Asian Recipes/ Dinner/ Japanese/ Recipes

Crispy Japanese Fried Chicken – Tori Karaage (Air Fried!)

28/01/2022

The BEST crispy, crunchy Japanese fried chicken (JFC) – without deep frying! This Tori Karaage is marinated and prepared tatsutaage style, then air fried to perfection in just 10 minutes.

Crunchy pieces of tori karaage alongside a dish of Kewpie mayonnaise.

Why We Love This

Cooking tori karaage in the air fryer means you’ll need a fraction of the oil you’d be using if you deep fried the chicken. Yet you still get that delicious crunchy coating on the outside and moist chicken on the inside. Less oil also means less mess! Win win!

JFC is usually made from boneless chicken pieces, making it easy to cook and eat. Chicken karaage tastes amazing as a snack on its own or pop on top of dishes such as miso ramen or zosui rice soup.

A few pieces of chicken go great in lunchboxes, and it doesn’t matter if they’re eaten hot or cold, they’re just as delicious. So pop them in your next bento alongside some cabbage, Japanese potato salad, sushi rice, takuan and a piece or two of tamagoyaki.

Dipping a piece of tori karaage into Japanese mayonnaise.

What is Tori Karaage? 

Tori Karaage is a type of popular Japanese food of fried chicken, usually made from boneless chicken pieces. Karaage is just the cooking method of frying, and tori means bird (or chicken in this instance), so it literally translates to chicken fried.

Said to have first been created in the 1920’s, it’s now so popular, you’ll often see karaage on the menu at Japanese restaurants, in convenience stores and at festivals. It’s also loved around Christmas time and to celebrate the New Year.

Originally, tori karaage was fried without a marinade, but it’s becoming more popular now to be marinated first and then fried. The tatsutaage marinade and cooking style is said to have originated near the Tatsuta river in Nara Prefecture. 

Our recipe will give you a golden brown crust infused with soy and ginger flavour and as this is made in an air fryer – similar to our popcorn chicken recipe – there’s no need to measure oil temperature, just brush it on and cook!

Some recipes call for a simple marinade of soy sauce and mirin, but we love the additional flavour of sake, rice wine vinegar and ginger.

Love Japanese style fried chicken recipes? You might like to try chicken katsu or chicken nanban next.

Karaage or Tatsutaage? Which fried chicken did you just make? 

Seeing both dishes side by side, they’re going to look almost identical, and in some instances, they could be. Confused? So are we. According to some sources, here’s the main differences between the Japanese fried chicken varieties:

Karaage – (kara-age / tori no karaage / 鶏の唐揚げ)

  • May be marinated before frying (or not).
  • May be coated in just potato starch, or a mix of potato starch and flour.

Tatsutaage – (tatsuta-age / tori no tatsuta / 竜田揚げ)

  • Always marinated before frying.
  • Always coated in only potato starch.

Sometimes tatsuaage is even referred to as a type of karaage. Which is why today, our recipe is called karaage but done tatsutaage style. We’ll leave it up to call it what you like!

What You’ll Need

  • Chicken Thighs – Boneless chicken thighs work best. You can sub for chicken breast or other protein like tofu if you like.
  • Potato Starch – Potato starch (katakuriko) will give you the crispiest result. Sub with cornstarch or all purpose flour in a pinch.
  • Soy Sauce – Japanese style Kikkoman soy sauce works for this dish. You can also sub with tamari.
  • Cooking Sake Sake can be expensive in some areas, so sub with Chinese rice wine if required. You can also omit, or replace the same amount with more mirin.
  • Mirin / Sugar – Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine for cooking. You can also use sugar if you need.
  • Rice Wine VinegarLook for this in the international aisle at your local supermarket, otherwise head to an Asian grocer or buy online. If you don’t have this, you can substitute for apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or white vinegar.
  • Ginger – Fresh ginger works best. You can always freeze ginger pieces to pull out a piece or two as you need and chop finely for a recipe like this. Otherwise sub with ¼ – ½ tsp of ground ginger or 1 tsp of minced ginger.
  • Vegetable Oil – Using an oil such as peanut, corn or canola will allow you to fry the chicken without the air fryer smoking because of their high smoke points.
Ingredients laid out to make tori karaage.

