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!
Easy Tonkatsu Sauce とんかつソース (Only 4 Ingredients!)
Ever tried Bulldog sauce?
Yep – that’s kind of a weird question, right!? But I’ll explain.
When I was a kid, my mother would drizzle a brownish, savory, sweet and tart sauce on everything from hearty breaded cutlets to delicate finger sandwiches.
It was amazing stuff. And, apparently, I used to demand it with the same fervor most kids demand ketchup for their fries and chicken nuggets.
I clearly remember the almost rectangular plastic container – and the illustration of the red bulldog that was emblazoned near the top.
The label said it was ‘vegetable and fruit sauce’ – but my mother called it tonkatsu sauce.
It became a huge part of my culinary upbringing. And, now that I do the lion’s share of cooking in my own home, I use tonkatsu sauce where I see fit. Basically, I use it a lot!
Hey – it’s goooood to be the boss in the kitchen!
Tonkatsu sauce: your new favorite condiment
Last week, I was running some yummy experiments in the kitchen. One of the recipes I was developing was oven baked tofu nuggets that had the assertive flavor and crunch of a decadent fried chicken.
Well, did it work?
Oh yeah, success!
Check out my vegan baked breaded tofu chicken here.
While my nuggets were baking away in the oven, I started to think about what sauces I’d like to sample alongside my culinary trials.
While I had a bit of leftover Japanese tartar sauce in the fridge, I was craving something else.
Now, truth be told, I’m a HUGE fan of barbeque sauce – and maybe even a bigger fan of ketchup! So, obviously, I’m easy to please from a condiment standpoint.
And, with that complex flavor in mind, I set out to recreate an easy, homemade tonkatsu sauce with items most of us already have in our pantries.
Seriously – four ingredients is all it takes to whip up your new favorite condiment!
What is tonkatsu sauce?
Tonkatsu sauce – とんかつソース – (sometimes also referred to as katsu sauce) is a sweet, savory and tangy condiment that you’ll usually find paired up with a lightly breaded and impossibly crispy tonkatsu recipe.
Now, while tonkatsu is a panko breaded pork cutlet, it’s not uncommon to hear a breaded chicken cutlet referred to as chicken katsu.
And you might actually hear tonkatsu sauce sometimes referred to as Japanese barbeque sauce.
With good reason!
Parts of the flavor profile you might associate with a good Western style BBQ sauce are represented in a good pork or chicken katsu sauce.
There’s a thick, sweet, tomato-loaded essence from the use of ketchup – and a savory, umami undertone brought on by soy sauce.
However, the star of the show from a flavor perspective is the Worcestershire sauce. It delivers a complex blend of tartness from vinegar, sweetness from molasses and saltiness from anchovies.
But, even though we are using store bought, pre-made sauces – when you combine them, you definitely get a resulting flavor that is all Japanese yōshoku!
And although the traditional intended use for tonkatsu sauce is as an accompaniment for a breaded and usually deep fried meat cutlet, the flavor goes with so much MORE!
In fact, I have totally used tonkatsu sauce as an okonomiyaki sauce. And – in a serious cooking pinch – I’ve even used it as a much brighter oyster sauce substitute!
So, then what is sauce – ソース?
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!
How to make homemade tonkatsu sauce
This is the part where I get to tell you how drop-dead-easy mixing up this condiment is.
Even though we are using premade sauces in our mixture, it comes out tasting like way more than the sum of its parts. Tangy, sweet, salty and complex!
In fact, in a (very unscientific) blind taste test, Ben preferred this homemade version to the store bought Bulldog sauce.
Is it the best tonkatsu sauce? Well, you’ll just have to mix up a batch and decide for yourself 🙂
Mix a quarter cup tomato ketchup with a quarter cup Worcestershire sauce. Then simply add in two teaspoons of soy sauce and a teaspoon of granulated sugar.
Give the whole thing a really thorough mix – and that’s it!
Seriously, there aren’t many dipping sauces that pack the major punch of this easy, homemade tonkatsu sauce. And it only requires four ingredients and two minutes of your time.
Yep – it’s so easy to make we could probably get that down to a minute-and-a-half. 45 seconds? Ha!
If you make it, leave me a comment and let me know what your record time is!
What does this homemade Tonkatsu Sauce go with?
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 barbeque 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!