Say hello to your favorite Japanese condiment! This easy to make Tonkatsu Sauce Recipe is delectable with everything from Japanese breaded katsu cutlets to croquettes; even sandwiches! Tart, savory and sweet, this Tonkatsu Sauce (とんかつソース) only requires 4 pantry ingredients and under 2 minutes from start to finish!

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

What is Tonkatsu Sauce?

Tonkatsu sauce – とんかつソース – (sometimes also referred to as katsu sauce) is a sweet and tangy Japanese condiment used for dipping or as a sauce for sandwiches. It’s made using a mixture of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, celery, carrots, apples, and prunes, a variety of spices, and condiments such as soy sauce and vinegar.

The word tonkatsu actually means pork cutlet so the literal translation for tonkatsu sauce is pork cutlet sauce. You might have seen it sold in Asian stores next to the ketchup or barbecue sauce. The Bulldog brand is by far the most popular tonkatsu sauce and is sold in three different flavors – Worcestershire (a spicier version), semi-sweet, and classic. 

It’s been around since 1902, right around the time when western food was becoming popular in Japanese homes. The sauce was developed to accommodate the Japanese palate and was used on western dishes such as cutlets and other fried foods.

Tonkatsu sauce can also be referred to as Japanese barbecue sauce. Parts of the flavor profile you might associate with a good Western style BBQ sauce are represented in this iconic Japanese sauce.

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

Ingredients for Tonkatsu Sauce

  • Ketchup: One of the two main ingredients for this sauce. Ketchup adds a tangy sweetness that can only be found in tomato based products.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Usually, Worcestershire is used sparingly because of its strong flavor. But when it comes to making tonkatsu sauce, as much as 1/4 cup is used. So you can expect plenty of smokiness!
  • Sugar: Just a teaspoon to adjust the sweetness of the sauce.
  • Soy Sauce: A couple of teaspoons for saltiness.

Adjusting the Flavors

The recipe I create is to mimic the taste of Bulldog’s classic tonkatsu sauce as close as possible. If you prefer something spicier, adjust the sauce by adding a little more Worcestershire sauce. You could even mince a couple of Thai chilis and add them to the sauce.

If you prefer it sweeter, add more ketchup and a sprinkle of sugar. You could also substitute honey for sugar.

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

How to Make Tonkatsu Sauce

  1. Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

No, really, it’s that easy!

Make it Vegan

Since Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, this is not something to offer to your vegan friends. However, you can make a plant based version of this sauce. To make 1/4 cup of vegan Worcestershire sauce you will need:

  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of allspice

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and transfer the sauce to a bottle. Leave it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

How to Store Tonkatsu Sauce

Tonkatsu sauce should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It should last for several months.

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

Types of Japanese Sauces

Tonkatsu sauce is part of a triumvirate of Japanese style sauces, unsurprisingly called ‘sauce’ (ソース) – [pronounced so-su].

An easy way to think about sauce is that it’s kinda like a Japanese Worcestershire sauce.

These contrasting, yet similar types of Japanese sauce are differentiated primarily by viscosity and intended use.

  • Usuta Sauce (ウスターソース) is a thinner and more watery version.
  • Chuno Sauce (中濃ソース) is more of a split-the-difference type of sauce from a viscosity standpoint. Think of it as medium-thick.
  • Tonkatsu sauce tends to be the thickest of the variations. It has the perfect density to go along with deep fried and breaded dishes.

Now – aside from the sauce thickness, there are different recipes for Japanese sauce that are intended to accompany dishes as varied as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, yakisoba and katsu.

While the tastes of these sauces (and their intended uses) may be slightly different, many of the base ingredients are the same. Therefore, it is absolutely OK to substitute one for another in a pinch.

In fact, I have used this homemade four-ingredient tonkatsu sauce many times when I’m making a simple yakisoba – or an okonomiyaki style omelet – at home. Although not the technically correct sauce, it gets the job done – and tastes delicious in the process!

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

What to Serve with Tonkatsu Sauce

Now, there are a few no-brainers when it comes to pairing this sauce with a dish. The historically intended use is with Japanese breaded pork cutlets.

But, like I said, it’s totally possible here to think more in terms of all-purpose.

It would go super well with these as well:

Obviously, that’s just a few off the cuff ideas on dishes I think would pair well with this yummy Japanese sauce.

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

But, the fact of the matter is: it’s pretty much good with everything!

When asking yourself if you’re about to dig into a dish that might be better with tonkatsu sauce, you may find this question helpful: Would this be good with barbecue sauce or ketchup?

If the answer is yes on either count, then you know it’s gonna be good with this dead-simple tonkatsu sauce recipe! That means everything from eggs to sandwiches to burgers and fries (and all stops in between) are totally candidates for a little drizzle of this homemade Japanese sauce on top.

In reality, tonkatsu sauce isn’t just a great ketchup substitute. You can feel free to use this sauce as a tasty alternative to okonomiyaki sauce, takoyaki sauce and yakisoba sauce in a pinch.

Confession: I’ve even spread a thin layer of tonkatsu sauce on top of buttered toast.

And, was it delicious?

Heck YES!

Other simple, delicious homemade sauce recipes:

Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com Homemade Japanese Style Tonkatsu Sauce - Learn how to make tonkatsu sauce with just 4 ingredients! I love tonkatsu sauce, even more than barbecue sauce because of its tangy and sweet flavors. It goes well with sandwiches, potato croquettes, chicken, pork and baked tofu. Since I’ve started making my own, I never buy anymore - it’s so much better! #homemadesauce #japanesefood #barbecuesauce #dippingsauce | pickledplum.com

Did you like this Easy Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!

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Easy Tonkatsu Sauce とんかつソース (Only 4 Ingredients!)

A classic sweet and smoky Japanese sauce ready in 5 minutes.

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: makes about 1/2 cup tonkatsu sauce 1x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Cuisine: Japanese
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Keywords: recipe, sauces, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian

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