Welcome to Fujimama, longtime Tasty Kitchen member and new contributor to the TK Blog. So happy to see you here! (And I’ve never wanted taco rice as much as I do right now. And it’s 6:53 am.) Take it away, Fujimama! –PW
When you hear the words “Taco Rice” I suspect that Japan is not the first country that pops into your mind. But Taco Rice, or Takoraisu as it’s called in Japan, is a popular Okinawan dish invented in the 1960s by a Japanese chef who took the idea of tacos, so popular among the American military stationed on Okinawa, and combined it with rice, a staple item in the Okinawan diet. The dish has since become, ironically enough, one of the most well-known Okinawan dishes. Its popularity has also spread into other parts of Japan.
When I lived in Tokyo there were many cafes that offered it on their lunch menus. One of the last meals I ate before moving back to the US was takoraisu. I was pregnant with my second child and takoraisu totally hit the spot. I’m not surprised, as takoraisu is total comfort food. Not only do you not have to worry about handling any awkward taco shells or worry about them going soggy, but takoraisu is traditionally eaten with a spoon, so all you have to do is shovel it in.
Even better? Takoraisu is so easy to make.
You start by steaming some Japanese white rice (a short grain rice, often labeled as “sushi rice” here in the US). If you want your rice to be less sticky, you will need to rinse it before cooking it. This removes the powdery starch that builds up around the grains during transport. To rinse rice, put the rice in a bowl, fill it with cold water, and swish the rice gently around with your fingers. Pour the water out (keeping the rice in the pan with your hand), and repeat the process until the water is clear.
I make things even easier by cooking my rice in a rice cooker. (I’m lazy, what can I say?)
Once you’ve got your rice cooking, chop some tomatoes …
And shred some lettuce.
Then prepare your cheese. In Japan, recipes for takoraisu usually call for “pizza cheese,” a mild white cheese similar to mozzarella. You can use shredded mozzarella, but I like using crumbled queso blanco, a delicious and affordable Mexican cheese.
Then you make some seasoned beef by first heating some oil in a saute pan. Sauté onions, garlic, ground beef, and seasonings until everything is cooked through and fragrant.
All that’s left to do is build your takoraisu! Start with a bed of hot steamed rice, and layer the seasoned beef, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, cheese, some salsa, and a dollop of sour cream on top.
Now comes the best part: EATING!
Taco Rice, or “Takoraisu” as it’s called in Japan, is a popular Okinawan dish invented in the 1960s by a Japanese chef who took the idea of tacos, so popular among the American military stationed on Okinawa, and combined it with rice, a staple item in the Okinawan diet. The dish has since become, ironically enough, one of the most well-known Okinawan dishes.
- 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 cup Onion, Chopped
- 1 pound Ground Beef
- 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Table Salt
- 1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 4 cups Steamed Japanese Rice (sometimes Labeled "sushi Rice")
- 2 cups Lettuce, Shredded
- 2 cups Tomatoes, Chopped
- 12 ounces, weight Queso Blanco, Crumbled OR 2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 cup Salsa
- 4 Tablespoons Sour Cream
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until the onions are barely soft. Add the ground beef and break it into small chunks. Once the meat is cooked, add the soy sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Let this simmer until the liquid reduces.
2. Spread 1/2 to 1 cup of the steamed rice on each plate. Top with the seasoned beef.
3. Then top with the shredded lettuce, tomatoes, queso blanco (or mozzarella), and salsa, and finish it off with a dollop of sour cream.
Visit Rachael’s blog, La Fuji Mama, where she shares more than just her vast knowledge of Japanese cuisine. She has great travel photos, product reviews, and all sorts of food ninja-ness. You’ll also enjoy seeing more photos of her adorable girls, Squirrel and Bug. (And no, those aren’t their real names.)
Comments are closed for this recipe.
Jen on 1.20.2011
Taco Rice is one of our families favorites. We love Okinawa and taco rice is one food we will take from here when we PCS.
Aileen on 1.11.2011
Attn all Okinawa residents: Does anyone know what spices are used for the authentic Okinawa taco rice? My (ex) is a Marine who was stationed in Okinawa for years and RAVED about the taco rice from Tacos-Ya. We tried to replicate but can’t master the meat seasoning. Anybody know?
courtney on 1.10.2011
Nice recipe! Im glad to see one from Okinawa! (we have been living here for 7 years!) You should try it w/ a fried egg on top! Its the icing on the cake
Stefanie M. on 1.8.2011
In our house it’s TRC-Taco Rice with Cheese! My husband was stationed in Okinawa before we ever met and got married. He has told me many stories of taco rice! He used to trade his MRE’s for a plate!!! How exciting to see this post! I laughed first and then shouted to my husband across the house that someone had posted a recipe for taco rice on Tasty Kitchen-he didn’t seem as thrilled as I was! Our recipe just consists of basmatic rice, meat with taco seasoning and a strong sharp shredded cheddar! I like salsa on mine as well! Yum. Thanks for sharing!
