Whether you’re looking for classic tangy tonkatsu sauce, rich in flavour Nagoya style red miso sauce or perhaps a tonkatsu sauce with a nutty twist, it’s all here! So enjoy your deep fried pork cutlet 3 different ways with these 3 delicious homemade tonkatsu sauces!
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What is tonkatsu sauce?
In a general sense, tonkatsu sauce is a type of sauce you use for tonkatsu (Japanese deep fried pork cutlet). However, in Japan, the definition is a little more than that. First of all, the word “sauce” (ソース) on its own mostly refers to Worcestershire sauce base sauce and is generally used for deep fried dishes such as korokke, menchi katsu and tonkatsu (unless specifically stated, for example okonomiyaki sauce).
There are 3 main types of sauce.
- Worcestershire sauce (ウスターソース): Originated in England and the thinnest of the three is characterised by its smooth texture and slightly sour and spicy flavour. It is used to season deep-fried and stir-fried foods, and is often used as a secret ingredient in Western style Japanese cooking (yoshoku) in things like Japanese style curry and hayashi rice.
- Chuno sauce (中濃ソース): This sauce is thick, somewhere between Worcestershire sauce and tonkatsu sauce, and has both the slight tanginess of Worcestershire sauce and the mild taste of tonkatsu sauce. Again it is often used for fried foods and as a secret ingredient in dishes. You can basically say it sits between Worcestershire sauce and tonkatsu sauce.
- Tonkatsu sauce (とんかつソース): Also known as “thick sauce” (濃厚ソース) has a thick and glossy texture, rich taste and fruity sweetness. It is sweeter than the other two and has a soft, easy-to-eat flavour with reduced acidity and spiciness.
However, this is the “technicality” of sauces in Japan. In this recipe, when I say tonkatsu sauce, that means sauce to use for tonkatsu specifically. I just wanted to be clear on that technicality first.
What is tonkatsu sauce supposed to taste like?
When a restaurant makes their tonkatsu sauce from scratch, the flavour can vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some places use classic Worcestershire sauce based tonkatsu sauce, and others might use a sesame based one (which I’m going to explain as well). Some might make a sweet one, others might make a savoury or even spicy one. It really depends.
But to explain the taste of a classic and basic tonkatsu sauce, it can be described as a very fruity, yet tart with a slightly thick texture and mild flavor.
The best tonkatsu sauce to buy online
I know this is kind of breaking the essence of this post, but seeing as a lot of people in Japan just buy tonkatsu sauce in supermarket rather than make it at home, I thought it would be helpful what kind of brand has the most authentic flavour.
The brands that you should look for are generally these three:
Out of these 3, the one I see most often is definitely Kagome’s tonkatsu sauce. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of store-bought tonkatsu sauce.
Substitutes for tonkatsu sauce
Even though I’m going to show 3 ways to make homemade tonkatsu sauce soon, you might be looking for substitutes. Maybe you wanna look for easier alternative or change the flavour a bit. Here are some popular examples of alternative tonkatsu sauce in Japan:
- Worcestershire sauce: It’s a bit too thin for tonkatsu sauce, but this is the easiest option to recreate the flavour.
- Ponzu: A sour sauce made with soy sauce and citrus. Great for a refreshing kick.
- Demi-glace sauce/brown sauce: Slightly different taste, but it goes well with tonkatsu!
- Okonomiyaki sauce: Sweeter than tonkatsu sauce, but the overall flavour is pretty similar.
- Oyster sauce: completely different flavour, but the texture is similar and it actually goes well.
- Worcestershire sauce + Ketchup: If you have these two ingredients in your pantry, mix them with half and half ratio!
Of course it’s best to use tonkatsu sauce for tonkatsu, but sometimes it’s good to change things up!
Ingredients to use for 3 types of tonkatsu sauce
So, in this post, I will explain 3 ways to make homemade tonkatsu sauce:
- Classic tonkatsu sauce
- Sesame tonkatsu sauce
- Red Miso tonkatsu sauce
You can find what kind of ingredients needed for each one below.
Classic tonkatsu sauce
Classic tonkatsu sauce is the most basic and common of the tonkatsu sauce, but just because it’s easy doesn’t make it any less than the others. It’s the most common for a reason! The tangy flavour perfectly cuts through the oiliness in deep fried dishes! It’s also the most versatile and can be used as a secret ingredient in other dishes such as Japanese curry or hayashi rice.
Red miso tonkatsu sauce
Red miso sauce is a regional speciality from my home prefecture of Aichi (specifically famous as a Nagoya dish) so of course this sauce has a special place in my heart! It’s extremely thick, rich and quite salty but I love it. You will need red miso paste specifically for this recipe, but it’s so worth it! You can also use red miso paste to make dishes like miso nikomi udon or miso soup!
