Panko vs Tempura

When it comes to crispy, golden coatings for your favorite fried foods, you may find yourself torn between two popular options: panko and tempura. Both have their roots in Japanese cuisine, yet they offer distinctly different textures and flavors that can make a significant impact on your culinary creations.

Panko, a type of bread crumb, is known for its airy, flaky texture that crisps up in the frying process, turning the coating into a light and crunchy delight. Tempura, on the other hand, utilizes a delicate batter made from simple ingredients, resulting in a thin, crispy, and slightly airy shell that encases the food item. The choice between panko and tempura not only depends on your preference but also on the type of dish you’re preparing, as each method brings out different qualities in the ingredients.

Key Takeaways

  • Panko and tempura offer distinct textures and flavors for fried food coatings
  • The choice between them depends on preference and the type of dish being prepared
  • Knowing when to use panko or tempura enhances your culinary creations
Panko Bread Crumbs

What is Panko and Tempura?

Panko and Tempura are both staple ingredients in the world of Japanese cuisine. Their historical origins can be traced back to the 16th century when Portuguese missionaries and traders introduced the frying technique to Japan. It then evolved into the unique Japanese cooking methods we see today.

Defining Characteristics

Panko refers to Japanese breadcrumbs, which are lighter, flakier, and crispier than their Western counterparts. They are made from bread without crusts, creating a distinct texture that, when used in various dishes, allows for superior browning and crunchiness. You can often find panko used as a coating for fried foods, such as tonkatsu or katsu sandwiches.

Tempura is a Japanese dish that typically consists of battered, deep-fried seafood or vegetables. The key to its lightness and crispiness is the tempura batter. It’s a mixture of flour, cold water, and occasionally egg, which results in a thinner, less dense coating than typical batter.

  • Panko: Japanese breadcrumbs, light, flaky, crispy
  • Tempura: Fried Japanese dish with a thin, light batter

To sum up, panko and tempura are both essential elements of Japanese cuisine with a rich history dating back to the 16th century. While panko refers to the specialized Japanese breadcrumbs used for coating, tempura is a method of frying seafood or vegetables in a thin, light batter. By understanding their origins and defining characteristics, you can appreciate their distinct qualities and make the most of these ingredients when preparing delightful Japanese dishes.

Key Ingredients

Panko Ingredients

Panko breadcrumbs are a popular choice for coating various types of fried food. The key ingredients you will find in panko are wheat flour, yeast, oil, and salt. Typically, panko bread crumbs are made from crust-less bread that has been ground into coarse flakes. This type of breadcrumb is popular in Japanese cuisine and is known for its light, airy texture and ability to absorb less oil during the frying process. Here is a summary of the main ingredients found in panko:

  • Wheat flour
  • Yeast
  • Oil
  • Salt

Tempura Ingredients

Tempura, on the other hand, consists of a light and airy batter mix that you will use to coat your food before frying. The key ingredients in a typical tempura batter recipe include cake flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cold water, ice cubes, and eggs. To enhance the flavor profile of your tempura, you may also choose to add seasonings like salt, pepper, and sesame oil. The lightness of tempura batter is often achieved by using cold water or sparkling water to create a colder batter mixture, which helps reduce the development of gluten in the flour. Here’s an overview of the main ingredients in tempura batter:

  • Cake flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking powder
  • Cold water or sparkling water
  • Eggs
  • Optional seasonings (salt, pepper, sesame oil)

For a delicious dipping sauce to accompany your tempura or panko-fried dishes, you can combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and herbs to taste. This sauce pairs perfectly with the lightly-textured breading styles of panko and tempura.

The Making Process

Creating Panko

To make Panko, you’ll first need to remove the crusts from white bread. Next, shred the bread into small, irregular flakes. This will provide a unique light and airy texture to your coating. The process of creating Panko is quite simple, and you can even make a homemade version using store-bought bread.

When it’s time to coat your ingredient, use an egg wash to ensure that the Panko adheres properly. Gently press your ingredient into the Panko flakes, evenly covering its surface. The result will be a crispy, flaky coating, perfect for deep-frying.

