The World’s First Recipe for Healthy Takoyaki
It was my girlfriend’s idea to create a recipe for healthy takoyaki. She always gives me good ideas.
A couple of hours later, her dad dropped off their takoyaki maker at my apartment and I got to work.
I started out with the idea of creating a gluten-free, low-carb version of the original recipe: savory and umami. Feeling overwhelmed by the idea of creating healthy versions of mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce from scratch, I decided to start simple.
That meant changing concepts. Replacing the sprinkles of seaweed with matcha powder and savory brown takoyaki sauce with melted chocolate, I adapted Mana’s idea into a healthy recipe for dessert.
If you’re a lover of all things green tea flavored like I am, you’re gonna want to bite into these!
Did you really say these takoyaki were healthy and gluten-free?
Yup. And there’s no added sugar except for the tiny amount in the droplets of melted chocolate (optional).
They aren’t just healthy–they’re really healthy.
Are you ready to take a bite and taste what’s inside?
If you’re still busy licking the drips of warm chocolate in your imagination, I can wait…
What are takoyaki?
If you asked someone in Japan what comes to mind when you imagine a healthy Japanese snack…
9 out of 9 people wouldn’t say ‘takoyaki’.
If you’d ask those same nine people what typical Japanese snack goes really well with a cold draft beer or whisky highball…
I’d bet 8 out of 9 of them would say ‘takoyaki’.
I was in Osaka, the city where takoyaki originated, a few months ago. Osaka is famous for its street food: okonomiyaki, deep-fried kushikatsu, and takoyaki. It’s all delicious, but it’s not exactly health food. Walking down one of the main shopping streets in Dotonbori, I was surprised to see locals drinking beer at izakaya that were open at 10 in the morning!
Takoyaki are ball-shaped snacks that are cooked in a special pan with round molds about the size of golfballs. Batter is poured into each round mold. Once half of the ball is cooked, poking sticks are used to quickly turn each ball and push in the undercooked batter until a ball shape is formed.
Originally, the batter for takoyaki is wheat flour-based. Each batter-filled mold is topped with small chunks of tako (octopus). Literally, tako-yaki means octopus that’s yaki-ed (grilled).
I love octopus, but I can understand why many Westerners get a bit weirded out by the chewy texture and those sucker cups on their tentacles. Ewe!
My new healthy recipe is for “no tako” takoyaki. Even vegetarians will like it.
Takoyaki ingredients– the original fillings and condiments (savory)
In addition to the minced or diced octopus, the original recipe for takoyaki calls for negi (green onion), tenkasu (tempura “scraps”), and beni shoga (red pickled ginger).
After they’re cooked, the balls are brushed with takoyaki sauce, which is similar to Worcestershire sauce, decorated with thin, white zig-zag lines of mayonnaise, and sprinkled with green nori flakes (seaweed) and katsuo-bushi (dried bonito flakes).
I know to a Westerner, it sounds like some strange recipe for seafood-flavored cupcakes, but there’s a reason why takoyaki became so popular all around Japan.
Who wouldn’t want to try “octopus balls”!?
I promise you, takoyaki taste way better than they sound.
I think it’s safe to classify takoyaki as “Japanese junk food”, but the dessert recipe I’m going to share with you is the opposite of junk…
What if dessert was a superfood?
What fillings are inside these takoyaki? (sweet)
I choose banana for the filling. The mild sweetness complements the subtle bitterness of matcha. Banana also goes with chocolate. It reminds me of eating “banana split” ice cream sundaes growing up in Wisconsin and those chocolate-covered bananas you always find at summertime festivals in Japan.
Inspired by the small scraps of cooked tempura batter that go into regular takoyaki, I decided to add some crushed macadamia nuts for some crunch (optional).
I know I’m biased towards banana. If you’d prefer a different fruit, blueberries would be my next choice. I’d be curious to try mixed berries too: blueberry + cranberry would probably be pretty awesome.
Of course, azuki red bean paste is the obvious best match for green tea if your intent is to make a sweet dessert rather than a healthy snack. Azuki bean filling contains quite a bit of sugar; it also tends to be an acquired taste for many Westerners’ palates.
And if you’re not a fan of matcha, and still reading this far, thank you! Why not try cacao powder, tea leaves, or coffee flavor instead?
