If you love Japanese side dishes, this one is for you! Gomae is the best Japanese spinach salad, dressed in a nutty, savory and sweet sesame sauce. Toast your own sesame seeds for the best flavor (I’ll teach you how!). This simple goma ae recipe is ready in 15 minutes from start to finish!
What is Gomae (胡麻和え)?
Gomae (or goma ae) is a Japanese side dish made of blanched spinach tossed in a sweet, savory, and nutty sesame sauce.
Now, the term ‘gomae’ actually refers to the sesame dressing itself. Goma means ‘sesame seeds’ – and Ae loosely means tossing or mixing together.
And while it’s most often served with blanched spinach (horenso) in the Western world, other versions – with the same sauce but different vegetables – are regularly served in Japan.
- Gobo (burdock root)
- Komatsuna (mustard spinach)
- Ninjin (carrot)
- Sayaingen (green beans)
Today, we’re making horenso gomae (ほうれん草の胡麻和え) with spinach.
How is Gomae Served?
This quick and easy Japanese spinach salad is typically served as a side.
Informal Japanese gastropubs called izakayas specialize in small-to-medium portion communal dishes – and you’ll frequently find gomae on the menu alongside other mainstays like takowasa, karaage and blistered shishito peppers.
Or you can use this easy Japanese salad recipe to round out a bento box lunch with a pop of vibrant green goodness.
And I love eating gomae with a simple bowl of perfectly steamed short grain rice.
Ingredients for Gomae (Horenso no Gomaae)
Scroll all the way down for the full recipe.
- Spinach: For this Japanese salad recipe, you’ll need a fair bit of spinach. 300 grams is about the equivalent of two small bags from the grocery store. If that sounds like a lot, you’ll be surprised by how quickly the size reduces from the blanching and shocking process.
- Sesame Seeds: I prefer to toast my own sesame seeds for this gomae recipe. Toasting brings out the best in terms of nuttiness – and can easily be done in a small pan or wok. Once toasted, we’ll need to grind the sesame seeds (more on that in a sec).
- Soy Sauce: You’ll only need about 1 tbsp soy sauce to introduce the perfect amount of savory umami to the mix.
- Sugar: A bit of granulated sugar introduces a hint of sweetness that marries so well with the other savory and nutty elements in the gomae sauce – without heading over into cloying territory.
- Dashi Powder: Much like powdered boullion in the West, dashi powder is a Japanese soup base derived from kelp and fermented and dried bonito or skipjack tuna. The flavor is savory with marine notes. Hondashi is typically fairly easy to track down in most Asian grocery stores these days – or you can grab hondashi here on Amazon. If you’re making a vegan gomae, omit the hondashi and use kombudashi instead.
- Water: We’ll be blanching and shocking the spinach. But you’ll also want to set aside a tablespoon of water for the dressing.
Pestle and Mortar vs Sesame Seed Grinder
Traditionally, the toasted sesame seeds used in gomae are ground in an earthenware mortar with a ridged interior called a suribachi. The grinding of the sesame seeds releases even more of their nutty flavor.
My mother loves grabbing the wooden pestle and giving her arms a good workout when making gomae at home.
I’m a little more new-school and use a sesame seed grinder in my own kitchen. It’s basically a manual spice mill. But use whatever you’ve got handy.
How to Make Gomae
- Gather all of your kitchen tools and ingredients.
- Toast the sesame seeds. Place the sesame seeds in a small pan over low heat. Stir the seeds continuously until they become golden. This should take around 6 – 7 minutes.
- Grind the sesame seeds. Turn the heat off and transfer the toasted seeds to a sesame seed grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind the seeds until they resemble large grains of sand.
- Make the dressing. Place the ground seeds in a bowl with the soy sauce, sugar, dashi powder and water. Stir and set aside.
- Blanch and shock the spinach. Add a tablespoon of salt to a large pot of water and place over high heat until boiling. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice and cold water and set aside. Add the spinach to the pot of boiling water for 1 minute and then drain. Transfer the hot spinach to the bowl with ice and cold water and leave it until the spinach is cold.
- Drain the spinach. Using your hands, wring as much moisture from the cold cooked spinach leaves as possible.
- Cut the spinach. Place the handfuls of drained spinach on a cutting board and cut the chunks into 2-inch long pieces. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Finally, add the dressing. Using chopsticks, toss the spinach and dressing until evenly coated and serve.
Spinach gomae is best when freshly made. However it also keeps pretty well for a few days.
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator inside an airtight container for 3-4 days. But do not freeze.
Other Japanese Side Dishes
I could eat an entire meal comprised of side dishes. If you’re like me, and feel like making a small-plate Japanese feast at home, here are a few suggestions:
Easy Japanese side dishes
Did you like this gomae recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
Gomae (Japanese spinach and sesame salad)
Love Japanese side dishes? Gomae is the best Japanese spinach salad, dressed in a nutty, savory and sweet sesame sauce. Ready in 15 minutes!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 minute
- Total Time: 16 minutes
- Yield: 4 small sides 1x
- Category: Side
- Method: Boiling
- Cuisine: Japanese
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3/4 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon dashi powder such as hondashi
- 1 tablespoon water
- 300g spinach
- Put the sesame seeds in a small pan and turn the heat to low. Keep stirring the seeds until they become golden – about 6 to 7 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and put the seeds in a sesame seed grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind the seeds into a bowl and add the soy sauce, sugar, dashi powder, and water. Stir and set aside.
- Fill a large pot with water and 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, fill a medium to large bowl with ice and cold water. Set aside.
- Add the spinach and boil for 1 minute and drain.
- Transfer the spinach to the bowl with ice and leave for a few minutes, until the spinach is cold.
- Drain the spinach and using your hands, take a chunk of spinach and squeeze as much excess water as you can. Place the spinach on a cutting board and repeat with the remaining spinach.
- Cut the spinach into 2-inch long pieces and transfer it to a mixing bowl.
- Add the sesame sauce on top and using chopsticks, toss until the spinach is evenly coated with the sauce. Serve.
- Serving Size: 4
- Calories: 104
- Sugar: 5.4g
- Sodium: 119.7mg
- Fat: 5.1g
- Saturated Fat: 0.7g
- Unsaturated Fat: 2.2g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 12.3g
- Fiber: 4.4g
- Protein: 5.9g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: goma-e, goma-ae