, but also includes ginger, cloves, and a bit of sugar for a more rounded taste.
You can easily make large batches of these eggs at once if you know you’re going to want a lot of them.
Remember that if you want the classic Japanese style, you need to keep those yolks runny!
It’s very common to serve pickles alongside a meal in Japan.
While the country has developed many different ways of pickling and types of pickle, the most common kind (and the kind in this recipe) are made with soy sauce, mirin, and rice wine vinegar.
The salt and acidity preserve the vegetables, just like with Western pickles. You can pickle all kinds of vegetables this way, but radishes and daikon are common favorites.
They have a delightful crunch which offsets the salty, tangy flavor of the pickles perfectly.
Natto is not all that well known outside of Japan, but if you have heard of it, you might know that it has a bit of an infamous reputation.
It’s a preparation of fermented soybeans with a very strong, unusual smell and flavor and a texture that’s sometimes described as “slimy”.
That’s not the best advert for it, but don’t run away yet, because while natto is admittedly an acquired taste, it’s delicious if made well and served correctly.
It’s often served with karashi or soy sauce, so why not explore something new?
This is a simple recipe for eggplant with a tasty sweet and savory miso glaze.
This is backed up with a little sugar for sweetness, the sophisticated flavor of a splash of sake and finished off with some sesame seeds for a lovely hit of toasty nuttiness.
This delightfully crunchy cold dish is a refreshing accompaniment to any Japanese meal.
You’ll want to use Japanese cucumbers to get that ideal crunch, though if you can’t find them then Persian cucumbers are a good substitute.
As with so many other Japanese side dishes, it’s rice wine vinegar and soy sauce that provide the main thrust of the flavor here, with just enough sugar to balance it out.
Simple and delicious, this is the perfect side dish.
It doesn’t get much more Japanese than miso soup, and if you go to Japan you’ll find that this is usually served alongside bowls of ramen.
It’s straightforward but packed with umami flavor.
Miso paste and dashi form the base of the flavor, though you can choose more or less whatever you like for extra ingredients (silken tofu and daikon are popular choices).
Salmon with ginger and soy sauce is a Japanese favorite and this dish incorporates it perfectly into a salad that’s both delicious and nutritious.
With crunchy cucumber and radishes cut into a delicate julienne pattern, the dish looks as good as it tastes.
You could also try substituting another kind of fish if you’re not such a fan of salmon, but pick something nice – the fish is supported by the seasonings but ultimately speaks for itself in this dish.
These are a popular side dish in ramen restaurants, but you’ll also see them served with other things.
They’re stuffed with pork, cabbage, and spring onion, and are the kind of thing you’ll always want more of, so make sure you make a big batch!
Gyoza are traditionally pan-fried but they’re very similar to (and derived from) Chinese jiaozi, which you might know as potstickers.
Potstickers are often steamed or boiled instead of fried, so you can try this with your gyoza if you want to make them a little bit healthier.
However you cook them, they’re great with a dip made from soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and chili powder.
These are often included as a side dish for bento lunches, or otherwise eaten as a breakfast food.
It’s a delicious rolled omelette that can be flavored with all kinds of different additions depending on what you like.
This particular one is flavored with dashi but cheese, seaweed, salmon flakes, and more are all popular additions.
Soy sauce adds a lovely saltiness to balance out the sweetness of the sugar, making these mini omelettes to die for.
Who doesn’t love chicken wings? They’re a favorite bar snack and side dish from New York to Nagoya, and that Japanese city has its own cherished recipe for amazing wings.
These are double fried to make them extra crispy, and that’s before we even get on to the glaze.
That glaze is kind of like a teriyaki sauce, but it’s spiced up with garlic and ginger and made thick.
Needless to say, it tastes sensational, and you might find yourself eating a few more of these wings than you intended to, particularly if you eat them with beer (which comes highly recommended).
Frequently Asked Questions
What Sides Go With Sushi?
There are quite a few different things that can go with sushi in Japan, several of which appear on this list.
Miso soup, for example, is an excellent accompaniment. Gyoza is another one you can’t go wrong with.
Find them at 11 and 13 on this list respectively.
What Ingredients Do I Need For Japanese Food?
Japanese cuisine is quite varied but there are a few things that you’ll find very useful to have on hand if you’re going to be making a lot of Japanese food.
First up is soy sauce – there are several different kinds of soy sauce and the Japanese ones are noticeably different from Chinese varieties, or example, so make sure you know what you’re buying.
Miso paste, mirin, rice vinegar, and dashi would all be excellent additions to your pantry, too.
Is Japanese Food Hard To Cook?
Of course it varies between dishes, but in general, Japanese food is fairly simple to prepare.
Japanese cuisine features many dishes that emphasize an elegant simplicity, where high-quality ingredients speak for themselves with only subtle seasoning and many of these dishes are quite straightforward to prepare, though some of the ingredients might be unfamiliar to you at first.
Now that you’ve finished reading this list, you’ve got more Japanese side dish ideas than you can shake a stick at.
Feel free to try out a few of them the next time you’re making something Japanese (or even if you’re just in the mood for something a bit different) and broaden your culinary horizons!