Tips to make Perfect Takoyaki:
1. If it’s your first time making takoyaki, I recommend cooking 3 or 4 balls at a time rather than using all the batter at once. Flipping takoyaki takes some practice.
2. Use plenty of oil. Make sure all the round molds and the top surface is covered with coconut oil so the takoyaki don’t stick and are easy to turn. The coconut oil also adds a richness in flavor.
3. Flipping takoyaki is possible with a fork or chopsticks, but I highly recommend buying one or a pair of takoyaki picks. They just make flipping a whole lot easier.
4. To know if your takoyaki are ready to turn, you’ll see the outer crust starting to cook into a thin layer of cake. Stick a takoyaki pick all the way in– it will turn with very little nudging if the batter is cooked.
5. If you’re using an electric takoyaki maker, I recommend turning the heat on and off to maintain a lower cooking temperature to prevent the coconut oil from smoking.
6. Each hole won’t always heat up to the exact same temperature so you may want to switch around the takoyaki once they’re in ball shape so they brown evenly.
7. The filling is the tricky part. At first, I wouldn’t be too concerned about making Instagram-perfect balls. I rather have ugly takoyaki with too much filling than perfectly shaped takoyaki with not enough filling that taste bland and dry.
A general rule for getting your takoyaki to turn out right: Fail your way to success! You can always eat your mistakes in the kitchen. 😉
Before you can recreate this recipe in your kitchen…
First, where to buy a takoyaki maker
In Japan, you can buy electric takoyaki makers at any of the big, nation-wide electronic store chains like Yamada Denki or Bic Camera. For more options, you could also have a look at department stores, big variety/home stores like Don Quixote or Tokyu Hands, or cookware stores like you’d find in Kappabashi, Tokyo’s “Kitchen Street.”
Or you can be like me, and borrow a takoyaki maker from my girlfriend’s family! From my experience, I get the impression that pretty much every Japanese family have their own takoyaki maker at home.
Note about electric takoyaki makers: I’m using the 18-hole Yamazen electric taiyaki maker, which heats up fast and the temperature isn’t adjustable. Cooking with coconut oil at high temps is not good. The chains of amino acids in coconut oil break down under high heat = oxidation. As a solution, I turn the heat on and off, on and off.
I considered purchasing a cast-iron pan to use on my stove so I could adjust the heat. Thankfully, I found one used in good condition at a recycle shop for 100 yen (plus some elbow grease and sodium bicarbonate cleaner).
How to make takoyaki
Healthy Matcha Takoyaki Dessert– Gluten-free, Low carb
Ingredients for Batter
- 24 whole almonds alternatively, try using almond flour or almond meal
- 3 tsp coconut flour 3 heaping teaspoons
- 3 free-range eggs
- 2 pinches sea salt
- 2 tsp matcha
Ingredient for Filling
- 1/2 banana
Ingredient for Cooking
- extra virgin coconut oil enough to coat pan
- 1-2 tsp matcha
- 1 piece dark chocolate
Chop almonds into a powder.
Put the chopped almonds, coconut flour, and salt in a bowl. Mix.
Add eggs and mix until smooth with a fork or whisk.
Add matcha to batter and mix well.
Prepare takoyaki filling
Slice banana into thin slices or dice into small chunks.
Coat the interior of circular mold with coconut oil. Put a small scoop of coconut oil inside each mold that you will use. *
Turn on takoyaki maker until the coconut oil inside each takoyaki mold melts (about 1 minute).*
With a teaspoon, scoop batter into circular molds until it's almost even with the edges.
Add slices or chunks of banana on top of the batter and press down with a small spoon or chopsticks.*
Then, cover the banana filling with a thin layer of batter. (This is optional.)
After about 1-2 minutes, poke takoyaki all the way to the bottom with a takoyaki stick and gently move it sideways to see if they're ready to turn.
Once you've flipped a takoyaki ball, use takoyaki sticks or chopsticks to sweep any undercooked batter into the mold underneath the takoyaki ball.
Turn takoyaki onto different sides until they form into ball shapes.
Once the green becomes light golden brown, poke sticks into balls to remove them from the circular molds.
Spread matcha powder on a plate. Roll each takoyaki ball in the matcha until completely covered.
Melt chocolate inside one of the circular molds on the takoyaki maker. Once melted, sprinkle on top of takoyaki using a chopstick.
DID YOU TRY OUT THIS RECIPE?