How to Make Sukiyaki: Step-by-Step Tutorial

by Ella

Sukiyaki, a beloved Japanese hot pot dish, is renowned for its comforting combination of thinly sliced beef, tofu, vegetables, and noodles simmered in a savory-sweet broth. Originating in Japan during the Meiji period (late 19th to early 20th century), sukiyaki has evolved into a quintessential winter comfort food enjoyed by families and friends around the world. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the history of sukiyaki, explore its key ingredients and techniques, and provide step-by-step instructions for creating this soul-warming dish in the comfort of your own kitchen.

A Brief History of Sukiyaki

The origins of sukiyaki can be traced back to the late 19th century, during the Meiji period, a time of rapid modernization and cultural exchange in Japan. It is believed that sukiyaki originated as a variation of nabemono, a category of Japanese hot pot dishes traditionally enjoyed during the colder months.


The exact origins of sukiyaki are somewhat murky, but it is thought to have originated in the Kansai region of Japan, particularly in the city of Osaka. Originally known as “gyu-nabe” or “beef pot,” sukiyaki gained popularity among Japanese laborers and merchants as a hearty and nourishing meal that provided warmth and sustenance during the cold winter months.


Over time, sukiyaki evolved and became associated with communal dining and social gatherings, particularly among families and friends. The dish’s popularity spread beyond the Kansai region and became a beloved part of Japanese cuisine, eventually finding its way onto restaurant menus and home dining tables across Japan and around the world.


Essential Ingredients and Equipment: Building Blocks of Sukiyaki

Before embarking on your culinary journey to make sukiyaki, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the key ingredients and equipment needed to create this flavorful hot pot dish.



Thinly Sliced Beef: Sukiyaki traditionally features thinly sliced beef, such as ribeye or sirloin, which is marbled with fat for tenderness and flavor. Look for high-quality beef specifically labeled for sukiyaki or shabu-shabu at Japanese grocery stores or ask your local butcher to slice it thinly for you.

Tofu: Firm tofu is commonly used in sukiyaki, adding a creamy texture and protein to the dish. Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes or slices before adding it to the hot pot.

Vegetables: Sukiyaki typically includes a variety of vegetables, such as Napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and enoki mushrooms. You can also add other vegetables like carrots, spinach, and shungiku (edible chrysanthemum greens) for additional flavor and nutrients.

Noodles: Thin wheat noodles, such as udon or shirataki noodles, are often added to sukiyaki to make it a more substantial meal. Cook the noodles separately according to the package instructions and add them to the hot pot just before serving.

Sukiyaki Sauce: The key to sukiyaki’s distinctive flavor is the sweet and savory sauce in which the ingredients are simmered. Traditional sukiyaki sauce is made from a combination of soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), sugar, and sake (Japanese rice wine), simmered together to create a rich and flavorful broth.


Shallow Hot Pot or Electric Skillet: Sukiyaki is traditionally cooked in a shallow, wide-mouthed hot pot called a “sukiyaki nabe.” Alternatively, you can use an electric skillet or a large frying pan with high sides to cook the ingredients. The shallow cooking vessel allows for even heat distribution and easy access to the ingredients.

Portable Stove: If you don’t have a gas stove or induction cooktop, a portable butane stove or electric hot plate can be used to cook sukiyaki at the dining table, allowing for an interactive and communal dining experience.

Tongs or Chopsticks: Use tongs or chopsticks to cook and serve the ingredients in the hot pot. Long chopsticks are particularly useful for handling the thinly sliced beef and vegetables.

Individual Serving Bowls: Provide each diner with an individual serving bowl for ladling out the cooked sukiyaki ingredients and broth. This allows for portion control and ensures that everyone gets an equal share of the deliciousness.

The Art of Sukiyaki: Step-by-Step Guide

Now that we’ve covered the history, ingredients, and equipment, let’s dive into the culinary process of making sukiyaki. Follow these step-by-step instructions to create a heartwarming and delicious hot pot experience that will delight your senses and warm your soul.

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

Start by preparing the ingredients for sukiyaki. Thinly slice the beef against the grain and arrange it on a platter. Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes or slices and set aside. Wash and slice the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, keeping them separate to add to the hot pot in stages.

Step 2: Prepare the Sukiyaki Sauce

In a small saucepan, combine soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake to make the sukiyaki sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.

Step 3: Heat the Hot Pot

Place the shallow hot pot or electric skillet on the stove or portable burner and heat it over medium heat. Once the pot is hot, add a small amount of oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom evenly. This will prevent the ingredients from sticking to the pot and help them cook evenly.

Step 4: Cook the Ingredients

Begin by adding the sliced beef to the hot pot, arranging it in a single layer to ensure even cooking. Allow the beef to sear for a minute or two on each side until it is browned and slightly caramelized. Use tongs to flip the beef slices as needed.

Next, add the tofu cubes and vegetables to the hot pot, arranging them around the beef in a decorative fashion. Allow the vegetables to cook for a few minutes until they are slightly softened but still retain their crispness. Be sure not to overcook the vegetables, as they should remain tender-crisp for optimal texture.

Step 5: Simmer in Sukiyaki Sauce

Once the beef and vegetables are cooked to your liking, pour the prepared sukiyaki sauce over the ingredients in the hot pot, ensuring that everything is evenly coated. Allow the ingredients to simmer in the sauce for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to mingle and the sauce to thicken slightly.

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

Once the sukiyaki is simmering gently and the flavors have melded together, it’s time to serve and enjoy this soul-warming dish. Ladle the cooked beef, tofu, vegetables, and broth into individual serving bowls, ensuring that each diner gets an equal share of the deliciousness. Serve the sukiyaki with cooked noodles on the side for a hearty and satisfying meal.

Creative Variations and Serving Suggestions

While traditional sukiyaki is made with beef, tofu, and vegetables simmered in a sweet and savory sauce, there are endless possibilities for creative variations and serving suggestions. Here are a few ideas to inspire your culinary creativity:

Seafood Sukiyaki: Substitute thinly sliced seafood, such as shrimp, scallops, or fish fillets, for the beef to create a luxurious seafood sukiyaki. Add seafood to the hot pot just before serving and simmer gently until cooked through.

Vegetarian Sukiyaki: Make sukiyaki vegetarian-friendly by omitting the meat and adding more tofu and a variety of vegetables to the hot pot. Consider using vegetarian-friendly broth or dashi for added flavor.

Spicy Sukiyaki: Add a kick of heat to your sukiyaki by incorporating spicy ingredients such as chili paste, sliced chili peppers, or Japanese shichimi togarashi (seven-spice blend) into the sukiyaki sauce. Adjust the level of spiciness according to your taste preferences.

Sukiyaki Donburi: Serve leftover sukiyaki over a bowl of steamed rice (donburi) for a comforting and satisfying meal known as “sukiyaki donburi.” Top the rice with cooked sukiyaki ingredients and drizzle with extra sukiyaki sauce for added flavor.


In conclusion, sukiyaki is more than just a delicious hot pot dish—it’s a celebration of warmth, flavor, and communal dining that brings people together in a shared culinary experience. By following the step-by-step instructions outlined in this guide and incorporating your own creative twists, you can create a soul-warming sukiyaki that delights your senses and nourishes your body and soul. So gather your loved ones, prepare your ingredients, and embark on a culinary journey to discover the heartwarming flavors of authentic Japanese sukiyaki.



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