Japanese Pickles

Craving a burst of tangy flavor in your Japanese meal? Look no further than Japanese pickles, or tsukemono (貍ャ迚ゥ, tsukemono)! These flavorful treats are an essential part of traditional Japanese dining, accompanying dishes like rice and miso soup with their unique taste and texture. Whether used as a garnish, relish, condiment, palate cleanser, or digestive aid, tsukemono adds a zesty kick to every bite.

Dating back to a time before refrigeration, tsukemono were originally crafted to preserve food, resulting in some varieties that can last practically forever. From simple salting or vinegar brining to more complex methods involving cultured molds and fermentation, there's a pickle style for every palate. Using a variety of vegetables, fruits, and sometimes even seafood, tsukemono offers a diverse array of flavors and textures, from the crunch of Japanese radish and cucumber to the tang of pickled plums (ume). So, next time you're enjoying a Japanese meal, don't forget to add a pop of tsukemono to your plate for an extra burst of deliciousness!


Below are the some of the most common pickle dishes:

Umeboshi Umeboshi

Umeboshi are Japanese plums, similar to apricots, are salted and dried to create wrinkly red pickles bursting with flavor. While they're famously known for their extreme saltiness and sourness, you can also find sweeter versions if you're craving something less intense. But umeboshi are more than just a tasty snack 窶・they also double up as a preservative and aid in digestion, making them a must-have in traditional Japanese cooking.

You'll spot umeboshi adding a zing to all sorts of meals, from hearty dinners to quick bento box lunches. They're often paired with rice, bringing a burst of flavor to every bite. And if you're a fan of rice balls (onigiri), you're in luck 窶・umeboshi is one of the go-to fillings, adding a deliciously tangy twist to these handheld treats. So, whether you're in need of a flavor boost or some digestive support, umeboshi has got your back 窶・one bite, and you'll be hooked!

Takuan Takuan

Takuan is a delightful treat made from Japanese radishes, also known as daikon, that are sun-dried and pickled in a blend of salt, rice bran, and sugar. The result? A crunchy, sweet pickle that's perfect for slicing up and serving alongside rice or any other dish you fancy. What's cool about takuan is its range of colors 窶・from brownish white to vibrant fluorescent yellow, there's a shade to suit every plate!

Now, here's a fun twist 窶・in Akita Prefecture, they take takuan to the next level by smoking it, creating a unique variation known as iburigakko. This smoky spin adds an extra layer of flavor to the already tasty pickle, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike. So, whether you're a fan of traditional takuan or you're curious to try the smoked version, get ready to add a burst of flavor to your next meal!

Nukazuke Nukazuke

Nukazuke is a delicious assortment of pickles featuring veggies like cucumber, carrots, eggplant, daikon, and turnip (kabu). You'll often find these tangy treats served alongside set menu meals (teishoku) or as part of the rice set (shokuji) in traditional course meals. With their vibrant colors and flavorful crunch, nukazuke pickles add a tasty twist to any dining experience! So, next time you're digging into a Japanese meal, keep an eye out for these tasty pickled delights 窶・they're sure to add a pop of flavor to your plate!

Kyuri Asazuke Kyuri Asazuke

Kyuri asazuke is a simple yet delightful pickle made by marinating cucumbers in a salt brine (shiozuke), sometimes spiced up with konbu, togarashi pepper, or a splash of vinegar for an extra kick. You'll often find whole cucumbers pickled this way and served on a stick, perfect for snacking on the go. Keep an eye out for them at festivals and popular tourist spots, especially during the warmer months of spring and summer when they make for a refreshing treat!

These pickles are not just tasty but also a great way to beat the heat while exploring. With their crisp texture and tangy flavor, kyuri asazuke pickles are sure to hit the spot on a hot day. So, next time you're out and about, grab a stick of these zesty delights and enjoy a taste of Japanese street food culture!