Making Tempura

The art of making Tempura is all about the batter and using the proper frying technique. Begin by preparing a simple batter consisting of ice-cold water, egg, and flour. The key to achieving a light and airy texture is to keep the batter cold and avoid overmixing.

When it’s time to coat your ingredients, dip them into the batter and ensure they’re well coated. Try to maintain a consistency that isn’t too thick—this is crucial for a delicate, crispy crust.

For deep-frying, choose a frying technique that suits your comfort level. You can either use a deep-fryer or fill a pot with oil. Heat the oil to a recommended temperature (between 340°F and 360°F) so that the batter doesn’t absorb excess oil, resulting in a greasy, soggy coating.

Fry the battered ingredients, turning them occasionally, until they achieve a golden color and a crispy consistency. It’s essential to work in small batches and avoid overcrowding the fryer to ensure even frying and prevent the temperature from dropping too much.

With these easy steps, you’ll create a satisfyingly crispy coating using Panko or a delicate, light crust with Tempura that will elevate your dish to new heights. Enjoy the distinct tastes and textures of these classic coatings in your culinary creations.

Applications in Cooking

Panko in Recipes

Panko has become a popular addition to a variety of dishes, offering a unique and crispy texture. Made from white bread without crusts, these Japanese bread crumbs are coarser and larger than traditional bread crumbs, which helps create a golden brown and crunchy exterior in your recipes.

You’ll find panko used in a wide range of dishes, such as coating chicken, seafood, veggies, and even meat products. For example, panko is a key element of tonkatsu, a Japanese dish featuring breaded, deep-fried pork cutlets. It’s also common to use panko as a topping on casseroles or salads to add that extra crunch.

Here are a few dishes where panko shines:

  • Fried chicken: Panko adds a satisfying crunch to this classic comfort food.
  • Sushi rolls: Some sushi rolls such as the ever-popular tempura roll feature panko for an added texture element.
  • Baked salmon: Panko can be used to create an easy yet flavorful crust for fish like salmon.
  • Stuffed mushrooms: Panko helps hold the filling inside mushrooms while adding a crunchy contrast to the tender mushroom caps.

Tempura in Dishes

Tempura, a Japanese street food, is a light and airy mixture used to batter various foods like shrimp, vegetables (such as eggplant, zucchini, and onions), and even certain desserts. It is usually made from a combination of cold water, flour, and sometimes egg, creating a thinner and smoother batter compared to the coarseness of panko.

Tempura dishes are known for their delicate, crispy texture, enhancing the flavor of the ingredients within. Because tempura batter is not heavily seasoned, it allows the natural flavors of the ingredients to stand out.

Here are some popular tempura dishes where you can taste the deliciously crispy batter:

  • Shrimp tempura: Lightly fried shrimp in tempura batter.
  • Vegetable tempura: Various veggies, like eggplant, zucchini, and onion, encased in the delicate tempura batter.
  • Tempura sushi rolls: Incorporating fried shrimp or veggies for a crispy touch.
  • Desserts: Surprisingly, tempura can be used to make unique and delectable desserts, like fried bananas or ice cream.

In your culinary adventures, you’ll find both panko and tempura versatile and delicious ways to add some variety to your recipes.

Unique Features and Distinctions

Panko Characteristics

Panko breadcrumbs are a popular choice for coating various foods when frying. They are made from crustless white bread, which gives them a lighter, airier texture compared to regular breadcrumbs. The unique texture of panko allows it to create a crispy, crunchy coating when used for frying foods like chicken, seafood, and vegetables.

The ingredients in panko are typically simple, with flour, water, yeast, and sometimes salt being the primary components. Panko is often used in Japanese-style dishes, but it has gained popularity in various cuisines due to its versatility and ease of use. To make panko-coated foods, you can dip your ingredients in a mixture of egg and flour before rolling them in the panko breadcrumbs. After coating, the food can be deep-fried or baked to achieve a crispy, golden brown exterior.

