If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, you’ve probably already heard of ponzu sauce. Ponzu sauce is a Japanese dipping sauce prepared from soy sauce or tamari, lime juice, mirin, bonito flakes, kombu, and rice vinegar. Sashimi, shabu-shabu or hot pot, tataki and other grilled fish and meat, gyoza or dumplings, cold noodles, and tempura are all typical uses for it.
Suppose a recipe requires ponzu sauce, and you can’t get your hands on one. You can use soy sauce mixtures, hoisin sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Korean bbq sauce, teriyaki sauce, tonkatsu sauce, fish sauce, eel sauce, Nam Prik Pla, shoyu, mentsuyu mixtures, sake, rice vinegar, seaweed, and yuzu kosho. You can also do a DIY or homemade ponzu sauce if you have the time and ingredients.
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Best Ponzu Sauce Substitute
Homemade Ponzu Sauce
Although the ingredients of ponzu sauce are hard to find, homemade ponzu sauce is the closest thing to the real deal that you can find. Not to worry, though, as you can use substitutes for the ingredients we’re about to mention. Here’s a quick Japanese ponzu sauce recipe:
- 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons of mirin
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons bonito flake
- ¼ cup of lemon juice or yuzu juice
Making homemade ponzu sauce is easy. In a saucepan, mix all the ingredients except the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat to avoid burning the ingredients, strain the mixture, and add the lemon juice. And you have a homemade ponzu sauce that can last up to three days.
Soy Sauce and Lemon Juice
Since soy sauce and lemon are key ingredients in ponzu sauce, you can use these two to create a mixture similar to ponzu sauce. There is no need to heat the mixture when using these substitutes. Just use 4 tablespoons of soy sauce or dark soy sauce and mix with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to make this substitute.
Soy Sauce and Vinegar
Since every pantry has soy sauce and vinegar, there will be no excuse for a missing ponzu sauce. To use as a ponzu sauce substitute, just mix 3 tablespoons of soy sauce or dark soy sauce with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Although this mixture does not provide a citrusy scent, you can still use this for recipes that already contain some citrus essence or add a dash of lime juice or lemon juice.
Soy Sauce and Orange Juice
Yes, orange juice tends to be sweeter and less sour, but it resembles mirin's sweet taste in ponzu sauce and is a perfect substitute for dippings. Mix 3 tablespoons of soy sauce or dark soy sauce with one tablespoon of lemon juice to make the mixture. If you have some, you can add a dash of lemon or lime juice, but this mixture is great on its own.
Hoisin sauce is a must-have condiment in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines. Hoisin sauce has a sweet-smoky taste and can be used to glaze meats, as a dipping sauce, or as a base for other sauces.
To replace ponzu sauce with hoisin sauce, combine equal parts of hoisin sauce and rice vinegar, then season with soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili paste to taste. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, you can add a little honey.
Worcestershire sauce is a fermented British condiment used in many different dishes. Its vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarinds, onions, and garlic contents produce a tangy taste comparable to Ponzu sauce. Do note that this ponzu substitute contains onions and garlic that may alter the overall taste of your dish. When used as a substitute, use a 1:1 replacement ratio.
Korean BBQ Sauce
Korean barbecue sauce is a popular sort of barbecue sauce in South Korea. Soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and sesame oil make this thick, sweet, and spicy sauce.
It has a somewhat smoky and slightly sweet flavor, similar to teriyaki sauce. To make a replacement, whisk together half a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of BBQ sauce. This option is excellent for meats, especially when grilling, and is a wonderful dipping sauce.
Soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, mirin, and ginger are used to make teriyaki sauce. This Japanese sauce is commonly used in stir-fries and over-grilled meats, but it may also be used as a dipping sauce or salad dressing. To use as a substitute, mix two tablespoons of teriyaki sauce with half a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. You can also make homemade teriyaki sauce using the ingredients mentioned above.
Tonkatsu was originally made by combining tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Nowadays, Tonkatsu sauce is fermented and contains more brown sugar. This Japanese sauce is sweet with a tinge of sourness from vinegar and lemon juice, making it an excellent ponzu sauce substitute.
To use as a ponzu sauce alternative, use one tablespoon of tonkatsu sauce for every tablespoon of ponzu sauce.
Unlike ponzu sauce, fish sauce has a salty, rich, umami flavor from fermented fish. However, you can use fish sauce as a ponzu sauce substitute if you already have it in your pantry. To balance the saltiness, use only a minimal amount and mix with lemon.
We recommend mixing a tablespoon of fish sauce with one teaspoon of lemon juice or lime juice. You can also use oyster sauce for this.
Despite the name, eel sauce does not taste fishy, unlike fish sauce. This sauce got its name as it is a common unagi sauce, a Japanese word for eel. Eel sauce is made of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar, making it an appropriate Japanese ponzu sauce substitute.
To use, you can use 3 tablespoons of eel sauce and mix half a tablespoon of lemon juice or lime juice for the tart taste.
Nam Prik Pla
Nam prik pla is a Thai condiment prepared with lime juice, fish sauce, and spicy chilies that can be used in place of ponzu sauce. Despite its spicy flavor, Nam prik pla has a similar flavor profile to ponzu sauce.
The perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness, and sourness boosts food’s flavors. Since Nam prik pla already contains lime juice, you can just do a 1:1 substitution ratio.
Shoyu (fermented soybeans, toasted wheat, and salt) is a Japanese soy sauce. It has a savory, salty, and umami flavor that goes well with various foods. Sauces, stews, soups, marinades, and dressings may all benefit from it as a condiment or ingredient.
