Osaka, Japan, is a food lovers’ paradise. So much so it is hard to come up with a list of ONLY 10 Osaka must eat foods. The people in Osaka take their food very seriously, giving Osaka the nickname “the kitchen of Japan.” Because we also take the food we eat very seriously, it seemed to be a perfect match. We enjoyed doing the research on what to eat in Osaka Japan. We already have our next trip to Japan booked and will update this post after with even more tasty treats. But, here, we share our top foods to try in Osaka (so far).
Osaka Food Blog
I like to think of Tokyo like NYC, and Osaka like Chicago. Tokyo and New York are the financial centers, with loads of hard working people. Osaka and Chicago also have lots of corporate employees and hard workers, but the people are nicer, friendlier, and more approachable. In both cities, there tends to be an element of work hard, play hard, which is why there are so many places to eat and drink around each city. It is also what drove us to spend 10 days with the goal of doing nothing but eating the most famous Osaka food and drink.
Time needed: 10 minutes.
What you will learn in this Osaka Food Blog Post:
- What are the must-eat dishes to eat in Osaka
All of the traditional Japanese dishes you must eat
- What are the traditional Osaka specialities
The two Osaka specialities you must eat
- How to travel to Osaka for food
Recommendations for how to eat well in Osaka
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
What to Eat in Osaka
Many people say that they lose weight when traveling to Japan because the food is so healthy. And, it’s true that some of the best Japanese food and some of the top food in Osaka is pretty healthy. This was certainly not the case for us because we were determined to eat all the best foods in Osaka. Part of the reason was that perhaps we imbibed a bit too much on the sake, but I just can’t help it. I love sake! It became part of our “Osaka diet.”
The biggest reason, though, was that we wanted to eat ourselves silly. We wanted to practice kuidaore, essentially eating until bankrupt, or eating until you fall over. This meant we ended up eating multiple meals during the day, to get it all in. We wanted not only to eat all the recommended foods in Osaka, but we wanted to eat it more than once! If our goal was to eat in Osaka, we certainly satisfied it. And Osaka is home to all of the most famous Japanese food! Plus, they have some specialties that originate in this food-focused city.
Top Foods to Eat in Osaka
Here we run down our top 10 things to eat in Osaka, and these only scratch the surface. It’s not hard to find good food to eat. It is everywhere, from street side stalls to restaurants with animatronic chefs outside, to tiny alleys. A lot of it is casual eating as well, making it a fun food and drink destination.
Just like in other great food cities, the best food in Osaka is often enjoyed on the street. Or consider that some of the best places to eat in Osaka that are located down dark alleys. Follow the smells. Don’t be afraid! Just explore – there’s no shortage of good food in Osaka. Many of the Japanese people we met love food as much as we do. We had no problem walking into a tiny restaurant or bar having no idea what to eat. We looked around, politely pointed, smiled and ordered what the locals ate.
1. Okonomiyaki Osaka – Local Osaka Speciality Food
Let’s start with the most famous food in Osaka. Okonomiyaki, is a thick Japanese pancake, and as a specialty of Osaka, it can be considered the best food in Osaka. It can be found all over the Namba area, one of the top Osaka places of interest. And it’s found most notably on Dotonburi, the food walk along the river The pancake batter is mixed with cabbage, tempura bits, and pickled ginger, and cooked on a flat top grill. It is served with okonomiyaki sauce, which is a sweet brown sauce, mayonnaise, dried green seaweed, and dried bonito, or dried tuna flakes.
Okonomiyaki is a must eat in Osaka, but for me, it is something I could eat once and not eat again. When we ate it in 2009, it was not great. This visit, though, we made okonomiyaki during an Osaka cooking class we took with Viator Travel, and it was much better. Perhaps because it was a labor of love, and I had more control over how much bonito and seaweed to add. For me, this version became the best okonomiyaki in Osaka. Even though I am not a fan, it still remains one of the top things to eat in Osaka! Give it a try.
