Thin Light Tonkatsu (Japanese Breaded Pork Cutlets) in an Air Fryer

Tonkatsu is the first dish I dream of whenever I go to Japan and, apart from having it several times during the stay, I always do my best to make it my first and last meal of the journey. I have also been preparing it at home for many years, Even though mine is not even half as good as in Japan, I prepare it quite often. Actually, I love it so much that, if it wasn’t for the fat, I would have it at least once a week. With fat content reduction in min I started to bake it in the oven, but it didn’t compare to the real thing (contrary to the baked chicken katsu, which gave quite satisfying results). Anyway, I hoped an air fryer would be a better, less drying and less time-consuming solution and after years of hesitation (my kitchen and pantry lack space for such a bulky appliance), I bought it.

As you have obviously guessed the air-fryer experiment was a success! A real revolution for someone as fond of tonkatsu as I am! Not only is it less dry than the oven-baked, it’s also quicker and much more convenient for small batches. I won’t lie : it’s not as good as the deep-fried original, but I find it genuinely delicious, though different. (By the way, I found air-fried chicken katsu even juicier and closer to its deep-fried version!)

I prepare now both tonkatsu and chicken katsu so often, I have hardly tested anything else in my air fryer (apart from falafels, which were a big flop), so if you have experience with this appliance, please do share it with me!

Click below if you want to make the real original deep-fried tonkatsu:

TIPS: Sprinkling the tonkatsu with sesame oil is not necessary, but it does improve the taste (for sesame oil lovers) and the texture.

I’ve tested different thickness options and my favourite was 1 cm thin and crispy tonkatsu.

If using tenderloin, you can cut a bit thicker slices and shorten the cooking time (I’d test 10 minutes at 180°C), but I haven’t tested this cut yet, so I cannot say for sure.

Of course you can use chicken breasts instead of pork loin, cutting them in two lengthwise, to make them thinner.

Every air fryer is different, so you might have to test first the timing for the brand and size you own (mine wasn’t the most famous brand).

In theory you could use “normal” breadcrumbs, but I have no idea what the texture and taste would be like once cooked. Anyway, whenever I can, I always use the Japanese panko because it’s lighter and crispier.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two-three, 2 batches in my air fryer):

6 thin slices of pork loin (about 1 cm or a bit more than 1/3 inch thick)

about 10-12 heaped tablespoons of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

5 tablespoons wheat flour

1 egg, slightly beaten

salt, pepper

sesame oil (or any other oil)

tonkatsu sauce to serve (or a mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce) or mayonnaise + taberu rayu sediment

Heat a frying pan and heat (medium heat) a thin panko layer until it starts becoming golden (stir constantly and pay attention because it burns easily).

Season the pork slices generously with salt and pepper.

Dust the pork slices with flour, dip them in the beaten egg and coat in panko, pressing so that the whole slice is covered.

Place the tonkatsu in the air fryer basket, spray/sprinkle with oil (only the upper side) and fry at 180°C for 11 minutes.

Keep them in a warm oven until you finish frying all the batches.

Serve on rice, on finely shredded cabbage or in a sandwich, with tonkatsu sauce or with mayonnaise and chili paste (or chili oil sediment).

13 Replies to “Thin Light Tonkatsu (Japanese Breaded Pork Cutlets) in an Air Fryer”

  1. Wow! These look amazing! I always toast my panko since i read it on your lovely blog, it makes the finished dish look wonderful and taste so crispy. I’m curious on which brand of air fryer you have, I’m not overly fond of my brand (a leftover from a project I worked on when this brand had the patent on the technology and they were extremely expensive). It does take up a lot of room and even though my kitchen is very large compared to European kitchens, I don’t like to sacrifice the space for something I infrequently use.
    Have you tried brining chicken breasts to result in moister meat? I do this with whole chickens and it’s delicious.
    I’m so glad you’re back blogging, I had missed you.

    1. Dear Eva, thank you for such kind words! I’m glad you toast panko too! I was planning to post about air-frying for ages… but since I had doubts about the subject (no to mention the photo I am not happy with… I hope I’ll soon change it).
      I have a cheaper, a bit ugly German brand (Severin), I don’t know if it’s sold in Canada too. I bought it last year. It was 75% off because it was sales period + it was a display item (though I haven’t seen a single scratch!). In short, I paid the price of a pizza, so I thought at worst I’d give it away… And now I’m really glad I bought it!
      You are right, it’s bulky (I keep it in my pantry where I also had to make room for it), but I use it several times per month (3-4)… we both looove tonkatsu and chicken katsu, so I prepare them quite often.
      Thank you for the advice! I’ve heard about brining, I’ve been meaning to test it, but haven’t tried it yet.

  2. Very nice. I’ve been tempted to buy an air fryer as well as a regular deep fryer because I love the taste of fried food but hate the mess. Just made chicken cutlets/katsu yesterday by shallow frying and thought about it again.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. I don’t really make a mess while deep-frying (maybe some splattering around the pan but it’s the same with everything I cook), but I’m always scared when I think of the fat amounts I consume (I don’t want to limit tonkatsu to a once-a-month treat!).

  3. These look awesome! And SO crispy! Looking at the ingredients I can honestly say that I’ve never had these before. Wish I had that air fryer to give them a try. I can understand how a regular fryer could make them dry, because goes dry quite fast. I’ve been tempted to get an air fryer, but my husband says I don’t have room for one. Well…it YOU have room, then I certainly do. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, MJ! Actually, they do taste better in a normal fryer, they are juicier and simply better (oven baking makes them drier). The air fryer buy was strictly for weight control reasons, alas… I wish I could eat deep-fried food as often as I want…. because I love it! I have to keep it in my pantry, where I spent several hours before finding an easily accessible place, but I’m glad I did!
      In short, if you have never tasted tonkatsu, I’d recommend normal deep-frying. Panko instead of breadcrumbs+deep-frying instead of the European shallow-frying (schnitzel) make miracles!

  4. Your fried pork cutlets look terrific and very crispy. I don’t have an air fryer, as others have mentioned it would take up space I really don’t have. Plus, perhaps I’m just a little old fashioned and think shallow frying does a good job. 😊

    1. Thank you so much, Karen! I never shallow fry. Too greasy! If I could (I mean I’d have a better metabolism for example), I’d only deep fry and forget the air fryer. Air fryer is only for the waistline control 😉 Deep-frying is much better and one of the reasons why Japanese cutlets are 100x better than the German/Polish-style ones (shallow-fried).

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