Michelle on 1.8.2011
OMG! I lived on Okinawa for a year! Right outside the gate to Camp Hansen was Kinville, the last stop when going back to the base was a taco rice & cheese shack! Mamasan made the best! Definitely hard to choose between that and yakitori! I will be making this soon!
Jodie on 1.8.2011
I’m another person who lived in Okinawa!!!!! I miss that place SOOOO much!!!! It is so beautiful, and I turly love the people there. I lived there from 1985 to 1989.
Anyway, this became one of our favorite family meals too!!! We also added refried beans as one of the layers to it. It is sooo good! I love it when my mom makes it, it brings back memories!
N. on 1.8.2011
I made this very same dish up when I was younger and didn’t want to eat messy tacos. We always had rice going in the rice cooker so whenever we had tacos, I put all the fixings on top of a bowl of rice, crushed up some taco shells and ate it all like it was going out of style. I still eat this and I never knew anyone else ate it too and that there was an actual name for it!
Kristy on 1.8.2011
Oooh, I was just in Okinawa this past fall and had some taco rice. It was delicious and I keep meaning to make it. Glad to know there aren’t any big secrets to it, thanks!
Joanne Fillmore on 1.8.2011
My, I love Okinawan tacos. I have served the meat and stuffing over rice, chips and other things. The are sure good. I especially like it over rice with skemono on the side.
Alexis V on 1.7.2011
thanks for posting this!
i want to make it right.now.!
Jessica on 1.7.2011
AMAZING!! My family lived on Kadena for two years when I was growing up and I remember eating this at the Coral Club on base sometimes. My mom continued to make it for dinner long after we left Okinawa and it is a family favorite that nobody else seems to ever have heard of. What a surprise to find it here!
Jenn H on 11.21.2010
This sounds fabulous! We’ve grown up with this, but we call it Haystacks! We put Frito chips on the bottom, then the rice, then whole pinto beans, then all the rest! Add some sour cream and you’ve got a Haystack! Love it!
Gina on 11.19.2010
Lived in Okinawa for many year. Had my first bowl of Taco Rice in 1988.
Much better than a shell. But you must use short grain rice, none of this long grain, fall apart rice.
Caroline C on 11.16.2010
Love it! Made it for supper last night. It was a hit! My husband said it’s a keeper. Love the mexican favorite with an oriental flair. I have never heard of it, but thanks for posting the recipe.
Diedra on 11.15.2010
I made this for company this weekend (yes, again!). Everyone went for seconds and some for thirds! Was one of the easiest company meals I’ve ever made!
JeanneW on 11.12.2010
That is one kick-ass rice cooker!
kary d on 11.11.2010
sounds good, I like to serve taco salad on a baked potato.
Rae Vogl on 11.11.2010
We were in Okinawa in the early 70’s and I never heard of Takoraisu-and we bowled at the Kadeno Bowling Alley. I’ll have to try it. Sure wish I could get the recipe for fish bisque we had at the Pizza House in Oyama!!
Looks good! I’m gonna have to take mine down, since yours looks so much better.
Charlotte on 11.10.2010
I made this last night, and if you are hesitating, dont! It was delicious. Sort of like a rice bowl crossed with a taco salad. Inexpensive, filling and really good.
scrappinnotnappin on 11.10.2010
Made this tonight. It was excellent!
Momof5 on 11.10.2010
We too spent 4 years on Oki and loved many of the unique dishes we were able to sample. One we truly miss is Yakisoba. I have not been able to find a recipe for the spices/sauce used on these tasty noodles. I ususally used the dry seasoning that came with one brand of noodles, or a bottled sauce, but have not been able to locate either here in the states. Any help fujimama?
rachel on 11.10.2010
I’m making it tonight!
Carrie M on 11.10.2010
Delicious. We had tacos on Monday night for dinner, and I made Taco Rice with the leftovers on Tuesday. Added some extra cilantro and the leftover pico de gallo I had from Monday night and voila! The kids loved it.
Melissa Davis on 11.10.2010
My son is moving to Okinawa in Jan. with my grandbaby they will be there for 3 years!!! Will have to share this reciped with him!
deairadea on 11.10.2010
I too have been making taco rice for years! My husband’s co-worker’s wife is from okinawa. He had it at a work potluck and told me about it! Its delicious and amazingly satisfying!!!
stacistubbs on 11.10.2010
I’m on Okinawa right now… I might just have to walk down the street and get some. Or maybe I will make it, I have all the ingredients… yum!
Donna on 11.9.2010
We make a similar dish that we call “Spanish Rice”. It’s identical, except that we add a few crushed tortilla chips and I make a salsa-y sauce using enchillada (spelling???) sauce, tomato sauce and salsa with some taco seasoning. SO YUMMY! I use Jasmine rice–but whatever type of rice you use it should be something sticky.
aoi on 11.9.2010
Another former Oki resident chiming in. I grew up there, and I’m half Okinawan. I LOVE TAKORAISU! Thanks for letting the rest of the world know about it. And for those struggling with pronunciation: just say it like “taco rice-oo”. Easy.