Sesame tonkatsu sauce
Sesame tonkatsu sauce is what it says on the tin, classic tonkatsu sauce with an earthy and nutty flavour that comes from toasted ground sesame seeds. It’s also a lot thicker than your usual tonkatsu sauce. I recommend this one for fans of sesame!
See recipe card for details and quantities.
Of course the classic one is the easiest and fastest one to make at home as it only requires mixing, but I personally love the sesame one and miso one for a change sometimes! Honestly, I don’t have a favourite between the three, they’re all great!
Instructions on how to make tonkatsu sauce
Each tonkatsu sauce recipe requires different steps, so here I will explain each one in order of ease.
Classic Tonkatsu Sauce (2 minutes)
The quickest and easiest of the 3 only requires mixing in a bowl. You can whip it up in a couple of minutes!
Nagoya Style Red Miso Sauce (10 minutes)
Red miso sauce is also easy to make, but it needs to be cooked down a little. This is mainly to thicken the sauce and make it glossy, but also to cook off the alcohol in the sake and mirin. I simply add all the ingredients to a saucepan and heat it for 5-10 minutes!
Sesame Tonkatsu Sauce (10 minutes)
This one requires the most steps, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for a tonkatsu sauce with a nutty twist!
The first step is to toast the sesame seeds. Simply take a dry frying pan (no oil) and pour the sesame seeds in, heat the pan on medium and keep stirring the sesame seeds around to stop them from burning. They’re done when the colour has changed slightly and you can smell the sesame aroma. This should only take a few minutes.
Next I grind the toasted sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle. Try and make them as fine as possible to thoroughly release the flavour. Because it’s for a small batch, usually a food processor is too big for this. A spice blender would work great though!
Finally, just mix the ground sesame seeds with the other ingredients and you’re done!
Recipes to go with tonkatsu sauce
Now that you’ve got the sauce down, all you need is something to go with it. Check out some of my katsu recipes for some dishes that use tonkatsu sauce!
- Tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet)
- Chicken katsu (deep fried thigh)
- Hire katsu (deep fried pork tenderloin)
- Mechi katsu (ground meat croquette)
- Kabocha korokke (pumpkin croquette)
- Kani kurimu korokke (creamy crab croquette)
I hope you enjoy these tonkatsu sauce recipes! Do you have your own variation? Which one is your favourite? Let us know, comment below!
Best Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce (3 ways)
Classic Tonkatsu Sauce
- 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 pinches light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds
Nagoya Style Red Miso Tonkatsu Sauce
Toasted Sesame Tonkatsu Sauce
- 30 g white sesame seeds
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tsp sugar
- 40 ml water
Classic Tonkatsu Sauce (2 mins)
- Add 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp tomato ketchup, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 pinches light brown sugar and 2 tbsp white sesame seeds to a bowl and mix thoroughly until well incorporated.
Nagoya Style Red Miso Tonkatsu Sauce (10 mins)
- Add 100 ml dashi stock (or water), 2 tbsp red miso paste, 1 tbsp sake, 1½ tbsp mirin, 1 tsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp light brown sugar and ½ tbsp white sesame seeds to a small saucepan and place on the stove over a medium heat.
- Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until thick and glossy.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame seeds.
- Transfer to a bowl for dipping or simply pour it directly onto the katsu.
Toasted Sesame Tonkatsu Sauce (10 mins)
- Add 30 g white sesame seeds to a dry pan and heat on medium/medium-high.
- Stir continuously and toast the sesame seeds until slightly golden and you can smell the aroma.
- Grind the seeds down to a powder using a mortar and pestle (or spice blender).
- Mix the ground sesame seeds with 4 tsp soy sauce, 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp tomato ketchup, 2 tsp sugar and 40 ml water.
It really depends on manufacturer or restaurant, but the most popular tonkatsu sauce in Japan (Kagome’s tonkatsu sauce) contains: Vegetables and fruits (tomatoes, apples, carrots, others), vinegar, sugar, salt, amino acid solution, cornstarch, spices, fermented seasonings, sweetener.
Katsu is a general term for deep fried cutlet and tonkatsu refers to deep fried “pork” cutlet specifically, so they are the same unless stated (e.g. miso katsu sauce).
No, they are very different in terms of the ingredients, use and flavour.
The easiest substitute would be mixing 50% worcestershire sauce and 50% tomato ketchup.
They are similar to some extent, but the brown sauce is richer than tonkatsu sauce and tonkatsu sauce has more acidity.