Back to blog

What Is Ponzu & What Is It Used For?

What Is Ponzu & What Is It Used For?

What Is Ponzu & What Is It Used For?

We might have had ponzu sauce (ポン酢) before, but it doesn’t mean we truly know what it is or how it’s used. Well, lucky for you, it’s time for a little culinary lesson! 

Today is all about bringing you the information you need to start using ponzu sauce all the time. It’s a common item in Asian cuisine and can even be considered a “staple” ingredient

After this read, you’ll be ready to add ponzu sauce into your everyday home cooking. We aren’t talking about just those traditional uses, either. You’ll be ready to experiment and find new ways to incorporate ponzu into everything. Let’s get started!  


What Is Ponzu?

Ponzu is a Japanese sauce that has a citrusy and tangy flavor profile. Commonly, it will be served combined with soy sauce, but it can be used on its own. The versatility of ponzu sauce is vast. It can be combined with other ingredients, like soy sauce, to add a tangy bite that cuts through different flavors. 

Looking for a good ponzu sauce recipe to make at home? We’ve got you covered! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • ½ cup mirin (rice wine)
  • 1 piece of kombu (edible kelp)
  • ½ ounce katsuobushi (bonito flakes
  • ½ cup yuzu (if need be, you can substitute a half cup lemon juice or lime juice)
  • ½ cup soy sauce (light preferred)


Whisk these together until combined. Then put in an airtight container and allow the ingredients to get acquainted for about thirty minutes. After this, give it a good shake, and it’s ready! 


How To Use Ponzu Sauce

Ponzu sauce is one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen. It can be used in almost any way you could use the sauce. If you want to compare it to something, think of it as an ingredient similar to a vinaigrette.

There’s lemon and vinegar for the citrus and tang flavors, with kelp and bonito flakes for saltiness and ocean brine. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also rice wine for a soft sweet backbone that finishes the flavors to leave a light, lingering effect on your palette. 

Any dish, marinade, salad dressing, or dipping sauce that could use any of these flavors is asking for ponzu sauce. While other ingredients might be more “traditional,” depending on the style of cuisine you’re cooking, ponzu sauce can be subbed in as a fun fusion. 

Likewise, if you ever get to plating a dish and that first bite is a little too heavy or fatty, a dash of ponzu sauce will cut through that richness beautifully. 


Does Ponzu Sauce Expire?

While ponzu sauce can last for up to two years, the flavor will fade over time. So even if you’re nowhere near the expiration date, you may notice the robust qualities of the sauce have diminished. 

On the other hand, a homemade sauce won’t last long. Your homemade ponzu sauce will only be good for about a week if it is kept in an airtight container in the fridge. 


Does Ponzu Sauce Contain MSG?

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, can be a naturally occurring “additive” in food. Many sauces and foods rich with umami flavors do have added MSG. Soy sauce is a common ingredient that has added MSG. So naturally, ponzu sauce can have added MSG. 

The good news? While there are naturally occurring glutamates, there are brands on the market that don’t have added MSG. If you’re looking for sauces without added glutamates, read the nutrition facts and look at the list of ingredients. 


Some even have notes on the side that say, “no added MSG."


Is Ponzu Gluten-Free?

Again, Ponzu sauce contains soy sauce, and they aren’t always gluten-free. Generally speaking, ponzu sauce isn’t gluten-free as well. You can find options for gluten-free ponzu sauce, but they aren’t exactly cheap. 


What’s the Difference Between Ponzu Sauce and Tonkatsu Sauce?

Tonkatsu is a Japanese sauce that is tangy and sweet. Where have you heard that before? In the description for ponzu sauce. However, tonkatsu and ponzu sauce are similar, but not the same. 

Ponzu sauce is tangy and sweet, similar to tonkatsu, but relies more heavily on the tart and citrus notes of the lemon. Tonkatsu gets its tang from a mixture of Dijon and ketchup. This is tangy but not a tart or puckering effect like ponzu. 


Ways To Use Ponzu Sauce

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: ponzu sauce is extremely versatile. Anything that calls for these tangy, citrus, salty-sweet notes can utilize ponzu sauce. With that said, here are four main ways that we want to go over so you have a starting point for your ponzu sauce needs. 



Ponzu sauce as a marinade works well to cut through fatty flavors of meats and other proteins. Another great feature of the citrus fruit aspect of ponzu sauce is that the acid in this ingredient breaks down marbling and fat in the meat. 

As the meat cooks, the fat will melt and keep the meat tender and juicy. 

Ponzu is also perfect for shellfish marinades. Mix it with tequila and orange juice for a Mexican/Asian fusion marinade for shrimp! If you want to keep it more classic, add a little ponzu on top of sashimi-grade fish for a citrusy tang. 


Dipping Sauce

Ponzu is one of the classic dipping sauces served with shabu-shabu or Japanese hotpot. It works well by providing a little relief to all the hearty, savory flavors in the broth and meats. It’s also very common in Japanese cooking to have ponzu served as the dipping sauce for gyoza. 

In other styles of Asian cuisine, ponzu can also be served with hearty dumplings. It would also work well for hearty meats, like pork belly. Citrus juice is a classic base for sauces that compliment hearty and heavy meats, so it’s the perfect way to use it.  



For seasoning, ponzu sauce can work as a finisher to a dish or be added to the ingredients when cooking. You can add a bit of ginger to brighten the tangy notes for stir-fry or sauteed veggies. Ponzu can also be added to a stew to flavor the broth. 


Salad Dressing

Ponzu can be subbed in for the vinegar component of a salad dressing seamlessly. The best part about using ponzu rather than a traditional balsamic or red wine vinegar? The added lemon, mirin, and other ingredients offer the seasonings that would otherwise be added to a vinaigrette.

All you need to do is add two parts olive oil to one part ponzu and a tablespoon of honey or mustard to bind the two liquids and have yourself the ultimate citrus salad dressing. It’s perfect to use all summer. 



At Umamicart, we’re confident that you’re ready to use ponzu sauce in all its classic takes and start experimenting with new uses. If you don’t have an Asian grocery store near you, you can find all your favorite Asian ingredients right here at Umamicart


Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Is it harmful? | Mayo Clinic

3 Ingredients To Take Your Salad Dressing To The Next Level | Chatelaine