While traveling through different parts of Japan, you’ll quickly realize that each region has a distinct subculture. But one thing every Japanese person can agree on is that they love to eat! And no one’s palate is more demanding than the people of Osaka.
As Osakans love to say, this is the place to Kuidaore—eat ‘til you drop! In the bustling downtown area, you’ll find much more than shopping malls and nightclubs. The streets are alive with markets, white table cloth restaurants, greasy spoons, and food stalls that create an eclectic blend of dining options.
If sampling the local cuisine is high on your Japan bucket list, this is the ultimate destination for you. Below is our guide to must-eat foods, Osaka’s street food areas, and places where you can sightsee and eat at the same time!
This first entry might seem a little obvious at first. You’ll want to eat sushi and sashimi when you go to Japan, of course! However, there are a few reasons why this makes our must-try food in Osaka list.
Like the Tsukiji neighborhood in Tokyo, Osaka is home to one of the largest wholesale fish markets in Japan. At the Osaka Central Fish Market, you can watch enthralling tuna auctions at around 4:15 am. Afterward, you can stroll the stalls and restaurants for the freshest and budget-friendly seafood you’ll ever eat.
Oshizushi is Osaka’s original style, which looks markedly different from traditional nigiri, sashimi, or maki. Instead of carefully pressing the raw fish and rice together, chefs use a special box to create rectangular pieces.
You might have eaten “wagyu” in your home country, but most imports like American Wagyu aren’t the real McCoy. Although it comes from the same breed of cattle, what gets sold overseas often doesn’t pass Japan's final inspection.
Of all the wagyu out there, Kobe Beef might be the most famous in the international market. Kobe Beef comes from Hyogo Prefecture, thirty minutes away from Osaka, but it’s not the only wagyu you can find.
Some people say that Matsuzaka Wagyu is superior, and depending on its grade, you can find it for a fair price. There are many ways to eat it, but if you want wagyu steak, consider going to a teppanyaki restaurant. At these establishments, a chef will prepare your dinner at your table.
Osaka’s famous street food is as fun to eat as it is to watch it cook. Takoyaki pieces are fried balls of dough with several ingredients inside. The most common recipe calls for octopus, pickled ginger, and spring onions, but you can find variations depending on the shop.
Making takoyaki requires a griddle with golf ball-sized cups. The batter and ingredients get tossed about in a slapdash manner but come out in perfect circles once they finish cooking. One serving has six to eight pieces with Japanese Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, and fish flakes that move from the heat.
As you wander around Osaka, it’s hard to miss places to eat takoyaki. Stands and restaurants serving it are on nearly every corner of major intersections, markets, and festivals. If you’re having a hard time deciding which shop to try, head to the one with the longest line!
Translated from Japanese, okonomiyaki means “whatever you want, grilled." It became widely eaten when food was scarce after World War II but persevered as one of Osaka’s specialties.
The ingredients for okonomiyaki are somewhat similar to takoyaki, but chefs take a lot more liberties with their recipes. A typical okonomiyaki restaurant uses batter, cabbage, and slices of meat. However, you can also find flourless variations or combinations that include cooked noodles (more on that later).
Small okonomiyaki shops have a griddle stretching from one wall to the other above a counter. After putting in your order, the chef will prepare your dish, which comes out looking like a savory pancake. If you go to a large restaurant, you can try making it yourself!
If you love barbecues but hate the trouble of setting them up, yakiniku joints will seem like a total revelation. At these types of restaurants, you order raw meat and cook it over a charcoal grill on your table.
You can find yakiniku restaurants all over Japan, but Korean immigrants introduced the dish to Osaka long before the rest of the country adopted it. It’s also easier to get high-quality beef here! Beautifully marbled slices of wagyu will come to your table with a light seasoning that won’t overpower the natural flavors.
If you’re an adventurous eater, also try the horumon, which are beef or pork internal organs. It might not sound appetizing at first, but you’ll be surprised by its succulence. Osaka is famous for this food because a chef from the Kansai region popularized eating offal in Japan.
