When you’ve got some delicious pork katsu, the only thing that can elevate it even higher is some delicious tonkatsu sauce! But you may not have any available to you locally or you just want to make it yourself. Today, I’ll show you how to make a tonkatsu sauce that is delicious and the perfect sauce for your katsu!
Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce
What is Tonkatsu sauce?
Tonkatsu is the ubiquitous brown sauce that goes all over a delicious piece of fried pork cutlet. Sometimes restaurants in Japan will offer you other sauces to eat your tonkatsu with, like ponzu. But nothing goes with it better than that classic tonkatsu sauce! It even goes well with my delicious layered pork katsu, stuffed with garlic and cheese!
It is heavily based on worcestershire sauce, but also has ingredients like tomatoes, apples, carrots, dates, and other fruits and vegetables added in. It creates a delicious, sweet and savory flavor that makes it easier to enjoy a piece of fried pork.
Most tonkatsu sauce are vegetarian, as there are usually no animal ingredients added in. Japan is notorious for its use of fish stock in foods, while labeling them as vegetarian. This happens quite commonly in restaurants as most average Japanese people don’t completely grasp the idea of strict vegetarianism.
If you decide to buy some sauce instead of learning how to make tonkatsu sauce at home, then I suggest that you check the label to ensure that there are no animal products being used in its production.
What's the difference between tonkatsu sauce and yakisoba sauce?
To be honest, there’s not a huge difference between the different kinds of Japanese brown sauces you will find in an Asian grocery store.
For instance, yakisoba sauce (which may also be listed as okonomiyaki sauce) is slightly runnier and sweeter than tonkatsu sauce.
Tonkatsu sauce will be thicker, as it’s mainly used for dipping, and will have a slightly heavier worcestershire sauce taste than some of the other similar looking sauces.
Although the differences between these two sauces aren’t too different, it’s the way they’re served that set them apart!
How is Tonkatsu sauce served?
At many tonkatsu restaurants here in Japan, you will be given a small bowl with grooves carved on the interior. It is filled with sesame seeds and you are given a small pestle to grind them.
After grinding your sesame seeds, you then pour the tonkatsu sauce directly in with the sesame sauce and mix it together. The sesame adds a great hint of nuttiness and gives the sauce more depth.
Some places even have several different kind of tonkatsu sauce that they offer for customers to try. You may be offered an option that is slightly sweeter than the normal sauce. You may also find a slightly spicy option.
Not all restaurants will have this variety of sauce, and in fact, not all restaurants will give you the mortar and pestle with sesame seeds.
Ingredients for how to make tonkatsu sauce
- Soy Sauce (See it on Amazon) – This is the one I personally use at home.
- Japanese Usta Sauce (See it on Amazon) – This can be substituted (Read “Common Substitutions” below), however, it’s such a versatile sauce and works extremely well with other Japanese fried dishes like my cheese and garlic-stuffed pork cutlets!
- Rice Wine Vinegar (See it on Amazon) – This is by one of Japan’s most trusted brands.
- Sesame seeds
- Japanese Hot Mustard (See it on Amazon) – Careful with this stuff! It’s got that classic mustard taste with an extra strong wasabi kick! Not to be squeezed on a hotdog with reckless abandon!
- Grated garlic
1. Japanese Usta Sauce
Although you may see people call this “Japanese worcestershire sauce”, don’t confuse it with that bottle of Lea & Perins that you commonly think of when you think ‘worcestershire sauce’!
Japanese usta sauce has a bit more sweetness and mildness compared to regular worcestershire sauce. A good substitution would be A1 steak sauce for you American readers. It has a similar taste profile, however, the tanginess of A1 is a bit stronger, so I recommend adding more sweetness to your final recipe to temper back the tang.
2. Karashi (Japanese Hot Mustard)
This is nothing like the mustard that you squirt on your hot dogs. This mustard is extremely spicy and potent, which makes it a great condiment for tonkatsu.
You may be able to find this if you look for “Chinese mustard” if your grocery store has an Asian section. This is the same kind of mustard used in dim sum restaurants.
If not, I would say that you can use a bit of pure horseradish. However, if you don’t want to go out and buy horseradish, or even Karashi for this sauce, then feel free to omit it.
3. Grated Garlic
I will admit that this is more something I do than restaurants here in Japan. However, I find that the grated garlic gives a savory depth and “roundness” to the completed sauce.
It tempers back the sweet tartness and boosts the savoriness slightly. If you are not a garlic fan or have a big date coming up, then skip this.
How to make tonkatsu sauce
- 2 tbsp Japanese Usta Sauce (See Common Substitutions Above)
- 1 tbsp Soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp Ketchup
- 1/2 tbsp Rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp Honey
- 1/2 tsp Karashi Japanese Hot Mustard
- 1 tsp Ground sesame seeds
- 1/8 tsp Grated garlic
- Add all of the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Serve or keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.