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Published 05/11/2021 Updated 02/14/2022
In many Asian cultures, side dishes are an important part of every meal. In Japan, people often eat salad as a side with soup, rice, and a cooked protein for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I actually experienced eating salad every morning during my travels in Japan. When eating salad, people in Japan often use a common type of dressing known as ‘wafu dressing.’
Here, we will learn how to make this classic Japanese wafu dressing! But, before we do, let’s learn about it first!
What Is Wafu Dressing?
In Japanese, ‘wafu dressing’ (和風ドレッシング, wafū doresshingu), literally refers to ‘Japanese-syle dressing.’ Actually, food words in Japanese which begin with ‘wa’ (和) refer to a Japanese style of food. For example, think of the ‘wa’ in ‘wagyu’ which means ‘Japanese beef.’ I learned this fact from Nami on her blog Just One Cookbook.
Typically, the basic dressing ingredients consist of Japanese soy sauce or tamari, rice vinegar, mirin, and vegetable oil. Each Japanese family and household has its own take on this dressing. For many families, they may include additional ingredients such as grated or pureed carrots, onion, ginger, wasabi, and/or umeboshi. Further, citrus such as lemon or yuzu may be added.
Our recipe actually comes from my husband–he developed his recipe from a popular version of wafu dressing often made by South Koreans when cooking Japanese food. In this recipe, you will find we use carrots, apples, and onions. To make it, you grate, grind, or blend the carrots, apples, and onions before adding them with the liquid ingredients.
How Does This Japanese Salad Dressing Recipe Taste?
This version of wafu dressing has a creamy and thick texture from the blended carrots, onions, and apples. For those who eat in Japanese restaurants often, you may think it has a similar texture to ginger dressing.
As for the flavor, it tastes tangy, savory, and a bit sweet. The sweetness comes from the sugar, mirin, and apples while the tanginess comes from the soy sauce, vinegar, and onions. It pairs perfectly with romaine and iceberg lettuce as well as spinach. As for the toppings, I recommend cucumber, tomato, and some thinly sliced radish. I hope you enjoy the taste of this Japanese salad dressing recipe!
Wafu Dressing Frequently Asked Questions:
Below, we listed some questions you may have about this wafu dressing recipe. We hope we answer all of the questions you may have. If we do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment or email us at [email protected]!
What Type of Oil Should I Use?
Typically, people in Japanese use neutral-flavored oil to make their salad dressings. Often, that means using some type of light vegetable oil. For our recipe, we use olive oil! While olive oil can be a bit heavy for some versions of wafu dressing, we find that delicately flavored olive oil fits perfectly with this recipe.
If you want to use other types of oil such as avocado, you can. Just remember, once again, to try to use neutral-flavored oils when making this Japanese wafu dressing. For example, do not use products such as sesame, chili, or walnut oils. They taste too strong and will overpower the rest of the light and refreshing ingredients. Actually, if you use sesame oil, you instead make what Japanese people call chūka-fū dressing (中華風ドレッシング), meaning ‘Chinese style dressing.’
What If My Onion Tastes Extremely Bitter?
Every onion tastes unique. Before grinding it and adding it into your dressing, taste your onion. If it tastes extremely strong or bitter, soak your onion in cold water for 10 minutes. This process removes some of the pungent taste.
If you do soak your onion in water, squeeze out any excess water absorbed and pat it dry. You do this so the dressing doesn’t become too liquidy.
Honestly, I find that the carrots, apples, and other ingredients offset the pungent onion taste. So far, I have yet to need to place the onions in a water bath. Though that is the case, if you have a weak stomach when eating raw onions, I recommend soaking them.
Can I Use Different Types of Vinegar?
I recommend either using Japanese rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. We use both versions in our house and both taste delicious. On one hand, for a more traditional wafu dressing, use rice vinegar. On the other hand, for a newer and more trendy version, use apple cider vinegar.
For our recipe this time, we use apple cider vinegar. In South Korea, it has become popular to use it when making Japanese-style dressings. We find it adds a crispness to the dressing that goes well with the grated apples and onions.
How Long Can I Keep Homemade Wafu Dressing?
I recommend storing your wafu dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week (7 days). After a week, the fresh ingredients may start to go bad.
If you do not plan to eat all the dressing within a week, you can freeze it in a freezer-safe container or Ziplock bag. This way, you can defrost your dressing and use it at a later date!
What if my Dressing Separates?
If you store your dressing in the refrigerator, you may notice it separating. This is perfectly normal as different liquids have different densities. For example, you may notice that oil settles above water. This is because oil has less density than water.
If it does separate, just shake your dressing again before pouring it over your salad. Shaking it allows everything to combine once again.
Can You Make This Dressing Gluten-Free? What About Soy-Free?
Yes! You can make this dressing gluten-free. For gluten-free soy sauce brands, I recommend checking out my blog post! There, we list our favorite gluten-free soy sauce brands as well as Amazon links to the products. You can also check out our Amazon affiliate links below!
You can also make this recipe soy-free! Instead of soy sauce, use coconut aminos. While very similar in taste, it is a bit sweeter than regular soy sauce. If you find it to be too sweet, I recommend reducing the amount of sugar you add to the dressing. Also, coconut aminos is also gluten-free!
Have You Ever Tried Japanese Wafu Dressing?
Have you ever tried Japanese wafu dressing? If so, let us know in the comment section if you enjoyed it! Also, let us know if you tried different delicious variations of the classic and traditional Japanese dressing.
If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find further recipes on our blog. We listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey Korean and Japanese recipes below!
Korean and Japanese Food and Drink Recipes:
- Tofu Katsu (Japanese Vegetarian Tofu Cutlet)
- Bibimmyeon (Spicy Korean Cold Noodles)
- Andong Jjimdak (Korean Braised Chicken)
- Korean Strawberry Milk Recipe
Korean and Japanese Food Articles:
- Tamari vs Soy Sauce: What Is the Difference?
- Kimbap vs Sushi: What Is the Difference?
- Gluten Free Soy Sauce Brands
If you have any questions or comments, you can also email us at [email protected].
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