Enjoy a taste of Japan from your very own kitchen! Here are our best Japanese sauces that will help you get started with cooking Japanese dishes. 🍶
Japanese cuisine has always been one of the most sought-after local delicacies.
What makes their dishes popular is the unique preparation and emphasis on seafood, certain meats, noodles, veggies, soups, and tea.
Not only that, but we also tend to be fascinated with certain raw dishes, such as sushi and sashimi.
We also know some Japanese dishes that have been our comfort meals on rainy days, hot afternoons, and chill nights.
However, aside from their savory dishes, Japanese cuisine also takes pride in its sauces for dips, glaze, and marinade.
These sauces are perfect accompaniments to fried snacks, grilled meats, roasted delicacies, and soft noodles.
For instance, you could add some flavors to your gyoza using its signature Gyōza Sauce, or pair some soba and somen noodles with Mentsuyu and Tsuyu sauces, respectively.
You could also make sauces associated with popular Japanese meals, including Teriyaki, Warashita, and Yakisoba sauces.
For your next potluck and dinner idea, why not try some of Japan’s famed sauces to spice up your main and side dishes?
Here are 21 classic Japanese sauces that you need to know.
1. Copycat Kewpie Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is not always loved as a condiment.
The pungent smell and taste of mayonnaise can be off-putting for some.
However, Japan’s Kewpie mayonnaise is often favored for its thick and creamy texture and even richer taste that most mayonnaise products do not have.
Given the demand for Kewpie, copycat recipes of this famed mayonnaise also exist, replicating the textures and flavors the brand is known for.
Goma-Dare is a kind of Japanese sesame sauce most associated with shabu-shabu.
For those who don’t know, shabu-shabu is a hotpot dish where slices of meat are dropped in boiling dashi broth before dipping the meat in the sauce.
In this case, Goma-Dare is used as a dipping sauce for these shabu-shabu meats.
Bring more savory flavors to your shabu-shabu potlucks with this famed Japanese sauce with sesame.
3. Gyōza Sauce
We all have a soft spot for dumplings, such as these Japanese potstickers known as gyōza.
However, eating these little dumplings will not be complete without its signature dipping Japanese sauces.
You can create your preferred gyōza sauce that is sweet, tangy, or spicy with chili flakes.
We often eat our noodles hot with soup or stir-fried, but Japanese cuisine also has some famed cold noodle dishes.
Soba is one of those noodles which can be eaten cold.
However, you don’t need to consume them raw, as it is often paired with mentsuyu.
This sauce calls for a mixture of Japanese rice wine known as mirin, soy sauce, water, and bonito flakes.
Mentsuyu serves as noodle dipping Japanese sauces, so dip your soba noodles in this mixture to bring added taste to your meal.
5. Miso Sauce
Miso is a famed condiment staple in Japanese cuisine made from fermented soybeans.
It is often used for soups, including the traditional miso soup, as well as in ramen, udon, and other noodle soups.
However, miso is also used as a sauce and glaze in several Japanese treats, as well as dressing in some salads.
Miso sauce has a sharp and tangy flavor, bringing some spice to your taste buds while eating your favorite Japanese sauces and meals.
Like the goma-dare, this Ponzu Sauce is a famous dipping sauce in shabu-shabu gatherings, but it is also a versatile sauce in Japanese cuisine.
What this sauce brings to the table is its added tanginess brought by lemon and lime juice.
Aside from being a Japanese sauce for dipping, ponzu can be used as a marinade and salad dressing.
Rāyu (or lāyu, as it is linguistically pronounced in Japanese) is Japan’s version of the classic chili oil.
It has a similar appearance to the standard chili oil, except it is much redder in its appearance and is indeed very spicy.
One popular variation of the rāyu is the taberu rāyu, which is chili oil with fried chili and garlic flakes.
Kōji refers to the fungal mold used as a fermentation treatment on rice and barley.
It is often used to create some of Japan’s famed liquors and beverages, including sake and shōchū. 🍶
However, did you know that this salted rice kōji mold can also be used as a marinade and a substitute for salt and soy sauce?
Given the fermentation process, this recipe can be a bit meticulous and takes one to two weeks to achieve its texture and desired taste.
However, once you have this in your pantry, you could bring some unique oriental flavors to your meals and Japanese sauces.
Tare is often served in various dumplings, fried and grilled meats, and other delicious meals.
Using soy sauce and mirin as its base, tare owes its sweet taste to brown sugar alongside other spices and condiments.
You can also add some small meat and seafood slices to add more variety to the flavors of this Japanese sauce.
10. Yum Yum Sauce
Teppanyaki is a popular way to eat Japanese cuisine.
It mainly involves grilling meats, seafood, and vegetables on a hot griddle.
However, teppanyaki gatherings will not be complete without Yum Yum Sauce.
Initially, Japanese steakhouses only offered soy sauce as dips, but others would create sauces such as this to bring more flavor to the cooked meats and veggies.
NEW: Check out list of Sushi Sauces here!
Tempura will not be complete without its signature Tentsuyu Sauce.
These battered and deep-fried meats, seafood, and veggies deserve this equally tasty Japanese sauces.
In this case, tentsuyu only requires dashi or soup stock, soy sauce, and mirin, but you could also add sweetness to the dip with sugar.
