Updated: October 31, 2019
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What is Japanese Ponzu Sauce? (+ Recipe to Make Your Own at Home!)

Ponzu is a Japanese sauce that is tart, umami-filled, and slightly salty. You might be wondering: What is ponzu made of? Is there a substitute? Can I make my own? Read on to learn more about ponzu and have all your questions answered! (A recipe is included at the bottom of the article)

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What is Ponzu Sauce Made Of?

Ponzu (ポン酢 in Japanese) is a vinegar-like sauce that is tart, slightly salty, and umami-filled. There are a variety of ingredients used, but the most essential is some sort of citrus juice and soy sauce. Ponzu sold at the grocery store will often be made from kabosu or yuzu juice (two different Japanese citrus fruits).
A basket of kabosu

What does ponzu taste like?

Ponzu tastes much like you might imagine it would: citrus juice + soy sauce. The 'zu' in 'ponzu' (酢) actually means 'vinegar' in Japanese, and ponzu does have a vinegar-like quality to it. It is perfect for adding a lovely splash of acidity to a dish and can even stand on its own as a condiment.
Ponzu used as a dipping sauce for shabu shabu

Ponzu Q&A

Is Ponzu Sauce Healthy?

Like any condiment, ponzu should be used moderately. The ingredients are natural and good for you in small amounts. Keep in mind that soy sauce (one of the main ingredients) is high in sodium.

Can You Buy Ponzu Sauce?

It depends on where in the world you live, but any Japanese grocery store will definitely stock ponzu. Some standard grocery stores that stock Asian ingredients will also sometimes carry ponzu, but it isn't typical. Luckily, ponzu is easy to make (see the recipe below) if you can't find it in the store.

What is a Substitute for Ponzu Sauce?

If you're in a pinch and need a quick substitute, roughly even parts of soy sauce and lemon juice can substitute for ponzu. If you've got a little bit of time, though, see the recipe below.

Can I Substitute Ponzu for Soy Sauce?

Not advisable. Although soy sauce is a constituent ingredient in ponzu, the citrus juice changes the flavor dramatically, making the two quite different.

Do You Have to Refrigerate Ponzu Sauce?

Yes. Once the bottle of ponzu has been opened, the sauce is susceptible to oxidation or spoilage if bacteria in the air enters the bottle. Unless you will be using the entire bottle within a week or two, it's a good idea to keep it in the fridge.

What is Oroshi Ponzu?

The 'oroshi' in 'oroshi ponzu' refers to daikon oroshi (grated daikon radish) which is a popular condiment in Japanese cuisine. Oroshi ponzu is simply ponzu mixed with daikon oroshi. In Japan, you can buy bottles of pre-mixed oroshi ponzu, but it's also easy to make yourself.

Make Your Own Ponzu At Home!

You'll need:

-A jar with a lid
-Dried konbu (if not in Japan, purchase from an Asian market or online)
-Mirin or cooking sake
-Soy sauce


1. Make sure your jar is sterilized.
2. Measure the mirin or cooking sake by filling the jar up about 1/10th of the way.
3. Pour the mirin or cooking sake into a small pot and heat on the stove. Cut the heat once it boils.
4. Pour the mirin or cooking sake back into the jar and add one large piece of konbu.
5. Start juicing your lemons and add the juice to the jar until it is half-full of liquid.
6. Fill the rest of the jar with soy sauce. (Tip: use fancier, high-grade soy sauce if possible for a better taste.)
7. You're finished! Let the jar sit in the fridge for a few days before using so that the umami from the konbu can soak into the ponzu.
The finished product.
I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.

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