Hakusai no Sokusekizuke Hakusai no Sokusekizuke

Hakusai no Sokusekizuke, it's a mouthful to say, but trust me, it's worth it! This quick and easy pickle dish features lightly salted hakusai cabbage mixed with carrots and cucumber, then seasoned with yuzu zest, konbu, and togarashi pepper. The result? A salty, crunchy pickle with a hint of spicy citrus flavor that'll have your taste buds singing!

You'll find Hakusai no Sokusekizuke all over Japan 窶・it's one of the most popular pickles around! With its refreshing crunch and zesty kick, it's no wonder why it's a favorite among locals and visitors alike. So, whether you're enjoying it as a side dish or adding it to your bento box, get ready to savor the deliciousness of this classic Japanese pickle!

Narazuke Narazuke

Narazuke are deep brown pickles hail from the Nara Region, giving them their name. Usually made with veggies like daikon, uri, or cucumber, they're soaked in sake lees (kasuzuke) for several years, giving them their distinct flavor. With a strong, pungent taste and a hint of alcohol, Narazuke pickles are not for the faint of heart!

Narazuke pickles are a true taste of tradition, offering a bold and flavorful experience that's unlike any other. Whether you're a fan of their intense flavor or you're simply curious to try something new, these pickles are sure to leave a lasting impression on your taste buds. So, if you're feeling adventurous, why not give Narazuke a try and experience the unique taste of Nara?

Shibazuke Shibazuke

Shibazuke is a Kyoto specialty pickle that's a flavor explosion in every bite! Made with cucumber, eggplant, perilla leaves (shiso), ginger, and myoga (a milder relative of ginger), these purple pickles are soaked in plum vinegar (umezu), which gives them their salty, slightly sour tang. You'll often find them gracing the tables of Kyoto cuisine, adding a burst of flavor and color to any dish.

If you're craving something unique and packed with flavor, Shibazuke is where it's at! With its refreshing crunch and tangy kick, it's no wonder why it's a staple in Kyoto cuisine. So, whether you're enjoying it as a side dish or adding it to your sushi roll, get ready to savor the deliciousness of this iconic Japanese pickle!

Senmaizuke Senmaizuke

Senmaizuke is another Kyoto specialty pickle that's sure to tantalize your taste buds! Made with thin slices of turnip brined in sweet vinegar and seasoned with konbu and togarashi pepper, these pickles are all about flavor and texture. The name "Senmaizuke" literally means "thousand-layer pickle," referring to the thin disks created during the preparation process.

With their sweet and sour taste and slightly crunchy texture, Senmaizuke pickles are a delightful addition to any meal. Whether you're enjoying them as a side dish or incorporating them into your favorite recipes, these flavorful pickles are a must-try for anyone looking to add a touch of Kyoto cuisine to their dining experience!

Saikyozuke Saikyozuke

Saikyozuke, also known as the "West Kyoto pickle," is a delightful dish that's all about fish and miso goodness! Typically made with slices of whitefish like cod or sablefish, these fish slices are marinated in miso paste, adding layers of flavor and complexity. After marinating, they're grilled or broiled to perfection, resulting in a dish that can be served either hot or at room temperature.

One of the best things about Saikyozuke is the sweet and caramelized flavor that the fish develops thanks to the miso marinade. It's a taste sensation that's sure to leave you craving more! Whether you're enjoying it as a main course or as part of a traditional Kyoto meal, Saikyozuke is a must-try dish for anyone looking to explore the delicious world of Japanese cuisine.

Nozawana Nozawana

Nozawana is a special pickle hailing from Nozawa Onsen in Nagano Prefecture but loved all across Japan! These pickles feature turnip greens that are dried and then pickled in a salt brine seasoned with togarashi pepper and wasabi. With their salty kick and hint of spice, these pickles are a favorite accompaniment to many Japanese dishes.

