6 quick & easy homemade Japanese Gari pickled ginger recipes

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 30, 2020

Often served with sushi or sashimi as a side dish, pickled ginger (“gari” in the Japanese tongue), is made with the purpose to cleanse your palate in order for your tastebuds to experience the best flavors in your meal.

People just can’t get over the four distinctive flavors of pickled ginger gives them – spicy, sweet, briny, and bright.

As a matter of fact, some people even love to eat at a sushi restaurant simply because of how great the gari is.

How to make Japanese gari pickled ginger

Imagine that?! And you thought the sushi is what people are craving for the most (although sushi is pretty great as well, and there are all these different types of it)

The gari that you’ll purchase from restaurants and stores will probably taste great; however, what you may not know is that it’s actually very easy as well as inexpensive to prepare it at home.

Let’s talk about that in this post.

What is Gari?

Gari is a sushi side dish made from thinly sliced young ginger rhizomes and then pickled in rice vinegar that’s been sweetened.

It is one of the most common side dishes of sushi.

The most surprising thing is that it’s very easy to make yet it’s also a very healthy dish as you don’t need any preservatives to prepare it.

Young Ginger

The pink-colored pickled ginger that’s commonly found at sushi restaurants is called sushi ginger or “gari” in Japanese.

The pink color comes from the pink tips of fresh young ginger.

Make pickled ginger from young pink ginger root

(this is a text overlay image based on the original work young fresh ginger by Ruth Hartnup on Flickr under cc)

Japanese sushi chefs prefer young ginger for pickling, because its thin skin is easy to peel, and its flesh is still tender which makes it also easy to slice thinly.

Young ginger is difficult to harvest, as it only grows in the spring, which is why it is more commonly found at an international market than your local supermarket – needless to say it is expensive.

However, even the older gingers that are called “golden hands” that’s widely available in groceries can be prepared and made to look like pink pickled ginger as well.

While using different kinds of knives, you’ll be surprised to find out that a spoon is a much more efficient tool to use when peeling gingers whether young or matured ones.

Pink Pickled Ginger

Making the gari from a young ginger is easier, because it has a natural pink pigment, whereas the older ones change from golden-yellow to brown.

But you can also make pink pickled ginger from mature gingers and all you need to add is a single red radish to the mix when you pickle the ginger.

This method is only optional, as it is always recommended that you use young ginger to make gari.

Still, you may encounter white or beige gari in many sushi restaurants these days, and when you do, then you’ll know that the gari is made from mature ginger.

There were some cases where patrons of a sushi joint thought that the pink pickled ginger was made using artificial food coloring and rejected it right off the bat.

This prompted chefs to just prepare their gari without any additives or use mature ginger in order to appease their guests.

Taming Ginger’s Heat

In case you’re going to use mature ginger to make your gari, then be sure to cure it quickly (and cook it lightly) and add salt before you pickle it.

This is because it’s a bit tougher and fiercer than the fresh young ginger.

Marinate the sliced ginger with kosher salt and leave it in a small bowl for 35 minutes before you pickle it.

The salt is meant to make the ginger tender and also tame its heat.

Using Your Pickled Ginger

6 healthy pickled ginger uses and meals

Gari can be used on other dishes besides sushi or sashimi and because they taste so good, they instantly complement any sufficiently delicious delicacy.

Here are a few examples:

Best “Gari” Pink Pickled Sushi Ginger Recipes

Sushi ginger recipe

Pink Gari sushi ginger recipe

This recipe is to make the original pink gari: the sushi ginger you'll find in most Japanese restaurants.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword Ginger, Pickled, Sushi
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Joost Nusselder
Cost $8

Ingredients

  • 3.5-5 oz young ginger root (100-150 g)
  • ½ tbsp salt kosher or sea salt, use only half if it's table salt)

Japanese Sweet vinegar (Amazu)

  • ½ cup minus 1 tbsp rice vinegar (100ml)
  • 4 tbsp sugar (45 g)

