Ponzu Sauce, the Versatile Japanese Citrus-Based Condiment
This time’s article will give the complete guide about ponzu sauce. But what is ponzu sauce?
Ponzu sauce is one of the versatile and popular condiments from Japan.
You may have heard about ponzu sauce if you fancy Japanese cuisine.
It is a citrus-based sauce and commonly made of Japanese citrus fruit juice and rice vinegar, then added with soy sauce, dashi, or mirin. Ponzu sauce will have different flavor profiles depends on its ingredients.
Ponzu sauce can be used for many purposes that you could never get tired of. This sauce might be the option if you want to add more flavor to your daily cooking.
What is Ponzu Sauce?
Ponzu sauce (ポン酢, ponzu) is a Japanese citrus-based sauce condiment that can be used for so many purposes: for dipping sauce, marinade sauce, salad dressing, seasoning, etc. This condiment plays a big role in Japanese cuisine since a long time in the history.
It is believed that ponzu sauce has been in the history from the 17th Century because of its name origin. The name of ponzu: ‘Pon’ derived from Dutch for ‘punch’, and ‘Su’ from the Japanese for ‘vinegar’. Thus, ponzu could be understood as the condiment with acid and fruity flavor from citrus juice.
Ponzu sauce made by simmering its ingredients over medium heat. The sauce then cooled before the final ingredient, the citrus juice, added to the sauce. However, we can also prepare the ponzu sauce by steeping all of its ingredients and let it sleep for a few days.
What does ponzu sauce taste like?
Ponzu sauce has a mild tangy flavor and a refreshing citrus scent. If prepared with dashi, ponzu sauce will also have umami flavor.
Ponzu sauce became the versatile sauce because of its zingy flavor, meant it could be salty, sweet, and a little bit bitter and sour at once.
Even though ponzu sauce is popular for Japanese cuisine, its taste also matches well with meat and veggie stir-fries and stew dishes. The citrus scent of ponzu sauce also perfect for salad dressing.
We will discuss more uses of ponzu sauce later in this article.
What does ponzu sauce made of?
The component of ponzu sauce is distinctly Japan-originated ingredients.
Ponzu sauce commonly made from Japanese citrus juice (could be yuzu, kabosu, sudachi, daidai) and rice vinegar. Some products also contained soy sauce, mirin, sake, katsuobushi stock (bonito flakes), kombu stock (kelp seaweed), or shiitake stock.
The most important ingredient, Japanese citrus, is said to give the acidic and refreshing taste in ponzu sauce. However, this ingredient can be replaced with lemon or lime.
The ingredients of ponzu sauce will largely influence its flavor.
Click here to see the kinds of ponzu sauce based on the ingredients that we have summarized in this article.
Kinds of Ponzu Sauce based on Its Ingredients (with Products)
There are so many kinds of ponzu sauce in Japan, and you can easily find them in grocery stores. Each of them made with different ingredients, and therefore, has different flavor profiles.
So, we would like to introduce to you the kinds of ponzu sauce along with the example of the product.
Mizkan Citrus Seasoning Ponzu
The simple ponzu sauce that has a light color and a rather tangy, sour flavor (the taste of citrus juice and vinegar as it is). It is suitable for grilled fish, oysters, and Japanese pot dishes.
Product Name: Ponzu
Ingredients: citrus juice, brewed vinegar, flavoring.
Mizkan Aji Ponzu
Aji ponzu means it is the ponzu sauce made with seasonings.
The product on the left is the classic and versatile ponzu sauce that has a sour taste from brewed vinegar and shoyu. The scent of citrus juice is distant but has a strong ponzu taste. This product is widely available overseas.
Product Name: Aji Pon (Aji Ponzu)
Ingredients: honjozo shoyu (brewed Japanese soy sauce), high-fructose corn syrup, citrus juice, brewed vinegar, salt/seasoning, acidulant, flavoring.
Yamasa Kombu Ponzu
The ponzu sauce made with kombu (kelp seaweed) dashi and citrus juice. It has an overall mellow taste and has a dark color.
