Gluten Free Japanese Curry with Chicken

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Japanese curry is a relative new dish to the country – it was introduced by the British in the 19th century, who in turn picked it up from India. Today, curry houses are everywhere in Japan, and for good reason; the irresistible sauce is mild and slightly sweet compared to other curries found worldwide, and is often served with any combination of stewed or fried meats which keep this dish surprisingly versatile.

I remember the first time I went to a local Asian grocery store shortly after deciding to go mostly-grain-free last year, and my utter disappointment when looking at the ingredients list of those handy Japanese curry blocks. You see, one of the pivotal ingredients in all of those blocks is wheat – which makes sense given the thick and creamy consistency that’s unique to Japanese curry. But fear not, dear reader, because I’ve been working on a gluten-free Japanese curry for the past year and I think I’ve got it figured out.

The key ingredient to making this curry truly taste Japanese is to use a Japanese curry powder, and S&B curry powder does the trick perfectly (see the note at the end for ingredients list). It makes sense considering that S&B holds a 25% market share of curry blocks in Japan. My only hesitation is that this powder (although it’s not mentioned anywhere on its packaging) is fairly spicy. It’s not outrageously hot or anything, but you definitely don’t want to add any additional spiciness until you’ve tried it yourself.

You’ll Need (feeds six):

step one:
6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 cups each water and chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks (or 20 baby carrots)

step two:
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp S&B curry powder
4 tbsp rice flour
1/2 onion (blended)

step three:
1 tsp salt (add more to taste)
2 tbsp honey
1 apple (blended)
2 tbsp heavy cream

To begin, you’ll want to get your meat and veggies ready. In a stock pot or dutch oven, heat the coconut oil on medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Add the chicken pieces and brown them on each side. Next, add the water and broth. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Next, add the carrots and potatoes, and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the second step, which is the curry roux/base. Mix together the curry powder and rice flour. Next, melt the butter on med/low heat, and slowly stir in the curry/flour mixture with a whisk. Continue to slowly whisk the mixture until it becomes slightly aromatic, about five minutes. Stir in the blended onion, and saute for another minute or two.

Remove the roux from the heat and set aside. This is essentially your “curry block.”

Once your meat and veggies are ready, stir in your curry roux. Next, gently stir in the salt, honey, blended apple, and cream until it is well mixed. Let it simmer for a few minutes and it should be good to go. If it gets too thick, add a little water until it’s at the right consistency.

Serve with rice or cauliflower rice. We also like to serve it with fukujinzuke or kimchi on the side, the latter being a trait we picked up while in Hawaii.

For this recipe I used about 2 lbs of stewed chicken thighs, but you could totally use beef with this same technique. I have yet to tackle my favorite variation of this dish, chicken katsu curry (especially tricky to do without wheat), but I’ll post it as soon as I have mastered it.

S&B curry powder ingredients: turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, cloves, cardamon, fennel, nutmeg, laurel leaves, allspice, garlic.

30 thoughts on “Gluten Free Japanese Curry with Chicken

  1. Making this tonight. As far as chicken katsu goes, when we were eating gluten-free we got by with rice krispies ground up in a food processor. Now that we eat more paleo, we have nothing in the way of a good panko substitute though I am toying with the idea of using pork rinds.


    1. Hi Sharlyn, that’s a great idea about rice krispies,as well as pork rinds! We bought some “panko” crumbs from Kinnikinick but haven’t tried them out yet – I’m hesitant because the crumbs have a few yucky ingredients like pea starch and canola oil. I hope your curry turned out well!


  2. Very interesting recipe and im actually going to try a variation of this tonight. I’ve had all types of curry and while most of them were delicious, none of them came anywhere close to the curry I had in Japan. Over a year ago when I started eating Paleo, the biggest thing I missed was the Japanese curry recipe I “had” to quite eating so you can imagine my excitement about trying your recipe tonight. haha. Btw, where do you get your fukujinzuke? Make it yourself?


    1. Rob, there’s a good reason that there isn’t any fukujinzuke in the picture – we haven’t been able to find it here in Maryland! It was readily available in Hawaii while we lived there; some day I’ll try making it on my own, and post the recipe on the site!


  3. Haha, well dont feel too bad, I cant seem to find it here in Virginia Beach either. Have you tried makinga request at your local sushi spot? Assuming you eat sushi.


  4. Pingback: The Clean Palate
  5. I love you! Thank you thank you thank you! I have to go gluten free and I was so disheartened when I looked at the ingredients on my favorite curry box mixes. You have given me my curry back!!! yea!!!


  6. Thank you for this. My mother was born in Japan and curry has always been a family favorite, however recently both her and my sister have stopped eating gluten and it’s been impossible to manage! My girlfriend and I are planning on a surprise Mother’s Day treat using your recipe :)


  7. Thank you so much for the recipe! I thought I would never eat this again. I bought your cookbook yesterday and I am astonished at how many foods that I like are in it! I’m making shashuska right now!


  8. I’ve been gluten-free for 1 1/2 years, being Japanese and not having curry definitely caused a craving for it. I made this for my husband, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and me. My husband loved it and was super excited that he keep telling others that it’s like the real thing- the box kind! Thanks for a fabulous recipe!


  9. I don’t believe you can trust this to be gluten free every time you buy it. Spice grinding machines are impossible to clean (my nephew works in a brewery and agrees, no way to clean them, and the residue isn’t small). In the USA, gluten free spices require dedicated machines. In Japan, there’s barely any awareness of gluten allergies. Also, come coloring used in Japan is made from wheat, so it wouldn’t appear on their lists. For instance, the coloring in Mirin.


    1. Daniel, that is a good point, and for someone with celiac disease it is definitely worth their time to research the origin of ingredients. As an aside, I developed a gluten-free Japanese curry powder in each of my cookbooks (but again, your same concerns for ingredients sourcing would apply).


  10. Hi Russ, my almost 3yo has just been diagnosed with coeliacs disease and I was very excited to find your recipe…until I saw one ingredient is cream! She’s also dairy free. Do you think it would still work without the cream? I lived in Japan many years ago and loooove Japanese curry. My family have also come to love it (even my fussy eater – she loves ‘flavour’ on rice 😂). Thank you!


  11. Hey Russ, I have fallen in love with those Japanese curry blocks that I can buy at my local supermarket in Australia, but oh my word they don’t like me. Luckily at the moment I’m single! Thank you for your recipe and I am so going to make it over the weekend. Keep up the good work. Coll


  12. hi, i made this exactly as above with no modification and it was like soup. is it correct to use 4 cups of each water and broth?


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