Tempura Traits

Tempura is another popular method for frying foods, especially in Japanese cuisine. The tempura batter is made with a mixture of flour, starch (usually potato or cornstarch), egg, and ice-cold water. This simple combination creates a light, delicate batter that results in a crispy, airy texture when deep-fried. The coldness of the water is crucial for maintaining the batter’s desired consistency, as it prevents the gluten from developing too much, which would result in a heavier, denser coating.

Some common foods coated in tempura batter and deep-fried include shrimp, vegetables, and mushrooms. When frying with tempura batter, the food is dipped directly into the batter mixture, ensuring an even and thin coating that helps keep the ingredients’ natural flavors intact.

The traditional accompaniment for tempura dishes is tentsuyu, a dipping sauce made with soy sauce, mirin, and dashi broth. The combination of the light, crispy texture of tempura and the flavorful dipping sauce creates a satisfying culinary experience, highlighting the freshness and unique taste of each ingredient.

By understanding the different characteristics and traits of panko and tempura, you can choose the appropriate coating method for your recipes and achieve the desired texture, flavor, and presentation. Both panko and tempura offer a versatile and delicious way to enjoy a wide range of foods, from seafood to vegetables, with a crispy, crunchy exterior.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between panko and tempura?

Panko and tempura are both used in Japanese cuisine, but they have distinct differences. Panko is a type of bread crumbs, made from crustless bread, which gives a light and airy texture. On the other hand, tempura is a batter prepared with flour, water, and sometimes egg, creating a thin and delicate coating.

Can panko be used as a substitute for tempura batter?

While panko and tempura are both used to provide a crunchy texture to foods, they cannot be directly substituted for each other. Panko breadcrumbs create a thicker, more substantial coating, whereas tempura batter creates a lighter, more delicate coating. You can experiment with using panko as an alternative, but the results will vary from traditional tempura.

How does cooking technique differ for panko and tempura dishes?

The main difference in cooking techniques between panko and tempura dishes is that panko-coated foods are usually shallow-fried or baked, while tempura-coated dishes are deep-fried. Panko creates a crispier coating that works well with shallow frying or baking, while tempura batter requires deep frying to achieve a light, delicate crunch.

What is the origin and history of panko and tempura?

Both panko and tempura have roots in Japanese cuisine. Panko originated in Japan, where it is used as a crispy topping or coating for various dishes. The word panko comes from “pan,” which means bread in Japanese, and “ko,” which means flour.

Tempura, on the other hand, has an interesting history. It is believed to have been introduced to Japan by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in the sixteenth century. The technique of deep-frying food in a light batter quickly became popular and evolved into the tempura we know today.

What are some popular dishes that use panko and tempura?

Panko is commonly used in dishes like tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork cutlets), chicken katsu, and as a topping for baked seafood dishes or macaroni and cheese. It can also be found in culinary styles outside of Japan, such as in Western recipes for breaded fish or chicken.

Tempura is associated with the popular Japanese dish, tempura-fried shrimp, and can also be used to fry vegetables, fish, and even ice cream for a unique dessert. Tempura is typically served with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, mirin, and dashi.

Are there significant nutritional differences between panko and tempura?

Panko and tempura both add a crunchy texture to food, but their nutritional profiles can vary. Since panko is made of bread crumbs, it contains more carbohydrates, while tempura batter is lighter and has fewer carbs. However, tempura is often deep-fried, which can lead to a higher fat content.

It’s important to consider the cooking method and portion sizes when assessing the nutritional differences between the two. Ultimately, enjoy both panko and tempura dishes in moderation for a balanced diet.

Panko Bread Crumbs

Panko vs Tempura + Recipe

Here's a recipe for Tempura Shrimp:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course, Seasoning
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4
Calories 312 kcal


  • 1 lb. medium-sized shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup ice water
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg and then add ice water.
  • Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. The batter should be lumpy.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a deep fryer or large pot to 350°F.
  • Dip the shrimp into the batter and coat evenly.
  • Carefully drop the shrimp into the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Remove the shrimp from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
  • Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.


Calories: 312kcal
Keyword panko vs tempura
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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