Reveling in Rusticity

“Rustic” is one of my least favorite words. Plain and simple, it comes off as a measured euphemism for crude, unpolished, unprofessional, or downright poor quality. Applied to houses, pottery, or cooking, it just strikes the wrong chord, like a polite guest biting their tongue. They really want to tell you that they hate your decorating sense, or they’d rather eat a bale of hay than dig into your latest culinary disaster, but they’re too kind to say that.

It’s not a bad effort at all, they’ll insist. Perfectly rustic!

Nikujaga, literally “meat and potatoes,” is classic yoshoku for the soul. Westernized Japanese food at its finest, it has the unfortunate distinction of fitting that bill as “rustic” to many. Though meant as a term of endearment, I can’t help but hear it as an insult. Sure, it’s a homely stew that would never make headlines or start a viral craze, but there’s a real art to layering in rich flavors using minimal ingredients.

It doesn’t take a master chef to whip up this one-pot meal, but don’t do yourself a disservice by downplaying the deeply satisfying layers of flavors.

Between the salt and fat, protein and starch, it’s a foolproof approach to pure, unadulterated comfort food. Double it for a crowd, halve it if you’re short on ingredients, prepare it in advance, freeze in portions and thaw out as needed; this is a dish that will bend to your will without threatening to break.

It takes real finesse to craft a dish so well-balanced. The last thing I would ever call it is “rustic.”

Yield: Makes 4 - 5 Servings

Meatless Nikujaga (Japanese Meat and Potato Stew)

Meatless Nikujaga (Japanese Meat and Potato Stew)

Nikujaga, literally "meat and potatoes," is classic home cooking for the soul. Little more than root vegetables, protein, and aromatics, it's a foolproof, one-pot dish that everyone will love. Double it for a crowd, halve it if you're short on ingredients, prepare it in advance, or freeze in portions and thaw out as needed; it's infinitely adaptable and mercifully flexible.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 12 Ounces Meatless Ground Beef*
  • 1 Medium Onion, Halved and Sliced
  • 1 Cup Baby Carrots
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 Cup Sake or White Wine
  • 1/4 Cup Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, Diced into 1-Inch Cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Sugar or Dark Brown Sugar, Packed
  • 1 1/2 Cups Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley (Optional)


    1. Set a medium stockpot over moderate heat and add the oil. Once shimmering, add the meatless grounds and cook, stirring periodically to break up clumps and ensure even cooking, for 4 - 5 minutes. It should be lightly browned around the edges.
    2. Add the onion, carrots, and ginger, stirring well to incorporate. Cook for another 2 - 3 minutes, until the onions begin to tenderize.
    3. Slowly pour in the sake or wine along with the tamari or soy sauce, scraping the bottom of the pot with your spatula to pull in all the caramelized scraps that might be sticking. Add the sugar, followed by the potatoes and vegetable stock, mixing thoroughly once more. The liquid won't quite cover the vegetables completely, but come very close and at least touch all the components.
    4. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender.
    5. Ladle out into bowls, top with parsley for a bit of extra color, if desired, and dig in.


To stretch this meal further, serve with rice, noodles, or pasta.

*This recipe is ideal meatless grounds that are formulated to closely imitate bovine meat, such as Impossible, Beyond, or Awesome, but would also be delicious with Gardein beefy crumbles or even rehydrated TVP.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 362Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1591mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 22g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

5 thoughts on “Reveling in Rusticity

  1. WOW this was great!! The only thing I changed was to thicken it at the end with a bit of arrowroot and water. The flavor was excellent! This will definitely stay in rotation, especially with the cold winter approaching. Thanks for such a great recipe!!

    1. Yay! I’m so happy to hear it was such a hit! That truly makes my day. May it serve you well all through the colder seasons, and beyond! :)

Leave a Reply