How to make Air Fryer Japanese Fried Chicken:

  1. Cut the chicken thighs into 6 or 8 pieces each and add to a medium bowl.
  2. Pour in your marinade ingredients (soy saucecooking sakerice wine vinegarginger and mirin). Marinate on the bench for 10 minutes, or cover and pop in the fridge if you’d like to marinate for longer (up to overnight). When you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Brush and coat the bottom of the air fryer basket with vegetable oil (or cooking spray). Pre-heat your air fryer at 200°C / 400°F for 2-3 minutes.
  1. Next, using chopsticks, pick up the chicken pieces and coat in potato starch and place into your air fryer. You may need to air fry in a batch or two, so only coat as many pieces that will fit in one layer of your air fryer basket. If cooking multiple batches, no need to brush the bottom of the air fryer with more oil.
  2. Liberally brush the tops of the chicken pieces with vegetable oil until you can’t see any more starch and close the lid.
  3. Air fry for 4 minutes before flipping the pieces over, brushing with oil again and cooking for a further 4 minutes. Take them out when they’ve reached your desired crispiness – cook for an extra minute or two for an extra brown and crunchy finish.
  4. Serve immediately as a snack or alongside shredded lettuce or cabbage and Kewpie mayonnaise. Or pop it on top of a sushi bowl or ramen.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Chicken Breast – If you want to swap the thighs for chicken breast, add 2 tbsp of water in with the marinade which will help keep the chicken nice and juicy after frying.
  • Marinade – For extra flavour, soak it overnight, then pull the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it.
  • Coating – Thick layer of starch so the coating doesn’t come off in the hot oil. If you notice any parts that are a bit white mid-cooking, give it an extra dab of oil to get it nice and crispy.
  • Oil – No need to rebate the bottom of the air fryer basket between batches. Just once at the start is plenty.
  • Be Liberal – Don’t skimp on the potato starch and oil coating. This is what will really crispen up your chicken!
  • Chopsticks – If you’re adept with chopsticks, use them to coat the chicken in the potato starch and transfer into the oil. Keeps your hands clean! Use a clean pair of chopsticks for serving.
  • Leave Space – Don’t overload the air fryer and try to cook all your chicken pieces at once. It’s better to leave plenty of space between each piece to allow it to crispen up nicely, even if you need to cook over multiple batches to do so. 
  • Cooking Time – Cooking time will be less as you cook more batches, since the air fryer will be nicely heated up. Keep an eye on the chicken as you go to avoid over cooking.

FAQs

What should I serve with karaage?

A fresh wedge of lemon and a small bowl of Kewpie mayonnaise and/or shichimi chilli powder is usually all you need. Otherwise, it goes great with tonkatsu sauce, a simple cabbage salad with goma dare sesame dressing, wafu salad, or a side of takuan pickles. It’s amazing served with a bowl of ramen or side of kinpira gobo stir fry, or you could make a Japanese style burger with karaage instead of beef!

Can you reheat karaage?

You can reheat the chicken pieces in the microwave, although you will lose the crispiness. Otherwise, pop it back in the air fryer on 160°C / 320°F for around 3-5 minutes to heat it through gently and keep the coating crispy without drying out the chicken. No need to add extra oil!

Can you freeze Japanese fried chicken?

We don’t recommend freezing the chicken, it’s best cooked and eaten fresh once fried or eaten cold the next day in a bento. Store in the fridge for 2-3 days at most.

Variations

Plate of tori karaage with kewpie mayonnaise and lettuce.

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Crispy pieces of Japanese fried chicken.

Crispy Japanese Fried Chicken – Tori Karaage (Air Fried!)

The BEST crispy, crunchy Japanese fried chicken – without deep frying! This Tori Karaage is marinated and prepared tatsutaage style, then air fried to perfection in just 10 minutes.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Dinner, Snack
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 18 Pieces
Calories: 96kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 500 g chicken thighs around 3 boneless, skin removed. If using chicken breast, see notes.

