6 quick & easy homemade Japanese gari pickled ginger recipes

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  May 23, 2022

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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 so your tastebuds can experience the best flavors in your meal.

People just can’t get over the 4 distinctive flavors 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 sushi is what people crave 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 that are pickled in rice vinegar that’s been sweetened. It’s 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.

Favorite Asian Recipes x
Favorite Asian Recipes

Make pickled ginger from young pink ginger root
Japanese sushi chefs prefer young ginger for pickling because its thin skin is easy to peel. Plus, its flesh is still tender, which makes it easy to slice thinly.

Young ginger is difficult to harvest, as it only grows in the spring. This is why it’s more commonly found at international markets than in your local supermarket; needless to say, it’s expensive!

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

You might expect to use different kinds of knives to peel ginger. But you’d be surprised to find out that a spoon is a much more efficient tool to use when peeling ginger, whether young or mature!

Pink pickled ginger

Making gari from 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 ginger. All you need to add is a single red radish to the mix when you pickle the ginger.

This method is optional, as it’s 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 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 it tastes so good, it instantly complements any sufficiently delicious delicacy!

Here are a few examples:

Best “gari” pink pickled sushi ginger recipes

Sushi ginger recipe

Pink gari sushi ginger recipe

Pink gari sushi ginger recipe

Joost Nusselder
This recipe is to make the original pink gari: the sushi ginger you'll find in most Japanese restaurants.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4 people

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 into a pot of boiling water and allow to cook for 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 into a strainer to drain the water and then spread on a paper towel over a clean dry plate. You can use food plastic gloves to cover your hands as you pick the ginger slices one by one and squeeze them over a Mason jar in order to remove the remaining water.
  • Boil 100 ml 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, let the pot cool, then pour the vinegar mix from the pot 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. It'll show more of a pink color 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 spoiling, as long as it's kept in an airtight container and is refrigerated.
Keyword Ginger, Pickled, Sushi
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

2. Homemade pickled ginger

Homemade Pickled Ginger

Ingredients

Directions

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

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

3. Pink pickled ginger, just like those served in sushi restaurants

Ingredients

Instructions

4. Japanese pickled ginger recipe with kombu

Ingredients

Instructions

5. Chinese-style pickled ginger

Ingredients

Instructions

6. Sugar-free Sichuan-style pickled ginger

sugar free pickled ginger recipe (1)

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

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. The local Chinese markets 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. Don’t cut off the red pigment on 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 always need to peel them since young ginger root has thin skin).
  4. Thinly slice the ginger rhizomes preferably at about 1/16th 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 Gari

  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. It 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 and cleanse your palate. Although it’s said that the shogaol (which is 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 ginger at a sushi restaurant. Because it’s served alongside wasabi and soy sauce, some think you should put the pickled ginger on the sushi as well to enhance its flavor.

But you shouldn’t put ginger on top of your sushi! The flavors aren’t supposed to mix and the ginger is there to eat as a separate bite.

Make your own gari pickled ginger at home

While you can always have gari pickled ginger at restaurants, you can also easily make it at home on your own. That way, you can spice up some dishes or just have some pickled ginger to munch on whenever you feel like it!

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

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.