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17 Popular Japanese Appetizers

If you are anything like us then you might be a little bit obsessed with Japanese food. It is seriously divine. There is nothing quite like being able to have fresh sushi for lunch or dinner. What we look forward to, is all the scrumptious appetizers that come with it.

Have you ever thought about making those appetizers? Sometimes it is nice to spice up the breakfasts, dinners, and lunches we make.

If you are someone who loves Japanese cuisine, then why not add a Japanese appetizer to your meals? That way you can forever enjoy Japanese cuisine every day! 

Popular Japanese Appetizers

So if you want to find small ways you can add Japanese food to your meals, then we’ve got you covered. Even if you are new to exploring Japanese cuisine, this is the list you need to look at.

We’ve put together a list of 17 popular Japanese appetizers that you can make to amplify your meals. We have also included some answers to your burning questions about Japanese appetizers. 

Boost Up Your Craving With Japanese Appetizers:

1. Gyoza

Gyozas are probably one of the most popular Japanese appetizers. There is a good reason as to why they are so popular. Gyozas are incredibly tasty and versatile.

You can have Gyozas with vegetable fillings, pork fillings, chicken fillings, prawn fillings, the list just goes on.

Gyozas’ main ingredients are wheat flour, eggs, and the type of filling you want. They are mainly seasoned with garlic, ginger, and chives. They are best served with a gyoza sauce

2. Shumai

Shumai is the Japanese version of what you might know as the steamed dumpling. You will be shocked at how easy these are to make. The main ingredients in Japanese Shumai are pork for the filling, soy sauce, onions, and Shumai sheets.

The recipe is very simple and you can cook these by steaming them in a bamboo steamer. Shumai is quite filling and can also be eaten as a main dish or a side dish

3. Spicy Edamame

If you want something that is really light and simple to make to go before your main, then spicy Edamame is the Japanese appetizer you should make.

This recipe takes only 10 minutes to make, and half of that is preparation time. An important thing to note is that you don’t eat the shells, you eat the beans inside. 

4. Harumaki

If you want an appetizer that is a little heavier, then these Japanese spring rolls are the way to go. Harumaki is a deliciously crispy appetizer. There are endless choices of what you can fill these Japanese spring rolls with.

The most popular fillings are pork, prawns, chicken, and vegetables. The fillings have all the wonderful flavors that those who are familiar with Japanese food love. This includes soy sauce, spring onions, ginger, and many more spices

5. Miso Soup

Now Miso soup is a controversial appetizer. How can food be controversial? Well, whilst this dish is served as an appetizer in American Japanese restaurants, in Japan, they eat it after they’ve had their sushi.

Miso soup is a light appetizer that should be served in small bowls. It is soothing and has a tantalizing broth. You can also add different meats or vegetables to make it heartier. 

RELATED: 12 Japanese Inspired Sides To Serve With Sushi

6. Yaki Onigiri

If you are looking for an easy appetizer that will help you feel more full with any meal, then Yaki Onigiri is the dish you should make. Yaki Onigiri is grilled rice balls that are covered in soy sauce.

Since you grill the rice balls they become slightly crispy on the outside. This leaves you with a crispy but chewy rice ball. They are great appetizers but are also a great snack

7. Rice Paper Rolls

If you are looking for a refreshing Japanese appetizer, then the Japanese rice paper rolls are the ones you must try to make. These rice paper rolls are the perfect appetizer for summer.

They are light and so scrumptious. They are usually filled with vegetables like avocados, cabbage, lettuce, and some sort of meat or fish. 

8. Simmered Daikon

Simmered Daikon is a mouthwatering Japanese appetizer. Daikon is a Japanese white radish that has been simmered in a broth.

The broth has a light soy sauce base. It takes around 50 minutes to make. This is a great simple dish to make as an appetizer, especially if you are hosting. 

9. Tsukune

Tsukune is essentially Japanese chicken meatballs. They are sometimes served on skewers or without skewers. The best way to cool Tsukune is on the grill, although they can also be cooked in the oven.

The main seasoning for this dish is salt or soy sauce. If they are cooked right they are super juicy and tender. They are also glazed, leaving the outside of these Japanese chicken meatballs caramelized

10. Japanese Cucumber Salad

Cucumbers are an incredibly refreshing vegetable. So a whole salad full of them is the perfect appetizer to have during the summer. Japanese cucumber salads are light and so healthy.

What we love about this salad is the base is cucumber and only that. There isn’t any lettuce or other salad vegetables to accompany it. This makes the dish so easy to make and allows you to enjoy the flavors of the cucumber.

There are so many ways to season this salad, but our favorite is with soy sauce and rice vinegar. 

RELATED: 15 Great Japanese Side Dishes

11. Hiyayakko

This is a popular Japanese appetizer that is usually eaten on hot summer days. To break this appetizer down, it is a block of cold soft tofu that has scallions, ginger, and bonito flakes on top of it.

It is usually drizzled with soy sauce. That is how simple the dish is. It only takes 5 minutes to make this dish. 

12. Chawanmushi

Chawanmushi is a delectable custard soup. The soup is traditionally served in a small cup with a lid on it. The main ingredients of Chawanmushi are eggs, soy sauce, dashi, kombu, and mirin.

Some people enjoy adding mushrooms, tofu, or shrimp to this dish. It is believed to have originated in Kyoto, Japan. The basic version of this dish takes a total time of 45 minutes until it is ready. 

13. Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke bowls are a fan favorite of those who enjoy Japanese food. It is classed as a raw salad, as the tuna is raw. The tuna is accompanied by avocados, cucumbers, and scallions.

It can also be served on a bed of rice to make it heartier for a full meal. The important thing when making Tuna Poke is that you must make sure you are using sushi-grade tuna. This might be labeled as sashimi-grade tuna. You can swap the tuna out for tofu if you do not eat fish. 

14. Miso Glazed Eggplant

If you are someone who loves eggplant but wants to spice up the way you usually cook it, then this is the Japanese appetizer you need to try.

This is a very popular appetizer that is perfect for serving at a dinner. Due to the miso glaze, the outside of the eggplant is caramelized, whilst the middle remains creamy. This dish is also considered to be vegan, as long as you get vegan miso. 

15. Agedashi Tofu

Agedashi tofu is a very popular Japanese appetizer. It is composed of crispy deep-fried tofu that is in a delicious umami sauce. The sauce is usually made from soy sauce, dashi, and mirin.

You can find this appetizer in a lot of restaurants, but it is so easy to make at home. This appetizer is topped with scallions, bonito flakes, and sometimes grated daikon. 

RELATED: 31 Tasty Japanese Desserts You Can Make At Home

16. Kakuni

Kakuni, which is also known as braised pork belly, is a mouth-watering Japanese appetizer. The dish is slow-cooked, so the pork belly melts in your mouth.

It is a wonderful appetizer to serve your meat-loving family and friends. Although, you could make this appetizer a main by serving it with rice. 

17. Sobagaki

The last Japanese appetizer on this list is one that has been around for generations. It is an ancient Japanese dish. It consists of soba flour and hot water. You mix these two ingredients together and end up with a dough that is similar to mash potatoes.

To eat it, you break the dough into small pieces and dip it with soy sauce. A simple but classic appetizer. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Good Appetizer To Eat Before Sushi?

If you are someone who likes to have Sushi for lunch or dinner, then you know that on its own, it can feel a little light.

This is dependent on how much Sushi you are eating. And yes there is always the option to have more Sushi, but sometimes it is nice to have an appetizer. 

In all honesty, any of these appetizers we have listed would be great to eat before Sushi. Though if you want to know our personal opinion, we have a few favorites. 

Gyozas are always a favorite of ours to eat before Sushi. You can get different fillings, from pork, chicken, vegetable or prawns. So depending on whether you are a fan of mixing meat and fish, Gyozas are a great choice. 

If you are looking for something a little lighter than Gyozas, then spicy Edamame or cucumber salad would be the best choice. Edamame is so simple and goes perfectly before Sushi, as it doesn’t make you feel like you have eaten too much. 

We tend to avoid appetizers that have rice in them when eating Sushi, as there is a lot of rice in Sushi. Rice can make you feel incredibly full. Although, the choice is up to you. 

Any of these appetizers would be ideal for eating before you eat Sushi. 

Can These Appetizers Be Served As A Side?

Whilst these foods are technically appetizers, it wouldn’t do any harm to have them as a side dish.

Interestingly, in American Japanese restaurants, Miso soup is something that is advertised as a starter, traditionally in Japan, Miso soup is served after eating Sushi. They will have a small bowl of Miso soup after they have finished eating their Sushi. This is to help settle the food. 

So what some might promote as an appetizer can easily be turned into a side dish. This works well for all of the foods we have put on this list. Although, depending on how heavy your main dish is, the salads work particularly well for all meals. 

What Is Sushi Grade Fish? 

You may have noticed that some Japanese dishes require you to have sushi-grade fish, for example, the Tuna Poke. This can be a bit tricky to understand if you are new to making Japanese foods. 

Well, to put it simply, when a recipe asks for sushi-grade fish, it means fish that has been deemed safe to eat raw. So in the case of the Tuna Poke, you can’t just go to your regular grocery store and buy raw tuna. 

It is worth noting that there is no official standard of what deems fish as sushi-grade. It is usually up to those who are preparing and selling the fish to make that decision. 

In any case, you should always check your fish first for any signs of impurities, like worms. Overall, sushi-grade fish, which can also be labeled sashimi-grade fish, indicates that the fish is safe to eat raw. 

Final Thoughts

We have now finished our list, looking at 17 popular Japanese appetizers. These appetizers are absolutely delicious and perfect for any occasion. Whether you are hosting a dinner party or making your daily meal, these appetizers are ideal for making you less hungry. 

There is a range of appetizers on this list that are a light bite or ones that are quite heavy. If you are looking for a light appetizer then the Edamame option is great for that, as well as a small bowl of Miso soup.

If you want something a little heartier, then any of the meat options like Shumai or even Gyozas are a great choice.

We hope that you have found something you would enjoy eating on this list. Remember that recipes are the guideline so feel free to change up the flavors to suit your taste. 

All that is left for us to say is have fun making these fabulous Japanese appetizers.

17 Popular Japanese Appetizers

Japanese appetizers are a great way to start a meal. Learn about the most popular Japanese appetizers and how to make them.


  • Pick a recipe from the list above
  • Click the recipe name and visit the website
  • Collect the ingredients and cook the food
  • Enjoy – don’t forget to leave a review

Recipe Video

Jess Smith

Mois Pasta

Tuesday 29th of November 2022

A very good article. Congratulations


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