Nikujaga – Japanese Beef Stew, crock pot version

nikujaga01[1]    This is an excellent cold weather dish. It is similar to other stews of this type. I like best to use thinly sliced fatty beef but the type the Japanese use is hard to find. Instead, my adaptation to this recipe is to use nice chunks of chuck roast. I also use Yukon gold potatoes so they stay more whole but if you use regular potatoes and they start to dissolve into the broth, that tastes good too!

Japanese stews are not thick like many of ours. They are more brothy and when served in a bowl over rice, they are similar to a dish, donburi – meat bowl. This stew will have your whole house smelling fragrant and homey. I was taught this recipe years ago from my Samurai, who liked both American and Japanese stews. We’d cook this on a miserable cold rainy day and enjoy for supper. It is also good sopped up with a nice baguette but I like the rice better. Serve with a dry white wine or better yet, some sake. But soft drinks work just as well!!

You can also substitute some bok choy or regular cabbage for the snow peas. Adding a small can of sliced mushrooms (yes….can. That’s what he did and I figured, hey, it’s a Japanese stew and he is Japanese so I am not arguing) along with the snow peas is good too. If you want to throw in a quartered turnip that’s also good.  You can also add more water for more broth.

どうぞめしあがれ douzo meshiagare, y’all! (eat well you all ! – said by the cook before the meal to the diners)

2 lbs beef stew meat (brown in a bit of oil before adding to crock pot)
1 cup water
3 tbs. Japanese sake
3 tbs. mirin
3 tbs. sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb baby carrots (whole)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large white onion, diced
10 snow peas halved
quarter sized piece of ginger, grated
cooked sticky rice
garnish with some chopped parsley and/or slivered scallion

1 Put all into crock pot and cook on low 10-12 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
2. Add snow peas last two hours of cooking time
2 Stir before serving. Serve over sticky rice.  Use chopsticks to stir or stir carefully to not break apart ingredients.

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. seeker
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 20:05:19

    Sounds yummy. Can I use chicken stock instead?


    • kanzensakura
      Jan 11, 2014 @ 20:06:57

      I didn’t use stock, just water, but you can if you like, You can also use pork. It will taste a little different, but it’s your stew. I think using a beef or chicken stock would add some nice richness to it. Sometimes I sneak in a bit of sesame oil too. I like to eat this with pickled veggies on the side.


  2. jaklumen
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 08:43:25

    I don’t mind using alcohol in cooking, but my wife is more kosher about our religious dietary law. Also, Japanese ingredients are much harder to get here– can I substitute straight rice vinegar for the mirin and sake?


    • kanzensakura
      Jan 12, 2014 @ 08:59:55

      You certainly can. I understand totally about dietary restrictions. it will taste different, and you will need to add some sugar to the rice vinegar as both mirin and sake are sweet. The alcohol cooks out but still…..This has a sweet salty thing going on with it. The Japanese really like that flavor combination – sort of yen and yang or wabi sabi. One of the reasons I use chuck roast slices or chunks for this. Flank steak just doesn’t have the same richness of flavor the fatty slices of Japanese beef has. Think of this recipe as a “sukiyaki light”. If I stove cook this, I partially freeze the chuck and then very thinly slice – this is about an hour or so cooking time on the stove. Cook the rice vinegar and sugar a couple of minutes to reduce the acid kick to it.


  3. Let's CUT the Crap!
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 11:10:11

    I love all kinds of stews. Will add this to my collection–a different stew for a change. Yum. 😀


  4. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 15:35:38

    Perfect winter meal. Yum!


    • kanzensakura
      Jan 12, 2014 @ 16:46:03

      It really is good. A different taste from what we are used to in the way of stews but a good different. Be sure to have plenty of broth for the rice. I always add extra water and some extra soy, mirin and sake to accommodate the extra water. Let me know if you like it….or don’t!


  5. Mélanie
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 06:48:09

    sooo yummy! I’m always ready for Japanese food! domo arigato! Mélanie-Merani 🙂


  6. David Emeron
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 09:16:06

    Yes…. You see that comment about stews was supposed to be here : (


  7. lmjapan
    Jan 19, 2014 @ 01:43:23

    Looks really good! Nikujaga is actually one of the first Japanese dishes my mother taught me to make. I like how you added the snow peas, it really adds a nice touch of color.


    • kanzensakura
      Jan 19, 2014 @ 08:36:31

      Thank you! I think the snow peas are maybe a regional touch (?). I make it as I was taught. I am so very glad you liked the post. As an American from the South, I always fret about posting anything Japanese, fearful of getting something wrong. But I just so love Japan.


  8. robert okaji
    Feb 06, 2015 @ 16:34:54

    I have just got to make this! I’m not hungry, but my mouth is watering.


  9. Celine
    Jun 16, 2018 @ 04:37:24

    I am trying this recipe right now…smells soooooo good in the house I just had to have a sneak taste of the’s Beautiful !!! Can’t wait for it to be ready to eat !!!


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