Authentic Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl) 牛丼

Gyudon is synonymous with comfort. It has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for over 150 years!
japanese beef over rice, gyudon food set

Gyudon (牛丼) is classic comfort food that has had its place in Japanese cuisine for over 150 years. It’s a hearty rice bowl that is very simple to put together. It’s also famous for being a quick, nutritious meal that never fails to satisfy.

While every household in Japan makes gyudon a little different, the core ingredients remain the same: thin slices of beef, onion, egg, and a sweet and savory sauce served over a hot bed of rice.

Like all donburi, Gyudon (or Japanese Beef Bowl) is always served over a warm bowl of freshly steamed rice. “Gyu” (牛) translates to “beef” while “Don” (丼) refers to the type of bowl that it’s served in.

Gyudon is occasionally served with a raw egg yolk or a poached egg (Onsen Tamago) placed in the center of the simmered beef. Breaking the yolk and mixing it into the beef and onions adds a layer of richness to this meal that simply can’t be beat.

Let’s Dig Into The History Of The Dish

The gyudon that we know and love today actually originated from a beef hot pot dish called “gyunabe” (牛鍋) during Japan’s Meiji Era (1868-1912). Up until this point, Japanese people were strictly prohibited from eating beef for both religious and practical reasons. Consuming meat went against Buddhist philosophies, and eating farm animals that were useful for work was largely discouraged. Western culture was then introduced to Japan in the late 19th century. Gyunabe—beef and onion stewed with miso paste—became extremely popular. The chef of an izakaya called Isekuma in Yokohama was the first person to serve gyunabe in 1862! People began pouring their leftover gyunabe broth over rice, and soon restaurants began to serve this as a cheaper alternative called “gyumeshi” (牛飯).

The name “gyudon” was conceived by Eikichi Matsuda in the late 1800s. Matsuda is the owner of Japan’s most famous Tokyo-based, beef bowl chain, Yoshinoya. If you want to make gyudon similar to the restaurant Yoshinoya – try our authentic recipe below.

Gyudon in Japan is known to be a quick, tasty meal that is also cheap. It is also popular among business people and young, single men and has now reached the general Japanese public. The ingredients to make this one-pot dish are the following essential 4 elements:

  • Thinly sliced beef: We recommend chuck or rib eye. The paper-thin slices are essential for achieving authentic gyudon (too thick, and your beef will be chewy), and you can often find packages of this cut at Japanese supermarkets.
  • Onion: Sliced onion is the first thing to enter the pan and cooked until soft. It pairs very well with the tender beef.
  • Sauce: Added soon after onion,  the sauce is a complementary balance of sweet and savory, made with soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and sake. A highly effective combination of liquids to get the flavour bursting.
  • Egg: We add beaten eggs to the pan just before serving rather than having a whole egg sit on top of the meat. This method adds a nice layer of fluffy egg integrated with the beef mixture.

AuthorHungry PandaCategoryDifficultyBeginner

Yields3 Servings
Prep Time10 minsCook Time40 minsTotal Time50 mins

For The Sauce
 1 tbsp sugar
 2 tbsp sake (substitute with dry sherry or Chinese rice wine; for a non-alcoholic sub, use water)
 2 tbsp mirin (substitute with 2 Tbsp sake/water + 2 tsp sugar)
 3 tbsp soy sauce
 3 large eggs (beaten optional, 50g without shells)
The beefy bits
 12 oz thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye)
 110 g onion
 2 green onions/scallions
 1 tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc)
For Your Rice Cooker
 2 cups Japanese short grain rice (approx 360ml rice)

1

Gather your ingredients. This recipe serves 3-4 people. Adjust your quantities to suit.

Thinly slice the onions, cut the green onions into thin slices (save for garnish), and cut the meat into 3" (7.6 cm) pieces.

2

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

3

Add the meat and sugar to the pan, and cook until meat is no longer pink.

4

Add sake, mirin, and soy sauce.

5

Reduce the heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

6

If you like to add the egg, slowly drizzle the beaten egg over the beef. Cook covered until the egg is almost done (don't overcook it). Remove from the heat.

7

In a large donburi bowl (or similar sized bowl) add steamed rice and put the beef and egg mixture on top. If you'd like, drizzle over remaining sauce. Top with green onion and pickled red ginger.

Ingredients

For The Sauce
 1 tbsp sugar
 2 tbsp sake (substitute with dry sherry or Chinese rice wine; for a non-alcoholic sub, use water)
 2 tbsp mirin (substitute with 2 Tbsp sake/water + 2 tsp sugar)
 3 tbsp soy sauce
 3 large eggs (beaten optional, 50g without shells)
The beefy bits
 12 oz thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye)
 110 g onion
 2 green onions/scallions
 1 tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc)
For Your Rice Cooker
 2 cups Japanese short grain rice (approx 360ml rice)

Directions

1

Gather your ingredients. This recipe serves 3-4 people. Adjust your quantities to suit.

Thinly slice the onions, cut the green onions into thin slices (save for garnish), and cut the meat into 3" (7.6 cm) pieces.

2

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

3

Add the meat and sugar to the pan, and cook until meat is no longer pink.

4

Add sake, mirin, and soy sauce.

5

Reduce the heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

6

If you like to add the egg, slowly drizzle the beaten egg over the beef. Cook covered until the egg is almost done (don't overcook it). Remove from the heat.

7

In a large donburi bowl (or similar sized bowl) add steamed rice and put the beef and egg mixture on top. If you'd like, drizzle over remaining sauce. Top with green onion and pickled red ginger.

Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl) 牛丼

HANDY TIPTop with green onion and pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga) to garnish.