Kari on 11.9.2010
It was really cool to see Itadakimasu in a blog title! I grew up saying that before every meal! Then I noticed at the end of the post my 4 y.o. daughter has the monkey bowl you have in your picture! We have the matching chopsticks too, but she hasn’t quite mastered those yet!
That was alot of exclamation marks. That being said, I can’t wait to make this dish! I’m sad I already ate dinner otherwise I think this is what we’d be having tonight!
Mississippi Debbie on 11.9.2010
So how do you say that word……can you help us please?
People in Louisianna do a very similar thing…but it usually has more cajun spices in it, instead of the mexican spices. But it’s the same idea……
It sounds great….can’t wait to try it!
Mocha on 11.9.2010
Oishii~~ (Or at least it looks that way.) Thanks for sharing, will have to give it a go next time we have tacos in mind.
Dalylah on 11.9.2010
That looks pretty tasty. You could mess around with all sorts of flavors in the rice to change it up. Thanks for sharing!
Dawn Tatarka on 11.9.2010
My father is a retired air force officer and we lived in Okinawa when I was in 1st -4th grade. I loved their culture and food. I will definitely be making this. It looks so yummy! Thanks!! Dawn Tatarka
Danise on 11.9.2010
Oh my dear heavens this sounds so incredibly good to me right now – I want it for lunch. Someone’s idea of adding avocado and peppers – be still my heart – tummy – heart – tummy!
rachel on 11.9.2010
that looks delicious! i shall be trying that tomorrow!
tammy person on 11.9.2010
I made this last night and it was awesome…I added some diced avocados and japelanos. All my boys love it. Thanks for sharing!
lakegrandma on 11.9.2010
I’ll pick up a Honey-baked ham and make a couple of side dishes, my son will cook the turkey and a couple of family members will bring dessert.
Tracy on 11.9.2010
This is so cool to see this recipe posted! We lived in Okinawa for three years and love taco rice! We have since moved all over the world and have always shared the taco rice recipe with friends and family! I now try to make a healthier version of the recipe by making it with brown rice and ground turkey and it’s still just as tasty! I have also substitued left over chicken fajita meat as well, but then I guess that is just like burrito bowl at Chipotle.
Shari on 11.9.2010
What a great idea! I love to make a HUGE (think 10 pounds) batch of taco meat at a time and freeze it. Then I use it for taco soup, taco pie, taco ring (with crescent rolls), 7 layer taco dip, taco salad, tacos, etc. Can’t wait to add this to our rotation!
Kita on 11.9.2010
I lived on Okinawa in the late 50’s and Taco Rice was a favorite then, as well. I also ate it at the Kadena bowling alley and mostly at Awase Meadows Golf Course. It was fabulous!
Tasha on 11.9.2010
Taco Rice!!! Two of my favorite things togethers, I love it! I’m making this for dinner tonight. The girls at the end sealed the deal. My kids will love this too.
Meagan on 11.9.2010
Oh my gosh, this brings back memories! I visited Japan with a student delegation shortly after I graduated high school and my host mom made this for my roommates and me the second day we were there. It was so delicious and filling.
It also makes me think of her with her pink step stool taking photos. Right before we left, she and my host sisters put together photo albums for us consisting mostly of pictures of us eating
Mel G on 11.9.2010
Oh my word!! Tacos is one of my favourite meals and this looks fantastic! I’ll be trying it on the family very soon
pattilouwho on 11.8.2010
yummy. I’m so making this sooooon!!!
Jena on 11.8.2010
We are stationed in Okinawa as well, and taco rice is all over! It’s a great, filling meal, and I’ve always thought that it would be easy to translate at home, so I’m so happy to see this recipe!
Jessica on 11.8.2010
We are currently stationed in Okinawa, and we love Taco Rice. My husband had been on Okinawa in the nineties and already introduced our family to taco rice. Now we are here as a family and still love to eat it. It is available at almost every restaurant and super easy to make at home. Super kid friendly dish! Thanks for sharing with the rest of the world Fujimama!
Kelly on 11.8.2010
OMG!! This brings back some great memories of my first deployment with the Navy to Okinawa! I would not have survived without Taco Rice!!
Megan H on 11.8.2010
We’re stationed here on Okinawa currently, and I’m so glad to see this favorite posted. Taco Rice was such a curiosity when we got here, but I love it now.
Just a note, there is a special salsa they make for taco rice, but in a pinch, normal salsa can do.
Tokyo Terrace on 11.8.2010
I have yet to travel to Okinawa from Tokyo, but I hope to one day soon. I’ll be on the look out for takoraisu but in the meantime thanks for the great recipe I can use at home!