To create a ponzu shoyu, mix two tablespoons of shoyu with half a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
Mentsuyu and Vinegar
Another famous sort of Japanese soup base is mentsuyu. It's created using soy sauce, mirin, sugar, dashi, and salt; most are common components in Japanese ponzu sauce. To balance the saltiness, you can add vinegar to create a ponzu sauce.
You can use white vinegar, but rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar and other grain vinegar would be better—mix two tablespoons of mentsuyu with half a tablespoon of rice vinegar. Mix, and you can use that as a dipping sauce for your favorite Japanese cuisine.
Mentsuyu and Lemon
If you have lemon juice or lime juice, you can also mix them with mentsuyu to achieve a closer taste to ponzu sauce. To use as a substitute, mix three tablespoons of mentsuyu with one tablespoon of lemon juice or lime juice. This will provide a natural citrusy scent and taste like ponzu sauce.
Mentsuyu and Fruit Vinegar
Suppose you don’t have lemons or limes, but have apple cider vinegar or other fruit vinegar like apricot vinegar, berry vinegar, and sherry vinegar. In that case, you can use them to make a ponzu sauce substitute. Just mix two tablespoons of mentsuyu with half a tablespoon of any fruit vinegar you like.
Sake is a famous Japanese drink made from fermented rice. With its clean, somewhat sweet taste, you just need to add soy sauce to create a ponzu sauce substitute. Its alcohol content also helps with tenderizing and deodorizing meat products.
To use as a substitute, use equal parts sake and soy sauce, and use as a dipping sauce or marinade.
Rice vinegar has been mentioned in this article a few times already as an addition to salty sauce bases. However, rice vinegar has a mild, slightly sweet taste, and you can use it by itself when making salad dressings, dipping sauce, or marinades. When used alone, follow a 1:1 substitution ratio.
Dried seaweed provides a rich umami flavor that sometimes gets mistaken for ponzu. Seaweeds such as kombu are an excellent choice for those looking for a vegan alternative. You can chop dried kombu and add them to your favorite salad dressing and dipping sauce to add texture and flavor. To replace, half a tablespoon of chopped kombu should equal a tablespoon of ponzu sauce.
Yuzu kosho is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented chili pepper, salt, and peel from yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit. This is another perfect alternative if you enjoy spicy food. It is commonly used as an addition to hot pot dishes, sashimi, miso soup, and a variety of sauces and dips. To use, mix a teaspoon of yuzu kosho to replace a tablespoon of Japanese ponzu sauce.
Still undecided? Let's review this list of the best ponzu sauce substitutes. We have listed the unique qualities and recommended substitutions for each.
|Homemade Ponzu Sauce||The best substitute. Provides the same taste and flavors and takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.|
|Soy Sauce and Lemon Juice||Mixing 4 parts soy sauce and 1 part lemon juice provides the same flavor profile as ponzu sauce.|
|Soy Sauce and Vinegar||Provides acidity without citrusy scent and flavors. To fix, add a dash of lemon or lime juice.|
|Soy Sauce and Orange Juice||It is sweeter and has a milder flavor profile but is a perfect substitute for dips.|
|Hoisin Sauce||A sauce with a sweet and smokey flavor. An excellent base for making sauces.|
|Worcestershire Sauce||A rich-tasting sauce that contains garlic and onion. May alter the overall taste of your dish.|
|Korean BBQ Sauce||A sweet and spicy sauce that’s great for marinating and grilling. Needs lemon juice for acidity.|
|Teriyaki Sauce||A sweet sauce that enhances meats and dumplings. Needs lemon or lime for acidity.|
|Tonkatsu Sauce||A sweet sauce with a hint of sourness due to fermentation. Great for any Japanese cuisine dish.|
|Fish Sauce||A salty sauce with umami flavor. A little goes a long way and needs lemon for the tart taste.|
|Eel Sauce||Commonly used for unagi. Has an umami flavor with a hint of sweetness.|
|Nam Prik Pla||A mixture of lime juice, fish sauce, and chilis. Provides a tart, spicy taste.|
|Shoyu||A Japanese soy sauce that provides an umami flavor. It can be mixed with lemon juice for acidity.|
|Mentsuyu and Vinegar||A salty sauce that can mimic ponzu sauce with the help of an acidic addition.|
|Mentsuyu and Lemon||Provides a more natural citrusy taste and scent. Mix three-part mentsuyu with one part lemon juice.|
|Mentsuyu and Fruit Vinegar||It can be used in the absence of lemon or lime juice. Provides a more subtle sourness and tart taste.|
|Sake||An alcoholic drink with a clean, sweet taste. Adding soy sauce creates an appropriate substitute.|
|Rice Vinegar||An all-around vinegar with a mild taste. It can be used by itself or as an addition to a salty base.|
|Seaweed||A great source of rich, umami flavor. Chopped or cut into strips and added to salads.|
|Yuzu Kosho||A citrus-based paste with chili pepper and salt. Great for people who enjoy spicy food.|
Ponzu sauce is a Japanese dipping sauce that contains soy sauce or tamari, lime juice, mirin, bonito flakes, kombu, and rice vinegar. Sashimi, shabu-shabu or hot pot, tataki and other grilled fish and meat, gyoza or dumplings, noodles, and tempura are all typical uses for it.
Soy sauce is made from fermented soybean liquid with salt and water. On the other hand, ponzu is made from soy sauce, citrus juice, bonito flakes, and rice vinegar, resulting in a much lighter-flavored sauce.
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