Want to know what to eat in Nagoya? Then look no further. Whether you’re just stopping in to visit Ghibli Park or plan to stay a little longer, Nagoya’s food scene is guaranteed to have something that tickles your fancy. Here’s your guide to the best food in Nagoya.
Introduction to Nagoya cuisine
Before we talk about what to eat in Nagoya, let’s talk about Nagoya food in general. Nagoya cuisine is known for having stronger flavors compared to other regions of Japan, thanks to ingredients like red miso and tamari soy sauce. Chicken and shrimp are popular meats, and Nagoya is also known for its eel.
Even though it’s a port city, Nagoya doesn’t have a reputation for good seafood. It’s also not well known for agriculture, so it doesn’t have a signature fruit or vegetable.
What to eat, then? Read on for a list of eight of the best Nagoya foods.
Pro tip: A fun way to try the tastiest Nagoya dishes is by joining a guided food tour or cooking experience.
1. Red miso katsu
Aka miso, or red miso, is a staple in Nagoya’s local cuisine. It’s got a darker color and richer flavor compared to the white miso that you might be more familiar with. Red miso is used in a lot of dishes in Nagoya, but our favorite is red miso katsu. Katsu is a deep-fried, breaded pork cutlet, usually served with rice, miso soup, and shredded cabbage. Normally, there’s a special katsu sauce that goes with it, but in Nagoya the sauce is made using red miso.
Because the sauce can be incredibly rich, many restaurants offer a half-half dish. We usually go with this option, because it’s also a great way to taste the contrast between red miso sauce and regular katsu sauce. Free refills of rice, miso soup, and cabbage are commonly available at katsu restaurants, so make sure you’re good and hungry before you visit!
2. Tenmusubi riceballs
Who doesn’t love an onigiri? Riceballs are great snacks, especially when you’re out and about sightseeing. So when you’re pounding the pavements of Nagoya, be sure to grab yourself the local speciality — tenmusubi. It’s a great alternative to classic tuna-mayo or salmon riceball, with a whole tempura prawn inside seaweed wrapped rice. If you’d like to make a meal of it, go ahead and order two or three — you’ll be full up.
Fun fact: Tenmusubi actually originated in nearby Mie Prefecture.
3. Tebasaki: Nagoya-style chicken wings
Tebasaki is Nagoya’s own version of chicken wings — you might even see it on menus in other parts of Japan as “Nagoya-style chicken wings.” Legend has it that the dish was actually invented by mistake, when a restaurant owner was forced to serve chicken wings after their order of juicy thighs didn’t arrive. Well, it’s delicious so we’re not complaining. It’s typically crispier than karaage fried chicken, and is cooked bone-in. They have a balanced sweet and savory flavor, and are garnished with sesame seeds.
Needless to say, tebasaki by itself isn’t a meal. You’ll typically find the chicken wings served as side dishes, or as part of a izakaya (Japanese bar) menu where you order several side dishes for sharing. Either way, washing it down with a beer completes the experience.
4. Miso nikomi udon noodles
Red miso strikes again. Miso nikomi noodles are served with a rich red miso broth that has been simmered for hours. It has the strong, deep flavor that is typical of Nagoya food. The noodles are typically served with spring onion and chicken. It makes for a wholesome meal that will fill you up quickly. But we’ll warn you again, red miso can be quite rich — so we recommend opting for a smaller serving if you haven’t tried it before.
5. Hitsumabushi grilled eel
Note from our editor: While there is a tradition of eating eel in summer in Japan, there are serious sustainability issues — it’s an endangered species.
Hitsumabushi differs from traditional unagi grilled eel in that it is first served in a large wooden bowl with the chopped eel on top of the rice. This is all mixed together and then divided into small bowls up to four times, each to be eaten in a different way. Firstly as it is, secondly with wasabi and spice, thirdly with green tea or broth and finally, whichever way you liked the best.
6. Kishimen noodles
If you like noodles, you definitely can’t miss kishimen in Nagoya. These noodles are a type of flat udon, sometimes with crinkly edges. They taste the same as udon, but because they’re flatter the texture is a bit softer. Like normal udon, they’re usually served with hot or cold soup and a variety of toppings. There’s no specific topping that’s typical to Nagoya though, so go with your gut — we like tempura, but you could opt for curry, fried tofu, or simple green onions.
It’s also worth mentioning that handmade kishimen can come in lots of different sizes. Some restaurants make noodles that are more than an inch wide, while others make it narrower. Either way, you’re in for a delicious treat.
7. Imported cuisine: Brazilian food
Aichi Prefecture has one of the highest Brazilian populations in Japan, so don’t be surprised when you spot lots of Brazilian restaurants around. Expect hearty dishes with barbequed chicken, and delicious fried snacks like coxinha and pastel.
We know you didn’t come all the way to Japan to eat non-Japanese food, but sometimes you need a break from noodles and rice. And if you need convincing, lots of Brazilian restaurants have English menus and excellent fries.
8. For dessert: Uirō
Uirō is Japanese sweet traditionally made from rice powder and sugar. With the texture of a slightly soft mochi / jelly combination, uirō is very sweet and goes down well with a sip of Japanese green tea. There are different flavors available, from the simple sweet red or white beans, to pumpkin, watermelon, and even chocolate banana!
Nagoya food tours: Eat like a local
If you’d like some local insight into the food scene, we recommend joining a Nagoya food tour. You’ll sample various types of street food and get a real feel for what folks eat in Nagoya.
DIY: Best neighborhoods to eat in Nagoya
If you’re after traditional food in Nagoya, we recommend the area around Nagoya Castle, or the Ōsu Shopping District. Both have a range of small restaurants serving up delicious local cuisine. If you’re just passing through, Nagoya Station also has a good range of restaurants serving both local and international food.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in 2015. Last updated in September 2023 by Maria Danuco.