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Ponzu sauce is a staple of Japanese cuisine that only takes a few minutes to make at home.

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What Is Ponzu Sauce?

Ponzu sauce is a Japanese dipping sauce made from soy sauce or tamari, citrus juice, mirin, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), kombu (kelp), and rice vinegar. It's commonly served as a condiment for sashimi, shabu shabu (hot pot), tataki (grilled meat), gyoza (dumplings), cold noodles, and tempura. Ponzu also shines as a marinade or salad dressing. Katsuobushi and kombu give ponzu sauce the same umami flavor as dashi, while citrus juice and vinegar add sourness and the soy sauce contributes saltiness.

The word “ponzu” translates to “juice squeezed from sour oranges” in Japanese. The word comes from the Dutch word pons, meaning “punch,” which later became ponsu, a “drink of mixed ingredients.” Eventually the suffix su was replaced by zu, meaning “vinegar.” Widely available in both Asian and Western grocery stores, ponzu sauce is simple to make at home.

3 Types of Citrus Juice for Ponzu Sauce

Traditionally, ponzu sauce is made with juice from one or more of these Japanese citrus fruits:

  1. Yuzu: A fragrant, yellowish citrus resembling a large mandarin.
  2. Kabuso: A green citrus with an orange interior, large seeds, and a sour taste.
  3. Sudachi: A green citrus from Japan that looks like a round lime.

Many commercial blends of ponzu sauce use lime juice or lemon juice instead. At home, feel free to experiment with different citrus fruits, such as orange and grapefruit.

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Simple Ponzu Sauce Recipe

Makes
1 cup
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
8 hr 10 min

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 strip kombu (kelp)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ cup katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
  • ½ cup soy sauce (or tamari if gluten-free)
  • ½ cup mixed citrus juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a clean jar or other airtight container.
  2. Let the ingredients steep in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain and discard solids.