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
Scroll all the way down for the full recipe.
- 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.
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.
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?
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.
- Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
- Calories: 40
- Sugar: 6.9 g
- Sodium: 399.3 mg
- Fat: 0 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 9.7 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 0.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: recipe, sauces, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian
i didn’t actually try this recipe myself… i made it for my mum and brother with pork tonkatsu. my brother hates pork as a rule, but was willing to give it a go. with the sauce, he actually ate the whole thing! and my mum was super complimentary too. the meat and the sauce went super well together – i really reccomend this recipe.
Hey Caroline, most of the bottled sauces have apple sauce as an ingredient and I’m curious as to why yours does not…
I didn’t feel like it needed it and was happy with the way it tasted 🙂
This is really good! But I was curious, if I wanted to try it with the applesauce, how much would I add?
This was a really simple recipe which was awesome because I know normally this sauce uses oyster sauce which I don’t always have. This still had a great taste and went perfect with my chicken katsu tonight! Definitely recommend!
I made the vegan Worcestershire accidentally thinking THAT was it, then noticed the rest of the instructions. Oops!
That said, this sauce was amazing with our extra crispy chicken cutlets. Definitely will make again!
I’ve been putting homemade tonkatsu sauce on my meatloaf for years and didn’t even know it.
Is the sauce what I need to makeTonkatsu soup?
I have been making a lot of ramen soup with chicken but my son had a spicy creamy soup what do I do make the pork boil for hours then add this ? He said it is spicy!
The ramen soup is actually called ‘tonkotsu’ and is made with pork bones. Tonkatsu sauce is more like a Japanese barbecue sauce used as a dipping sauce or to pair with fried foods 🙂
I haven’t made this sauce yet, but wanted to let you know there is a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce called Lord Sandys which is very good.
Thank you so much for this! Bulldog sauce has high fructose corn syrup so this is a great substitute.
You’re welcome Cindy! 🙂
Awesome! Quick to make and tastes just like store bought. I used gluten free Tamari instead of soy sauce and was perfect for a gluten free diet!
Thank you so much Spence!
The ingredients listed below ‘Make it Vegan’ is that a substitute for the whole recipe or just a substitute for the Worcester sauce (i.e. you’d still need to add the other ingredients)
Just wondering as the ketchup is absent from that list.
Hi Callum! It’s just a substitute for the Worcestershire sauce 🙂
Made this sauce this evening and put it on homemade cheese burgers and it was simply fantastic. Had it with Japanese Kewpie mayo, lettuce and pineapple rings and have to say the combo of the tonkatsu sauce and the Japanese mayo was utterly delicious.
I also saw that you have a DIY Japanese mayo recipe too, so once my bottle of Kewpie is finished I’ll be having a go at that too.
Many thanks Caroline!
You burger sounds soooo good, I’m also a big fan of pineapple and tonkatsu sauce on a burger, except that mine is with salmon 🙂 Thank you so much Tim!
Tonight is the second time I’m making this sauce. I like the simplicity of it, not a lot of ingredients and all you need to do is to measure and stir. I like the taste of it. It doesn’t mask the taste of the food but it adds flavor to it.
My goodness – I am going to be very busy for a long. time. I have looked for a good Japanese site FOREVER. Thank you so much for sharing your talent.
I am very familiar with Japanese cuisine – – have read 4 or 5 recipes and can’t wait to put them together and simply pig out. Baked breaded Tofu Chicken will be my first with Tonkatsu sauce
Thank you so much Fonce!!
This is my favorite Tonkatsu sauce by far. It has the depth and complexity I love
2/3C soy sauce
1/2C Heinz 57
1 apple, or Asian pear chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 can of 8 oz canned crushed pineapple and their juice
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
6 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp corn syrup
* combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Boil and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes until it gets thickened and syrupy. Strain the sauce in the strainer pressing with spoon to get all the juice. Discard the filling and keep the sauce in the fridge until ready to use. Makes about 1/2C
Yes! I made this sauce in a New York minute, including stirring!
How long can you keep this in the fridge?
Hi Carol! This sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a month 🙂
Thank you! Love how easy this was. I actually added a dash of sesame oil and it was super delish also! I also love that you added an explanation for Japanese sauces and the differences between them. I’m American with an Asian husband and trying to cook more Asian food for him and our kids. The background info really helps!
I am pinning this recipe and I just want to tell you how much I am enjoying perusing your blog! I also pinned the Pancit recipe and enjoyed the brief history lesson you provided with it. That will make an interesting story to share when eating that yummy looking dish!! I just wanted you to know I am enjoying your talent and the energy and care you obviously put into the site. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.
Thank you so much Lori, you just put a big smile on my face! 🙂