This Is How To Make Sushi Yum Yum Sauce

Yum Yum Sauce is sweet, tangy, and spicy, which could explain its popularity. You can find it in Japanese steakhouses, but the sauce is easy enough to make that you can get your Yum Yum fix without leaving your house.

To make Sushi Yum Yum Sauce, you’ll need mayonnaise, melted butter, and tomato paste, but you can vary the recipe using Japanese mayonnaise, sweeteners besides sugar, and your choice of spices. The process should take five minutes.

You can whip up Yum Yum Sauce in no time, so let’s get started. 

What Does Yum Yum Sauce Taste Like?

If your favorite recipe calls for Yum Yum Sauce, but you have never tasted it, you are in for a treat. It’s a versatile sauce that you can pair with meats, seafood, and vegetables. Some people confuse it with spicy mayo, but Yum Yum Sauce is milder.

Yum Yum should also not be confused with the spicy Boom Boom Sauce, nor is it considered a pink sauce, even though it’s pinkish. It is sometimes called Sakura sauce, shrimp sauce, or White Sauce.

No matter what you call it, expect a mild, savory sauce that can be paired with grilled meats, fried foods, or used as a spread for wraps or sandwiches.

If you regularly eat at Japanese steakhouses, you might notice slight variations. Let’s explore why.

The Basic Yum Yum Sauce Recipe

The sauce has many variations, but all call for mayonnaise, tomato paste, and butter. To personalize your recipe, you can add different spices and other flavorings. But if you are expecting your sauce to taste exactly like the one in your favorite Japanese steakhouse, you will be disappointed.

Why is that? Because most restaurants have their own recipes and do not like to share. The essential ingredients are the same, but one sauce might be tangier, and another restaurant’s sauce has a touch of spice. Since chain restaurants need a large supply of sauce, their sauce might taste the same at each restaurant in the chain, while an independent Japanese steakhouse is more likely to have its own recipe.

Here is a typical recipe:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 – 4 tbsp water

Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, pour them into a bowl, except the water, and whisk until all ingredients are blended. 

Add the water, starting with 2 tbsp water and add more as needed until you get the desired consistency. 

You might be tempted to use the sauce once it’s blended, but it will taste better after being refrigerated for several hours.

Variations of Yum Yum Sauce

Some recipes in Japanese cuisine have a long history, and changes to them can cause outrage. Yum Yum Sauce isn’t a traditional Japanese sauce, so you can find many variations to the recipe.

Japanese Mayonnaise

A popular substitution is a Japanese mayonnaise. Many ingredients in Japanese mayo are like their American counterpart, which is not surprising since the American version was the inspiration for the Japanese version—Kewpie—named after the company that created and first sold it.

However, while both recipes have many ingredients in common, the biggest is how much of the egg is used. American mayonnaise uses the entire egg, while the Japanese version contains only the yolk, creating a creamier sauce. Kewpie includes rice vinegar, Japanese mustard, and dashi powder.

Substituting Japanese mayonnaise in the basic recipe will give your Yum Yum Sauce a tangy and sweeter flavor. Substitute the Japanese mayo for American mayo on a 1:1 ratio.

Should you have some Japanese mayonnaise left over, you can use it as the Japanese do and use it as a topping for pancakes or pour some on ice cream. You have to really love the flavor, though.

Rice Vinegar

Some recipes call for the use of rice vinegar, which is used to make sushi rice, giving the Yum Yum Sauce more of an Asian flavor.

If you want to use rice vinegar, add 1 tbsp vinegar and reduce the amount of water. But do not use both rice vinegar and Japanese mayonnaise as the two will overpower the sauce.

Other Kinds of Vinegar

You are not limited to rice vinegar. Substitutes include white wine, apple cider, champagne, and sherry vinegar. Keep the following guidelines in mind when substituting:

  • White wine vinegar: To combat the slightly acidic taste of this vinegar, substitute 1:1 and add ¼ tsp sugar.
  • Apple vinegar: Use apple vinegar if you want a less vinegary and slightly sweeter flavor. Substitute the vinegar 1:1 and add a heaping ¼ tsp sugar.
  • Champagne vinegar: If you want a subtle flavor, champagne vinegar goes well with seafood dishes. Substitute using the same 1:1 ratio.
  • Sherry vinegar: If you want a richer flavor, sherry vinegar makes a good substitute. Its flavor is sweet, so along with the 1:1 substitution ratio, cut back on the sugar.

Shy away from seasoned rice vinegar, which is made by adding sugar and salt to rice vinegar. The added salt will overpower the milder flavors of the Yum Yum Sauce.

Sugar Replacements

If you are trying to stay away from refined sugar, you have several options:

  • Organic cane sugar: If it is not in your pantry yet, it should be.
  • Maple syrup: Sweeter than sugar, so use less than ¼ tsp. 
  • Coconut palm sugar: This sugar comes from coconut tree sap, and its glycemic index is lower than that of sugar, so it is a suitable replacement for anyone with diabetes.
  • Agave syrup: This syrup is derived from succulents native to the drier regions of Mexico. It is sweeter than sugar, so use less than ¼ tsp.
  • Monk fruit: This natural sweetener is becoming popular in the United States, but the Chinese have been using the small fruit for centuries. Since it is 100 times as sweet as sugar, a pinch or two is plenty.

Stevia or similar sweeteners work as well. Remember, a little Stevia goes a long way.  

Vegan Yum Yum Sauce

Although you won’t find vegan sauce in most Japanese steakhouses, that will not stop you from making your own at home. Use vegan mayonnaise as a substitute for regular mayo. Some recipes call for coconut oil to replace butter. However, melted vegan butter will create the consistency of traditional Yum Yum Sauce.  

Otherwise, follow the traditional recipe to make a Yum Yum Sauce that will fool your non-vegan friends.

Yum Yum Sauce Is an American Invention

When you see recipes online for “authentic” Yum Yum Sauce, keep in mind that the sauce is an American invention that does not exist in Japan. No one can say precisely when it was invented, but the first to use it was Japanese steakhouses in America.

Chuck Cutler spent years trying to get the exact recipe from Japanese steakhouses, but none would give it to him. He accidentally ran across a bottle of vegetable sauce, and it tasted like Yum Yum sauce. To recreate the sauce, he used the ingredients listed on the label.  

He set up a website for the recipe, which he called a Japanese White Sauce, a Shrimp Sauce, and Yum Yum Sauce.

Terry Ho, a Japanese steakhouse owner, developed a slightly different recipe. As his sauce became popular—to the point that people were coming to his restaurant to buy some—Ho bottled his version and began selling it. Ho’s Yum Yum Sauce is now sold nationwide.

Bottom Line

The essential ingredients in Yum Yum Sauce are mayonnaise, melted butter, and tomato paste. Since there is no “traditional recipe,” you can add sugar, spices, and water or vinegar until you have a mild sauce good for dipping meat, seafood, and your favorite vegetables.

Bon Appetit!


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