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Best yuzu kosho substitute | Get the spicy, citrusy saltiness just right!

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  July 24, 2022

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Maybe you’ve been to Japan or some special Japanese restaurant downtown and ordered a Japanese dish that’s served with a condiment that tastes citrusy, salty, and a bit spicy.

And in curiosity, you asked the chef what it was, and he said, “Musuko, it’s yuzu kosho.”

I know the feeling when you first hear the name. For some reason, sushi, grilled fish, or even BBQ taste better when paired with yuzu kosho.

But now that you’re back at your place, you look around the market for the recipe, only to find yourself with nothing. Saddening, isn’t it?

Best yuzu kosho substitute | Get the spicy, citrusy saltiness just right!

If you’re in a pinch and can’t find yuzu kosho, don’t worry! There are plenty of substitutes that will give your dish the same flavor profile. You can use other types of citrus fruit like lemons with seasoning of salt and chilies and get pretty close to the yuzu kosho taste experience.

I’ll show you some of the best options, but keep in mind that yuzu kosho is quite something unique, so any substitute would just be an approximation.

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But first, what is yuzu kosho?

Yuzu kosho is a Japanese seasoning made from yuzu peel, green chili peppers, and salt. It is used as a condiment for grilled fish, sushi, and other dishes.

This recipe originates from the Edo period in Japan, where it was created as a way to preserve yuzu peel and has now become widely used in Japanese cuisine.

You can buy it in most Japanese or Asian grocery stores or find it online.

What is yuzu kosho

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Yuzu kosho is used as a condiment or seasoning for dishes such as grilled fish, sushi, and noodles. It can also be used as a marinade or dipping sauce.

It has a citrusy, salty, and slightly peppery flavor. It is also a bit spicy due to the chili peppers that are used in the recipe.

Now that you know what yuzu kosho is and where it came from, it’s time to find a substitute!

What is a good yuzu kosho substitute?

In making an alternative to yuzu kosho, it’s the yuzu fruit that’s often missing.

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that’s cultivated in East Asia and is quite popular in countries like China and Korea.

But recently, it has been cultivated in Spain, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, and France. So, maybe in the future, you’ll have access to a local yuzu kosho too!

I know it’s really hard to find this fruit, especially if you’re in the Netherlands, some parts of the US, or other European countries.

But no worries, because I will give you some of the best substitutes you can try to make your own yuzu kosho.

Best ready-made yuzu kosho substitutes

Below, I will give you alternative ingredients to make you own yuzu kosho. But you mind not have time for the hassle and would like an instant replacement.

So, to start off I’ve gathered some ready-made yuzu kosho alternatives.

They’re different kinds of Japanese condiments that you can also pair with your sushi or grilled meat, just like you would yuzu kosho.

Here are some of the sauces that you can use as yuzu kosho alternatives to save you time.

Wasabi sauce

Wasabi is a traditional Japanese condiment made from the root of the wasabi plant.

It has a sharp, hot, and sinus-clearing flavor that goes well with sushi and sashimi.

Use wasabi sauce as a substitute for yuzu kosho

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If you can’t find yuzu kosho, then wasabi sauce is your best alternative. You can use it as a dip for your sushi or sashimi.

To get a bit closer to the citrusy flavor of yuzu kosho, sprinkle some lemon juice over the sauce, and you would be surprised by the zing!

Sriracha sauce

Sriracha is a Southeast Asian chili sauce made from sun-ripened chilies, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.

It has a tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy flavor that goes well with Asian dishes.

Use sriracha sauce as a substitute for yuzu kosho

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You can use sriracha sauce as a yuzu kosho alternative if you want to add more spice to your dish.

Again, adding some lemon juice will lift the flavor.

Ponzu sauce

Then, if you want to add even more more acidity to your dish, you can use Ponzu sauce as a yuzu kosho alternative.

Ponzu is a Japanese citrus-based sauce made from vinegar, soy sauce, and mirin.

Ponzu sauce made with yuzu fruit to substitute yuzu kosho

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The soy sauce adds salt, just like in yuzu kosho, and the citrus flavor is really close! You can even find ponzu sauce made with yuzu fruit.

It has a sour, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor that goes well with grilled meats and fish.

The main difference is that ponzu sauce is not spicy. This is perfect for those that don’t really like spicy food.

But to get closer to yuzu kosho, you can always add some chili paste.

For more inspiration, also check out my extensive list of the 16 best ponzu sauce substitutes (+ recipe to recreate the perfect taste!)

Best DIY yuzu kosho substitutes

Next, let’s look at some ingredient combinations that you can use when making your own yuzu kosho.

Buddha’s hand + some salt + some chiles

The Buddha’s hand is said to be the best substitute for yuzu fruit in making your own yuzu kosho.

In general, its flavor is comparable to bergamot, albeit it may be lemonier and milder. It also has a fantastic shape, a bit like a hand, hence the name.

Buddha’s hand can be used in a variety of cuisines, from pickles to sweets. It may improve the flavor of any dish, thanks to its outstanding aroma and flavor.

Buddha’s hand also has a ton of incredible health advantages.

It has been used for hundreds of years as a form of pain alleviation. Additionally, it reduces edema and speeds up wound healing.

Don’t worry about how to prepare them! I will not leave you hanging.

