Vegetarian Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)

February 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love, favorite), Alma's faves, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Japanese, Monthly menu plan: dinner, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I was looking for a green cabbage recipe that a toddler would like, and I came across this pretty simple (albeit quite Americanized) vegetarian Okonomiyaki recipe on the 101 cookbooks blog. Alma generally likes pancakes, so I decided to give it a try. Below is a doubled version of the original recipe, with a few modifications. Derek and I like them a lot, and it’s a relatively quick recipe, so suitable for a weeknight dinner or a Sunday lunch.

One thing I was concerned about in terms of making this recipe kid friendly is the name. Luckily Alma doesn’t know the word “yucky” yet (she’s only learned the German “bäh” at daycare so far). But if she did I’d be worried about her thinking the name was Okonomi-yukky. Maybe if you’re serving this to kids for the first time you should call it Okonomi-yummy instead.

Ingredients for 2 large pancakes:

  • 4 cups green cabbage, finely shredded (about 280g)
  • 1 large carrot (about 110g), grated (will be about 1 cup not packed)
  • 2 cups sliced leeks, white and light green part only, well washed (will be about 2 small leeks or 1 large leek, total weight chopped about 180g)
  • 2 to 4 scallions, sliced (optional)
  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (the first time I used 2/3 cup white flour and 2/3 cup whole wheat flour, but the exact amounts and proportions are quite flexible—see the variations in updates below!)
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • 4 large eggs, beaten (total will be about 200g out of shell)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, for the pan
  • toasted slivered almonds for garnish (about 50g or 1.75 ounces)
  • nori flakes for garnish (optional, but highly recommended)

Ingredients for spicy yogurt sauce:

  • 1.5 cups of yogurt
  • 1/3 cup tightly packed chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 smallish garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 3/8 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (mine is quite mild right now—use less if yours is very spicy)


  1. If your almonds aren’t toasted, toast them in a cast iron skillet in a 300 degree F oven (150 C) for about 15 minutes, stirring halfway.
  2. Combine the cabbage, carrot, leeks, scallions, flour, and salt in a bowl. Toss until everything is coated with a dusting of flour. Stir in the eggs and mix until everything is evenly coated. It takes a while to get the eggs distributed. It will look too try. But keep at it. The recipe is right and the eggs will distribute and the batter will end up moist enough. It just takes a bit of elbow grease.
  3. Preheat a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium heat. When hot add about 2 tsp. oil to the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low. Spoon half the cabbage mixture into the pan, and using a metal spatula press it firmly into a round pancake shape, as flat as you can get it. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden. To flip the okonomiyaki, place a plate on top of the cabbage disk, and flip the pan upside, catching the pancake on the plate. Add 1 more teaspoon of oil before sliding the okonomiyaki back into the skillet, uncooked side down. Again press down a bit with a spatula and cook until golden on this side — another 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. While the pancake is cooking, make the spicy yogurt sauce.
  5. When you are finished cooking, sprinkle with toasted almonds and nori flakes, and cut into wedges. Enjoy immediately.

Notes from first and second attempt in Feb 2017:

The first time I made this recipe I followed the 101 cookbooks recipe closely, except I didn’t use any garnishes. The pancakes were good, but undersalted. We ate them with some creme fraiche, which Alma loved. She kept trying to just eat the creme fraiche by itself, rather than actually eating the pancake. But she did end up eating the cabbage pancake, even if she didn’t love it.

The second time I made it I added a carrot and some scallions, and served it with the spicy yogurt sauce that’s supposed to accompany the buckwheat cabbage pancakes from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. Derek absolutely loved them with the yogurt sauce. He said that neither the pancakes alone nor the yogurt sauce were all that special, but together they were dynamite. Alma wouldn’t touch the yogurt sauce (it was too spicy for her), and without the creme fraiche she was less excited about the pancakes. She still ate some though. I will be trying it again.

The almonds as garnish don’t seem very traditional, but we like them. I wonder if I could incorporate them into the pancake itself (or into the dipping sauce) because when they’re just sprinkled on top Alma can’t really manage to eat them with the pancake.