You'll often find Nozawana served either cut into bite-sized pieces or finely chopped into a relish. Whether you're enjoying them as a side dish or mixing them into your favorite recipes, Nozawana pickles add a flavorful punch that's sure to liven up any meal. So, if you're looking to add a taste of Nagano to your table, give these tasty pickles a try!

Matsumaezuke Matsumaezuke

Matsumaezuke is a local delight from Matsumae Town in Hokkaido that's sure to impress your taste buds! This unique pickle is a blend of Hokkaido's finest regional specialties, including squid, konbu, kazunoko (herring roe), and carrots, all seasoned with a flavorful mix of sake, soy sauce, and mirin (sweet cooking wine). With its rich flavors and diverse ingredients, it's no wonder why Matsumaezuke has become a nationwide favorite!

From its origins in Hokkaido to its widespread popularity across Japan, Matsumaezuke is a true culinary gem that offers a taste of Hokkaido's finest. Whether you're enjoying it as a side dish or incorporating it into your favorite recipes, this flavorful pickle is sure to add a delicious twist to any meal. So, if you're craving a taste of Hokkaido's best, be sure to give Matsumaezuke a try!

Gari Gari

Gari are thin slices of sweet pickled ginger you've probably seen alongside your sushi! Gari's got a tasty mix of sweet and sour flavors with just a hint of spiciness. Its main job? Acting as a palate cleanser between sushi pieces, so you can fully savor the unique taste of each one.

You'll usually spot Gari in its natural light yellow color, but sometimes it gets a vibrant pink hue from a little dye. So, next time you're enjoying some sushi, don't forget to grab a piece of Gari for a refreshing flavor boost between bites!

Beni Shoga Beni Shoga

Beni Shoga is a zesty garnish you'll often find adding a pop of flavor to dishes like gyudon, takoyaki, and yakisoba! Made from julienned young ginger pickled in plum vinegar (umezu), these bright red pickles bring a salty and spicy kick that's sure to liven up any meal.

Whether you're digging into a bowl of savory gyudon or enjoying some crispy yakisoba, Beni Shoga is the perfect finishing touch to take your dish to the next level. With its bold flavor and vibrant color, it's no wonder why it's a favorite garnish in Japanese cuisine!

Fukujinzuke Fukujinzuke

Fukujinzuke is a flavorful mix of daikon radish, lotus root, cucumber, and eggplant all preserved in a tasty base of soy sauce and sweet cooking wine (mirin). This sweet brown or red relish is the perfect garnish to accompany Japanese curry, adding a burst of flavor and texture to every bite.

Whether you're enjoying a hearty bowl of Japanese curry at home or dining out at your favorite restaurant, Fukujinzuke is the ultimate finishing touch. With its savory-sweet taste and crunchy veggies, it's sure to elevate your curry experience to a whole new level of deliciousness!

Rakkyo Rakkyo

Rakkyo are those sweet pickled scallions you often find accompanying Japanese curry! These crunchy delights add a sweet and tangy kick to your curry experience, balancing out the spicy and salty flavors with their unique taste.

Just like fukujinzuke, Rakkyo is all about enhancing the flavors of your curry. With their sweet and crunchy texture, they're the perfect complement to any bowl of curry, whether you're whipping up a batch at home or indulging in a delicious meal at your favorite Japanese restaurant. So, next time you're craving curry, don't forget to add some Rakkyo for an extra burst of flavor!

Where to find Japanese pickles in Japan

If you're on the hunt for Japanese pickles, you're in luck 窶・these flavorful treats are available all across the country, with just a few regional exceptions. But here's the fun part: the ingredients in each pickle dish might change depending on where you are or even from one household to another. So, whether you're in Tokyo or Osaka, you're sure to encounter a unique twist on this beloved traditional food. Whether it's the tangy crunch of a cucumber pickle or the bold flavors of pickled radish, Japanese pickles offer a taste adventure that's as diverse as the country itself. So, dig in and explore the delicious world of tsukemono 窶・you never know what tasty surprises you'll discover!