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Japan: delicious Osaka street foods to try

Osaka street food is arguably some of the best in the whole of Japan! A big statement, but read on and be warned, this post may make you drool.

Osaka prides itself on its culinary offerings, living by the phrase “kuidaore” which best translates as “eat until you drop.” And drop you might if you eat all these foods in a night!

There are a huge number of local dishes to try in Osaka, particularly around the famous streets of Dotonbori and Shinsekai, including piping hot takoyaki octopus balls and sizzling savory okonomiyaki pancakes.

Osaka castle
Osaka Castle with a tourist boat in the moat
The neon billboards of Dotonbori
The neon billboards of Dotonbori

One of the best and easiest ways to make sure you get to sample the very best of what the city has to offer is to go on an Osaka street food tour. That way you can easily fit your eating experiences around sightseeing trips to beautiful Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan, the bustling Shinsaibashi shopping arcade, and the youthful hub of Amerikamura.

If you’re also visiting Tokyo on this trip you might like to read this post comparing the cost of Tokyo v New York. Spoiler: you may be pleasantly surprised!

Tokyo to Osaka map
Tokyo to Osaka map – take the fast train

What about tipping in Japan?

While this is a post on street food, and you’ll want to have some local yen on you (I just use ATMs when I arrive to draw out cash), tipping is not expected. In fact tipping in not welcome pretty much anywhere in Japan. You can read my full post on tipping etiquette around the world to get a good understanding of what’s expected – and what’s offensive!

Here are the best Osaka street foods you don’t want to miss!

Takoyaki

One of the most famous types of Osaka street food, takoyaki octopus balls actually originated right here in the city.

Roughly the size of a golf ball, they have a molten-hot filling of chewy chopped octopus and crunchy tempura scraps, plus pickled ginger and spring onion for extra flavor. This is then coated with batter and grilled to a perfect golden brown.

Takoyaki are usually served topped with dried bonito flakes and aonori seaweed flakes, plus drizzled with mayonnaise and a Worcestershire sauce-like coating. 

Takoyaki octopus balls
Takoyaki octopus balls

They can be found served at yatai food stalls all across Osaka, with Dotonbori being one of the top places to sample them. Other places to try include Hanadako in Shin-Umeda Shokudogai, and Otako. Joining a guided tour with a local, like the Backstreets of Osaka Food Tour at Night, is a great way to make sure you find the very best spots!

Kushikatsu

Kushikatsu is another traditional style of Japanese street food that’s famous in Osaka. It is made up of seasoned and grilled meat or vegetables served on skewers.

Chicken, pork, and seafood are most commonly used to make kushikatsu, but you can also find seasonal vegetable versions too. They’re covered in egg and panko breadcrumbs before being deep-fried in vegetable oil to make them crispy. The breadcrumbs are part of what distinguishes kushikatsu from tempura. 

Kushikatsu, Japanese street food
Mmm a bit of deep fried kushikatsu

Kushikatsu skewers are often served with cabbage and a dipping sauce (don’t double-dip!), and go great with a beer.

For a more unusual version, try kushikatsu fruit or even dessert such as mochi rice cakes or even fried ice cream! Shinsekai is the best area to sample this Osaka street food, for example at Tengu or Yaekatsu.

Okonomiyaki

With a name that translates to “grilled as you like it,” okonomiyaki is often said to be the best Osaka street food.

It’s enjoyed in many cities across Japan, but especially here and in Hiroshima. Each city has its own version of the dish, which is best described as a savory pancake containing shredded cabbage and a mixture of other ingredients such as seafood or even cheese.

Okonomiyaki - Japanese pizza!
Okonomiyaki – Japanese pizza!

In Osaka, these ingredients are all mixed in together with the flour-based batter, before being grilled on a hot plate and served with a thick brown sauce and mayonnaise. 

The best okonomiyaki in Osaka is found at yatai food stalls and restaurants such as Kiji in Umeda, family-run Okaru, and Mizuno, which has vegetarian options that are free of fish stock.

Yakitori

Yakitori is another classic Japanese street food, consisting of skewers of mouthwatering charcoal-grilled chicken made to order right in front of you. The meat is usually seasoned either with salt or soy sauce and will sometimes be served with vegetables on the skewer alongside it. 

This dish is common at both yatai street stalls and izakaya pubs, but can also be sampled at higher-end restaurants like Ayamuya.

chicken yakitori
Mouth watering chicken yakitori

Meanwhile Tsuki no Odori is a great choice if you’re looking for a halal version. Cheap and cheerful, they go perfectly with a cold beer. It’s a quintessential part of any Osaka street food tour!

Kitsune Udon

This dish is not quite as well known as some of the other Osaka street food on this list, but if you’re looking for a soul-warming meal you should definitely check it out.

These days kitsune udon is served all across Japan, however, it’s believed to have originated right here in Osaka during the 19th century. 

Udon are thick, chewy noodles made from wheat flour, and what distinguishes kitsune udon is that in this dish they are garnished with thin sheets of deep-fried tofu known as aburaage.

Bowl of kitsune udon soup
The thick noodles of Kitsune Udon

The noodles and tofu are served in a delicately-flavored hot broth, that’s usually made with kombu seaweed and dashi stock.

Kitsune means “fox” in Japanese, and the dish gets its name because aburaage is thought to be a favourite snack of these cute animals. Head to Usamitei Matsubaya to see if you agree!

Ramen

Arguably Japan’s most famous style of noodles, no night out sampling Osaka street food would be complete without a bowl of ramen to round off the evening!

Whilst not specifically a specialty of the city, they still take the dish very seriously here. There are literally thousands of eateries that serve ramen, with regional versions from all across Japan available to try. 

Bowl of ramen noodles
Ramen and tea, so quintessential Japanese!

Pop into Mazenibo Junkie in Nipponbashi to try unusual soupless ramen or head to Mitsuka Bose Kamoshi near the Umeda Sky Building. They specialize in locally-fermented miso, with white, red, spicy and even vegan options to choose from.

The shop also serves local Minoh beer, which is perfect for washing down your meal! If that sounds good, join the Minoh Falls Craft Beer Hike for a fun outing in nature with a Japanese beer expert. 

Mitarashi Dango

This is one of Japan’s most traditional types of dessert. Dango are sweet, chewy rice cakes usually served in a row of three to five on a wooden skewer.

There are many different varieties, but one of the most popular styles in Osaka is mitarashi dango. In this dish, the bite-size dumplings are coated in a sticky, sweet soy sauce glaze and grilled to perfection. 

There are stalls in the Kuromon Ichiba Market that specialize in dango, so the Osaka Kuromon Market and Kitchen Town Tour might be the ideal time to try them – they can be a nice change after all the savory Osaka street food!

mitarashi dango on skewers
A few mitarashi dango balls to finish off the night!

As you can see there are plenty of tasty treats to keep you fuelled on long days of sightseeing in this fun-loving city. And this is just an overview of the best Osaka street food. There are still many more gastronomic delights to explore, so make sure you pack your appetite!

To easily get around in Japan, buy a Japan Rail Pass for either the whole country or just by region.

Find Air BnB stays and experiences in Osaka by clicking on this map:

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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