It is a common home-cooked winter dish, served with a bowl of white rice and miso soup. It is also sometimes seen in izakayas. Nikujaga is considered comfort food, and many Japanese claim they crave it if they do not eat it for a long period of time .
Nikujaga was invented by chefs of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the late 19th Century. It was inspired by beef stews served in the British Royal Navy which Japanese naval legend Tōgō Heihachirō encountered while studying naval science in Portsmouth, England. Upon his return to Japan, he commissioned a Japanese version of the dish for use in the Japanese Navy because of its nutritional value.