Eat Like a Sumo: Simple Chanko Nabe Recipe

By Eleonora Badellino
Updated: April 10, 2024

Are you ready to dive into the world of Japanese hot pots and savor the hearty flavors of sumo stew? In this article, we'll explore the delightful world of chanko nabe, a traditional Japanese hot pot that's not only delicious, but also a symbol of strength and endurance among sumo wrestlers. We'll provide you with an easy-to-follow chanko nabe recipe and guide you through the process of making this delectable dish at home!

What is nabe?

A nabe pot filled with broth, vegetables, and meats.

Before we delve into chanko nabe, let's understand what "nabe" is:

鍋 > なべ > nabe

Nabe refers to a variety of Japanese hot pot dishes that are enjoyed year-round, but they are particularly popular during the colder months. These hot pots consist of a flavorful broth, fresh ingredients, and communal dining, making them a favorite among families and friends.

There are many types of nabe, each with their own unique ingredients and flavors. Here are some of the more popular varieties:

1. Chanko nabe: The star of our show, chanko nabe is the hot pot of choice for sumo wrestlers, packed with ingredients to fuel their impressive physiques.

2. Miso nabe: A savory hot pot featuring a rich miso-based broth and a medley of vegetables and proteins.

3. Mille Feuille nabe: Named for its layered appearance, this hot pot boasts thinly sliced ingredients and a delightful dashi broth.

4. Motsu nabe: This hot pot includes offal and is known for its bold, unique flavors.

5. Kimchi nabe: A spicy twist on the classic nabe, featuring the fiery flavors of kimchi.

6. Tomato nabe: A tangy and refreshing hot pot with a tomato-based broth.

Now, let's focus on chanko nabe, a sumo wrestler's favorite.

Chanko nabe: A sumo wrestler's favorite dish!

Two sumos in the ring, with one about to slam his foot down with force.

Chanko nabe, the heavyweight champion of Japanese hot pots, is a traditional dish that originated from sumo stables and fuels the immense appetite of sumo wrestlers. These athletes require a high-calorie intake to maintain their massive physique, and chanko nabe is just the meal for that purpose. It's a hearty hot pot that combines a protein-rich broth with a variety of fresh vegetables, along with a selection of meats or seafood. This one-pot dish not only satisfies the appetite, but also provides a delightful range of flavors and textures.

Sumo wrestlers traditionally consume chanko nabe to gain and maintain their weight, often relying on unique recipes passed down through generations in sumo stables. However, it's worth noting that you don't have to be a sumo wrestler to enjoy this delicious dish. Many restaurants in Japan offer chanko nabe to both locals and tourists, especially during the colder seasons.

As for its healthiness, while chanko nabe is rich in calories and proteins, it is not typically considered a diet food. Its primary purpose is to help sumo wrestlers maintain their bulk. Nonetheless, you can make the recipe healthier by using leaner proteins and reducing the calorie content.

Simple chanko nabe recipe

A chanko nabe hot pot filled to the brim with all kinds of fresh vegetables and meats, soaking in a broth.

Now that we've explored what chanko nabe is within traditional Japanese food culture, let's get cooking with a simple chanko nabe recipe.

Chanko nabe ingredients

Before you start, gather the following ingredients:

  • 450g chicken, thinly sliced
  • 225g thinly sliced pork or beef
  • 200g white fish fillets (such as cod or sea bass)
  • 150g large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 100 gr chicken meatballs
  • 1.9 liters chicken or vegetable broth (1900g)
  • 470ml water (470g)
  • 1 block of tofu, cubed
  • 240ml sake (240g)
  • 240ml soy sauce (240g)
  • 120ml mirin (sweet rice wine) (120g)
  • 60ml sugar (60g)
  • 1 napa cabbage, chopped
  • 200g green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 200g shiitake mushrooms
  • 200g carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 pack of shirataki noodles (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Please note that the weights for the vegetables are approximate and can vary based on personal preferences and the size of the vegetables you have.


1. In a large chanko nabe pot or a regular large pot, combine the chicken or vegetable broth, water, sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer.

2. Add the tofu, napa cabbage, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, and carrots to the pot.

3. Let the ingredients simmer until they are tender, and the flavors meld together, about 15-20 minutes.

Skim the protein-released scum from the top of your broth.

4. Season the broth with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Arrange the thinly sliced chicken, pork, or beef on a plate.

6. Add the fish.

7. Allow each person to cook their own meat by dipping it into the simmering hot pot until it's cooked to their liking.

Meat is soaking in the nabe broth, becoming more tender.

8. Enjoy by dipping the cooked meat and vegetables into ponzu sauce or your favorite dipping sauce.

9. Serve with steamed rice or udon noodles if desired.

The finished chanko nabe dish, filled with hearty meats and vegetables in a flavorful broth.

Vegetarian chanko nabe recipe

For those looking for a vegetarian option, you can easily adapt chanko nabe. Substitute the meats and seafood with tofu, mushrooms, and plant-based proteins. The savory broth and variety of vegetables make for a delicious meatless version of this sumo favorite.

Where to eat chanko nabe in Tokyo

If you're in Tokyo and want to experience chanko nabe for yourself, head to Ryogoku. It's the heart of sumo wrestling, and you'll find a variety of restaurants that serve authentic chanko nabe.

  1. Chanko Tomoegata: This restaurant is located in the heart of Ryogoku and is famous for its chanko nabe. You can experience the traditional sumo atmosphere here, and the chanko nabe is both delicious and authentic.
  2. Suzugamori Chanko Kirishima: Another great option in Ryogoku, this restaurant offers a variety of chanko nabe dishes, including chicken, seafood, and more. The cozy setting and sumo decor add to the experience.
  3. Chanko Kirishima: This is the sister restaurant to Suzugamori Chanko Kirishima and is located nearby. It's known for its rich and flavorful chanko nabe.
  4. Kappo Yoshiba: While it's not a dedicated chanko nabe restaurant, Kappo Yoshiba in Ryogoku offers sumo cuisine, and their chanko nabe is highly regarded. It's a great place to try a sumo wrestler's meal.
  5. Sumo Chaya Chanko Toshugu: This restaurant offers various chanko nabe options and has a welcoming ambiance. It's an excellent choice for those looking to savor sumo-inspired cuisine.

Check out our full list of chanko nabe restaurants in Japan for those savory sumo dishes wherever you are!

So, whether you're a sumo wrestling enthusiast or just a lover of hearty, communal meals, chanko nabe is a must-try dish when you visit Japan. Enjoy the rich flavors of this sumo stew and experience a taste of Japanese culture and tradition.

Ready to get into the ring? Discover our walking tour and chanko nabe lunch in Ryogoku, our Tokyo sumo wrestler challenge and lunch, or read about the 6 best chanko nabe restaurants in Tokyo!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Eleonora Badellino
Born and raised in Italy, Eleonora has been a food enthusiast and nature lover since she was a child. After graduating from "Gastronomic Sciences" university and work experience abroad in the food industry, she arrived in Japan intrigued by the culinary culture of Washoku. Destiny made her meet her husband here, and now they live together in the Japanese countryside, with their newborn baby.
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