Sukiyaki vs Shabu Shabu – What is the Difference?

Although both Sukiyaki and Shabu: Shabu feature thinly sliced beef, they are prepared differently and served at different restaurants. While shabu-shabu is fatty meat with a soft flavor, sukiyaki offers an intense flavor due to the addition of soy sauce and sugar. Here is an elaborate discussion on Sukiyaki vs. Shabu Shabu.

Shabu Shabu vs. Sukiyaki: Key Highlights

  • Shabu-shabu and sukiyaki are both Japanese dishes featuring thinly sliced meat and vegetables.
  • Sukiyaki is a sweet dish traditionally made with beef, while Shabu-shabu is savory and emphasizes the meat.
  • Sukiyaki is typically a winter hot-pot dish, whereas Shabu-shabu can be enjoyed year-round.
  • Sukiyaki features thinly sliced beef cooked in soy sauce and sugar, while Shabu-shabu involves dipping meat and vegetables in boiling water and sauces.

What is Shabu Shabu?

Shabu-shabu is a Chinese-origin Japanese dish of boiled meat and vegetables, similar to sukiyaki and other Nabemono (鍋物, なべ物, nabe “cooking pot” + mono “thing”) dishes.

Image: Canva

What Is Sukiyaki?

Sukiyaki is a Japanese broth-based dish with vegetables and meat cooked in the nabe and eaten as it cooks. Traditionally, beef is used for sukiyaki, but in some regions of Japan, they prefer to replace it with pork, less often with chicken.

Image: Sukiyaki (Canva)

Sukiyaki (鋤焼, or more commonly すき焼き, The main ingredients of sukiyaki are thin slices of beef (in the vegetarian version, the meat is replaced with tofu), Chinese cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, harusame (bean noodles), egg, and NOODLES. All ingredients are cut into thin slices so that they cook faster.

The guests gather at the table, take pieces of vegetables and meat from the nabe, dip them in the sauce and eat. You can vary sauces. Often they are mixed from ready-made ones, using various seasonings. Sake or table wine is also added to sauces.

Sukiyaki is good to eat with the whole family or a large company. Such a meal is the best way to unite those sitting at the same table and cheer everyone up.

Sukiyaki is prepared differently in different parts of Japan. In Kansai, for example, beef is fried before cooking. In Kanto, it is boiled with vegetables. In Aichi and Shiga prefectures, beef is sometimes replaced with chicken, and in Hokkaido is preferred.

Sukiyaki vs Shabu Shabu Comparison

The main difference between shabu-shabu and sukiyaki is that other, less sweet sauces are used for shabu-shabu, and the emphasis in the dish is on meat. The main shabu-shabu sauces are Goma Dare sesame sauce and citrus mirinponzu sauce. Shabu-shabu is a lifesaver in Japan for those who don’t like fish or sushi.

All meals here are prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Thus, the spring and autumn menus will differ markedly. Japanese chefs traditionally pay special attention to the combination of colors, smells, and shapes of various food ingredients and their particular seasons.


It is one of the most famous Japanese dishes. Its thinly sliced ​​pieces of meat float in a special iron pan along with vegetables, tofu, and mushrooms.

As seasonings, only sugar and soy sauce are usually added to the dish, which, combined with the meat extract, create a vibrant taste. The dish is prevalent in all regions of Japan. The difference is only in what kind of meat is used in a particular region and the order of cooking.

Shabu Shabu

The thinnest pieces of meat are lightly dipped several times in boiling soup (in which vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu are boiled), and after the meat changes color, it is consumed, previously dipped in one or another type of sauce. This dish got its name from the sound meat makes when immersed in boiling water.

Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu are both popular Japanese dishes that use thinly sliced meat. However, they differ in taste and style. Sukiyaki is a sweet dish, while Shabu-shabu is savory. Additionally, Sukiyaki is typically eaten in the winter and prepared as a hot-pot, while Shabu-shabu can be enjoyed all year-round and is a variant of a hot-pot dish.

Be sure to try sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, popular Japanese dishes. Sukiyaki is thinly sliced ​​beef first baked, then covered in soy sauce, and boiled with other ingredients. When making shabu-shabu, pieces of beef and vegetables are dipped several times in boiling water in shabu shabu pot. Guests dip meat and vegetables in a ponzu or sesame seed sauce during the meal.


Overall, sukiyaki is believed to have originated in the 19th century. Moreover, all the sukiyaki ingredients, including types of meat, may vary. On the contrary, Shabu-shabu is a relatively new dish. The first mention of it dates back to the 20th century. The name of the dish comes from the characteristic sound meat makes in boiling water.