Instructions

  • Prepare the ingredients
  • Scrape off the unwanted brown spots with a spoon, then use a peeler to slice the ginger thinly
  • Sprinkle the thinly sliced ginger with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and let it sit for 5 minutes, then toss it into a pot of boiling water and allow it to cook from 1 to 3 minutes. If you prefer to retain the ginger’s spiciness, then cook it for only 1 minute; otherwise, keep it in the pot for 3 minutes.
  • Once cooked, pour the water and ginger on a strainer to drain the water and then spread them on a paper towel over a clean dry plate. You can use food plastic gloves to cover your hands as you pick the ginger one by one and squeeze them over a Mason jar in order to remove the remaining water in the ginger slices.
  • Boil 100ml of rice vinegar, 4 Tbsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt in a small cooking pot for about 60 seconds and wait until you can smell the vinegar evaporating. After 1 minute turn off the stove and let the pot cool, then pour the vinegar mix from the pot and into the Mason jar where you’ve previously placed the sliced ginger. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then close it with the lid and place in the refrigerator.
  • After several hours you should be able to see the ginger slices turn slightly pink in color, and then it will show more pink colors after a few days. Use the pink pickled ginger as needed. The way the pickled ginger is preserved is so good that it can last up to a year before getting spoiled as long as it is kept in an airtight container and refrigerated.

 

Some ingredients you might need:

Check out all of the authentic ingredients I use in all of my dishes here in my Japanese ingredients list.

Homemade Pickled Ginger

how to make quick and easy homemade pickled ginger

Ingredients:

Directions:

Wash your hands clean or use food plastic gloves to squeeze the ginger slices off of the liquid it had absorbed and put them in a Mason jar.

Place the lid over the jar to cover it and refrigerate it. The pickle should last for up to 1 year and you can use it on various recipes aside from sushi and sashimi.

Pink Pickled Ginger Just Like Those Served in Sushi Restaurants

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Japanese Pickled Ginger Recipe with kombu

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Chinese Style Pickled Ginger

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Sugar-free Sichuan Style Pickled Ginger

sugar free pickled ginger recipe (1)

A lot of you also ask: How to make pickled ginger without rice vinegar or sugar?

Get your quick start in enjoying Japanese cuisine here with our top recommended tools

This Sichuan style pickled ginger is the answer.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Where can you buy pickled ginger?

I used to head out and look for Japanese shops that almost always have pickled ginger or the local Chinese market, those sometimes have it as well.

Now I regularly just order it online whenever I don’t want to make it myself for a quick addition to a dish I’m preparing.

My favorite brand right now is this Niitakaya Kizami Shoga:

Storebought pickled ginger Niitakaya

(view more images)

5 Tips to Make Delicious Gari

  1. Use young ginger rhizomes if you want to make the best pickled ginger.
  2. Do not cut off the red pigment of the stem of the ginger root as this is necessary to have that beautiful soft pink color in the pickled ginger.
  3. Wash and scrub the rhizomes well (you don’t need to peel them always since young ginger root have thin skin).
  4. Thinly slice the ginger rhizomes preferably at about 1/16th of an inch thick, parboil, and then squeeze out the excess water.
  5. Pour the vinegar mix while it’s still hot and freshly cooked from the stove.

Top 5 Health Benefits of Pickled Ginger

Health benefits of sushi pickled ginger

  1. Pickled ginger contains gingerol, a naturally occurring chemical compound that has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  2. It can help treat many types of morning sickness or nausea.
  3. It can also reduce muscle pain and soreness (this is good for you gym rats).
  4. It has the ability to lower blood sugar levels and improves your overall cardiovascular system.
  5. Treats chronic indigestion. If you suffer from indigestion, eating more pickled ginger can help you overcome most of the issues you’re experiencing.

Does pickled ginger kill bacteria in sushi?

Actually, wasabi is used to kill the bacteria in sushi and you eat pickled ginger as a side dish to help improve digestion. Although it is said that the Shogaol that’s in ginger and gives it its strong taste, does kill bacteria as well.

Are you supposed to put ginger on the sushi?

A lot of readers asked how exactly you’re supposed to eat the ginger at a sushi restaurant. Because it’s served alongside the wasabi and soy sauce, some think you should put the pickled ginger on the sushi as well to enhance its flavor.

Get your quick start in enjoying Japanese cuisine here with our top recommended tools

You shouldn’t put the ginger on top of your sushi. The flavors are not supposed to mix and the ginger is there to eat as a separate bite and improve digestion.

 

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.