You might be a ramen enthusiast, but do you take is as seriously as an Osakan? Ask several locals which shops they recommend, and you’re sure to get wildly different answers from each of them! From chain restaurants to mom-and-pop shops, Osaka is a hotspot for ramen.
It might surprise you what I’m about to put here next, but hear me out, please. After you eat a piping hot bowl of fresh noodles, try the instant ramen too! The Nissin brand got its start in Osaka, and the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is well worth the trip.
At the museum, you can learn about the history and cultural significance of instant noodles through hands-on exhibits. You can also create a customized cup of noodles, which is one of the best food souvenirs from Osaka!
If your food tour includes Tokyo and Osaka, you might notice a steep contrast between their flavor profiles. Tokyo’s cuisine uses a lot of spice and flavoring, while Osakans prefer light-tasting dishes.
Udon noodles are much thicker and have a chewier consistency than ramen. In traditional cooking, they should take on the taste of a soup broth or dipping sauce. In Osaka, however, the kombu dashi stock has the subtlest hint of flavor.
Kitsune Udon originated in Osaka during the Meiji period. The no-frills soup and noodles come topped with a piece of sweet fried tofu. According to legend, the creator of Kitsune Udon intended for the tofu to serve as a side dish. But the inventive locals kept putting it in their soup, so the chef followed suit.
Kushikatsu is yet another Osaka invention that you can’t leave Japan without trying. In Japanese, “Kushi” means skewers, and “katsu” means battered and fried food. All of your vegetables, meats, and seafood get cooked until they turn a brilliant golden brown.
While everything tastes better after being dipped in hot oil, a kushikatsu meal isn’t complete without the sauce. Along with your assortment, you’ll receive a bowl for dipping.
The sauce has a ponzu flavor, which is similar to Worschestire with a citrusy kick. Kushikatsu pairs well with a cold beer or makes for an excellent snack during a baseball game. After all, who said all Japanese food needs to be healthy?
Japanese children and adults love yakisoba—fried buckwheat noodles. You can undoubtedly find it at any festival and in many izakayas across Japan. However, Osakans mix it with another dish to create a serendipitous meal.
If you can't decide between yakisoba and okonomiyaki, satisfy both cravings with modanyaki! Of all of the food to try in Osaka, it might be most gluttonous.
Modanyaki is a decadent pancake with alternating layers of noodles and batter. Most okonomiyaki restaurants offer a variant of modanyaki but might not list it clearly on their menu. Don’t hesitate to ask your chef if it’s possible to order!
Blowfish has an infamous reputation, but it's safe to eat when a certified chef prepares it. To become a licensed handler, you must go through a grueling three years of training. Accidental deaths mostly occur when untrained people try to make it at home.
Like wagyu cattle, blowfish get graded by their quality and priced accordingly. Most restaurants across Japan that sell fugu include it in lengthy course meals. During such an occasion, you can try the delicacy in a variety of ways, including sashimi or a stew.
If you’re traveling on a budget but want to try fugu, Osaka is the city for you. While fugu is expensive in most parts, you can find it for a reasonable price in this food paradise.
We’ve mentioned the Central Fish Market and the Instant Ramen Museum, but there are so many more places to eat in Osaka!
Many travelers start their Osaka food tour on the southside near Namba station. This area is the city’s most exciting entertainment district with shopping, dining, and kitschy tourist traps galore. Near Shinsaibashi and along the street that runs parallel to the Dotonbori canal, you can find luxurious restaurants, greasy spoons, and food stalls. At night, hundreds of neon lights and mechanized signs illuminate the entire district.
Kuromon Market stretches through a 600-meter shopping arcade. Its approximately 150 shops predominately sell fresh seafood, meat, and produce, but you can also find traditional sweets and clothing. The most charming aspect of the market is that you can buy Osaka street food like grilled crab and takoyaki.
Across from the Kaiyukan Aquarium, the Tempozan Marketplace is a complex of fashionable shops and restaurants. Inside of the shopping center, Naniwa Kushinbo Yokocho is a nostalgic food theme park reminiscent of Osaka in the 1960s. There are around 20 restaurants that serve classic Osakan cuisine.