Eating Okonomiyaki is a must do in Osaka!
2. Takoyaki – A Must Eat in Osaka
Ready for another of the top foods in Osaka? Takoyaki, or fried octopus balls, are another specialty of Osaka. They can be found seemingly everywhere, particularly in Dotonburi. It’s easy to find, even if hard to find the best takoyaki in Osaka.
This dish is made with a batter similar to the okonomiyaki, but a lot smaller. The batter is placed into a specially-shaped takoyaki pan to make the balls. The pan almost looks like a small cupcake pan, where the batter is ladled in. Pieces of octopus are then placed inside the batter and a pointy metal stick is used to turn the balls to ensure they are cooked on all sides. It’s one of the more unique of the Osaka specialties.
It’s even possible to find restaurants where you can make your own takoyaki at the table. I find this interesting, particularly with how much beer and sake is drunk in Osaka. Let’s allow people to drink loads of alcohol, place them in front of a searing hot griddle, and provide them with pointy sticks. Why not? I don’t know if this would fly in the States. But, it’s a “must do in Osaka.” And it just adds a little bit of danger to one of the Osaka best eats.
3. Kushiage or Kushikatsu – Fried Osaka Food Specialties
Fried stuff on a stick. Honestly, during our stay in Osaka, I had no idea what this type of food was called, and could not remember from our last Osaka food trip. And, I didn’t find an Osaka travel blog to tell me. All I knew was that if I did not provide Eric at least one meal or snack of fried stuff on a stick each day, I would be in trouble. They will take anything and place it on a stick, and dunk it in a deep fryer. This includes sausages to peppers to beef to pickled ginger, cheese, and rice cakes. Yeah, I just described the perfect plate of kushiage.
The most important rule when eating kushiage is no double dipping! There is a communal sweet brown sauce to dip the fried stuff on a stick into but only dip once. It’s the George Costanza rule.
4. Sushi – An Obvious Food to Eat in Osaka
Well, this goes without saying. Sushi is a must eat in Osaka, whether a snack of conveyor belt sushi is more your style, or a nicer sushi restaurant in Japan, just go for it. Even better, order a sushi assortment, and allow the chef to pick what you eat. Even if you are not adventurous, go for it anyway! The best we had was at Sushi Hayata, near the Hommachi subway station, and next to the St. Regis.
But, let’s talk about conveyor belt sushi in Osaka. Is conveyor belt sushi the best sushi in Osaka? Probably not. But, it’s cheap and fun. And, a conveyor belt Osaka sushi restaurant can be a great value! My vote for fun food to try in Osaka has to be the conveyor belt sushi.
Just sit down at an empty spot and pull the plates that look good. There is normally a sign nearby that tells you how expensive each plate is. The plates are color-coded to let you know the prices. Stack your plates as you eat. The plates are counted at the end to tally the bill. So easy and so fun.
5. Japanese Curry – A Must Eat Osaka Dish
Japanese curry was supposedly introduced by the British, who learned about curry in India. My favorite is a fried chicken cutlet. It’s served over a bed of rice, slathered in a thick, brown curry sauce, maybe with some additional vegetables. To add a tanginess, throw on some pickled vegetables as a condiment.
It is pretty easy to find all over Osaka, but the best we found was Rebel Curry, near the Hommachi subway station. Rebel Curry is located on the second floor of an apartment building in a bar called Rock Bar. They are only open for lunch and only serve one dish, but it was amazing, almost like a fusion curry, with a bit of saffron and chickpeas. Amazing. It is also easy to find small curry stalls in many of the Osaka train stations.
6. Udon Noodles in Osaka – A Delicate Osaka Specialty Food
We ate udon noodles in a ramen style broth, as our first meal in Osaka, and it quickly became comfort food. I tried mine with a raw egg, which mixed into the soup as it cooked, and a side of tempura to dip into the broth. On a cold Japanese day, this was easily one of my top foods to eat in Osaka. Udon noodles can be some of the best ramen in Osaka.
