Mahjong Kitchen is a modern version of Mahjong modified to fit a story about business management. The player is told that they own a low-rated café. The only way they can fix their rating is by serving better beverages and meals.
The game breaks up the options into categories (Drinks, Salads, Soups and Meats) inside of a recipe book. The player must learn to cook these items before they can offer them at the café. The only way to learn is by selecting pairs of matching ingredient- or kitchen- related tiles on a playfield.
Unlike many Mahjong games, the player doesn't need to clear the entire field to complete each recipe. Instead, much like match-3 games, they need to collect a certain amount of tiles that display specific ingredients.
Once they complete their first four recipes, they can start re-accepting orders. They must perform three or more mini-match games to complete the orders. To help them, the game provides three boosters. They can use a hanging light to shine on available tiles, a match to illuminate available pairs of tiles and a whisk to reorder the tiles to reveal hidden ones.
The player earns gold coins and stars for mastering the recipes and completing orders. Once they have enough coins in their piggy bank, they can unlock additional recipes. If they do well, the rating on the main screen above the café updates with a higher number.