These chicken karaage tacos (AKA Japanese fried chicken tacos) are here to spice up your taco game in the best way possible! Warm tortillas are loaded with crispy pieces of karaage chicken, tangy quick-pickled cucumbers, and a creamy kimchi mayo sauce. They're simple to make and come together in just under an hour!

No taco party is complete without a fizzy lime margarita and bowl of your favorite guacamole like this smoky chipotle guacamole dip.

a close up of chicken karaage tacos on a plate

This recipe was originally published in 2014. We've updated the post with some new photos and more information, plus we've added some tasty pickled cucumbers and kimchi mayo to make the recipe even more delicious!

If you've ever thought about having fried chicken in a taco, this recipe is for you! These tacos are everything but conventional yet extremely delicious. They're layered with crispy, juicy pieces of Japanese-style fried chicken, quick-pickled cucumbers, crunchy cabbage, and topped with a creamy Korean-inspired kimchi mayo sauce.

All the elements are delicious but it's how they come together that puts these chicken karaage tacos over the top. They're not too complicated to make and if you're like us, you'll find yourself wanting to make these again and again!

What is chicken karaage?

Chicken karaage (pronounced ka-RA-AH-geh) is one of the most delicious types of fried chicken. Karaage is actually a cooking technique where pieces of chicken (or vegetables or fish) are lightly dusted in flour and cooked in oil. The results are crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and super flavorful.

Is this chicken karaage Japanese or Korean?

In this totally non-traditional recipe, it's both! We borrow the Japanese style of lightly breading and then frying boneless chicken pieces to make the chicken karaage. Then we take kimchi, a delicious Korean staple, and mix it with mayonnaise to top the tacos.

tacos filled with karaage chicken topped with kimchi mayo

Ingredients

Here's what you'll need to make the chicken karaage tacos:

  • Boneless chicken thighs
  • Soy sauce
  • Cooking oil
  • Cornstarch
  • Tortillas
  • Cabbage
  • Sesame seeds

The pickled cucumbers are a really tasty topping for these tacos. Here's what you need to make them:

  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Sesame oil
  • Chili flakes
  • Salt
  • Cucumbers

A spicy kimchi mayo brings everything together and takes just three ingredients:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Kimchi
  • Sea salt
a close up of karaage chicken tacos on a plate.

How to make chicken karaage tacos

These Japanese tacos are simple to make in a few easy steps:

  1. You'll start by preparing the chicken. Marinate the chopped chicken thighs in a bowl with soy sauce.
  2. While the chicken is marinating, make the quick pickled cucumbers. Place the chopped cucumbers in a heat-proof bowl and pour the heated pickling liquid over top. Set these aside for 20 minutes.
  3. Make the kimchi mayo by blitzing the kimchi and mayo together in a blender, and finish it off with salt to taste.
  4. Now get your chicken ready to cook. Pat dry the chicken pieces and coat them completely with cornstarch.
  5. Heat your oil and make sure it's hot. Fry the chicken in 3 batches, rotating the pieces for a total cooking time of 5-7 minutes.
  6. Now it's time to assemble the tacos. Layer on your ingredients, top with a generous amount of kimchi mayo, and dig in!

Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.

FAQS

Can I use chicken breast instead?

Yes! We use dark meat from the thighs because it's juicier but you can use boneless chicken breasts instead.

How long does karaage chicken last in the fridge?

Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. The fried chicken reheats quite well in the oven. Make sure to avoid microwaving the leftovers as they won't be crispy if reheated that way.

Is this dish gluten-free?

To make this dish gluten-free, make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce and 100% corn tortillas.

How to serve chicken karaage tacos

These Korean chicken tacos are a meal on their own, but when we're with family or friends, we like to serve them with a side like our crispy eggplant fries with chipotle aioli, chili lime grilled corn on the cob, or loaded food truck Mexican nacho fries. And a side of our easy guacamole always goes well with these tacos!

a plate of three chicken karaage tacos with a side of kimchi mayo
a plate of three chicken karaage tacos with a side of kimchi mayo

Chicken Karaage Tacos

These chicken karaage tacos (AKA Japanese fried chicken tacos) are here to spice up your taco game in the best way possible! Warm tortillas are loaded with crispy pieces of karaage chicken, tangy quick-pickled cucumbers, and a creamy kimchi mayo sauce. They're simple to make and come together in just under an hour!

If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!

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Ingredients

Chicken Karaage

  • 8 boneless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup soy sauce, can be gluten-free and low-sodium
  • 2 cups cooking oil
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 12 4-inch tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • Sesame seeds, to serve

Quick Pickled Cucumbers

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 3 mini cucumbers, sliced

Kimchi Mayo

  • ½ cup mayonnaise, can be light
  • ½ cup kimchi
  • 1 pinch sea salt

Instructions 

  • Cut the chicken thighs into 3-4 pieces each and put them into a large bowl. Pour the soy sauce over top and mix the chicken. Put the bowl into your fridge for 30-60 minutes.
    8 boneless chicken thighs, ½ cup soy sauce
    image for recipe instruction
  • To make the quick pickles, bring the rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, chili flakes, and salt to a boil in a small pan. Place the cucumber slices into a heat-proof bowl and pour the hot vinegar over the top. Let the cucumbers sit in the pickling liquid for at least 20 minutes.
    ½ cup rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ½ teaspoon chili flakes, 3 mini cucumbers, 1 pinch sea salt
    image for recipe instruction
  • To make the kimchi mayo, add the mayonnaise and kimchi to your blender and blend on medium speed until mostly smooth. Do not blend the mayonnaise at high speed as it can break and become watery. Season to taste with salt.
    ½ cup mayonnaise, ½ cup kimchi, 1 pinch sea salt
    image for recipe instruction
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the soy sauce and use paper towels to dry any excess moisture. Add the cornstarch to the bowl and mix the chicken well. Add more, if needed, if the chicken still looks wet in places.
    ¼ cup cornstarch
    image for recipe instruction
  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan with high sides. To test the oil temperature, dip one end of a piece of chicken into the oil. If it starts bubbling rapidly, it's ready. When the oil is ready, carefully add about ⅓ of the chicken to the pan. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes then turn the pieces over and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Remove the crispy chicken and put it on a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath. Finish frying the rest of the chicken.
    2 cups cooking oil
    image for recipe instruction
  • To assemble the tacos, pile some cabbage onto a tortilla then top with a few pieces of karaage chicken, some shredded cabbage, pickled cucumbers, kimchi mayo, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
    12 4-inch tortillas, 2 cups shredded cabbage, Sesame seeds
    image for recipe instruction
Serving: 1 = 3 tacos, Calories: 681kcal, Carbohydrates: 34g, Protein: 49g, Fat: 37g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g, Monounsaturated Fat: 16g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 219mg, Sodium: 1605mg, Potassium: 716mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 183IU, Vitamin C: 13mg, Calcium: 108mg, Iron: 4mg
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