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Ponzu Sauce Substitute (10 Best Choices)

You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for a ponzu sauce substitute. Ponzu has found its way into more than just Japanese kitchens. Nowadays, home cooks and professional chefs alike use ponzu sauce in many delicious recipes.

Even though ponzu sauce is a classic, this flavor-packed sauce might be difficult to re-create or even find at the store. Some offered substitutes can give you the additional kick and flavor that ponzu provides. 

In this post, you will discover the best items that you can use in place of ponzu sauce.

bottle with ponzu sauce on the shelf at the grocery store.

What is Ponzu Sauce?

Ponzu is a versatile sauce and a popular condiment in Japanese cuisine. It’s a traditional citrus-based sauce that people may use in various cuisines due to its adaptability and refreshing flavor. Ponzu sauce is also a fantastic marinade and salad dressing.

While most sauces have a specific taste, ponzu sauce’s flavor profile is a bit hard to pinpoint because it perfectly captures the ideal blend of umami flavors and tang. It is primarily salty and sour, but it can also be bitter and sweet, depending on the kind. 

It is found in the condiment aisle of most grocery stores.

What It’s Made Of

Ponzu sauce is made from many different ingredients that perfectly come together to give it its unique taste. 

The base ingredient of the authentic ponzu sauce is the juice of any of the following Japanese citrus fruits: yuzu, kabuso, or sudachi. Lime juice or lemon juice can also be good alternatives.

In addition to the citrus juice, ponzu sauce contains mirin, soy sauce, kombu or kelp, katsuobushi or bonito flakes, and rice vinegar. However, ponzu sauce has many different varieties, each possessing an additional ingredient compared to others. 

Types of Ponzu

Contrary to what many people believe, there is more than one type of this Japanese sauce. The kind of ponzu sauce depends on the ingredients used in making the sauce. 

Here are the 5 types of ponzu sauces:

1. Traditional Ponzu Sauce

The traditional and genuine ponzu sauce has vinegar and citrus juice only. It does not have many other ingredients that the commercial ponzu sauce now has. Because of the lack of ingredients, the color of the original ponzu sauce is a light yellow. 

This original ponzu sauce is best for hot pot and deep-fried dishes. Some also add a touch of soy sauce to enhance its flavor. 

2. Ponzu Soy Sauce

Ponzu soy sauce is the most common type of ponzu sauce, which is made of citrus juice, vinegar, and soy sauce. It also has salt, sugar, and other seasonings that balance the flavor, helping the ponzu sauce come together nicely. 

This type of ponzu sauce is more versatile than the original ponzu sauce. It’s best for almost any dish, from gyoza to sashimi, to grilled meat. 

3. Kombu Ponzu Sauce

Kombu Ponzu Sauce is made from the usual ponzu sauce ingredients but with kombu dashi or dashi stock. This type of ponzu sauce has a milder sour taste than the original ponzu sauce because of the added kombu dashi. 

This type of ponzu sauce is best for grilled fish and salads. It’s also an excellent sauce for stir-fried dishes. 

4. Yuzu Ponzu Sauce

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit, but its flavor and scent differ from common citrus fruits like lemons and oranges. This fruit juice is added to the main ingredients of ponzu sauce to achieve the yuzu ponzu sauce.

Depending on the taste you want to achieve, the yuzu ponzu sauce’s other ingredients will differ. There may be more or less than the common ingredients in the ponzu sauce.

The strong yuzu ponzu sauce is best as a dipping sauce for shabu-shabu.

5. Sesame Ponzu Sauce

Sesame Ponzu Sauce is the traditional ponzu sauce or yuzu ponzu with added sesame paste and ground sesame. The depth of sesame flavor adds to the umami flavor, making it best for many kinds of dishes.

How Ponzu Used In Cooking

The components of ponzu are generally Japanese, so it’s primarily used in Japanese dishes. However, that’s not the sole purpose of the ponzu sauce. Ponzu sauce is incredibly versatile. 

In cooking, ponzu sauce has three primary uses. It is a dipping sauce, a marinade, and a salad dressing. 

The ponzu sauce is primarily a dipping sauce for mainly Japanese dishes such as shabu-shabu, gyoza, sashimi, and other dim sums. However, it’s not limited to only these Japanese recipes. It can also work great with spring rolls, hamburger steaks, steamed meat, and grilled fish dishes, which are not distinctly Japanese dishes.

This citrusy sauce also goes well with dumplings, cold noodles, and cold sliced meat. 

Best Ponzu Sauce Substitute

Ponzu sauce is a tangy, umami-rich sauce that may be difficult to duplicate, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any substitutes for it. Ponzu substitutes may not give you the exact umami flavor that the original has, but you will still be able to add significant flavor to your dish.

When it comes to a ponzu sauce substitute, you’re looking for an umami flavor, citrus, salty, or even sour taste. 

Here are the best ponzu sauce substitutes:

1. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is one of the most obvious and straightforward substitutes for ponzu sauce. The best thing about it is that almost every household has it readily available. There’s no need to go through so much hassle to obtain it.

Soy sauce is a good ponzu sauce substitute because it has the slightly spicy and umami flavor known for ponzu sauce. It’s also the main ingredient of some types of ponzu sauce, so you’re not straying too far away from the original sauce.

You can substitute soy sauce in an equal quantity with ponzu sauce.

2. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice has the citrus flavor that the ponzu sauce also has. It has a fruity tone, the base of the usual ponzu sauce. However, unlike the original ponzu sauce, lemon juice has potent components, so you shouldn’t use it too much.

You can substitute lemon juice in an equal quantity with ponzu sauce. It is best to put the lemon juice in by tablespoon and not squeeze the fruit directly into your dish to avoid using too much.

3. Orange Juice

Because the sauce base is generally citrusy, citrus fruit juices are good substitutes for ponzu sauce. Orange juice is an excellent substitute to showcase the ponzu sauce’s citrus flavor. Orange juice (and orange zest) is best used as a ponzu sauce substitute for baked dishes. 

You can substitute three drops of ponzu with a teaspoon of orange juice. Remember that orange juice is sweet, so if you do not like to add a little sweetness to your dish, use another ponzu sauce substitute. 

4. Grapefruit Juice

Like orange juice, grapefruit juice is a good substitute for ponzu sauce because it’s a citrus juice. It is worth noting that grapefruit juice is more tangy and bitter than orange juice. So, grapefruit juice is best if you want to add more tanginess to your dish.

Use a teaspoon of grapefruit juice for every three drops of ponzu sauce. Grapefruit juice also works great with other ingredients to create a more defined ponzu sauce substitute flavor. 

5. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce tastes the closest to ponzu sauce, making it one of the best ponzu sauce substitutes. It has vinegar as one of its main components, but it does not have an off-putting taste, making it an excellent substitute for ponzu sauce, which has almost the same foundational ingredients. 

When using Worcestershire sauce as a substitute, follow a 1:1 ratio. 

6. Fish Sauce

Because fish sauce has a unique and salty taste, it’s a good substitute for ponzu sauce. Ponzu sauce is usually salty but with a hint of tang. Fish sauce achieves that saltiness that you may only find in ponzu sauce. 

If you’re using fish sauce as a substitute, use less than you would with ponzu sauce. A 1:2 ratio will work.

7. Rice Vinegar

If the tangy flavor of the ponzu sauce is what you’re after, rice vinegar might be the best ponzu sauce substitute for you. The rice vinegar perfectly imitates the acidic taste of ponzu sauce. Rice vinegar will work nicely as a ponzu substitute if you plan to have soups and rice dishes.

Adding a small amount of lemon juice to rice vinegar will also help heighten the fruity flavor of the sauce, making it have an even more similar flavor to that of the ponzu sauce.

To substitute ponzu sauce with rice vinegar, follow a 1:1 ratio.

8. Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce has a flavor profile similar to a ponzu sauce, making this a great substitute. This will work great as a substitute for many dishes, but it may not be your best bet for every kind of dish, especially if you do not want the sweet taste.

In using this as a substitute for ponzu sauce, follow a 1:1 ratio.

9. Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce has similar base ingredients to ponzu sauce. It has a sweet and savory flavor. It’s unlike the taste of ponzu sauce, but it works as an excellent sauce for the dishes that ponzu sauce works well with.

You can mix the hoisin sauce with rice vinegar, lemon, or lime juice to give it a tangy flavor and taste like ponzu. If using hoisin sauce as a substitute, use one tablespoon of hoisin sauce for every tablespoon of ponzu sauce.

Homemade Ponzu Sauce Recipe

If you’re aiming for the ponzu sauce taste but find that the other substitutes are lacking in some departments, you can always make your own ponzu sauce. The ingredients of ponzu sauce may be hard to come by, but there are ponzu sauce recipes with easier-to-find ingredients.

Here is a homemade recipe for ponzu sauce:

Mix a half cup of soy sauce with a half cup of lemon juice, one teaspoon of your chosen citrus fruit juice (grapefruit juice is a great option, but you can go for orange juice) a tablespoon of sugar. 

If you feel like this is still lacking, you can add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce to bring in that umami flavor that the ponzu sauce has. 

How To Choose The Best Substitute

When substituting any ingredient at all, it’s important to remember that various factors come into play.

The same idea applies to choosing the best ponzu sauce substitute. There are many types of ponzu sauce, and each type has a taste that rises above all the others. You have to choose a replacement depending on what kind of ponzu sauce taste you want to achieve.

Here are two tips when choosing the best ponzu sauce substitute: 

  1. Consider the taste you want to highlight.

Since ponzu is both citrusy and salty with a hint of sweetness, you should choose which among these flavors you want to highlight in your dish. 

A good ponzu sauce substitute is lemon or orange juice if you’re after the citrus taste of the ponzu sauce. If you’re after the sourness of the ponzu sauce, then you can opt for rice vinegar. 

  1. Keep your dish in mind. 

It’s all about knowing what texture and flavor you’re after. Identify what dish you’re pairing with the ponzu sauce, and it will be easier to identify which substitute will be best because not all replacements will work with all kinds of dishes. 

Final Thoughts

Ponzu sauce has a lot of great substitutes, but it will be hard to recreate its unique taste. What matters in choosing a ponzu sauce substitute is knowing what kind of flavor you want to stand out in your sauce. 

Using other ingredients, you can achieve the unique tangy umami flavor that ponzu sauce adds to a dish. If you can’t find ponzu sauce, there are many ways to get your hands on the citrus-based and rich flavor that the ponzu sauce offers, including making your own homemade ponzu sauce.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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