I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of tonkatsu sauce substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured I’ve got you covered.
It’s easy to make your own tonkatsu sauce with Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, sugar, and soy sauce. Or you can simply use Worcestershire sauce, brown sauce, or barbecue sauce on their own. Other Japanese sauce like yakisoba or takoyaki will also work.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made crispy pork cutlets to put different tonkatsu sauce substitutes to the test.
Tonkatsu sauce is a Japanese condiment made that’s main flavors come from Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. But it can also include ingredients like carrots, apples, prunes, and lemon juice.
All these together give it real depth of flavor. I was looking for a substitute that could deliver a sauce that was just as moreish.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Other Japanese Sauces (Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, Yakisoba)||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Worcestershire Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Brown Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Teriyaki Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Ponzu Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|BBQ Sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Homemade tonkatsu sauce
You can whip up a homemade tonkatsu sauce with only four key ingredients: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and ketchup.
Combine them in a bowl, give it a good stir, and you’re all set!
The beauty of this homemade recipe is that it’s easily adaptable to fit various dietary preferences.
For those following a gluten-free diet, swap the soy sauce with tamari or liquid aminos. If you’re on the keto train, opt for sugar-free ketchup.
And for our vegan friends, choose your go-to vegan Worcestershire sauce to keep things plant-based.
Want to kick it up a notch? Add some freshly grated garlic and ginger for an extra burst of flavor.
Their subtle zing gave my tonkatsu sauce the perfect contrast to the fried pork cutlet’s greasiness.
How to substitute: Replace tonkatsu sauce in a 1:1 ratio with homemade tonkatsu sauce.
Other Japanese sauces
Other classic Japanese condiments make great stand-ins for tonkatsu sauce.
Most Japanese sauces have similar base ingredients, but subtle changes in the ratios result in slightly different flavor profiles.
You’ll easily find all of these in your local Asian grocery store. Or try checking your Walmart’s international aisle.
- Okonomiyaki sauce – this is a tad sweeter than tonkatsu sauce, but if it’s too sweet you can add a splash of vinegar.
- Takoyaki sauce – this brings a bit more spice to the table compared to tonkatsu sauce, perfect for those who enjoy a kick in their meal.
- Yakisoba sauce – Yakisoba sauce leans more on the savory side than tonkatsu sauce, so it’s an excellent option if you don’t have a sweet tooth,.
How to substitute: Replace tonkatsu sauce in a 1:1 ratio with yakisoba sauce.
One of the main ingredients in tonkatsu sauce is Worcestershire sauce – so it can definitely stand in in your hour of need.
This fermented liquid condiment is made with a blend of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, and tamarind that gives it a nice complexity.
It’s thinner than tonkatsu sauce, and the savory flavors take center stage over its sweet and tangy notes.
But you can try mixing it with something sweet like ketchup or honey to balance this out. Adding these will also thicken the mixture.
How to substitute: Replace tonkatsu sauce in a 1:1 ratio with Worcestershire sauce.
Brown sauce is a classic British condiment that’s surprisingly similar to tonkatsu sauce.
It’s made with ingredients like apples, dates, tomatoes, and molasses. All of which you can also find in tonkatsu sauce.
Just a heads up, though – it has a distinct peppery taste, which I love but it’s not to everyones taste. So let your guests approve it before slathering it all over their food.
How to substitute: Replace tonkatsu sauce in a 1:1 ratio with brown sauce.
Everyone has had teriyaki sauce before, and pretty much everyone I know likes it.
So no one will turn their nose up if you serve it with their katsu instead of tonkatsu sauce!
It’s definitely sweeter, but again you can balance this out with a splash of something acidic like vinegar.
Bottles of teriyaki sauce aren’t hard to find, but making it from scratch is breeze with Daring Gourmet’s 10-minute recipe.
How to substitute: Replace tonkatsu sauce in a 1:1 ratio with teriyaki sauce.
Ponzu sauce isn’t an exact flavor match for tonkatsu sauce, but it’s a fantastic option if you’re seeking a lighter, more refreshing alternative.
The citrusy notes (from yuzu) provide the perfect balance to cut through your katsu’s rich, greasy goodness.
A downside of this sauce is that it’s pretty thin, so it won’t coat your cutlets in the same way as tonkatsu sauce. It’s better served on the side as a dipping sauce.
Why not check out my ponzu sauce substitutes article too?
How to substitute: Replace tonkatsu sauce in a 1:1 ratio with ponzu sauce.
If you’re stuck and need something quickly, reach for your trusty bottle of BBQ sauce.
Whatever you have to hand will work, but if you have a choice steer clear of Carolina-style sauce.
They’re vinegar based and have a much tangier aftertaste compared to tonkatsu sauce (but hey, that’s just my opinion!).
Psst… you can also use ketchup if that’s more your thing.
How to substitute: Replace tonkatsu sauce in a 1:1 ratio with BBQ sauce.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for tonkatsu sauce substitutes, but here are other options you can also try if you already have them on hand:
- Plum sauce – this has a more prominent sweet-sour flavor than tonkatsu sauce, but it still brought an excellent contrast to my fried pork cutlet.
- Curry sauce – this isn’t a good substitute for tonkatsu sauce in terms of flavor, but it’s another sauce you’ll often see served with katsu.
- Unagi sauce – this has a more one-dimensional flavor compared to tonkatsu, but it will still bring a sweet-savory twist to your dish.
Avoid using miso paste
I came across this suggestion while researching, so I had to try it (even thought I kind of knew it wouldn’t work!).
Miso paste is an ingredient, you can’t use it as a substitute for a ready-made-sauce like tonkatsu.
Although you could add a little bit to something like ketchup or BBQ sauce to up its umaminess.
10 Best Tonkatsu Sauce Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tsp sugar
- Combine 2 tbsp of sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup in a small bowl. Mix everything until everything is well-incorporated and you have a glossy, syrupy sauce. Add the remaining sugar and stir.
- Serve immediately with your tonkatsu.