What can I substitute for okonomiyaki flour?

Quick Answer

Okonomiyaki flour is a specialty flour used to make the popular Japanese pancake dish okonomiyaki. While it can be difficult to find outside of Japan, there are several substitutes you can use instead. The best substitutes are:

  • All-purpose flour – This is the simplest 1:1 substitute. It won’t give you the exact same texture but works well.
  • Bread flour – For a closer texture match, bread flour is a good choice.
  • Cake flour – Very finely milled like okonomiyaki flour, so it mimics the texture well.
  • Whole wheat flour – Adds extra fiber and nutrients. Use in combination with all-purpose.
  • Cornstarch – Can be added to other flours to improve the crispness of the okonomiyaki.

You can experiment with mixing different flours to get as close as possible to the unique okonomiyaki flour. The key things to look for are a very fine, starchy flour with a low protein content.

What is Okonomiyaki Flour?

Okonomiyaki flour, sometimes labeled okonomiyaki-ko, is a soft wheat flour used specifically for making the Japanese dish okonomiyaki. This savory pancake originated in Osaka and is made with a batter containing okonomiyaki flour along with other ingredients like eggs, cabbage, tempura scraps, and protein.

Authentic okonomiyaki flour from Japan has a few characteristic properties that distinguish it from other flours:

  • Very finely milled – This creates a smooth, lightweight batter.
  • Lower protein content – Usually around 8-9% protein compared to 12-14% for all-purpose flour. The lower protein means more tender pancakes.
  • Pure soft wheat flour – Softer wheat results in more tender gluten strands.
  • Added starch – Extra starch improves crispness in the finished okonomiyaki.
  • Very white color – Lighter color from lower protein leads to a pale pancake.

These attributes all contribute to the distinctive soft and fluffy interior with a delicately crisp exterior when okonomiyaki is cooked properly. Replicating these results can be difficult without the specialty okonomiyaki flour.

Best Okonomiyaki Flour Substitutes

If you don’t have access to authentic okonomiyaki flour, don’t worry! Here are some of the best substitutes to use instead:

All-Purpose Flour

The simplest and most readily available replacement for okonomiyaki flour is all-purpose flour. While the protein content is higher at 10-12%, it can still produce good results.

For a 1:1 substitution, use all-purpose flour measured out in the same quantity as the recipe calls for with okonomiyaki flour. You may need to experiment with adding a touch more liquid to account for the higher protein content.

The texture may end up a little less tender and soft than with true okonomiyaki flour. But the flavor will still be great!

Bread Flour

With a protein content of 12-14%, bread flour is also higher in gluten-forming proteins than okonomiyaki flour. However, bread flour is milled from softer wheat like okonomiyaki flour, instead of a blend of hard and soft wheats like all-purpose.

This flour can mimic the softness of okonomiyaki flour more closely while still being easy to find. Again, use a 1:1 substitution and make small adjustments to get the batter consistency right. The pancakes will be lighter and fluffier than using all-purpose.

Cake Flour

For okonomiyaki flour, we want something finely milled that’s lower in protein. Cake flour fits the bill perfectly.

With only 6-8% protein content, cake flour creates tender batters and soft crumb textures, just like okonomiyaki flour. It is also bleached and finely milled.

Cake flour tends to produce pancakes that are as close to authentic okonomiyaki as possible when used in a 1:1 ratio substitution. The texture will be extremely soft and tender. You may want to add a bit more leavening to get a good rise.

Whole Wheat Flour

While white okonomiyaki flour is much lower in protein than whole wheat flour, you can still incorporate some whole wheat into your okonomiyaki batter substitute.

Try replacing up to 1/4 of the total flour with whole wheat flour. This adds nice flavor, nutrients, and fiber while still maintaining a soft texture when combined with all-purpose or bread flour.

You can even experiment with other whole grain flours like buckwheat, rye, or barley in small amounts. This boosts the nutrition while mimicking some of the earthy, savory flavor of okonomiyaki flour.


One of the key characteristics of okonomiyaki flour is the crisp exterior it develops when cooked. To help replicate this crispiness in your substitute, add some cornstarch along with your choice of flour.

Cornstarch doesn’t contain any gluten, so it enhances the crispness. Try replacing 10-20% of the total flour with cornstarch. You can also dust a bit of cornstarch on the finished okonomiyaki to help improve the texture.

Just take care not to use only cornstarch or the pancakes won’t hold together well. Use it combined with bread flour, cake flour, or all-purpose for best results.

Rice Flour

Like cornstarch, rice flour contains no gluten and can help enhance the crispness of okonomiyaki made with a substitute flour. Replacing up to 1/4 of the total flour with rice flour mimics the texture well.

Be aware that rice flour on its own can make dense pancakes. Pair it with a higher protein flour like bread or all-purpose. 10-20% rice flour is ideal for both lightness and crispness.

Mix and Match

Feel free to get creative and combine different flours and starches. A good rule of thumb is:

– 50-75% all-purpose or bread flour – For structure
– 25% cake flour or whole wheat flour – For texture
– 10-20% cornstarch or rice flour – For crispiness

Adjusting the percentages changes the final outcome, so do some trials to find your own ideal blend. Combining different flours mimics okonomiyaki flour best.