Continue reading to find the best substitute available in your kitchen and how you can DIY your way to making your own delicious yuzu kosho—or even exceed it.

Meyer lemon + a tablespoon of salt + a handful of green chiles

Another common variety of lemon that works well as a yuzu replacement is the Meyer lemon.

These lemons are frequently used in drinks and desserts since they are typically sweeter and a little bigger than regular lemons.

They are a hybrid citrus variety that was first grown in China and then spread to other nations.

These lemons, which have been around for more than a century, are of average size and have a little orange tinge to the peel.

Meyer lemons also typically have a pleasant scent with herbal and flowery undertones. They also taste and smell like thyme and honeysuckle.

The skin is not as thick as that of regular lemons or other lemon cultivars, making them an excellent alternative for drinks because they have comparatively more juice.

Half a lime + half an orange + some fresh thyme leaves

According to one yuzu kosho enthusiast, half a lime plus half an orange, added with some freshly-picked thyme leaves, can create an excellent yuzu kosho substitute, perfect for your sushi or grilled fish dish.

I haven’t tried this one yet, but I think this will work out well.

Procimequat + garlic + chilis + pinch of salt

A procimequat is an amazing hybrid citrus fruit that is a cross between a limequat (which itself is a cross between a lime and a kumquat) and a wild kumquat.

Its flavor can be described as a combination of citrus, lemon, and celery and is used in many other recipes, including seafood salsa.

It also functions admirably as a martini garnish.

What makes it a great substitute for yuzu is its herbal and citrus flavor, similar to that of yuzu. So, you might also try this one.

I admit though, that finding a procimequat might be as hard as finding yuzu.

Lime + chili oil + bergamot

Another yuzu kosho lover is also said to have hacked the original yuzu kosho flavor by combining limes, chili oil, and bergamot.

Well, this is also another excellent option you can try to substitute for the original Japanese yuzu kosho.

Limes and chili oil are usually available, and bergamot oil can be purchased online (just make sure you use food-grade oil).

How to prepare yuzu kosho using the substitute ingredients

As you can see, replacing yuzu is just a matter of being resourceful and having the ability to play around with the alternatives.

Now of course we need to look at how to prepare them.

Basically, I will give you a general procedure that you can DIY for your own yuzu kosho.

So, here’s how you can prepare your homemade yuzu kosho substitute.

It’s just the same process as the original yuzu kosho in that we are replacing the Japanese yuzu fruit with different alternatives.

So guess what, this will even work if you can actually find yuzu to use!

Prepare the ingredients

Take a handful of green chilies and split them in half lengthwise. Using the back of your fingernail, remove the seeds and stem.

You might want to consider using gloves for this step, so your fingers won’t burn!

Next, take all of the substituted citrus fruit and, with a peeler, peel its skin, and chop it with the knife.

Grind and mix

In a mortar, grind the chilies together with 1-2 tablespoons of extremely good quality mineral salt. Add the citrus peel and keep grinding.

Remember, some of these substituted citrus fruits can be really sweet or tangier than others. The secret is controlling the amount of salt and chilies, or sugar.

Mix them all together until they become a very smooth paste.

Store the paste

After you’re satisfied, transfer the recipe to a clean jar and leave it for an hour or so, but if you can leave it overnight, then much better.

Let all the ingredients enjoy the mix-up and become as tasty as possible.

After an hour or overnight, you’ll now have your own DIY yuzu kosho ready to pair with your other Asian dishes.

FAQs

Now, I know that you have some questions in your mind from this yuzu kosho crash course, so let’s have a fun Q and A session!

What is the difference between yuzu and orange?

Generally speaking, a yuzu is larger than an orange. Another differentiation is apparent when we observe their rinds and seeds.

Yuzu rinds are pale green, while orange rinds have a much darker color. Its flesh is fuller of juice than oranges are.

The seeds of yuzu are small. Orange seeds have bigger seeds that are easily accessible.

Yuzu is very acidic, and orange has a slightly pronounced flavor. Its taste is distinctive to the citrus family.

Often considered the toughest fruit, peeling the fruit was called the Emperor’s berry.

Can you use the yuzu kosho substitute for almost every dishes?

Yes, you can! As I’ve mentioned earlier, yuzu kosho is a versatile ingredient. You can use it as a dip, condiment, or even marinade.

So whether you’re making sushi, sashimi, grilled meats, or fish, you can definitely use the substitutes above.

Do note that the flavor will be different from the original Japanese yuzu kosho since these substitutes have their own unique flavors.

But that’s the beauty of it, right? You get to experiment and find the perfect combination for your dish.

Which dish is best paired with yuzu kosho?

Sushi or some grilled fish on a cold day is ideal because of its hot chili, but as I’ve mentioned, it’s pretty flexible and can be used on just about any dish.

Is yuzu kosho banned in the US?

It is forbidden to bring fresh yuzu into the US in order to save American agriculture against diseases that affect Asian crops.

However, yuzu is now grown in the US, and due to its limited supply, expect to find that it will be expensive.

Final thoughts

So, those are some of the best yuzu kosho substitutes that you can use.

With these substitutes, you can still enjoy the flavor of yuzu kosho in your dishes without having to search for the actual ingredient.

So the next time you can’t find yuzu kosho, don’t fret! These substitutes will do the trick.

Here’s another condiment that’s hard to substitute (not impossible, though!): Worcestershire sauce

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.