Kinpira Gobo is a delicious Japanese side dish prepared by sautéing burdock root (gobo) and carrots with a sweet and savory sauce. In this recipe, I’ll show you how to make this classic bento side dish with an irresistibly crunchy texture that places it between stir-fry and salad.
Japanese burdock and carrot stir-fry (きんぴらごぼう – Kinpira Gobo)
Kinpira Gobo is a classic Japanese side dish often found packed in bento boxes or served as kobachi alongside other dishes in a traditional Japanese meal. It is most often prepared with gobo, a long-rooted vegetable frequently used in Japanese cuisine, but it can also be prepared with other vegetables such as carrots, celery or lotus root.
For my version, I like to use a combination of carrots and gobo root, which gives it a nice color and a good distribution of vitamins and minerals. Thanks to the earthy flavor of root vegetables and the umami of soy sauce and sake, this Kinpira recipe includes no dashi, making it both vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Why does this recipe work?
- Cutting the vegetables across the grain into fine julienne strips keeps them crunchy while still being tender enough to eat.
- Soaking burdock in acidified water during preparation prevents it from oxidizing, thus preserving its light color.
- Kinpira Gobo tastes best after sitting overnight in the fridge, so it’s a great make-ahead bento or side dish for busy weeknight dinners.
Ingredients for Kinpira Gobo
- Gobo (burdock) – Gobo is the Japanese name for burdock root. Although it may go by other names (Chinese: niúbàng Korean: u-eong), it is a popular vegetable in Asia, so you should be able to find fresh burdock in Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find it in stores, it may be possible to look for it, but be sure to check that the variety growing near you is edible.
- The vinegar – Due to the enzymatic browning of polyphenols, burdock oxidizes very quickly. To prevent it from discoloring, I recommend soaking it in acidified water while you prepare it. I used rice vinegar, but anything acidic that doesn’t have a strong taste will work here. Citric acid and lemon juice are some examples of other ingredients you can use.
- Carrot – Kinpira Gobo is usually made with a combination of carrots and burdock, but if you can’t find burdock, you can also make it with carrots alone.
- Oil – I like to use a neutral-tasting oil like vegetable oil, but some people like to use toasted sesame oil.
- Sake – Sake is added as a flavorful liquid to help steam vegetables. Sake is also a rich source of amino acids, which produce the umami taste. The alcohol in sake evaporates during cooking, so you don’t have to worry about it. You can learn more about the role of sake in Japanese cuisine here. You can also use mirin in place of sake, but you’ll want to skip the sugar.
- Soya sauce – Soy sauce is the main seasoning ingredient of Kinpira Gobo. Any dark Japanese soy sauce such as Kikkoman will work.
- Sugar – Japanese foods balance savory and salty tastes with sweetness. I like to use dark brown sugar for Kinpira Gobo because its caramel and molasses notes complement the earthy root vegetables.
- Salt – Although Kinrpira can be seasoned with soy sauce alone, I prefer to use a little less soy sauce and supplement with salt. This preserves the bright colors of the vegetables and prevents them from browning.
- Roasted sesame seeds – Toasted sesame seeds added at the end bring a nutty flavor and a fun poppy texture to the dish.
- Red pepper – This is optional, but I like my Kinpira Gobo to have a little heat, which is why I like to add chili flakes to the oil at the very beginning. You can also serve it with shichimi pepper, the heat level can be adjusted to taste.
How to cut a gobo for Kinpira
First you want to prepare a bowl of cold water and acidify it by adding a neutral-tasting vinegar, lemon juice or a pinch of citric acid. This will prevent the gobo root from oxidizing and turning gray.
Wash the burdock and rub it with a clean abrasive sponge or a piece of wadded aluminum foil.
Burdock bark can be eaten, but I usually like to peel it with a vegetable peeler for Kinpira Gobo. The gobo will oxidize quickly once you peel it off, so I recommend working in small segments and then cutting the peeled parts into 2-3 inch lengths that you can drop into the acidified water.
Once you have peeled and cut all the gobo, cut each piece into thin slices. I usually cut a slice or two off one side, then roll the root over the dish so it doesn’t move.
Next, you want to line up the slices in a staggered pile, then cut the slices into thin strips. They don’t have to be perfect, but I try to get strips under 1.5mm thick. Finally, return the cut gobo to the bowl of acidified water.
Because burdock is so thin and fibrous, I don’t recommend using a mandolin to julienne it.
How to make Kinpira Gobo
Before cooking the Kinpira, filter the gobo and rinse it under cold water to remove the vinegar. Shake the colander vigorously to drain well.
In a frying pan over high heat, add the vegetable oil and the chili flakes and mix them.
Add the drained gobo and carrots and sauté until they begin to melt.
Add the brown sugar and continue to sauté until all the water released from the vegetables has evaporated. This should take about two minutes.
Pour the sake, soy sauce and salt over the gobo and carrots, then continue sautéing until the sauce has created a glaze around the gobo and there is no liquid left in the pan (still 2-3 minutes).
Finish the Kinpira Gobo by adding the toasted sesame seeds and stirring to distribute.
It should be noted that Kinpira tastes best the next day and will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. So I usually like to make a large batch to eat throughout the week.
Other Japanese Side Dish Recipes
Burdock is a biennial plant found worldwide. The plant has broad leaves that are green above and whitish below, and the base of the pink flowers have burrs, hence the name of the plant. In most parts of the world it is considered a weed, but the taproot is used as a vegetable in Asia. It is long and fibrous and has a distinct flavor that is earthy and mineral. Another fun fact is that the Swiss inventor of Velcro was inspired to create the hook-and-loop closure system after walking his dog and noticing the burrs stuck to his fur.
Kinpira Gobo is a stir-fry of burdock root and carrots cut into thin strips. It is usually seasoned with a sweet and savory sauce and finished with sesame seeds.
Although burdock root is the most common vegetable, Kinpira can also be prepared with other crunchy or crunchy vegetables such as carrots, celery, lotus root or kohlrabi. Some people also include a protein like fried chicken or tofu.
Kinpira Gobo is a 5 syllable name pronounced as follows (read the parts in italics).
close to like enthusiastic
ft to like peasI
ra as the “ra“sound does not exist in the English language and the best way to do that is to say the word”romp” with the tip of the tongue in front of the mouth.
goes to like ghoust
well to like wellat
This Kinpira Gobo recipe is plant-based, making it vegan and vegetarian-friendly. However, if you buy it pre-made from a store, be careful as it is relatively common to add dashi stock in Kinpira.
Yield: 8 side parts
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: ten minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
(1 small carrot)
dark brown sugar
toasted sesame seeds
Amount per serving
Calories from fat 9
% Daily Value*
Saturated fat 1g5%
Polyunsaturated fat 1g
Monounsaturated fat 1g
Vitamin A 2924IU58%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
The iron 1mg6%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.