Update March 13, 2017

I made this recipe for dinner tonight, except I accidentally halved the flour. I used 2/3 cup whole wheat flour but no white flour. It came out surprisingly well. The main difference was that it was less filling. Whereas the last two times the three of us only ate one pancake, this time we almost finished off both pancakes. Maybe next time I will try using about 2/3 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup of chickpea or almond flour, to make them slightly more filling?

I didn’t put any scallions in them, and instead served them with scallions, nori flakes, chives, and sesame seeds as garnishes. None of us cared for the chives, and the sesame seeds were okay but not as good as the sliced almonds. Derek really liked the nori flakes, I thought they were okay, and Alma didn’t like them at all.

Alma liked it this time. I made her her own yogurt dipping sauce with cilantro but without the cayenne pepper. I did put in a touch of raw garlic and she complained it was too spicy, and didn’t eat that much of it. Next time I guess I should not put any garlic in her sauce.

Update May 7, 2017

I made this recipe for Sunday lunch today, but I forgot to buy leeks! I used regular onions instead, and it still came out well. But I feel like the leek version feels slight heartier—not sure if it’s a texture or taste thing. I used 1/4 cup white flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, and 2 2/3 tablespoons ground almonds. The combination was nice, but we ate almost the whole thing this time. We only ended up with about 1/3 of one pancake leftover.

I gave Alma yogurt with just salt and cilantro, but no garlic or cayenne. She dipped her okonomiyaki into it for a bit, then asked for plain yogurt. Maybe next time I should cut down on the amount of cilantro? Maybe I need to build up her tolerance for it more slowly? In any case, she ate the pancakes quite happily with the plain yogurt, even asking for thirds.

If you use 1/4 cup white flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup almond flour then one third of the recipe (along with 1/3 of the dipping sauce) has about 518 calories, 53/31/16% fat/carbs/protein, 8g fiber, 4.1 mg iron, and 278g calcium. If you eat one quarter of the original recipe (with the full 1 1/3 cups of flour) then a serving will total — 438 calories (41/44/16% fat/carbs/protein).

Eventually, I would also like to try a variant inspired by the Peter Berley recipe — I’d like to replace half of the wheat flour with buckwheat flour and see how it is. I’m also thinking about adding a few shredded shiitakes mushrooms. I’m also still curious about incorporating the sliced almonds into the batter, although I guess it’s not necessary since Alma did manage them much better this time.

Maybe next time I will try using 1/4 cup white flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour,  1/4 cup almond flour, and 1/4 cup chickpea flour?

Update Feb 4, 2018:

Derek made the recipe as written above, with half white and half whole wheat flour. Alma didn’t eat much okonomiyaki today. Not sure why. I think she wasn’t very hungry. Plus she didn’t like the cilantro in the dipping sauce. I didn’t offer her any plain yogurt. Maybe that was the issue.

Update May 6, 2018:

I made this recipe using 200g of 100% whole wheat flour and generally a bit more veggies than the weights listed above (so 300g cabbage, 130g carrot, 2 large scallions, not sure about the leeks). It came out well. I was worried about Alma complaining about the scallions, but she never mentioned them. She really liked it (saying “we should have this again sometime soon!”). I’m sure it helped that she hadn’t had any snack after lunch, and only had a small lunch. The only problem was the first pancake stuck to the pan. Not sure why. Maybe it wasn’t hot enough to start or maybe it was because I forgot to press it to the pan? Or because I didn’t get oil up on the sides of the skillet?

Update 2021: 

I make this recipe regularly and everyone eats it happily, although Alma still won’t eat the spicy yogurt dipping sauce. The exact amounts are pretty flexible, so if you have a little more or less cabbage or leeks it’s no problem. And you can add additional vegetables like carrots and scallions or leave them out. The flour proportions and amounts are also pretty flexible. This recipe is pretty dang hard to screw up.

1 Comment

  1. austingardener said,

    I made them vegan substituting garbanzo bean flour for the eggs. I used 1/3 c. white flour, 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup garbanzo bean flour. I also used some baking powder and veggie broth. I had fresh leeks form the garden also. Dad loved them.

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