Ponzu is a Japanese Sauce That You Need to Try

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What's it about

Ponzu is a citrus soy based sauce typically made with yuzu or sudachi lime. It is common in sushi bars for applications when soy sauce may be overpowering. But, there are numerous applications as a sauce especially for a low calorie, low fat diet. In this recipe we add some complex elements katsuo-bushi (shaved dried bonito) and mirin for a touch of sweetness. We combined yuzu juice with common citrus fruits, fresh lemon, lime and orange juice for a perfect balance of flavor.

Homemade Ponzu Sauce

front view of ponzu sauce in a glass bowl on a wooden board

What is Ponzu Sauce?

Ponzu sauce is simply a combination of soy sauce and citrus. Other flavor elements and ingredients can be added depending on your palate. There isn’t one universal recipe as this may be specific to a particular chef, restaurant, home cook, city or region. This recipe was contributed by one of our chefs. He spent a long career in sushi bars training with chefs from Osaka, Japan. His version was a result of years perfecting the exact flavor that would work well in any application.

Why make Ponzu Sauce?

Manufactured ponzu is easy to buy in Asian markets, some mainstream stores and through most online food suppliers. I would prefer to make it because I can control the flavor and the ingredients. Also, when you find ponzu in a Japanese market you will notice a variety of brands, sizes, pricing structures and sometimes preservatives. They are most definitely not all the same. I find that in a lot of these store bought versions, the soy sauce is way too strong. I think that a balance of acid, sweet and umami from dried bonito are what make ponzu special.

Ponzu with sushi

This recipe was chosen because it is the best ponzu I have ever tasted. Most of my experience with ponzu was from dining in sushi bars. It is a common dipping sauce for white fish. What is white fish? In sushi bar terms, this could be fluke, flounder, halibut and potentially fish that belong to the snapper family.

A traditional Japanese sashimi dish is Hirame Usuzukuri. It involves paper thin slices of fresh fluke or flounder served with momiji oroshi (spicy grated daikon), green onions, shiso and of course ponzu as a dipping sauce. It was explained to me that you would overpower the subtle flavors of certain types of fish with using just soy sauce and wasabi. In some sushi applications, a chef will apply sea salt and citrus to raw fish because the taste of that particular fish is very delicate. But, we are progressing into a story for another time.


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front view of bottle of pure yuzu juice with no additives
Pure Yuzu Juice with Zero Additives

Why use Ponzu Sauce?

Throughout the years I have dieted for health reasons. I have had friends share their diets for losing weight and for health problems like celiac disease. Ponzu is a great sauce to have on hand for low calorie and low fat applications. One of my colleagues was a diet to lose weight and gain muscle. He lived on salads for a month with ponzu vinaigrette. You can adjust the ratio however you want, but I use 3 parts ponzu to 1 part extra virgin olive oil.

Uses with Ponzu Sauce

Two of my favorite side dishes are hiyayakko and agedashi tofu. Hiyayakko is simply cubes of cold tofu with grated ginger, itogaki (fine shavings of dried bonito) and a mound of green onions. I serve mine with ponzu sauce instead of soy. Agedashi is tofu coated in corn starch and deep fried till crispy. Sometimes it is served with a tempura style sauce, but again I prefer to serve it with ponzu.

I will be creating some recipes that ponzu sauce can be used with. For now, think about using it as a simple sauce that can add flavor to your chicken breast, salmon, steak or sashimi bowl. It also tastes amazing with fresh and grilled vegetables. Check out a healthy recipe post that we did for pan roasted salmon and brown rice with a ponzu pan sauce. It is a different version of this sauce, but came out very tasty.

top view of misc en place for making ponzu sauce

Preparing Ponzu Sauce

If you are vegetarian. Super Easy. Just remove the katsuobushi from the recipe. At our house we always have gluten-free soy sauce. So this is what I typically use. You could also use regular or low sodium soy sauce.

STEP 1

Heat mirin in a medium sauce pan over high heat till it comes to a full boil. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from heat and add hana katsuo.

*Tasting Notes: Mirin is a sweet rice wine used for cooking that is essential to Japanese cuisine.

front view of a hand pouring katsuobushi shavings into a pot of mirin

Let steep for at least 10 minutes.

STEP 2

Strain out katsuo and squeeze any excess liquid back into the pan.

STEP 3

Discard solids then combine with rice wine vinegar, yuzu juice, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and soy sauce. Strain out any of the citrus solids before storing. Refrigerate till ready to use.

Yield: 1 QUART

Ponzu Sauce

top view of ponzu sauce in a glass bowl on a wooden board

Ponzu is a citrus soy based sauce typically made with yuzu or sudachi lime. It is common in sushi bars for applications where soy sauce may be overpowering. But, there are numerous applications as a sauce especially for a low calorie, low fat diet. In this recipe we add some complex elements katsuo-bushi (shaved dried bonito) and mirin for a touch of sweetness. We combined yuzu juice with common citrus fruits, fresh lemon, lime and orange juice for a perfect balance of flavor.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 cup hana katsuo (dried shaved bonito)
  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 fluid ounce yuzu juice
  • 1 fluid ounce fresh orange juice
  • 1 fluid ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 fluid ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup gluten-free soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Heat mirin in a medium sauce pan over high heat till it comes to a full boil. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from heat and add hana katsuo. Let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain out katsuo and squeeze any excess liquid back into the pan.
  3. Discard solids then combine with rice wine vinegar, yuzu, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and soy sauce. Strain out all of the citrus solids before storing.
  4. Refrigerate till ready to use.

Did you make this recipe?

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