Need a flavorful change of pace for your regular chicken or fish recipes? Try this easy Citrus Ponzu Sauce recipe. With just four simple ingredients, you can whip up a salty, tangy, citrusy sauce for dipping, marinating, stir frying and more. It’s a real game changer!
Dinner time can get boring, especially in our house where we only eat fish and poultry. Finding new and different ways to prepare meals can be a challenge. But Asian flavors are always a hit around here.
Whether we’re using this Citrus Ponzu Sauce as a dressing for noodle salad, a marinade for chicken or fish or even a dipping sauce for dumplings, it always takes our meals to the next level. And with an easy gluten free option, everyone can get in on the fun.
What is ponzu sauce?
Ponzu sauce is a citrus-based sauce used in Japanese cuisine. This classic Japanese condiment has a deep umami flavor that people find delightfully tangy and pungent. Here are the basic ingredients of a traditional ponzu sauce:
Very traditional recipes use a Japanese citrus fruit called yuzu. The flavor of yuzu can be best described as a hybrid of a lemon, a lime and a grapefruit. Yuzu juice is acidic like lemons and limes and unique because it holds its acidic flavor even when cooked at high temperatures. Asian markets are good place to find yuzu.
In some Japanese cooking recipes, soy sauce is considered separate from ponzu (which is only citrus juices) and something that’s added to ponzu to make the sauce. In other recipes, soy sauce is not considered to be distinct from ponzu – it’s considered to be a key ingredient to what makes ponzu ponzu.
Also known as rice wine vinegar, this ingredient adds tartness to ponzu dipping sauce and is an integral component to ponzu salad dressing.
Also known as mirin, rice wine adds a touch of sweetness to ponzu sauce. It is good for when you want the sauce to stick to meats or poultry during cooking, as this sweet rice wine will make the sauce sticky and syrupy.
Many, but not all, recipes for traditional ponzu include bonito flakes. These are fermented, dried fish fillets. Bonito flakes are also used to flavor the broth in ramen soup.
What’s in this easy recipe for homemade ponzu sauce
Our easy recipe has only four simple ingredients:
- Soy Sauce. Regular soy sauce or reduced sodium soy sauce will work well in this recipe. For a gluten-free ponzu sauce, choose a gluten free soy sauce or tamari. Tamari is simply the Japanese version of soy sauce, which is actually Chinese. Tamari is derived from fermented organic soybeans. It is slightly thicker and a bit less salty than soy sauce, but the two ingredients are used interchangeably in many recipes.
- Orange juice. OJ adds a sweeter citrus flavor to this popular sauce and balances the acidity of the rice vinegar and lime juice. Because yuzu is not always easy to find in grocery stores, orange juice is a good stand-in. Freshly squeezed OJ always adds a special touch. One or two oranges will give you all the juice you need for this recipe.
- Lime juice. Very similar to lemon juice, lime juice has the same level of acidity but is slightly more bitter. It adds a refreshing taste to our sauce. If you don’t have lime juice, you can certainly substitute lemon juice in equal amounts.
- Rice Vinegar. A common ingredient in Asian cuisine, rice vinegar imparts another level of acidity to our homemade sauce. It is made from fermented rice, and has a tiny bit of sweetness to it. Rice vinegar is similar in flavor to apple cider vinegar.
Does Ponzu Sauce Have Gluten?
The only gluten-containing ingredient in ponzu sauce is traditional soy sauce. That’s right, most soy sauces contain wheat! While its primary ingredient is soy beans, it also contains roasted wheat. This usually comes as a surprise to people who are new to gluten-free diet. Sneaky, right?
Ponzu Sauce vs. Poke Sauce
Sauces that are used for poke bowls are varied. Poke sauce can range from salty and tangy to sweet and sour to hot and spicy. Not all poke sauces are ponzu sauces.
But ponzu sauce can absolutely be used as a delicious poke sauce.
How to serve ponzu sauce
There are so many different ways to enjoy this sweet, tangy citrus sauce! Here are some of my favorites:
- Marinate meats and fish before grilling or cooking
- Use it as a dipping sauce for dumplings and spring rolls
- Marinate ahi tuna in ponzu for topping a poke bowl
- Stir it into a cold Asian noodle or rice bowl
- Use it as a stir fry sauce (with extra mirin) for vegetables and proteins
How to store Ponzu Sauce
This sauce is so easy to make that it’s worth making extra to keep in the fridge. I store ponzu sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator just like I would do with plain soy sauce or citrus juice. Pop it out of the fridge any time you need an umami flavor infusion for whatever you’re cooking.
Add-Ins for Ponzu Sauce
I love the simplicity and accessibility of this ponzu sauce, but if you want to jazz it up a little, here are some fun add-ins you should try:
- Sesame seeds. Brown them quickly in a small frying pan and toss them into the ponzu sauce. They lend a delightful toasty flavor to the sauce.
- Chopped scallions. Also known as green onions, a handful of scallions will add a dimension of freshness to your ponzu sauce.
- Crushed red pepper. Add it a tiny bit at a time and taste! Crushed red pepper adds a lot of heat with only a little amount.
When you make this easy Citrus Ponzu Sauce, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more recipes using ponzu sauce, try these:
- Miso Rice Cakes with Tuna Ponzu
- Salmon Rice Bowl with Avocado and Spicy Mayo
- Asian Salmon Noodle Bowls
For more easy sauce recipes, try these:
Citrus Ponzu Sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.