Japanese Condiment Essentials

Essential Condiments for the Perfect Finishing Touch to Every Japanese Meal

This list provides a comprehensive list of Japanese condiments that are essential to any Japanese kitchen. These condiments complete every Japanese meal with the perfect finishing touch.

  • 01 of 15

    Ponzu (Citrus Soy Sauce)

    Ponzu (Citrus Soy Dipping Sauce)

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    Ponzu is a citrus-flavored soy sauce that is a very popular condiment used for salads, meats, fish, sushi, sashimi (raw fish), grilled vegetables, or as a dipping sauce for (hot pot), and teppanyaki (tabletop sautéed vegetables and meats).

  • 02 of 15

    Soy Sauce (Shoyu)

    Japanese Soy Sauce (Shoyu)

    The Spruce / Judy Ung

    Soy sauce is used as both an ingredient and also a condiment. In Japanese cuisine, soy sauce can be used to enhance the flavor of almost any type of food. Most commonly, it is used as a condiment on tofu, sushi, vegetables, grilled fish, meat, and mochi (rice cakes). This soy sauce eggs (shoyu tamago) is delicious.

  • 03 of 15

    Eel Sauce

    Eel with eel sauce on top of rice
    The Spruce / Pete Scherer

    Although this sauce is based on a Japanese sauce known as nitsume, which does contain eel broth, this eel sauce recipe does not contain eel. It's an Americanized version of a classic that often accompanies Japanese grilled eel known as unagi, as well as many of the fancy rolls found at some American sushi joints.

  • 04 of 15

    Furikake (Dried Rice Seasoning)

    Furikake (Dried Seasoning for Rice)

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    Furikake is a seasoning mixture of dried ingredients that are traditionally sprinkled on top of steamed rice. The dried ingredients range from seaweed, vegetables fish, egg, plum, and sesame seeds, to name a few. The applications for furikake are limited only by the creativity of the chef. Some examples include ochazuke (rice with green tea, tofu, natto (fermented soy beans), popcorn, and grilled fish.

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  • 05 of 15

    Roasted and Seasoned Seaweed (Nori)

    Nori (Roasted Seaweed)

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    There are many different types of dried seaweed available as condiments, but the most popular is that which is roasted and seasoned with a teriyaki flavor and cut into rectangular pieces. This type of roasted and seasoned (nori) is often eaten with steamed rice. Another type of plain roasted seaweed is larger and used for rice balls (onigiri), or cut and used for sushi. Norimaki Mochi is a rice cake wrapped in seaweed and dipped in a sweet soy sauce and is a traditional Japanese dish.

  • 06 of 15

    Aonori (Dried Green Seaweed Powder)

    Aonori (Dried Green Seaweed Powder)

    The Spruce / Judy Ung

    Aonori literally translates to green seaweed: ao = green; nori = seaweed. This seaweed differs from nori in that the seaweed is crushed into small flakes and has a mild aroma. Traditionally, it is used to garnish dishes such as yakisoba (panfried noodles), takoyaki (small round pancake with octopus), and okonomiyaki (savory pancake). It is also used as a popular Japanese flavor for chips and other snacks. Try it out with this recipe for tempura squid with aonori & shichimi togarashi.

  • 07 of 15

    White Pepper

    White Pepper (Shiro Kosho)

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    White pepper is often used as an alternative to black pepper in Japanese cuisine. White pepper differs slightly in that it is hotter than black pepper, yet has a milder flavor than black pepper. It is often used as a condiment for ramen (soup with noodles like this shoyu ramen), fried rice, stir fry dishes, vegetables, and meats. 

  • 08 of 15

    Shichimi Togarashi (Seven Chili Spice)

    Shichimi Togarashi (Seven Chili Spice)

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    Shichimi togarashi, also known as nana iro togarashi (seven color spice) is a dried hot red pepper spice that is made from seven different spices. It is spicy, but has a more complex flavor profile over plain red chili pepper. It is often used as a condiment for hot udon and soba noodles with broth, tofu, fried chicken, soup, ramen, gyoza (pot stickers), and even sashimi. Try it out in this spicy tuna donburi recipe.

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  • 09 of 15

    Ichimi Togarashi (Chili Spice)

    Spicy Edamame

    The Spruce / Judy Ung

    Ichimi togarashi is a spice made from one type of dried red chili pepper. In Japanese it literally translates to “one flavor chili pepper”. It is used similarly to shichimi togarashi and used to spice up broth, soup, noodles, fried chicken, ramen, and gyoza (pot stickers) and in this spicy edamame.

  • 10 of 15

    Rayu or La-Yu (Japanese Chili Oil)

    Rayu or La-Yu (Chili Oil)

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    Rayu or La-Yu is a Japanese chili oil that is a mixture of sesame oil and red chili pepper flakes. The oil itself is tinted reddish-orange, due to the chili infused oil. It is a condiment that is commonly used with ramen, gyoza (pot stickers), and other dumplings and fried foods. This vegetable and meat gyoza is incredible.

  • 11 of 15

    Sansho (Japanese Pepper)

    Sansho (Fresh Japanese Pepper)

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    Sansho is a ground spice made from the fruit of the Japanese pepper bush, also known as Japanese pricklyash. It is not spicy in the way that red chili peppers create heat, but rather, sansho has a tangy and zesty sensation when tasted, and has a mild aroma of lemon or citrus. It is traditionally served as a garnish to barbecued eel (kabayaki unagi), but it is also commonly used as a condiment to season chicken yakitori (grilled on skewers), and it is also one of the seven ingredients in Shichimi Togarashi (seven chili spice).

  • 12 of 15

    Wasabi (Japanese Horseradish)

    Wasabi Paste in Soy Sauce

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    Wasabi is a green Japanese horseradish that is typically served grated and fresh to accompany sashimi (raw fish). Wasabi also comes in a dry powder, which can be mixed to make a paste, or it comes pre-made in convenient tubes. Wasabi is very strong and pungent. Its heat and effects are similar to that of hot mustard and causes a burning sensation. It should be used sparingly. In addition to sushi, and sashimi, it is also served with cold noodles and salads. It is common to find Japanese snacks that are wasabi flavored. This chirashi sushi with shrimp & ikura caviar is a great way to try it.

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  • 13 of 15

    Ginger (Shyoga)

    Fresh Ginger

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    Fresh ginger is commonly grated and then used as a garnish for various chilled dishes such as cold tofu (hiyayakko), sashimi (raw fish), and salads. It is also served along with certain types of sushi. Grated ginger is also used to enhance hot and cold beverages. Enjoy this ginger soy braised tuna (maguro nitsuke) recipe.

  • 14 of 15

    Hot Mustard (Karashi)

    Karashi (Hot Mustard)

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    Hot mustard, known as karashi in Japanese, is often mixed with soy sauce to create a dipping sauce for fried foods such as wontons, gyoza, harumaki (spring rolls), and other dumplings and fried foods (chicken katsu, breaded and fried shrimp, etc). Karashi is also used as a condiment for stir-fried noodles and stir-fried vegetables such as vegetable harumaki (spring rolls) and seafood, especially those that come with gravy.

  • 15 of 15

    Umeboshi (Dried and Pickled Plums)

    Umeboshi (Pickled Plums)

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    Umeboshi are very tart plums that have been dried and pickled. Often umeboshi is pickled with salt, and other times it is pickled with popular herbs such as shiso (perilla leaf). Although umeboshi is typically tart, it ranges in levels of saltiness and sweetness and also has a hint of fruitiness. Umeboshi is traditionally enjoyed as a garnish for plain steamed rice, rice gruel or porridge (okayu), or ochazuke (rice soup with green tea).