Japanese Hamburg Steak (Hambagu)

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Japanese Hamburg Steak is moist, juicy and served with a sweet tangy ketchup-based sauce. It is perfect for dinner, lunch box and also child-friendly.

a plate of Japanese hamburg steak, served with rice and vegetables

What is Japanese Hamburg Steak?

I like Japanese food as much as I like Vietnamese food. One of my favorite Japanese dishes to cook at home is hamburg steak/hamburger steak (hambagu). It consists of a tender and juicy ground meat patty, served with a tangy ketchup-based sauce. I read that this dish became popular in Japan in the 1960s, likely inspired by Western hamburgers.

This hamburg steak goes very well with white rice and a vegetable side dish. The sweet and tangy sauce balances the meatiness of the patty, and it is incredibly easy to make. I sometimes make this dish for dinner and then have the leftover for lunch the next day.

My recipe is adapted from the hamburg steak recipe in the Japanese Soul Cooking cookbook. I have added more herbs and seasonings and tweaked the ingredients to ensure the patties are flavorful and maintain a juicy texture that suits my preferences. I also used quite a bit of garlic although Japanese cooking doesn’t use a lot of it. To us Vietnamese, if there’s beef, there should be plenty of garlic too :).

For a Juicy and Flavorful Meat Patty

plates containing ingredients for Japanese Hamburg Steak (Hambagu)

The meat patty uses a mixture of ground beef and pork, which results in flavorful and juicy hamburger. In addition, having the eggs, milk and panko in the ingredients of the patty further helps keep it tender and juicy.

Please use Japanese panko breadcrumbs for the best results as they are lighter and fluffier than Western breadcrumbs. You can find it at Asian grocery stores. You can use either dairy milk or non-dairy milk (I have made this recipe with almond milk before).

Adding garlic and onions also enhances the sweetness and improve the texture of the hambagu. We will need to sauté the onions until translucent to let them develop sweetness and lose the raw edge. Don’t skip this step as it allows the onions to blend more seamlessly with the meat. You don’t want the rough texture of some undercooked onion pieces to ruin an otherwise delicious dish.

The Easiest Hamburg Steak Recipe

patties of Japanese hamburger steak

The main cooking steps are simple and straightforward. Once you have prepared all ingredients for the patty, mix them together for a couple of minutes until they are sticky and well combined. You can form the patties as big or as small as you want. For 1 pound of ground meat, I like to form 8 patties. Too big and too thick, they will take longer to cook.

When you fry the hamburger, use medium heat to give them enough time to cook through without burning. This may take 8-12 minutes depending on the size of the patties. If they are browned but not quite cooked through yet, you can cover the pan to help the inside cook thoroughly.

frying Japanese hamburger steak

After pan-frying the patties, we’ll make the sauce right in the same pan with sake, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. If you don’t have sake, you can substitute white or red wine, or use stock for a non-alcoholic option. Simply deglaze the frying pan with the wine or stock to capture all the flavors from the patties and then mix in other ingredients to make the sauce.

How to Serve

a plate of Japanese hamburger steak (hambagu) with rice and veggies

You can serve this hamburg steak with rice and steamed vegetables, or any of the dishes below:

I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates.

Japanese Hamburg Steak (Hambagu)

Japanese Hamburg Steak

Japanese Hamburg Steak is moist, juicy and served with a sweet tangy ketchup-based sauce. It is perfect for dinner, lunch box and also child-friendly.
Author: Sophie
4.72 from 7 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 3 people


For the meat patties

  • 1/2 lb ground beef (225g)
  • 1/2 lb ground pork (225g)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced (or half of a large onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk (95ml, dairy milk or almond milk is fine)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (and more for garnishing)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • black pepper
  • olive oil

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup sake (60ml, white or red wine will work too)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (60ml)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (60ml)
  • 3-4 tablespoons water (45-60ml)


  • Place a pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, and then add garlic and onion. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes until translucent to develop sweetness. Do not let them burn. Set aside to cool down. We need about 1/2 cup of cooked onions.
  • In a mixing bowl, add ground beef and pork, cooked onions and all other ingredients to make the patties. Mix thoroughly for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is well combined and sticky.
    Ingredients for Japanese Hamburg Steak (Hambagu)
  • Divide the meat mixture into 6 or 8 equal parts, and form into patties. Slightly press down to create an indentation in the center, because the center will rise up slightly when we cook them.
    patties of Japanese hamburger steak
  • Heat a heavy bottom frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, and add the patties to the pan. Cook for about 8-12 minutes depending on how big and thick they are, flip once until they are all cooked through. If they are browned but not cooked through, you can cover the pan for 1-2 minutes to cook the inside thoroughly. Transfer them to serving plates.
    frying Japanese hamburger steak
  • To the same pan, immediately add sake and stir and deglaze the pan for 10-15 seconds. Then add the remaining ingredients for the sauce. Stir to combine, simmer to desired thickness, a minute or less. Taste and adjust to your liking.
    Ingredients for Japanese hamburg sauce
  • Spoon sauce over the meatballs. Serve hot with rice and steamed/boiled vegetables.


Calories: 562kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 165mg | Sodium: 1458mg | Potassium: 824mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 269IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: hambagu, hamburg steak, Japanese hamburger steak
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This recipe first appeared on Delightful Plate in July 2018. It has been updated with more information and unit conversion.

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  1. 5 stars
    I’ve tried this and other recipes for hamburg steak and personally liked this one best. The meat is flavorful and I really like having the option of not having red wine for sauce as I don’t drink wine. Goes well with veggies and rice on the side and reheats well next day.

  2. 5 stars
    I like this recipe. I usually eyeball everything when I cook. We enjoy Hawaiian, Korean and Japanese food on our home. My kids love taking these leftovers for lunch with an omelette wrapped around the patty. I love that they get tons of veggies in since I grate a little carrot and zucchini in the patties.

    1. Thank you so much for the positive feedback! That is a really clever way to sneak more veggies into the kids’ lunch. I also love taking these patties for lunch at work :).

  3. 4 stars
    My Pet Peeve…why do so many recipes say “1/2 an onion or 3 cloves garlic ” etc instead of using amounts like 1/2 cup or 2 TBSP? when all the rest of the ingredients are listed that way? onions & garlic cloves can vary tremendously in size

    Bob Waks
    Former cook
    Chez Panisse Berk CA 1971-77

    1. Hi Bob,

      Thank you for your comment! I also read cookbooks and online recipes, and I actually like it when there are ingredients I can just eyeball instead of having to pull out measurement tools. I feel if a little more or less of those ingredients don’t affect the taste of the final dish, it makes preparation quicker when the recipes are written that way. I also think depending on how each person chops or slice onions and garlic cloves, the quantity in 1/2 cup or 2 tablespoons can be different. I understand onions and garlic cloves can vary in size, so when the ones I use are particularly large or small, I usually state it. In this particular recipe, I did mention in the instruction that we should use about 1/2 cup of cooked onions.

      Thanks again for sharing your opinion and I’m sorry if the way I wrote the recipe causes you any inconveniences!


  4. Hi Evie!

    Thank you for trying this recipe and I’m very happy to know that you liked it. Yes, the sauce contributes a lot to the yumminess of the dish :). Thanks again!


  5. Tried this recipe today and it turned out really well! I had a fried egg on top, and steamed broccoli on the side; simple but delicious.The sauce was so tasty I’ll definitely be making it again for other things. Thanks for the recipe!

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