Japanese Ponzu Sauce (ポン酢醤油)
Ponzu Sauce, or Ponzu Shoyu, is a blend of tangy citrus juices with soy sauce used as a seasoning in Japanese cuisine. Refreshingly tart and loaded with savory umami, this homemade Ponzu sauce recipe has just a hint of balancing sweetness, making it a versatile condiment.
Serve it alongside creamy Gomadare as a contrasting dipping sauce for Shabu Shabu; drizzle some on sashimi or sushi, or whisk it together with olive oil to make for a delightfully aromatic salad dressing.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- If you have access to yuzu juice, you can make Ponzu Sauce by mixing a 1:1 ratio of yuzu juice and soy sauce. Adding a little sugar balances out the tartness of the yuzu.
- If you don't have yuzu juice, you can get a similar flavor from mandarin zest and juice mixed with some lemon and grapefruit juice, which provide tartness and bitterness.
- Adding konbu (kelp) or konbu cha (kelp tea) will boost the level of umami in your ponzu.
Ingredients for Ponzu Sauce
- Citrus juice - Ponzu can be made with almost any tart citrus fruit, but the most popular flavor is Yuzu Ponzu due to its fragrant aroma. Freshly squeezed yuzu juice and zest work best, but bottled juice will also work as long as it doesn't have any added salt. If you can't find yuzu, you can make an approximation by blending mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit juice. I generally don't use lime juice as it has a very different flavor from any citrus available in Japan.
- Soy sauce - I like using a premium Japanese soy sauce, but any Japanese dark soy sauce will work. Using dashi shoyu will take the umami of this to the next level. If you want to make this gluten-free, tamari will work as well.
- Konbu - To add umami to Ponzu Sauce, it's usually infused with konbu, a type of dried seaweed. It's a rich source of amino acids such as glutamate, giving the citrus sauce plenty of umami. Other alternatives are konbu cha (konbu tea) or konbu dashi (konbu broth) granules which have added the benefit of eliminating the infusion time. Some people also like infusing their ponzu sauce with katsuobushi (a.k.a. bonito flakes), but I generally leave it out to make the sauce more versatile.
- Sugar - Yuzu juice is very tart, so Ponzu usually includes a small amount of sugar to mellow the tartness out. If you're using my mandarin/lemon/grapefruit substitute, you don't need to add sugar as the juice is already sweet. Some people add mirin as a source of sweetness, but I generally don't use it because it is difficult to find real mirin outside of Japan (most "mirin" is just corn syrup and alcohol).
How to Make Ponzu Sauce
If you have yuzu juice, you can simply mix 4 parts of yuzu juice with 4 parts of soy sauce and 1 part of sugar. I like to boost the umami in my ponzu by infusing it with a piece of konbu overnight.
If you don't have yuzu, you can make a close approximation by mixing 2 parts mandarin juice with 1 part lemon juice and 1 part grapefruit juice.
Ponzu Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator in a glass jar for up to a month.
How to Use Ponzu Sauce
- Dumplings - Use it as a light and refreshing dipping sauce for dumplings such as gyoza, shumai, or wontons.
- Hotpot - Ponzu Shoyu is one of the two dipping sauces traditionally served with Shabu Shabu.
- Meat - I don't recommend using Ponzu Sauce as a marinade because the acid will "cook" the meat, but it is a delicious way to finish a meat dish such as a steak or grilled chicken.
- Noodles - In summer, Ponzu Sauce is often used as a dipping sauce for cold noodles such as Somen, Soba, or Udon.
- Salad Dressing - whisk this citrus soy sauce with olive oil or sesame oil to make a light salad dressing.
- Seafood - Ponzu Sauce is often used as a dipping sauce for sashimi, tataki, or sushi, particularly for lean white-meat fish such as flounder or sea bream. It's also delicious, drizzled on steamed or grilled fish.
- Tofu - Ponzu is a delicious way to season all sorts of tofu from deep fried Atsuage to chilled silken hiyayakko.
- Vegetables - boiled vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach taste great with some Ponzu Sauce drizzled on top.
- Tempura - This is my favorite dipping sauce for Toriten, or Tempura Chicken. It's traditionally served in Oita Prefecture with Toriten; the bright, citrusy notes cut the richness of the tempura, and the soy sauce delivers tons of umami. It would be delicious on other types of tempura as well.
Other Japanese Condiment Recipes
Ponzu is a loan word from the Dutch "pons," which was a sour alcoholic beverage made with citrus juice, sugar, and spirits. After arriving in Japan, it was made with various Japanese citrus fruits, including daidai, kabosu, sudachi, and yuzu, and often had rice vinegar added to help preserve the juice.
In modern times, food brands such as Mizkan and Kikkoman have been bottling and selling a mixture of soy sauce with Ponzu known as Ponzu Shoyu (ポン酢醤油) or "Ponzu Soy Sauce." It makes for a versatile condiment that can be used to season various foods, from hot pots to salads.
Ponzu Sauce is a 2-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
pon like pony
zu like zoo
As long as the sugar you use is plant-based, both recipes make vegan and vegetarian-friendly Ponzu Sauce. However, if you are buying Ponzu in a bottle, check the ingredient label, as some brands include katsuobushi, which is made from fish.
- 1 mandarin (zest)
- 8 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons mandarin juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
- 4 grams konbu
- Zest one mandarin into a bowl using a Microplane.
- Squeeze and strain the mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit juice to remove any seeds or pulp and measure them into the bowl with the mandarin zest.
- Stir in the soy sauce and konbu and let this infuse in the refrigerator overnight. Then, remove the konbu and store the ponzu sauce in a glass bottle or jar in the fridge.