For the marinade:

For the coating:

  • 1 cup potato starch sub with cornstarch or all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Cut the chicken thighs into 6 or 8 pieces each and add to a medium bowl.
    500 g chicken thighs
  • Pour in your marinade ingredients (soy sauce, cooking sake, rice wine vinegar, ginger and mirin). Marinate on the bench for 10 minutes, or cover and pop in the fridge if you’d like to marinate for longer (up to overnight). When you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
    ¼ cup soy sauce, 1 tbsp cooking sake, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp mirin
  • Brush and coat the bottom of the air fryer basket with vegetable oil (or cooking spray). Pre-heat your air fryer at 200°C / 400°F for 2-3 minutes.
    3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Next, using chopsticks, pick up the chicken pieces and coat in potato starch and place into your air fryer. You may need to air fry in a batch or two, so only coat as many pieces that will fit in one layer of your air fryer basket. If cooking multiple batches, no need to brush the bottom of the air fryer with more oil.
    1 cup potato starch
  • Liberally brush the tops of the chicken pieces with vegetable oil until you can't see any more starch and close the lid. Air fry for 4 minutes before flipping the pieces over, brushing with oil again and cooking for a further 4 minutes. Take them out when they've reached your desired crispiness – cook for an extra minute or two for an extra brown and crunchy finish.
    3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Serve immediately as a snack or alongside shredded lettuce or cabbage and Kewpie mayonnaise. Or pop it on top of a sushi bowl or ramen.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Chicken Breast – If you want to swap the thighs for chicken breast, add 2 tbsp of water in with the marinade which will help keep the chicken nice and juicy after frying.
  • Marinade – For extra flavour, soak it overnight, then pull the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it.
  • Coating – Thick layer of starch so the coating doesn’t come off in the hot oil. If you notice any parts that are a bit white mid-cooking, give it an extra dab of oil to get it nice and crispy.
  • Chopsticks – If you’re adept with chopsticks, use them to coat the chicken in the potato starch and transfer into the oil. Keeps your hands clean! Use a clean pair of chopsticks for serving.
  • Leave Space – Don’t overload the air fryer and try to cook all your chicken pieces at once. It’s better to leave plenty of space between each piece to allow it to crispen up nicely, even if you need to cook over multiple batches to do so. 
  • Coating – Try mixing things up by coating the marinated chicken pieces in tempura flour mix for a different texture.
  • Add Spice – Add a tsp of curry powder into the marinade, or sprinkle shichimi chilli powder over the top after cooking!
  • Protein – Swap the chicken for firm white fish pieces, prawns or even pork.
  • Dipping Sauces – Homemade kewpie mayo, citrus ponzu sauce, okonomiyaki / BBQ sauce, spicy gochujang mayo or creamy goma dare sesame sauce.
  • Make it a Meal – Add it on top of dishes like spicy miso ramen, tantanmen or curry udon. We often order it or make it with a side of gyoza too.

    Nutrition

    Nutrition Facts
    Crispy Japanese Fried Chicken – Tori Karaage (Air Fried!)
    Amount per Serving
    Calories
    96
    % Daily Value*
    Fat
     
    5
    g
    8
    %
    Saturated Fat
     
    1
    g
    6
    %
    Trans Fat
     
    1
    g
    Polyunsaturated Fat
     
    1
    g
    Monounsaturated Fat
     
    2
    g
    Cholesterol
     
    27
    mg
    9
    %
    Sodium
     
    208
    mg
    9
    %
    Potassium
     
    153
    mg
    4
    %
    Carbohydrates
     
    8
    g
    3
    %
    Fiber
     
    1
    g
    4
    %
    Sugar
     
    1
    g
    1
    %
    Protein
     
    5
    g
    10
    %
    Vitamin A
     
    22
    IU
    0
    %
    Vitamin C
     
    1
    mg
    1
    %
    Calcium
     
    9
    mg
    1
    %
    Iron
     
    1
    mg
    6
    %
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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    Crispy Japanese Fried Chicken - Tori Karaage (Air Fried!)

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