12. Tonkatsu Sauce
Tonkatsu sauce is a thick brown sauce primarily associated with Japanese deep-fried breaded pork cuts known as tonkatsu.
Akin to the Japanese Worcestershire sauce, you can create homemade versions of this classic Tonkatsu Sauce by mixing Worcestershire sauce with tomato ketchup, soy sauce, and brown sugar.
While there are alternative sauces for tonkatsu, nothing can beat these classic Japanese sauces.
13. Teriyaki Sauce
We all love some chicken teriyaki!
Indeed, chicken teriyaki is one of the most sought-after dishes in Asian and Japanese deli restaurants and food stalls.
Teriyaki Sauce is made initially with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.
However, you could get away with your own teriyaki-style sauce using ordinary rice vinegar, budget soy sauce, and regular brown sugar.
For added citrusy taste, you could add some orange juice too!
14. Tsuyu Sauce
People often connect tsuyu to mentsuyu or sometimes use both terms to refer to cold noodle sauces.
Indeed, you can also use tsuyu sauce in cold soba or sōmen noodle dishes.
However, it could also be used as dipping sauce and marinade for many dishes.
15. Umami Sauce
This flavor basically describes the savoriness of meals.
Because of the kind of taste that it brings to the table, preparing umami sauces involves combining a wide array of condiments and spices with varying tastes.
Nonetheless, this Japanese sauce adds more enticing tastes unique to your senses.
Unagi is the local term for Japanese eels, known as nihon unagi.
Does this mean that this eel sauce contains traces of eel meat?
No, not at all.
Unagi sauce only contains essential ingredients often used to make Japanese sauces: sake or mirin, sugar, and soy sauce.
However, this sauce is often used in certain dishes with eel meat, such as unakyu or eel sushi.
Read more on eel sauce substitutes if you’re fresh out.
Sukiyaki is similar to shabu-shabu because both are famed Japanese hot pot dishes.
Although, some argue that sukiyaki is not a hot pot dish.
Unlike shabu-shabu, which uses broth, sukiyaki involves cooking raw meats and veggies in warashita, a mixture of mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.
This Sukiyaki Japanese Sauce brings a much sweeter and richer flavor to the meats, making you want more.
18. Wasabi Sauce
When it comes to chili pastes, wasabi is one of the more notoriously spicy ones.
Despite this, wasabi is still favored by those who like some levels of hotness and spiciness in their meals.
Case in point, this Wasabi Sauce emulates the classic horseradish paste but uses wasabi as its base.
While a notch higher in terms of spiciness and pungent odor than horseradish paste, wasabi sauce still deserves a spot at your potlucks too!
Japanese barbeque, locally known as yakiniku, is a unique grilled dish that does not rely on marinade but on dipping into Japanese sauces for flavor.
Yakiniku no Tare is often paired with barbeque skewers.
Containing sake, soy sauce, sugar, honey, and sesame oil, along with other ingredients and spices, this sweet sauce will bring more tasty flavor to every bite of your barbeque.
20. Yakisoba Sauce
We are familiar with ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat yakisoba packets, but what exactly is yakisoba?
Yakisoba is a Japanese stir-fried noodle dish with soba noodles flavored with a kind of Worcestershire sauce.
Indeed, this Yakisoba Sauce provides a particular umami taste that boosts the flavors of soba noodles.
21. Yakitori Sauce
Japanese grilled chicken skewers, locally known as yakitori, will not be complete without its signature yakitori sauce.
Yakitori Sauce is often compared to teriyaki sauce, with the latter being more versatile than the former, which is mostly used in chicken barbeque skewers.
You can experiment and bring more umami or spicy flavors to this classic recipe using other ingredients such as sesame oil and chili powder.
The bottom line
Japanese sauces, whether for dipping, glaze, and marinade, are distinct for emphasizing sweet and savory flavors.
These sauces make them pair well with a wide array of noodle, chicken, and dumpling dishes that you could think of.
Whether you’re preparing stir-fried noodles, hearty hot pots, or sizzling chicken meals, never forget to add some Japanese sauces to the table.
Especially if you’re aiming for a unique flavor that could put some smiles and amazement on the faces of your loved ones, it’s best to serve them with delicious meals and tasty sauces that are flavorful and also memorable to the senses!
Classic Japanese Sauces
Enjoy a taste of Japan from your very own kitchen! Here are our best Japanese sauces that will help you get started with cooking Japanese dishes.
- Copycat Kewpie Mayonnaise
- Goma-Dare (Sesame Sauce)
- Gyōza Sauce
- Mentsuyu (Cold Soba Noodle Sauce)
- Miso Sauce
- Ponzu Sauce (Japanese Citrus Sauce)
- Rāyu (Japanese Chili Oil)
- Shio Kōji Marinade
- Tare (Soy Basting Sauce)
- Yum Yum Sauce
- Tentsuyu (Tempura Dipping Sauce)
- Tonkatsu Sauce
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Tsuyu Sauce
- Umami Sauce
- Unagi Sauce (Japanese Eel Sauce)
- Warashita (Sukiyaki Sauce)
- Wasabi Sauce
- Yakiniku No Tare (Japanese BBQ Sauce)
- Yakisoba Sauce
- Yakitori Sauce
- Skim through our Japanese Sauces list.
- Select the sauce you’re looking for.
- Prep the ingredients as instructed.
- Spill your thoughts on our Facebook page!