Get your daily dose of vitamin K with this nutty, sweet and savory Japanese watercress salad! Eat it as a side or a snack or as part of a multi-course Japanese dinner. It’s the best!

bowl of Japanese watercress salad

Lately I’ve been making an effort to incorporate watercress more often into my diet after reading about all of its health benefits. Did you know that this little vegetable is so good for you that the CDC classifies it as a “powerhouse” vegetable?

At first I thought it could only be served as a raw salad but the more I cook with it and the more I can see its versatility.

When I’m not blending watercress into a delicious chilled green soup, I’ve taken to boiling it or quickly pan frying it. There’s something irresistible about the texture of watercress once it softens a little. It reminds me of one of my favorite vegetables of all time – Chinese water spinach (ong choy).

Just like regular spinach, ong choy has the ability to take on any flavor given to it. And just like watercress, it has tender leaves and crunchy stems.

And while water spinach is often used in Chinese cooking (西洋菜), watercress is the more popular choice when it comes to Japanese food.

fresh watercress leaves


What is Watercress?

Watercress is a dark leafy vegetable that is part of the same family as kale and broccoli. It grows near springs and streams and is native to Europe and Asia. It’s one of the oldest leafy greens used for cooking, and believed to be a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers.

But as newer, tastier leafy greens were cultivated, less people ate watercress which then took on the label of “poor man’s food.”

The reason why it’s making a comeback is because of its incredible health benefits and the fact that it’s so low in calories (1 cup = 4 calories).

One cup of watercress contains over 100% of the recommended daily intake vitamin K, an important vitamin for bone building and blood clotting. It’s also high in antioxidants which helps protect against chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

I’m not going to list all of the benefits attached to this magic vegetable – it would take too long – but you can find out more about it in this detailed article written by Dr. Axe.

chopped watercress

How To Eat Watercress

Watercress is very easy to prepare. You can eat the entire vegetable raw, steamed, or cooked, but the best way to retain as many nutrients as possible is to eat it raw.

Make sure you rinse it well though since little sticky bugs like to hide behind the leaves!

Instead of using a strainer, place the watercress in a bowl filled with water first. Leave it for a few minutes, take it out and then rinse it through a strainer. This method is an easy way to get rid of bugs and grains of sand as they will sink to the bottom of the bowl.

That’s a trick I picked up from Eric Ripert, merci chef 👨‍🍳!

watercress salad dressing

Watercress Salad Dressing

For this recipe you will need:

  • Natural peanut butter
  • Soy sauce
  • Honey
  • Rice vinegar
  • Mirin

While most of us are familiar with the PBJ combo, on the other side of the world it’s peanut butter and soy sauce that make the tastebuds sing. You will often find these two ingredients hanging out together to create delicious dipping sauces and dressings.

The flavors of this salad are classically Japanese – sweet, nutty, and with a good dose of umami. And if you are wondering if this watercress dressing is too sweet, fear not, it’s actually more on the savory side.

cooked watercress

How to Make Watercress Salad

  • Make the dressing for the salad by whisking the ingredients in a bowl, and set aside.
  • Place the watercress on a cutting board, separate the leaves from the stems and chop the stems.
  • Add the leaves and stems to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain well.
  • Put the watercress and salad dressing in a bowl and toss well.

What to Serve this Japanese Watercress Salad with

In Japan, watercress salad is usually served as part of a meal consisting of several small dishes. Think of it as Japanese tapas! Since the flavors are quite assertive, you will most likely only have a little at a time. Therefore I recommend serving it with a side of rice and something milder as a main like:

Or take your pick from these 27 Easy Japanese Recipes you can make at home.

Japanese watercress salad with peanut dressing Watercress salad

Did you like this Japanese Watercress Salad Recipe (クレソン サラダ)? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!


Japanese Watercress Salad

Get your daily dose of vitamin K with this nutty, sweet and savory Japanese watercress salad! Enjoy as a side or a snack or as part of a multi-course Japanese dinner.

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 minutes
  • Total Time: 13 minutes
  • Yield: 2 sides 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Japanese


  • 6 cups watercress
  • 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey, or use pure maple syrup or sugar for a vegan version
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • pinch salt


  1. Bring a medium size pot of water (about 6 cups), salted with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, to boil.
  2. Put the peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and mirin in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth and set aside.
  3. Rinse the watercress, drain and separate the leaves from the stems.
  4. Roughly chop the stems and add to the boiling water along with the leaves. Cook until the stems are tender but yielding a soft crunch (about 2-3 minutes).
  5. Drain, rinse under cold water and softly squeeze out excess water. Gently pat the watercress dry with a paper towel and add to a mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over the watercress and toss until the watercress is evenly coated.
  6. Serve.


This Japanese watercress salad will keep refrigerated, kept in a storage container, for up to 4 days.

Keywords: recipe, vegetarian, washoku, appetizer, side

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