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!
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.
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 for a healthier sauce.
How to Make Tonkatsu Sauce
- 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.
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!
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:
- Vegan Baked, Breaded Tofu Chicken
- Baked Chicken Katsu Recipe
- Ham and Cheese Fried Tofu Pockets
- Japanese Fried Chicken
- Beef and Potato Croquettes – Korokke
- Tofu Edamame Fish Cakes
- Thai Fish Sticks
Obviously, that’s just a few off the cuff ideas on dishes I think would pair well with this yummy Japanese sauce.
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.
Confession: I’ve even spread a thin layer of tonkatsu sauce on top of buttered toast.
And, was it delicious?
Other simple, delicious homemade sauce recipes:
- General Tso Sauce (3 Different Ways)
- Tartar Sauce: Japanese and Traditional American Versions
- Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
- Homemade Hoisin Sauce
- Thai Peanut Sauce
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!Print
Easy Tonkatsu Sauce とんかつソース (Only 4 Ingredients!)
A classic sweet and smoky Japanese sauce ready in 5 minutes.
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Total Time: 2 minutes
- Yield: makes about 1/2 cup tonkatsu sauce 1x
- Category: Sauce
- Cuisine: Japanese
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve.
Keywords: recipe, sauces, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian