Known as the younger, hipper brother of Tokyo, Osaka has a reputation for futuristic architecture, wild nightlife, and of course, amazing Japanese street food. It’s a port city in the western region of Kansai, with an easy-going, fun, and colorful vibe, and a distinct Osaka dialect. Osaka is said to be the birthplace of kuidaore, a word in Japanese that loosely translates to “ruin oneself by the extravagance of food,” meaning either financially or physically.
It's easy to get on board with the unique Osaka food culture, but be warned, a lot of it is cheap, fried, and absolutely delicious! With so many places to visit and things to eat along the way, you can easily stuff yourself with all kinds of weird and wonderful Japanese foods. Discover the joy Kansai cuisine in this comprehensive Osaka food guide, and find out what to eat in Osaka right here.
What to Eat in Osaka
Osaka is sometimes referred to as the food capital of Japan, supported by its endearing nickname, Tenka no Daidokoro, meaning “the nation’s kitchen.” As a port city, Osaka was a crucial trade hub during the Edo period of Japan. A gourmet paradise, Osaka is considered one of the best cities in Japan for foodies, with a ton of great food markets in Osaka to visit.
Delicious Japanese foods can be found on every street corner! Here is our ultimate Osaka food guide, including our top picks for what to eat in Osaka.
- Jiggly Cheesecake
- Sushi & Sashimi
- Fugu (Japanese Pufferfish)
- Kitsune Udon
- Kappo Cuisine
1. Jiggly Cheesecake
Over 65 years ago, Rikuro Nishimura founded Rikuro-Ojiisan ("Uncle Rikuro"), the company that makes the most iconic, fluffiest baked cheesecake in Japan. As the story goes, Rikuro was once a pastry chef, now widely known for developing the ever-popular Japanese cheesecake. Jiggly, wobbly, sweet, and delicious, this cheesecake is a must-try dessert in Osaka, and it sure hits the spot after you've chowed down at the local takoyaki shops and okonomiyaki restaurants.
Rikuro's flagship store is located in Namba they also have 11 stores in the Kansai region. However, with the intention to keep it as an Osaka delicacy, Uncle Rikuro doesn’t plan to expand, so you’ll have to head to Osaka if you want to taste one of the best cheesecakes in Japan (and most Instagrammable).
Osaka is the original home of okonomiyaki. This savory Japanese pancake was invented before World War II and continues to have country-wide popularity. You’ll find plenty of yatai street food stalls selling Osaka-style okonomiyaki around the city. Most okonomiyaki restaurants in Osaka are teppanyaki style, so you can grill it for yourself or watch the masters at work.
Kansai or Osaka-style okonomiyaki differs from Hiroshima okonomiyaki, which has the ingredients layered and includes noodles. Osaka's okonomiyaki is a kind of savory pancake made from a mixed batter of flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, other vegetables, and meat or seafood. It's grilled and topped with a thick savory-sweet sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and a sprinkle of seaweed called aonori. Literally translating to “grilled as you like it,” okonomiyaki can be made with whatever fillings you wish.
One of the best foods in Osaka, try okonomiyaki in its birthplace!
Another amazing invention from the Kansai region, takoyaki should be at the top of your list of what to eat in Osaka. While it's made of a batter that's quite similar to okonomiyaki, the bite-sized balls are cooked individually, each containing a piece of tako (octopus). Each ball is a bit crunchy on the outside but gooey on the inside. Those dancing flakes sprinkled on top of the takoyaki are dried bonito flakes, or katsuobushi in Japanese. They are used to garnish the dish and give takoyaki its signature flavor.
Osaka has more than 700 takoyaki shops in the city and is the best place in Japan to try this popular Kansai specialty. You can enjoy this favorite Osaka street food just about anywhere, with street food stalls throughout the city turning takoyaki balls all day. Pick up some takoyaki en route to your next tourist stop; it’s an essential part of what to eat when you visit Osaka.
4. Sushi & Sashimi
When you’re visiting Osaka, you’ve just got to try the local sushi and sashimi, simple but oh-so-delicious. As a port city, it’s unsurprising that Osaka has one of the biggest fish markets in Japan, the Osaka Central Fish Market. With canals running throughout the city, Osaka has a laid-back kind of seaside vibe with fresh, high-quality seafood to match.
From the finest sushi restaurants to local markets like Kuramon Ichiba, you can find freshly sliced sushi throughout the city. Even bento boxes of sushi sold at the supermarket are extra fresh and easy to grab when you’re on-the-go sightseeing. Conveyor belt sushi trains are a fun, easygoing way to have sushi in Osaka, but booking an omakase chef’s special sushi experience is a must-do, too.
5. Fugu (Japanese Pufferfish)
The giant fugu pufferfish decorations flying overhead throughout Osaka are impossible to miss, calling for those who are feeling game to try pufferfish in Osaka. Zuboraya is the biggest restaurant for fugu in Osaka, among the many Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the city. You can have fugu in many different styles and dishes, prepared carefully so you can dine worry-free!
Why not brave the fugu pufferfish yourself and visit some famous restaurants for the delicacy? Check out these 6 fugu restaurants in Osaka.
Kushikatsu is an irresistible snack in Osaka, one of the city’s popular foods you must try on your Osaka trip. The word broadly covers deep-fried skewers of meat or vegetables.
Now one of the city’s biggest and most famous kushikatsu restaurant chains, Daruma is said to have started selling kushikatsu in 1929, skewered meat as a quick fix lunch for laborers. Cheap, easy, and of course delicious, kushikatsu continued to gain momentum throughout the war era for working-class people of Osaka. Fast-forward through to today, who doesn’t love bite-sized, deep-fried morsels on skewers? You can grab them either as local street food or order a la carte at specialty restaurants throughout Osaka.
Head to the nostalgic Shinsekai if you want Osaka’s best kushikatsu, where many of the restaurants are open round the clock; or the Tsutenkaku area can also sort you out. And remember everyone, it’s a big no-no to double-dip.
Similar to Korean barbeque, yakiniku means “grilled meat,” which is an extremely popular thing to eat in Osaka. You can, of course, get a grill’s worth of yakiniku anywhere in Japan, but Osaka gets away with stealing some glory from their neighboring city, Kobe.
As in the name, Kobe is home to the world-famous Kobe beef, which is considered one of the highest quality wagyu (Japanese beef) produced in Japan. With such close access to such high-quality meat, not just limited to Kobe beef, Osaka serves some seriously delicious yakiniku. You can grill for yourself (can’t go wrong at the Koreatown in Tsuruhashi) or grab some grilled wagyu meat sticks to-go from a street vendor.
Following the philosophy of “waste not, want not,” horumon or horumonyaki is like yakiniku, except you’re grilling the other meat bits like organs, offal, giblets, and innards. Also referred to as motsu, it was introduced to Osaka by a yoshoku (Western-style cuisine) chef who swiftly had the term “horumonyaki” trademarked in 1940.
Horumon comes from the word "hormone," and sounds similar to the word for “discarded goods” in the Kansai-Osaka dialect. The concept aligns with the Japanese mentality of mottainai, to avoid being wasteful.
Practical and delicious, horumonyaki has a reputation for being a “stamina-building” food and goes perfectly with a beer. Beef sinew broiled in sweet miso and mirin sugar marinade (doteyaki) is a tasty entry-level horumon. Adventurous eaters can try grilled liver, kidney, intestine, heart... the works!
9. Kitsune Udon
Udon noodles are popular throughout Japan, but the kitsune variety was invented in Osaka. The Osaka-style noodle soup is made with a light dashi fish stock broth, topped with a piece of deep-fried tofu skin (called abura-age) that’s been stewed in sweet soy sauce.
The name “kitsune” means fox, derived from the myth that abura-age is a fox’s favorite food. You might recognize the deep-fried tofu skin, which is used in inarizushi (rice ball wrapped in tofu skin). Kitsune udon is eaten widely throughout Japan, although Osaka is the birthplace of this simple yet filling udon dish.
The humble steamed pork bun originated in China, but is now widely sold throughout Japan, called butaman in Japanese. The delicious pork bun specialists at 551 Horai have brought Osaka some fame in the butaman game, with their headquarters in the heart of Namba. It’s so popular that around a whopping 170,000 buns are sold each day!
With juicy pork and spongy buns, butaman are a must-try snack in Osaka, sold in sets of even numbers for good luck!
Negiyaki is yet another dish that the people of Osaka love, grilled on a teppanyaki hot plate. Another savory pancake-style food, negiyaki is made of negi (green onions) rolled into a dough that's grilled on a teppan. It’s a popular form of konamono, a flour-based food, much like takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Konamono is well-loved and consumed regularly by Osaka's people, in restaurants and at home.
Ehomaki is a long tube of sushi, traditionally eaten during Setsubun (the bean-throwing festival) for good luck. Each year on February 3, you are meant to eat these “fortune rolls” all in one go while pointing in the lucky direction (which changes each year) to ward off evil. Setsubun is celebrated across Japan, however, ehomaki originated in Osaka, made by street vendors in the mid-1800s. Bigger than your standard sushi roll, an ehomaki averages 6cm thick and 20cm long. They are filled with eggs, fish, vegetables, or even pork cutlets.
13. Kappo Cuisine
Kappo is Osaka's answer to fine dining, rivaling Kyoto's elegant kaiseki. A kaiseki meal in Kyoto is typically a multi-course meal, combining skilled craftsmanship with seasonal ingredients (learn more in our article, What to Eat in Kyoto).
Kappo in Osaka is similarly high-end but offers a more intimate experience with the chef. As you are seated at the counter, you can watch the chefs working in the open kitchen right in front of you. It's more of an immersive, interactive experience. One big name in kappo dining in Osaka is Kigawa, although there are many other beloved establishments.
Now you know exactly what to eat in Osaka! Whether it’s casual street food or an upscale kappo meal, you can have it all. Discover your new favorite Osaka food and make sure you try okonomiyaki, takoyaki, sushi, and kushikatsu on your Osaka trip. As Osaka is sometimes regarded as the kitchen of Japan, you can always expect a guaranteed high standard of quality in this food capital.