Sep 21, 2022

Pork Katsu Sandwich

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Pork cutlets sandwiched between slices of bread with a simple cabbage salad and tonkatsu sauce makes for a delicious Japanese-style lunch.

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This Japanese fried pork cutlet sandwich is served on slices of crustless milk bread often with shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce. Pork katsu is similar to a schnitzel or chicken cutlet. While you can make it with anything from wagyu beef to chicken, pork chops are typically used. The contrast of the crispy exterior on the pork cutlets and tender interior is the perfect contrast to the soft pillowy bread. 

This sandwich as well as the popular Japanese egg salad sandwich are a part of the “yōshoku” subset of Japanese cuisine which is heavily Western-influenced. My favorite pork katsu sandwich (also referred to as a pork katsu sando) is from Kobi in Echo Park, Los Angeles. Katsu sandwiches can vary. Some are sold at convenience stores in Japan and some using premium ingredients like A5 wagyu and truffle can cost up to $75 a sandwich. 

Pork Katsu Sandwich 

What is Pork Katsu? 

“Ton” means pork and “katsu”, short for “katsuretsu” translates to cutlet in Japanese. “Tonkatsu” refers to the crispy pork cutlets that are used as the filling for the sandwich. Whereas “tonkotsu” (the difference being one letter) refers to a milky white ramen broth made from pork bones simmered over a long period of time.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe 

  • Pork – Boneless pork chops are pounded with a mallet until they are thin. They are then dredged in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried until they are crispy. 
  • Breadcrumbs – Panko, or Japanese breadcrumbs, are light and airy – perfect for coating the pork cutlets. They absorb less oil than Italian breadcrumbs which makes for a crisp, crunchy texture.  
  • Cabbage –  I use a mandoline to finely shave the cabbage. I prefer the texture of the finely shredded cabbage to thicker cuts made with a knife. The cabbage is tossed in rice vinegar to add a tangy flavor. If you are not planning to use a whole cabbage, you can ask most grocery stores to cut the cabbage in half or quarters to reduce waste. 
  • Bread – Soft Japanese milk bread is traditionally used to make these sandwiches. The crusts are cut off with the pork cutlets sandwiched between. If you can’t find milk bread, substitute with slices of thickly cut white bread. 
  • Tonkatsu sauce – Tonkatsu sauce sometimes referred to as Japanese barbecue sauce, is sweet, tangy and salty, like a thicker version of Worcestershire sauce. The sauce is made with a combination of vegetables and fruits like prunes and dates as well as soy sauce and vinegar. Look for the Bull Dog brand but if you can’t find this sauce you can substitute it with barbecue sauce.

How to Make a Pork Katsu Sando

Step 1: Pound out the pork chops. 

Use a mallet to gently pound the pork chops to ½” thickness. Season with salt.

Step 2: Set up dredge.

Set up the dredge for the pork. Add the flour to a shallow bowl. Add the eggs and 2 tablespoons of water to another and beat the eggs. In a third bowl add the panko breadcrumbs.

Step 3: Dredge the pork. 

Add enough oil to reach at least 1” up the side of a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven. Heat over medium heat until the oil is 350ºF (180ºC). Working one piece of pork at a time, coat the pork in the flour then coat in the egg wash, letting any excess drip off. Coat in the panko, pressing to adhere the breadcrumbs.

Step 4: Fry the pork. 

Carefully lower the pork into the hot oil and fry until crispy and golden brown on the underside, about 1 minute. Use tongs to flip and continue to fry the pork, about another minute.

Step 5: Remove to drain. 

Remove to a cooling rack set over a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pork.

Step 6: Prepare the cabbage. 

Add the cabbage to a small bowl and toss with the rice wine vinegar.

Step 7: Assemble the sandwiches. 

Spread some of the tonkatsu sauce over the bottom slices of bread then top each with a piece of pork. Drizzle more of the tonkatsu sauce over the top then top with cabbage and close the sandwich. Cut in half or into thirds and serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe 

How to Make this with Chicken

Chicken katsu is also a popular alternative to pork in these sandwiches. Simply substitute the pork chops for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Pound thin as you would with the pork. 

Swaps and substitutions 
  • Try adding a drizzle of kewpie mayonnaise or Dijon mustard to the sandwich for extra flavor. 
  • If you can’t find tonkatsu sauce, substitute it with barbecue sauce.

Other Recipes to Try 

If you enjoy this pork katsu sandwich, give these other recipes a try: 

Pork Katsu Sandwich

Print Pin
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Serves 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless pork chops, about ¾ pound
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Canola oil, as needed, for frying
  • 2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons tonkatsu sauce
  • 4 slices Japanese milk bread, crusts removed

Instructions:

  • Use a mallet to gently pound the pork chops to ½” thickness. Season with salt.
  • Set up the dredge for the pork. Add the flour to a shallow bowl. Add the eggs and 2 tablespoons of water to another and beat the eggs. In a third bowl add the panko breadcrumbs.
  • Add enough oil to reach at least 1” up the side of a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven. Heat over medium heat until the oil is 350ºF (180ºC). Working one piece of pork at a time, coat the pork in the flour then coat in the egg wash, letting any excess drip off. Coat in the panko, pressing to adhere the breadcrumbs.
  • Carefully lower the pork into the hot oil and fry until crispy and golden brown on the underside, about 1 minute. Use tongs to flip and continue to fry the pork, about another minute.
  • Remove to a cooling rack set over a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pork.
  • Add the cabbage to a small bowl and toss with the rice wine vinegar.
  • Spread some of the tonkatsu sauce over the bottom slices of bread then top each with a piece of pork. Drizzle more of the tonkatsu sauce over the top then top with cabbage and close the sandwich. Cut in half or into thirds and serve immediately.

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