Spelt Panko Tonkatsu


Japanese Pork Tonkatsu breaded with spelt panko is a major work of “cultural appropriation” from the First Age of Globalization. Panko is made from shokupan, Japanese Milk Bread, a European-style bread that became popular in Japan around the turn of the twentieth century. The word tonkatsu means “Katsu (short for katsuretsu, cutlets made with pork.” In other words the dish is an adaptation of Austrian wienerschnitzel made with breadcrumbs from stale European-style bread. It goes on: the classic tonkatsu sauce is a version of English Worcestershire Sauce modified to suit local tastes. Enjoy!

Spelt Panko Tonkatsu

spelt panko tonkatsu Prep Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Serves 4


  • ¾ pound cabbage, cored
  • 4 fillets boneless pork shoulder or pork loin (about 1 pound), about ¾ inch thick
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup white spelt flour
  • 2 cups spelt panko crumbs
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • ½ cup tonkatsu sauce, store-bought or homemade


  1. Pound the meat with the knife’s flat side about 6 to 8 times on each side of the pork to flatten the meat to about ½ inch thick. Cut ½-inch notches into the white fat of the fillets, which will prevent the fillet from curling when frying. Season the fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Transfer the prepared pork fillets to a plate.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Prepare 4 plates. Pour the spelt flour onto the first plate. Pour the beaten egg onto the second plate. Pour the spelt panko onto the third plate. Leave the fourth plate empty for now (this plate will hold the breaded tonkatsu).
  4. Fill a 12″ cast-iron skillet with vegetable oil to a height of at least 1 inch. Turn the heat on to high. Heat the oil to 340 ° F. Line a platter with paper towels to drain the cooked tonkatsu.
  5. While the oil is heating, bread the fillets. First, dredge a fillet in spelt flour on both sides and shake off excess spelt flour. Second, dip the fillet into the egg, coating both sides. Third, repeat the process, dredging the pork in the spelt flour again on both sides, then coating it again with egg on both sides. Finally, lay the fillet on the spelt panko crumbs. Pile spelt panko on top of the pork with your fingers, then gently press the spelt panko onto the fillet with the palms of your hand so a generous layer of panko sticks to the fillet on both sides. Repeat with the other fillets, then place them on the empty plate you prepared earlier.
  6. When the oil has heated to 340°F, carefully slide the fillets into the skillet. Depending on the size of the skillet, cook the tonkatsu in batches. Be careful not to overfill the skillet, which will lower the cooking temperature; use, at most, half of the surface area of the oil to cook. While the tonkatsu is cooking regulate the heat to maintain a constant 340 ° F oil temperature. If the oil is too hot, the tonkatsu will burn; if it is too low, the tonkatsu will come out soggy and greasy.
  7. Cook the tonkatsu for about 4 minutes, turning once, until the fillets turn golden brown. When they’re ready, transfer the fillets to the paper-lined plate to drain.
  8. Transfer the tonkatsu to a cutting board and slice into strips. For each serving, place the pork on a plate, along with a heap of sliced cabbage. Serve topped with about 2 tablespoons of tonkatsu sauce or serve the sauce on the side, as you prefer. Serve steamed white rice on the side.

Adapted from Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat

Author: Daniel Lieberman

Daniel Lieberman is a cook and writer living in the hills of Western Massachusetts. When he's not cooking he listens to opera and reads a lot.

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