bonito flakes

Bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, are tissue-paper thin fish shavings with an intense umami flavour. The flakes are used alongside dried kelp to make dashi stock, but also make a great garnish for Japanese street food snacks. Find out more about the tuna flakes with our ultimate guide.

What are bonito flakes?

Bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, are tissue-paper thin fish shavings with an intense umami flavour. Bonito flakes come from a tuna-like fish which is dried, fermented and then smoked. Bonito flakes are used alongside dried kelp to create the base of Japanese dashi stock. 

How to cook with bonito flakes?

The most common use for bonito flakes is for making dashi, a stock used in Japanese cuisine which forms the base of miso soups and clear broths. Dashi is also mixed with flour to make the batter for Japanese okonomiyaki.

With their wafer-thin texture, bonito flakes make a great garnish, offering a pungent flavour and subtle appearance. Use them to garnish cucumber salads, fried tofu, somen noodles, or gently heat with soy sauce, sesame seeds and a touch of honey to make okaka - a popular Japanese seasoning for onigiri rice balls.

Exciting recipes using bonito flakes

Easy Japanese Okonomiyaki

Japanese Okonomiyaki

The classic okonomiyaki recipe is perhaps the most famous Japanese street food - and rightly so. The crispy pancake has a doughy vegetable-filled interior, sweet-sour sauce topping, and umami-rich garnish.

Japanese Takoyaki Balls

Japanese Takoyaki Balls

These takoyaki balls are a popular street food snack in Japan, filled with octopus and topped with bonito flakes.

Bone Daddies' Yellowtail Sashimi With Chilli, Ponzu & Coriander

Bone Daddies' Yellowtail Sashimi

Seasoned with chilli, ponzu, coriander and bonito flakes, this is a delicate fresh fish dish to take your time over.

Cucumber and Wakame Salad

Cucumber & Wakame Salad

A refreshing mix of wakame seaweed and crunchy cucumber, brought together with a final garnish of bonito.

Octopus On A Stick

Octopus On A Stick

A Korean street food recipe of threaded octopus topped with okonomi sauce, bonito flakes and gochujang.

What are the different types of bonito flakes I can buy?

Katsuo Bushi Bonito Flakes

Katsuo Bushi bonito flakes have a tissue-like thinness with a pungent, fishy taste. Use the flakes along with dried kelp to create a Japanese dashi stock, or sprinkle over soba noodle salads and fried tofu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my bonito flakes moving?

Bonito flakes, as the name suggests, are wafer-thin and light. Because of this, when the flakes come into contact with hot food they curl and look as if they’re moving. Fear not, the bonito flakes aren’t alive!

Do bonito flakes taste fishy?

Yes, bonito flakes do taste fishy. Bonito flakes are a form of fermented and dried tuna which gives the flakes a pungent flavour. The smoking process gives bonito flakes an umami depth, too.

Can you eat bonito flakes out of the bag?

Technically speaking, you can eat bonito flakes out of the bag, however you’ll be met with a very strong fish flavour and flaky texture. Rather than snacking on bonito flakes, we suggest using them to garnish noodle salads, smoked tofu or rice balls. 

The thickly sliced dried bonito on the other hand makes a great snack - think of it as ‘tuna jerky’.

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