Sanbaizu Tsukemono (Japanese Pickle)


The Spruce / Erin Archuleta

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Plus: 20 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 4 to 8 servings
Yield: 2 pints
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
119 Calories
0g Fat
21g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 119
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1770mg 77%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 16mg 79%
Calcium 46mg 4%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 408mg 9%
*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.)

In Japanese culture, it's customary to serve pickles, called tsukemono, alongside a meal, particularly with rice. The rise of popularity of the pickles coincides with the introduction of Buddhism in Japan. As more people adopted a vegetarian diet, they had to find ways of having vegetables on hand during the winter, when fresh vegetables were not an option.

Tsukemono can be made via a wide array of techniques with vegetables and fruits fermented in salt, soy, miso, and even beds of rice bran with the live culture known as nukadoko. One of the most common tsukemono is made with sanbaizu, a combination of soy sauce, mirin, and rice wine vinegar. Much like Western pickles, the salt and acid from the ingredients penetrate the vegetables, infusing them with flavor and firming the texture of the flesh.

This recipe for a simple sanbaizu comes from Erik Aplin, Chef de Cuisine at San Francisco's ICHI Sushi and NI Bar. He uses traditional vegetables, like daikon radish and the dainty white orbs known as Tokyo turnips. The vegetables get salted and pressed, expressing out some of their moisture, so they can absorb the sanbaizu brine. We spoke with Aplin about their tsukemono program.

Sea grapes are a kind of seaweed with tiny, succulent leaves that pop in the mouth like caviar. Check your seafood monger for availability.

Since rice wine vinegar is a lower-acid vinegar, this recipe is not suitable for canning.


  • 4 Tokyo turnips

  • 8 radishes

  • 1 daikon

  • 1 bunch sea grapes

  • 1 cup shoyu (Japanese-style soy sauce)

  • 1 cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)

  • 1 cup plain rice wine vinegar, not seasoned

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Cut the Tokyo turnips and radishes into quarters. Cut the daikon crosswise into 1/2" coins and cut into quarters. Toss lightly with salt in a bowl and then weight them by placing a clean plate or another flat kitchen object on top to remove excess liquid for approximately 20 minutes.

  3. Mix the shoyu, mirin, and rice wine vinegar to make the sanbaizu brine.

  4. Wash the salt off the vegetables and drain. Rinse the sea grapes. Combine the salted vegetables, sea grapes, and sanbaizu brine.

  5. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one day and up to three days. Taste them along the way to see how salty you like them. Drain the pickles from the brine prior to serving.

How to Store

Keep the drained vegetables refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Recipe Tags: