You don’t always have to buy ponzu sauce at the store! Here is an easy recipe for ponzu dipping sauce that you can make at home or use as a ponzu sauce substitute. It only takes a few minutes of prep, and then the recipe sits refrigerated overnight, creating a tangy, flavorful, and slightly sweet citrusy sauce. So simple, so good!
Ponzu is a classic Japanese citrus dipping sauce that’s incredibly versatile and adds a bright, tangy, citrusy pop to appetizers, noodles, and stir-fry. There’s absolutely nothing better than making homemade dressings and sauces, either. You’ll love how easy this recipe is to make, and you’ll always want a jar on hand once you taste this tart-tangy, umami sauce.
Making homemade ponzu sauce provides you with the opportunity to customize it to your own specific needs. It’s easily adaptable to be vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free. It’s also naturally dairy-free.
What is in Ponzu Sauce?
Ponzu sauce is a Japanese citrus dipping sauce, so we are going to add in lots of citrus for the most flavor to come through. And a few more key ingredients that contribute to the umami-ness, tang, and sweetness of the sauce.
- Kombu – otherwise known as dried kelp, adding kombu to the sauce brings so much umami flavor, and really takes the sauce over the top. I like to add the 4×4 inch piece that usually comes straight out of the package for the most flavor, however, you can easily adjust the size of the kombu depending on your preferences.
- Bonito Flakes – or katsuobushi, is smoked, fermented, and dried skipjack tuna flakes. They add a rich smokiness to the sauce and also contribute to the overall umami flavor. To make this sauce vegan or vegetarian, simply omit the bonito flakes.
- Citrus – this recipe calls for three kinds of citrus. I always recommend using fresh citrus for the most flavor. Traditionally, yuzu is the citrus of choice, but because it’s very hard to find outside of Japan, I’ve used fresh limes, lemons, and oranges. You can play around with the ratios and substitute one for the other if needed.
- Mirin – a subtly sweet Japanese rice wine. It’s where the sauce gets a hint of sweetness and a little bit of additional tang.
- Soy Sauce – the base for the sauce, it brings all the flavors together.
- Garlic & Ginger – these two aromatics are added to my ponzu sauce, untraditionally so, for added flavor. Feel free to omit if you’d like a simpler, more traditional ponzu sauce.
How To Make Ponzu Sauce
This version of ponzu dipping sauce is so easy to make. It just requires a little bit of planning ahead of time in order to develop the most flavor.
The first step is optional, but recommend for adding additional flavor to the sauce, and it’s one I learned from my brother: toasting the kombu and bonito flakes.
Gently toasting the kombu and bonito flakes for a few minutes until warm brings out a more developed flavor in them both, and adds to the smokiness of the sauce.
Then, it’s as easy as combining all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl or jar, which you will cover and place in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors to meld together.
After the sauce has rested for 24 hours, it’s time to strain out the aromatics using a fine mesh strainer. Transfer it directly into the jar you will store it in, or into a measuring cup for easy transfer if needed.
Once the sauce is strained, cover and store in the fridge for up to 1 month. It will be ready to use whenever you need a dipping sauce for potstickers or gyoza or to add to noodles. It also makes a great addition to vinaigrette dressings!
Yummy Recipes to Enjoy with Ponzu Sauce
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, just omit the bonito flakes (dried tuna) for a vegan/vegetarian sauce.
I’m able to find both at my local Whole Foods grocery store. You can also find them in local Asian markets or buy online.
You can use rice vinegar and add in about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar, or substitute dry sherry or sweet masala wine.
Yes, it absolutely is! It’s my favorite way to enjoy ponzu now, I don’t even buy it from the store anymore and often just keep a jar of this homemade version in my fridge.
Homemade Ponzu Dipping Sauce
- Optional: In a small saucepan, toast kombu and bonito flakes for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, orange juice, lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, garlic, and ginger. Add kombu and bonito flakes. Mix together, cover, and let sit in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours.
- After resting, strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Store the remaining liquid, ponzu sauce, in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- This recipe makes approximately 1 cup of ponzu sauce.
- Vegan/Vegetarian: omit the bonito flakes.
- Gluten-Free: use tamari or gluten-free soy sauce; be sure to check the labels!
- If substituting mirin with sugar, do not store longer than 1 week in the fridge.
By the Way…
This recipe is part of our collection of savory homemade sauce recipes. Check it out!