What to Eat in Okinawa? | Local Food Guide

Okinawa is home to a unique Japanese subculture and nowhere is this more evident than with Okinawan food. Known as Ryukyuan cuisine, these dishes integrate the unique food, cooking styles, and elements of Okinawan lifestyle into a delicious type of food unlike any found elsewhere in Japan.

Okinawa’s unique location and history mean that not only are their Japanese and Chinese influences, but those of numerous other cultures as well.

Okinawans are very proud of their unique cuisine and for good reason! It’s one of the real treats of a trip to Okinawa and is a delicious way to learn more about the history of this amazing island.

Here are the 10 popular local food that you must try in Okinawa:

1. Goya Chanpuru

Goya Chanpuru, one of the must-try foods in Okinawa. Photo Credit: Nesnad at Wikimedia Commons.

This bitter melon stir fry is one of the key elements of Okinawan cuisine. Goya means bitter melon, while chanpuru means “something mixed”. This traditional dish of Okinawa is worth a try and one of the must try dishes.

Besides bitter melon, which is the primary ingredient, this dish includes egg, tofu, and often spam. It’s very popular and regarded as vital especially in the hot Okinawan summers.

The goya is prepared in several ways, including fried, thin sliced, and pickled. Goya Chanpuru without doubt is one of the famous Okinawa dishes you can try there.

2. Okinawa Soba

Okinawa Soba Noodles. Photo Credit: pelican at Flickr.

While sharing a name with the common soba dish found elsewhere in Japan, Okinawa soba is actually very different. This is one of the dishes that locals love to eat.

The noodles are firm and chewy. The broth is pork based and creamy. It includes bonito fish flakes and kelp, as well.

One of the most common toppings are soki, slow-cooked spareribs, which are wonderful, and the dish is usually garnished with ginger. Every Okinawan has their favorite soba place and this dish is a must-try!

3. Taco Rice

Taco Rice. Photo Credit: [puamelia] at Flickr.
This surprising dish consists of spiced ground beef, cheese, and salsa served on top of white rice. It’s an unexpected dish to find in Japan, but it comes from the influence of the U.S. military, which is stationed on the island.

It’s found at many Okinawan restaurants and has even made its way across Japan. You can visit Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna Depot Island and try its Taco Rice.

4. Beni imo

Beni Imo, purple sweet potato. Photo Credit: Okinawa Hai.

This purple sweet potato can be found in sweet treats all over Okinawa. You can find it in cakes, brownies, and more. You can even find beniimo ice cream in Okinawan convenience stores!

It’s a very sweet tuber and is most famous when served in a tart filled with piped purple cream. It has a dense flavor and is considered a very healthy food. Don’t leave Okinawa without trying beni-imo!

5. Umibudo

Umibudo. Photo Credit: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University.

The name of this dish means ‘sea grapes’ due to their appearance. It’s actually a variety of seaweed that resembles tiny, delicate clusters of grapes. They’re a common staple.

Often, umibudo is served with a tangy dipping sauce that compliments their salty fresh flavor. The best thing about this dish, however, is the way it pops in your mouth as you eat it.

6. Tofuyo


This pungent fermented tofu dish is considered an acquired taste by many, but it is a uniquely Okinawan dish you should try at least once.

It has a creamy texture and a sake-like sweetness over a salty flavor. It’s an intense, red-colored treat served in two-centimeter cubes that are eaten with an instrument that resembles a toothpick.

Once upon a time, this delicacy was reserved for nobles, but now you can find it all over the island.

7. Rafute

Rafute, simmered pork dish. Photo Credit: David Iwaoka at Wikimedia Commons.

In Okinawa, this pork dish is sure to delight. Rafute is slabs of pork belly that are simmered in soy sauce then glazed with brown sugar.

It’s served by itself or on top of many other dishes, including Okinawa soba. It is booth sweet and savory, a real pleasure even to the most picky of eaters.

8. Sata andagi

Sata Andagi, sweet deep fried buns of dough. Photo Credit: Fumiaki Yoshimatsu at Wikimedia Commons.

With a name that literally means “deep-fried sugar”, this sweet treat does not disappoint. It’s essentially an Okinawan doghnut, consisting of friend doughnut with a crispy exterior and cakey center.

They’re a common dessert and often paired with sweet potato ice cream, fruit, or even vegetables. They’re at their best when hot and fresh out the fryer!

9. Awamori

Photo Credit: ayustety at Flickr.

The local Okinawan liquor is a key ingredient to many recipes and a local favorite on its own. It is derived from long-grain rice and carries quite a punch.

When aged, it has a rich flavor, thought fruit-flavored awamori is increasingly common.This rich flavor distinguishes it from other liquors found in Japan and makes it stand out.

It can be served on the rocks or used as the base for cocktails. If you drink alcohol, be sure to try it on your visit to Okinawa.

10. Orion Beer

Okinawa Soba, goya chanpuru and Orion beer. Photo Credit: Blue Lotus at Wikimedia Commons.

Considered by many to be the beer of Okinawa, this beer helped build Okinawa. The crisp taste is great in the hot Okinawan summer and refreshing at any time of year.

The Orion Beer Fest is one of the biggest beer festivals in Japan and you are likely to find Orion served at any establishment in Okinawa. It’s an excellent compliment to Okinawan dishes!

The endless beaches and unique culture make Okinawa a perfect beach destination in the world. You may think of visiting Okinawa this summer and explore its food culture.

Come to see its beautiful nature, explore the historic landmarks, meet the locals, enjoy shopping out in the streets, and try its unique cuisine. You can visit some of these popular restaurants in Okinawa


  1. Richard Jones

    Nice intro to Okinawa food… Taco rice is not from Okinawa regardless of the spon any chef puts on it… It was simply a need to find something Marines could eat after a night of drinking.. Tacos were popular at the time, but fried rice is always king.. Combine the two … taco rice was born…1970s Okinawa…

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