Shabu shabu sauce is a delicious must for any Japanese hot pot. The sweet, tangy sauce can also be served as an all-purpose condiment over any meal or snack.
You may be tempted to buy the premade stuff, but rest assured, it’s easy to make and bursting with personality. In this article, we will teach you how to make the popular Asian dressing at home. In addition, we’ve also included steps on how to make a few different varieties such as traditional, creamy sesame, egg, ponzu, and spicy.
We travelled to numerous hotpot restaurants that serve traditional shabu shabu sauce and analysed their styles to come up with our recipes. So, keep reading to learn how to make these 5 amazing Asian condiments!
What is Shabu Shabu sauce made of?
Shabu shabu sauce is made of soy sauce, dashi, rice vinegar, and mirin. The simplicity of these ingredients allows the flavours of the meat and vegetables to shine through.
The blend of those 4 ingredients above creates the unique taste of a classic shabu shabu sauce recipe. However, there can be several flavour combinations.
For example, sesame shabu shabu sauce is a common choice for those who want an extra twist with their meal. There is also a spicy version that uses more chilli, and a citrusy variant that uses lemon or yuzu.
What does Shabu Shabu sauce taste like?
Shabu shabu sauce has a savoury yet tangy taste to it. It has a nice saltiness from the soy sauce and works well with the umami of the dashi. On the other hand, the vinegar gives an exciting harshness, which is mellowed out by the sweetness of the mirin.
What can you use it for?
Shabu shabu sauce is mainly a dip or dressing for Japanese hotpot, but it is a very versatile condiment and you can use it as a side for many other dishes.
For example, you can use it as a dip for dumplings, potstickers, and wontons. It’s also great to glaze burgers, meatloaf, and grilled chicken. You can use it at your next Korean BBQ at home or even as a salad dressing.
It’s really up to you what you use it for, so don’t be afraid to get creative with it.
Where to buy Shabu Shabu sauce
If you still prefer to buy your shabu shabu sauce, you can find it online Amazon. There are plenty of choices though the most popular would be the sesame sauce and the citrus-flavoured ponzu dip.
Otherwise, we recommend visiting your nearest Chinese grocer or Asian supermarket to see if they have them in stock.
Shabu Shabu Sauce Ingredients
The main ingredients for the best shabu shabu sauce are soy sauce, dashi, rice wine vinegar and mirin. Here are more details about each ingredient.
You’ve probably heard of the Chinese fermented soybean liquid known as soy sauce, so there isn’t much to explain about this one. We’ve tested and recommend you use light soy sauce rather than dark soy sauce if available.
You can get light soy sauce at most grocery stores, and it will add a salty savouriness to your shabu shabu sauce.
Dashi is a popular Japanese stock used in a variety of different soups such as miso soup and ramen. You can make it from scratch simply by boiling a mixture of bonito, kelp (Japanese wakame seaweed) and shiitake mushrooms.
However, from our experience, we found it easier to just use instant dashi powder to make shabu shabu sauce at home. You can store them in your pantry for a very long time. In addition, they are useful for making many different Japanese dishes too! You can usually get dashi from your local Asian market or online.
Mirin is a rice wine similar to sake, except for the fact that it’s extremely sweet and low in alcohol. It pairs well with soy sauce and can mellow out the harshness of any condiment you add it to.
Similar to dashi, it can be found at any local Asian market or purchased from online stores like Amazon.
Rice wine vinegar
Rice wine vinegar is a vinegar made from rice. It’s pretty close to white wine vinegar and can likely be found in the same section at the supermarket. Rice wine vinegar has a balanced ratio of sweet and sour and invigorates the hearty flavour of the meat.
We also recommend avoiding Chinese black vinegar for shabu shabu sauce. Although it is essentially made from rice too, black vinegar has a more intense and acidic flavour.
If you’re out of any of the ingredients, can’t find them, or have an allergy, then here is a list of substitutes you can use for your shabu shabu sauce.
It’s hard to imitate the signature flavour of soy sauce, but here are some substitutions that work in a pinch:
- Worcheshire sauce (1:1)
- Tamari (1:1)
- Oyster sauce (1:1)
- Salt (¼ teaspoon of salt for every teaspoon of soy sauce)
Just note that substituting with any of the above will create a different base flavour for your hot pot dressing.
Since dashi is stock, you have a lot of options. When substituting dashi, try to choose a flavour that adds umami but isn’t too overpowering. Here are some viable substitutions:
- Mushroom stock (1:1)
- Seafood stock (1:1)
- Beef stock (½ cup of beef stock for every cup of dashi)
- Miso paste (1:1)
Rice Wine Vinegar
Are you wondering if the kinds of vinegar you already have can substitute for rice wine vinegar? Here is a list of the best vinegar to substitute for rice wine vinegar (all ratios are 1:1 here):
- Apple cider vinegar
- White wine vinegar
- Sherry vinegar
- Rice vinegar
- Champagne vinegar
- Distilled white vinegar
If you can’t seem to find mirin anywhere and the nearest Asian market is hours away, here are some substitutes you can use in place of mirin:
- Dry sherry (1:1)
- Sweet Marsala wine (1:1)
- Sake and sugar (1 teaspoon of sake and 2 tablespoons of sugar for every 1 tablespoon of mirin)
Shabu Shabu sauce variations
There are many variations of shabu shabu sauce you can cook to make it taste even better. Here are some of our favourite variants of the Asian dip and how you can make them. Try adding these variations to our base recipe below.
To make a creamy sesame version, simply add the following to our base recipe below. Start by adding 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of Greek yoghurt to our base recipe mixture. Finally, add toasted sesame seeds for garnish.
It is possible to have shabu shabu sauce with eggs! Adding an egg yolk can enhance the richness of your condiment. Just separate the egg yolk and add as many as you want to the final dip.
The more you add, the more profound the flavour will be. Alternatively, you can grate some cured egg yolks for an even more intense flavour.
Spicy Shabu Shabu sauce
Want a little bit of flair to your hot pot dip? Try making it a bit spicy. To make your base condiment hot and spicy, mix in some wasabi and chilli oil to taste. Remember a small amount of wasabi goes a long way!
A citrus shabu shabu sauce or ponzu (ポン酢) is a refreshing dip. You can make it simply by following these simple steps. Firstly, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to your base mixture and then a few squeezes of orange!
Shabu Shabu Sauce Recipe
- 2 tbsps mirin
- ½ cup dashi
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- Dried seaweed or sesame seeds for garnish
- In a saucepan, combine the dashi, mirin, and soy sauce.
- Bring to a gentle boil and then turn down the heat. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the rice wine vinegar and mix.
- Pour into individual serving platters and add garnish.
- Enjoy your homemade shabu shabu recipe!
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
If you’re a fan of a nutty sesame sauce dressing instead, then Aoi from Washoku: Authentic Japanese cooking has a comprehensive video guide on how to make it! Therefore, we highly recommend checking out her video recipe below.
Now that you’ve learned how to make this Asian dressing, go try it out! So, share with us how yours turned out by posting a photo on Instagram and tagging us @honestfoodtalks!
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