Simple Japanese Salad Dressing Recipe

Simple Japanese Salad Dressing

The Spruce / Tara Omidvar

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 5 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
78 Calories
8g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 78
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 11%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 110mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 1mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 9mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Vegetable-based salads are an important part of Japanese cuisine. This popular simple salad dressing is called Wafu, which means “Japanese-style dressing”. It’s similar to a vinaigrette and comes in many different variations but always contains the three key ingredients soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sugar. 

Both rice vinegar and soy sauce are staples of Japanese cooking. Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice. It as a slightly sweet, mild taste. It comes seasoned and unseasoned. Seasoned rice vinegar is sweeter than unsweetened rice vinegar, it usually contains sugar or a sweetener. Unseasoned rice vinegar is the better choice for a more neutral dressing but if a tad of sweetness enhances the salad you are making, use sweetened rice vinegar. 

Japanese soy sauce called Shoyu is different from Chinese soy sauce both in ingredients and taste. This recipe does not call for a specific type of soy sauce, however, the dressing will be different depending on the soy sauce you use. 

Chinese soy sauce is only made with soy, whereas Japanese soy sauce is made with a mix of soy and roasted wheat, usually in equal ratio. The wheat content is an important consideration if you’re gluten-free. Japanese soy sauce has a sweeter, more subtle flavor than their Chinese soy sauce, which tends to be saltier and have a bolder taste. 

If you use Chinese soy sauce, make sure you use light soy sauce. It is thin, has a light reddish brown in color and opaque. It is different from salt-reduced soy sauce, which might also be labeled as "light" or "lite." 

Because soy sauce is already salty, no extra salt is added to this dressing. For vegetable oil, a neutral-tasting oil such as vegetable oil, sunflower oil or vegetable oil is best. 

You can use this dressing for a wide range of Japanese salads with vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, bean sprouts, cabbage, watercress, or seaweed. You can also add it to Asian noodle salad or rice salad. Wafu dressing is also served with side dishes in bento lunch boxes

For a variation of this basic recipe, add mirin, minced fresh ginger root, wasabi, or yuzu to the dressing. 

Instead of whipping up the dressing in a bowl, you can also put all the ingredients in a jar, close it tightly and shake until emulsified. This is also the way to go if you don’t use the entire dressing at once. Store any leftover dressing in a cool, dark place.


  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Simple Japanese Salad Dressing ingredients

    The Spruce / Tara Omidvar

  2. Mix rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl.

    Mix rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl

    The Spruce / Tara Omidvar

  3. Add oil gradually and mix well. Serve with lettuces of your choice.

    Simple Japanese Salad Dressing, oil poured into a bowl with the dressing ingredients

    The Spruce / Tara Omidvar