Have you heard of ponzu sauce before? If you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat!
Well, not literally, as ponzu sauce isn’t sweet but gives excellent flavor in Japanese cooking. (*)
You can often find people using ponzu sauce in Japan as a dipping sauce for shabu-shabu, gyoza, grilled fish, and sashimi, among other dishes.
We also love ponzu sauce mixed with a bit of mayonnaise to use as a salad dressing.
Before we get ahead of ourselves and drool over these yummy dishes, the next question is: What if you have no ponzu sauce?
It’s understandable because it’s not easy to find ponzu sauce just anywhere. Some supermarkets would carry it, while some areas would only have it in Japanese grocery stores. Unfortunately, not every area would bring this Japanese sauce, so you’re left to order it online.
But what if you’re already in the middle of your recipe?
Is your Japanese-style dinner doomed?
You can use numerous ponzu sauce substitutes, some of which you probably already have at home.
Check out our extensive list so you can get to your Japanese cooking successfully.
What’s Ponzu Sauce Made Of?
If there’s one thing we have to thank for tastier dishes, it’s sauces! It’s a staple ingredient, and we can’t deny its value in our savory recipes.
Ponzu sauce is one of the sauces to appreciate, especially in Japanese cooking.
This Japanese seasoning is made with various complex ingredients, with an exciting flavor mix ranging from sweet and bitter to umami!
It has a thin and watery consistency with a light brown color that’s almost golden and very transparent. Think of it as watered-down soy sauce but bursting with flavor.
Fun fact: The word "ponzu" comes from the Dutch words "pons," meaning punch, and "Zu," which was vinegar. This loosely translates to fruit vinegar!
Traditionally, you use it as dressing for tataki, which is a way to prepare meat and fish dishes in Japanese recipes. Today, it’s a very versatile sauce you can use as a dip, marinade, or basting sauce.
Without commercial ponzu sauce, what can you use for your Japanese dishes? Try any of these alternatives:
Top 11 Good Substitutes For Ponzu Sauce You Might Now Know!
1. Soy Sauce
You can easily find soy sauce in any supermarket, making it an effective substitute for ponzu sauce. Plus, it has the umami flavor profile you can get from ponzu sauce.
You can use it as a marinade or dipping sauce, but we also recommend adding more ingredients to nail the genuine ponzu sauce flavor you’re looking for.
Here’s a recipe you can follow:
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- Two tablespoons of fresh orange juice
- One tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar
- One tablespoon of water
Mix these, then leave them overnight. It’s perfect with grilled fish dishes and other exotic ingredients.
2. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is very acidic and has low pH levels, so those fruity tones and flavors will do well if you have no ponzu sauce.
You can use equal amounts of lemon juice to replace ponzu sauce. Avoid adding any more as the acidity from lemon juice can overpower your recipe from the high acidity levels.
3. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is made of aged rice from East Asia, which works amazingly in soups and rice dishes. It doesn’t have high acidity levels but a
4. Orange Juice / Yuzu Kosho
Besides lemon juice, you can also try orange juice, which offers a citrusy aroma and fruity flavor ideal for baked goods and fruit-based recipes.
When using orange juice in baked goods, one teaspoon of orange juice equals 2-3 drops of ponzu sauce. That way, you get the citrusy smell and flavor you look for from ponzu sauce.
Alternatively, you can try yuzu kosho if you have it in your supermarket.
Yuzu kosho is a famous Japanese citrus fruit with a unique aroma. When using the juice, you’ll get a fruitier and more intense flavor that works amazingly in steak, noodle dishes, and sashimi.
5. Worcestershire Sauce
Plus, like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce is easy to find and a staple in kitchens from various countries. However, Worcestershire sauce contains spices that may step away from the flavor you find in ponzu sauce.
Nonetheless, they have the same primary elements, and it’s great to use worcestershire sauce when marinating meat in Japanese dishes.
Seaweed is a rich ingredient that veggie lovers will appreciate when using it to substitute for ponzu sauce.
You won’t notice seaweed as you use it in vegetable dishes, and you can find it in varied flavors for more taste.
You can use it in cooked vegetables or raw salads as it delivers a tasty and pungent flavor to any dish. For every teaspoon of ponzu sauce required, use 1-2 pieces of seaweed.
Sake is a Japanese drink made from mature rice, with a process similar to a lager.
You get a nutty and fruity aroma not as pronounced as wine but a good substitute for ponzu sauce in meat dishes. Make sure you stew sake with the food to further upgrade the dish’s taste.
Mentsuyu is another Japanese flavoring made of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, dashi, salt, and other ingredients. (*) Since it has dashi stock and different flavors, such as the sweetness from sugar, you’ll get a richer and more complex flavor.
You’ll get a mix of sweet and spicy flavors from mentsuyu, so we recommend adding a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. But if you think it has a more solid flavor, you can add water to dilute it.
9. Nam Prik Pla
Nam prik pla is a Thai condiment made from lime juice, fish sauce, and chilies. However, note that the hot chilies aren’t part of Japanese cuisine, so we recommend removing them. The other ingredients will do well with your dish, though don’t expect authentic ponzu sauce flavors.
With this substitute for ponzu sauce, you’ll get the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and salty, which complements many dishes. It works best when making Thai food, but you can use it in other cuisines.
Shoyu is not to be mistaken for soy sauce!
This is a common compound you can find in ponzu sauce, helping with its stability and lifespan. Furthermore, it’s a vital component in ponzu sauce’s flavor profile, making it a suitable substitute for ponzu sauce.
We recommend using it as a marinade and adding lemon juice or vinegar for more acidity. For every teaspoon of Ponzu sauce, use 1 1/2 teaspoons of shoyu.
11. Make Homemade Ponzu Sauce
Yes, you can make your own ponzu sauce!
There are so many ponzu sauce recipes you can follow based on what you’re making and the ingredients you have at home.
Here is one of the ponzu sauce recipes to try.
- Three tablespoons mirin
- Two tablespoons rice vinegar
- One tablespoon soy sauce
- Two tablespoons bonito flakes
- 1/4 cup of yuzu juice (lime or lemon juice also works well for. the citrus flavor)
- Mix the first four ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. After you have mixed it well, remove your pan from heat, allowing it to cool.
- Strain and pour the sauce into a bowl; removing the bonito flakes, add the citrus juice.
- Pour the mixture into a glass jar, then place it in the fridge for three days.
- Serve or use it in recipes when needed!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have any questions left regarding this Japanese sauce? We’ve got you covered with our frequently asked questions below:
Wrapping It Up
Authentic ponzu sauce may be challenging to find in your area, but that doesn’t mean you can’t nail the recipe with a substitute. Hopefully, our list gave you a suitable alternative for your favorite Asian entrée!