You can use this ponzu sauce for various dishes, such as Japanese hot pot dishes, grilled meat, grilled fish, salad dressings, etc.
Product Name: Kombu Ponzu
Ingredients: kombu (kelp seaweed) extract, Japanese soy sauce (water, soybeans, wheat, salt), water, high-fructose syrup, vinegar, citrus juice, salt, dried bonito extract, natural and artificial flavor, modified food starch, citric acid, agar, yeast extract, etc.
Yamasa Plum Shiso Ponzu
This is the seasoned ponzu sauce made with the sour ume plum fruit juice and refreshing taste of shiso (perilla leaves extract), the kind of uncommon ingredients for making ponzu sauce. The Yamasa Plum Shiso ponzu also made with kelp and bonito flakes, so it has umami on it.
You can use this ponzu sauce for various dishes, such as Japanese hot pot dishes, grilled meat, grilled fish, salad dressings, etc.
Product Name: Ume Shiso Ponzu
Ingredients: seasoned ponzu, non GMO Japanese soy sauce, salt, ume plum paste squeezed fruit juice, kelp and kelp extract, kabosu extract, lemon extract, shiso extract, etc.
Hirota Homemade Ponzu
The handmade ponzu sauce made with Tokushima Prefecture's 100% sudachi fruit juice and without brewed vinegar. It has a well-balanced and mellow flavor.
This ponzu sauce is delicious and suitable for Japanese hot pot dishes, grilled meat, grilled fish, salad dressings, etc.
Manufacturer: Hirota Food
Product Name: Hirota Homemade Ponzu
Ingredients: sudachi citrus juice, honjozo shoyu (brewed Japanese soy sauce), hon mirin (real mirin), sake, sugar, salt, flavoring ingredients (katsuobushi, mackerel, soda fish, konbu, shiitake), seasonings (amino acids, etc.)
We have introduced 5 kinds of ponzu sauce from a few manufacturers.
It turns out that some ponzu did not made from vinegar, while some of it also made with mirin and sake. Many kinds of citrus juice originated from Japan are also used to make ponzu.
The ingredients of ponzu make a big difference in its taste. You can choose whichever you like based on your needs and preference.
What is Ponzu Sauce Used for?
Ponzu sauce is a versatile sauce that can be used in many ways. We will introduce many ways to use ponzu sauce from its popular way to its unique way.
Let’s learn how it is used to enjoy ponzu sauce to its fullest!
● Dipping Sauce for Shabu-Shabu
Ponzu sauce is very delicious if enjoyed as a dipping sauce for nabemono (Japanese hot pot dishes) such as shabu-shabu. Every kind of shabu meat (beef or pork shabu) is suitable to eat with ponzu sauce.
Try dipping another hot pot food such as vegetable, mushroom, and even fish to ponzu sauce too. It is simply delicious!
● Dipping & Marinating Sauce for Beef/Fish Tataki
Tataki is one of the method to prepare meat or fish in Japanese cuisine. This method has been invented since 17th Century by a samurai from Tosa Province (now part of Kochi Prefecture).
To make a beef or fish tataki, the meat needed to be marinated first using ponzu sauce, grated ginger, and lemongrass in about an hour. After that, the meat then slightly seared on a hot pan. It is well-cooked on the outside but raw and moist on the inside. Slice the cooked meat in a thick size and enjoy with ponzu sauce as a dipping sauce.
● Dipping Sauce for Sashimi
Not only delicious to dip with Japanese shoyu, sashimi also delicious to dip with ponzu sauce. This method is rather common because everyone knows well how ponzu sauce matched well with raw fish.
Any kind of sashimi will surely be more delicious if you dip it with ponzu sauce. For example, we put the picture of blowfish sashimi.
The citrus of ponzu sauce will neutralize the raw fish’s fishy smell. Some even add a sliced citrus fruit into their dipping plate with ponzu sauce.
● Dipping Sauce for Chilled Somen Noodle
Chilled somen noodle is one of the favorite summertime dishes in Japan.
