If you are a sauce lover, then you must be familiar with ponzu sauce. Frequently described as a citrus twist on soy sauce, ponzu is an excellent addition to many recipes and is often used for dipping, marinating, and dressing.
But let’s say a recipe calls for ponzu sauce, and you can’t find any. What sort of substitute would be the best replacement? Well, there are multiple options, and those are: nam pla prik, Worcestershire, mentsuyu, fish sauce, tonkatsu, teriyaki, and hoisin sauce.
We’ll start with a brief introduction to ponzu sauce, share our favorite substitutes, and conclude our article with a homemade recipe for ponzu sauce.
What Is Ponzu Sauce?
If you’ve been browsing the Japanese sauces in your local grocery store, you may have come across ponzu sauce, a.k.a. the citrus version of soy sauce.
Its origin is unknown, yet the word has a bit of a Dutch influence. “Pon” is derived from the Dutch word “punch;” the other part, “su,” translates to “vinegar,” thus revealing one of the sauce’s key ingredients. Together, the words “punch” and “vinegar” describe a sauce with acidic and fruity notes.
Even though part of its name has Dutch origins, ponzu is mostly Japanese in its ingredients. It is often prepared with kombu, lemon, soy sauce, mirin, bonito fish flakes, and rice vinegar.
The store-bought ponzu in your cupboard is usually prepared with lemon or lime juice. The traditional citrus fruits for ponzu, however, are the bitter orange yuzu or sudachi mandarin.
Yuzu and sudachi are both difficult to find and somewhat expensive, but if you manage to get your hands on one of them, it will provide an incredible depth of acidic and bitter flavors to a homemade ponzu sauce.
Ponzu is a classic dip for shabu-shabu, tataki, soba, sushi, or dumplings. It also works well as a ceviche marinade because of the acid from the citrus. Additionally, a few dashes may give a soup, stew, or stir fry a tasty kick.
Substitutes for Ponzu Sauce
Nam Pla Prik
Nam pla prik is a Thai culinary must-have. It’s highly adaptable and may be used to flavor all kinds of dishes, from dips and marinades to stir-fries.
This Thai condiment consists of lime juice, hot chilies, and fish sauce. It has a pungent, salty flavor that is somewhat sweet. Even though the spicy chilis make it hotter than ponzu, the fish sauce and citrus juice lend it a very similar flavor profile.
Thanks to its tangy taste, Worcestershire sauce is comparable to ponzu sauce.
To begin with, it has ingredients like vinegar, tamarind, and anchovies, which all have a flavor comparable to ponzu’s citrus juice and bonito flakes. In addition to having an acidic flavor, it also contains savory and slightly sweet undertones.
This sauce is typically used as a marinade or flavoring, but it may also be included in a variety of recipes. This substitution will greatly improve and balance out the tastes of rich beef stews, and even plain grilled burgers. It may also add a salty, sweet, and tangy punch to bland ingredients like tofu.
Mentsuyu is a well-known kind of Japanese soup base. Soy sauce, mirin, sugar, dashi, and salt are some of the ingredients used to make it, and some of them are also found in Japanese ponzu sauce.
Due to the added sugar, mentsuyu is somewhat sweeter than ponzu sauce. It is likewise devoid of citrus, but many chefs recommend adding a dash of grapefruit or lemon juice to achieve the citrusy flavor of ponzu.
Shirataki and mein noodles are two examples of dishes that complement mentsuyu well. Its strong flavor is noticeable right out of the bottle, so before mixing it with noodles, you may wish to add water to mellow the flavor.
Ponzu sauce features bonito flakes, which have a fishy taste, so fish sauce is the best ponzu sauce alternative if you want to recreate that same flavor.
This sauce has a powerful, salty flavor profile and is created from fermented fish. It does lack the citrusy flavor, though, but you can quickly solve that problem by adding a splash of lemon juice to your recipe.
You can use fish sauce as a dip for seafood dishes like fish sticks or sea bass. Additionally, you may use it to marinade meat and prepare it for grilling.
Tonkatsu sauce is a tangy Japanese condiment that you can easily use in place of ponzu sauce.
The recipe includes soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. But that’s not all — this sauce is made from various fruits like apples, prunes, dates, lemons, and several veggies like tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery. It also contains a variety of ten different spices or more.
Overall, the flavor is very rich, sweet, and tangy, with a hint of spice. The texture is similar to ponzu, but if you prefer a more watery sauce, feel free to mix it with a bit of water.
This alternative is ideal for stir-fry recipes and marinades for meat. It’s also great when sprinkled as a dressing for salads.
Teriyaki sauce is a Japanese-style glaze or sauce. It’s a medium-thick dark red liquid with visible flecks of different spices and flavors.
The primary components in this tasty ponzu substitute are soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, mirin, and rice vinegar.
It has a sweet and tangy flavor, so combining it with some lemon juice might make you the perfect ponzu sauce alternative.
Teriyaki sauce is used to marinate or glaze meats and seafood. It’s famous for its pairing with grilled chicken and stir-fries. You may also pour it over salads or use it as a dipping sauce. It’s also a tasty complement to burgers or ribs.
The famous hoisin sauce recipe includes garlic, soybeans, and spices. The sauce is comparable to ponzu sauce in its thick texture and sweet and acidic taste.
You can pair hoisin sauce with dishes from any cuisine, and it’ll taste divine.
It’s great as a marinade or a glaze for meat and tofu. It’s also delicious in stir-fries or fried rice. Finally, it can be used as a dipping sauce for shrimp, chicken wings, or roasted vegetables.
Homemade Recipe for Ponzu Sauce
Store-bought sauces can sure bring a delightful flavor to a dish, but we can all agree that homemade sauces surpass everything found in stores.
One sauce that doesn’t take a lot of ingredients or time is ponzu sauce — it just takes a few seconds to make. If you don’t have the store bought variety on hand, we challenge you to make it at home. Let’s get mixin’!
- 4 oz (120 ml) soy sauce;
- 1 oz (30 ml) rice vinegar;
- 4 oz (120 ml) lemon and lime juice;
- 4 oz (120 ml) mirin;
- 1 oz (30 g) kombu;
- ½ oz (15 g) bonito fish flakes;
Equipment: Small saucepan and fine-mesh strainer;
Prep time: 20 minutes
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, kombu, and mirin. Bring the ingredients to a boil, then remove them from the heat. Then add the bonito fish flakes and mix well. Allow the pan to settle for 10 minutes, covered. Then, strain it and let the liquid cool off.
In the meantime, squeeze the lemon and lime juice. After the mixture is cooled, add the citrus juice, mirin, and soy sauce and mix for a few seconds. All done! Refrigerate the sauce in a tightly covered jar, and you can enjoy it for up to one week.
There you go! The ultimate list of the finest ponzu sauce substitutes. The question is, which one would you choose?
If you want to stay through to your recipe, we recommend preparing your own ponzu sauce because there is no better or tastier option.
If you don’t want to make your own homemade ponzu, you can pick one of the other options on our list, from teriyaki and hoisin to nam pla prik and mentsuyu.
Some of these may affect the overall flavor of your dishes, so be sure the components complement one another. And don’t forget a splash of lemon juice for those substitutes that need a pinch of citrusy flavor. Bon appétit!