How to Adapt Any Okonomiyaki Recipe

When adapting an okonomiyaki recipe to use substitute flours, keep these tips in mind:

  • Maintain the total flour amount in the recipe, just substitute your choice of flours.
  • You may need to add a touch more liquid since some substitutes are more absorbent.
  • Let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes to fully hydrate the flour.
  • Pre-cook any protein and vegetables called for to remove excess moisture.
  • Avoid over-mixing the batter to prevent too much gluten development.
  • Brush oil on the hot pan between pancakes for crisp results.
  • Adjust cooking heat and flip carefully as substitutes brown faster.
  • Top with classic okonomiyaki sauces and ingredients!

With a few simple flour and cooking tweaks, you can make delicious okonomiyaki with pantry staple flours instead of specialty okonomiyaki flour. The flavor will be unaffected, and just a touch of crispness may be lost.

What About Baking Mixes Like Bisquick?

Pre-made baking mixes like Bisquick and Jiffy contain flour, leavening, salt, and sometimes sugar and fat already blended together. This seems like it would be an easy shortcut for okonomiyaki.

However, baking mixes often contain higher protein bread flour. So they make okonomiyaki batter that is too dense and chewy, lacking the characteristic tenderness.

While you can use baking mix in a pinch, your best bet is to mix your own blend using lower protein flours along with the proper leavening agents called for in your recipe.

Using pancake mix also adds unnecessary sugar and sometimes fats that throw off the savory flavor of okonomiyaki. Make your own flour blend instead for far superior texture and taste.

What About Other Asian Flours?

Since okonomiyaki is a Japanese dish, you may wonder whether other Asian wheat flours can stand in for okonomiyaki flour. Here are a few options:

Shirasu (Glutinous) Flour

This finely milled white flour is used to make shiratamako noodles in Japan. With 8-10% protein, it’s a close match for low-protein okonomiyaki flour. Use a 1:1 substitution for great results.

Chinese Bakery Flour

Some Chinese brands of bakery or pancake flour offer a very finely milled, low-gluten flour perfect for mimicking okonomiyaki flour. Check for a protein content of 8-9% to match okonomiyaki flour.

Cake Mixes

Asian brands of cake mix are often much lower in protein than Western brands. Look for 6-8% protein soft cake mix as a shortcut okonomiyaki flour substitute. No extra sugars or fats to worry about.

Mochiko (Mochi) Flour

This sweet rice flour is sometimes used in Hawaiian pancake mixes. It contains no gluten and makes very dense pancakes on its own. Best blended with other flours in a 25% ratio. Adds nice crispness.

While not exact matches, many Asian wheat and rice flours come closer to mimicking okonomiyaki flour than typical Western flours. Check protein content and feel free to experiment!

Okonomiyaki Flour Substitutes For Those Avoiding Wheat

If you follow a gluten-free, paleo, or low-carb diet, wheat-based okonomiyaki flour is off the table. Luckily, you have many options to recreate the taste and texture of okonomiyaki:

Almond Flour

With a soft, fine texture, almond flour makes an excellent substitute for wheat okonomiyaki flour. Replace at a 1:1 ratio. Add an egg for binding.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour soaks up a lot of moisture. Cut the amount to 1/4 cup for every 1 cup of wheat flour. Add more eggs to compensate.

Cassava Flour

Cassava has a neutral flavor, so it won’t overwhelm the dish. Substitute 1:1 for wheat flour.

Chickpea Flour

Chickpea flour contains binding agents that mimic gluten. Replace up to 1/2 of the wheat flour. Adjust liquids as needed.

Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour adds chew and crispness. Use 1/4 cup tapioca flour for every 1 cup of all-purpose wheat flour.

Rice Flour

For a gluten-free crisp crust, mix rice flour with other starchy flours like tapioca or chickpea flour in a 1:1 ratio substitution.

With the right blend of gluten-free flours and binding agents, you can make wheat-free okonomiyaki with a very similar taste and texture. Get creative with your flour substitutes!

Okonomiyaki Flour Substitutes For Keto and Low-Carb Diets

The Japanese batter used to make okonomiyaki is relatively high in carbs from the wheat flour. But there are several great low-carb options:

Almond Flour

With just 3 grams net carbs per 1/4 cup, almond flour is a perfect low-carb okonomiyaki flour. Replace at a 1:1 ratio for wheat flour.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour has 5 grams net carbs per 2 tablespoons. Cut the amount of flour to 1/4 cup for each 1 cup of wheat flour called for.

Psyllium Husk Powder

Psyllium has almost no net carbs. Add 1-2 teaspoons per 1 cup of flour to help bind and add fiber.

Flaxseed Meal

Grind flaxseeds into a meal to add protein and fiber. Replace up to 1/4 of the total flour with flax meal.

Low-Carb Protein Powder

Add a scoop of low-carb whey or collagen protein powder to enhance nutrition without carbs.

Extra Egg

An extra egg helps bind and replace some of the wheat flour while adding protein and virtually no carbs.

Following a low-carb or keto diet doesn’t mean you have to miss out on classic okonomiyaki. There are plenty of innovative flour substitutions to keep meals low in carbs but still full of flavor.


While okonomiyaki is best made with the specialty Japanese flour designed for it, there are many readily available substitutes that produce delicious results. All-purpose, bread, cake, and whole wheat flours can all stand in when mixed properly. Adding starches like cornstarch mimics the crisp texture well.

For gluten-free and low-carb diets, alternative flours like almond, coconut flour, and psyllium work excellently. Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment with flour blends. With a few tweaks, you can enjoy perfect okonomiyaki no matter what diet you follow or ingredients you have access to.

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