Even the most popular way to eat chilled somen noodles is to dip it with tsuyu sauce (dipping sauce made of mirin, Japanese soy sauce, and dashi), some also enjoy their chilled somen noodle with ponzu as its dipping sauce.
Somen is a thin, white-colored noodle made with wheat flour. To make the chilled somen noodle, simply boil the noodle and serve in a bowl of cool or cold water. This dish will refresh your mind during the hot summer.
● Dipping Sauce for Gyoza Dumplings
Another food that is delicious with ponzu sauce as its dipping sauce is gyoza dumplings. Gyoza dumplings are famous for their umami, with a crispy texture on the outside and hot yet soft on the inside.
Put some ponzu sauce on a small plate and add sesame seed to add more taste. The sour and rich flavor of ponzu will add umami to the gyoza.
● Salad Dressing
Ponzu sauce will be delicious as salad dressing. The citrus aroma and the sourness of ponzu is a perfect match for vegetable salad. Some people also like to add sliced salmon or meat to their salad with ponzu sauce.
It may be a nice try to substitute your usual salad dressing, right?
● Seasoning for Japanese Chilled Tofu
The Japanese Chilled Tofu, or Hiyayakko, is an appetizer side dish with a simple yet delicious taste. Because it is chilled, this side dish is perfect for the hot summer.
Some recipes will use Japanese shoyu, but some also use ponzu sauce. The recipes with shoyu usually topped with katsuobushi and green onions.
While the recipe with ponzu sauce is served with 'oroshi ponzu'. The 'oroshi' in 'oroshi ponzu' refers to daikon oroshi (grated daikon radish) which is a popular condiment in Japanese cuisine. The recipe with ponzu sauce also topped with green onions.
● Seasoning for Oyster
Many people seems to eat ponzu sauce together with oyster. Some eat the oyster raw, someone also boiled it first.
To enjoy these ingredients together, be sure to rinse the oyster clean first. After that, garnish the oysters (raw or boiled) with ponzu sauce, sliced green onions, and more lemon/citrus juice (in your preference). Yum!
● Topping for Takoyaki
In the Kansai Region of Japan, you will sometimes find takoyaki with ponzu sauce as one of its toppings. This kind of takoyaki usually accompanied by sliced green onions and chili powder.
It is not as common as the usual takoyaki topping, but it is an interesting and delicious topping for takoyaki.
Where to Buy Ponzu Sauce?
Even though you can’t find ponzu sauce as easy as shoyu, ponzu sauce is now available in some Asian grocery stores and online stores. To find the ponzu sauce in the grocery store, it should be at the condiment or sauce aisle.
In case you are looking for ponzu sauce in an online store, you might find many kinds of ponzu, as we discussed earlier.
Knowing that ponzu sauce made with so many different ingredients, let's check its ingredients before buying. Checking might help to make sure you're getting the right ponzu sauce flavor in your preference.
How to Make Homemade Ponzu Sauce
~ Ponzu Sauce Recipe ~
Make the homemade ponzu sauce is the fastest solution if you can’t find any ponzu sauce nearby. Fortunately, this sauce is relatively easy to make yourself, even with the ingredients in your home kitchen.
In this recipe, we are using the ingredients closest to the simple shoyu ponzu sauce. We highlighted the taste of citrus juice, which is the most important flavor aspects of ponzu. However, this recipe also enhances the ponzu sauce flavor by adding ingredients that would add the umami flavor.
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the homemade ponzu sauce recipe.
Homemade Ponzu Sauce
We will be making the shoyu ponzu sauce without vinegar. Kombu and katsuobushi flakes are added to improve the mellow flavor of ponzu, while still having the tangy, original flavor of ponzu sauce.
- ・Yuzu fruit juice* (see Notes 1)
- 100 ml
- ・High-quality soy sauce* (see Notes 2)
- 150 ml
- ・Kombu (kelp seaweed)
- 5 g
- ・Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
- 5 g
- Squeeze the yuzu fruit juice by cutting the yuzu fruit into 2 parts, and strain the seed using a strainer. If the amount of fruit juice doesn’t reach 100 ml, replace the fresh fruit juice with rice vinegar or manufactured fruit juice.