7. Soba Noodles – The BEST Food to Eat in Osaka (for noodle lovers)
Whereas udon noodles are white, wide, and soft (kind of like me right now), soba noodles are made with buckwheat giving them a characteristic dark grey color. They are more dry, thin, and somewhat delicate. They can be added to a soup, like udon, but traditionalists will say it is imperative to eat soba noodles cold, dipped into a little sauce. This enables you to taste the texture and freshness of the noodle. And a properly served udon noodle meal can be a perfectly Instagrammable Japanese dish.
8. Gyoza – Well-Known Osaka Eats
I don’t remember eating a lot of gyoza during our last trip to Japan. Although I’ve probably had about a thousand of these pork and vegetable filled, fried dumplings all over the world. This time around we tried them in a few different places, but the best in Osaka was a little gyoza shop near our apartment on Shinsaibashi, the shopping arcade of Osaka, and one the top locations for where to eat in Osaka. They were served piping hot and sizzling in a cast iron skillet.
9. Tempura – Osaka Must Eats With Beer
A day is not a day eating in Osaka without tempura. Seriously. Sometimes we had tempura for dessert, which we did when meeting up with fellow bloggers Notes of Nomads one of our last nights in Osaka.
They may have thought we were strange for having a second meal solely of tempura, but when a plate of shrimp and vegetables arrived, slathered in a perfectly fluffy fried tempura covering, it was just heaven. And, a perfect dish with a cold glass of sake. It almost became a beer snack for us, but for me, beer was generally sake.
10. Dashimaki – The Last of Our Best Things to Eat in Osaka
Dashimaki is a Japanese sweet omelet, which is either served whole, or sliced, or even as sushi in Osaka. Dashi is the base for miso soup and includes dried keep and sliced bonito, the fried fish flakes on top of both okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Neither of these sounds appealing, but together in miso, or as an ingredient in the omelet, it somehow works.
FAQs – Where to Eat in Osaka
When visiting Osaka, I think it is important to allow yourself enough time to eat. These are just 10 of the best foods to eat in Osaka. If you only visit for two nights, you will never get through it all. Here are our final bits of advice on what to eat in Osaka and how to travel to Osaka for food.
Yes! If you don’t speak Japanese, you can still eat in Japanese! Did we understand everything at every Osaka Japanese restaurant? No, but between picture menus and Google Translate, we never ordered wrong.
Go where the locals go. If there is a line, wait your turn. Head to Dotonburi if in doubt. It’s filled with local restaurants and street food.
Yes, there are a handful of foods you can eat on the street, but, even a regular Osaka restaurant can offer great food, Osaka cheap eats, and sometimes while standing. Some of the Osaka top food experiences involve the most casual of dining locations.
Perfect question! Don’t plan 3 meals a day. Just spend the day snacking, so you can try the most Osaka foods possible. Food is one of the Osaka top attractions. Or, take an Osaka food tour to try it all!
Check out our Japanese food blog all about the costs of food in Japan.
Out of all of these dishes, it’s hard to pick one Osaka food specialty. I want you to try them all! But, anytime there is fried stuff on a stick, I’m sold! So, I would recommend kushiage as my favorite of the must eats in Osaka.
Looking to Learn More About Japanese Food?
We loved eating in Osaka, but there are so many great ways to learn about Japanese food. One of the best ways to learn about Japanese food when traveling in the country is to take a cooking class. We took an amazing cooking class in Osaka, where we learned all about local Osaka specialties. We also tasted sake and participated in a Japanese tea ceremony. I would highly recommend booking a cooking class. Read our review of our Osaka cooking class here.
Where To Stay In Osaka
Here are our recommended Osaka hotels. The InterContinental is more of a luxury property whereas the Ibis is a great value option.
Learn more about traveling to Osaka
Pin It To Save For Later! Osaka Food Blog
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.