- Pour the 150 ml soy sauce in a clean glass jar.
- Pour the squeezed yuzu fruit juice in the glass jar filled with soy sauce.
- Soak the kombu and katsuobushi flakes.
- Leave it to steep in the fridge for at least 24 hours (or more) with the glass lid closed. Remember to strain the kombu and katsuobushi flakes before using. Enjoy the homemade ponzu sauce!
1. Finding Japanese citrus sometimes could be difficult and pricey in overseas. You can replace the Japanese citrus juice with lemon or orange juice. (Japanese citrus: yuzu, kabosu, sudachi and daidai)
2. If possible, try to use high-quality Japanese soy sauce. The common ponzu is made with honjozo shoyu (brewed Japanese soy sauce), which has a higher quality than the chemically produced soy sauce.
3. The longer steeping time will bring more umami flavor. The sourness will also become mellow. Therefore, it is best to let it steep for 1-2 days.
How to Store Homemade Ponzu Sauce?
The homemade ponzu sauce could be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Also, please keep the homemade ponzu sauce in a glass container with the lid closed.
Meanwhile, the commercially sold ponzu sauce should be store in the fridge too after opening. This will prevent any bacteria contamination to the product.
Ponzu Sauce Q & A
- What is ponzu sauce?
- Ponzu sauce is the versatile, citrus-based sauce condiment from Japan. This condiment is suitable for many cooking purposes, such as for dipping sauce, marinade sauce, salad dressing, seasoning, etc.
- What does ponzu sauce taste like?
- Ponzu sauce has a tangy flavor in a mild sourness with refreshing citrus scent. If prepared with dashi, ponzu sauce will also have an umami flavor.
- What does ponzu sauce made of?
- Ponzu sauce commonly made from Japanese citrus juice (could be yuzu, kabosu, sudachi, daidai) and rice vinegar. Some products also contained soy sauce, mirin, sake, katsuobushi stock (bonito flakes), kombu stock (kelp seaweed), or shiitake stock. If not available, the citrus juice can be replaced with lemon or lime.
- What is yuzu ponzu?
- Yuzu ponzu is the ponzu sauce made with yuzu fruit juice. This naming is widely used to make it easier to understand that the ingredient for the ponzu includes yuzu fruit juice.
- What is shoyu ponzu?
- Shoyu ponzu is the term for the ponzu sauce made with shoyu (Japanese soy sauce). Not every ponzu includes shoyu as its ingredient, so this term will help you to know what kind of ponzu is it. This ponzu sauce will have a dark brown color with a more savory and salty flavor.
- Can I substitute ponzu for soy sauce?
- The ponzu made with soy sauce (Shoyu Ponzu) has a citrus taste with a little bit of sweetness and sourness from the soy sauce. If you like your soy sauce to be more sour with a citrus accent, ponzu will be a great substitute for soy sauce.
- What is ponzu sauce used for?
- ● Dipping sauce for shabu-shabu
● Dipping & marinating sauce for beef/fish tataki
● Dipping sauce for sashimi
● Dipping sauce for gyoza dumplings
● Salad dressing
● Seasoning for Japanese chilled tofu
● Seasoning for oyster
● Topping for takoyaki
- What is the recipe for homemade ponzu sauce?
- This article introduced the recipe for homemade ponzu sauce, made with soy sauce, citrus juice, kombu, and katsuobushi flakes. Click here to see the recipe.
- How to store homemade ponzu sauce?
- Store the homemade ponzu sauce in a glass container with the lid closed for 2-3 weeks. The commercially sold ponzu sauce also needs to be stored in the fridge.
- Can you buy ponzu sauce?
- Yes. You can buy ponzu sauce that are available in many types according to their ingredients.
- Where to buy ponzu sauce?
- If you are living outside Japan, ponzu sauce is now available in some Asian grocery stores and online stores.
There are so many ways to enjoy ponzu sauce, isn't it?
We hope this article could give some insights to make your daily cooking more enjoyable.