One of the easiest condiments you will ever make is this Yum Yum Sauce Recipe. made famous by hibachi grills, it is actually quite verstile and not at all of Japanese nature- nearly any dinner idea can benefit from a little yum yum, which is basically just an aioli. LOL.
What is Yum Yum sauce?
It is a Japanese Steakhouse Shrimp Sauce with a mayo base, tomato and other spices.
If you have ever been to a hibachi grill, you’ve had the pale pink sauce, or as some call it white sauce and others just plain Japanese sauce.
Some refer to it as Yum Yum Sauce, others the seafood sauce and sometimes just the Japanese vegetable sauce, steakhouse sauce, pink sauce, Sakura sauce or hibachi shrimp sauce.
Whatever you call it, this hibachi sauce can be quite addictive and end up on much more of your food than just seafood. I happen to like it on chicken and also as a salad dressing.
In fact, some folks swear by it, blending it with fried rice and dipping everything on their dish in it. Honestly, I think some people crave the sauce, more than the actual meal.
What is yum yum sauce made of?
- tomato paste or tomato sauce
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- smoked paprika
- hot sauce
The base is almost always mayonnaise. For this, I highly suggest using a crappy mayo. Yep. I just said it.
DO NOT USE GOOD MAYONNAISE. Good mayo has too much tang and pizzazz by itself. For this homemade yum yum sauce recipe, you need a bland mayo. A blank slate, if you will.
How to Make Yum Yum Sauce
The truth is, it is so simple to make at home that now you can eat it on everything you want.
There are many imitation sauces out there and depending on which hibachi steakhouse you go to, ingredients will vary slightly, so keep that in mind and try playing with our base recipe until you reach YOUR perfect sauce.
- Combine all ingredients into a small food processor and blend until fully incorporated. You can do this by hand with a whisk, but a food processor is much more efficient.
- Place into a container and chill for at least 2-3 hours, or overnight. The flavors need time to marry and combine before it reaches fully flavor perfection.
Use either ketchup, tomato paste or even sweet chili sauce. Ketchup will give you the sweetest flavor. You can also add a small amount of sugar to tomato paste. Chili sauce will be zingy.
I like using tomato paste, but if you don’t want to buy a whole can just for 2 tablespoons (or less,) use ketchup and add sugar slowly, tasting along the way.
Tomato paste and smoked paprika are what take this from white sauce to pink sauce. If your dream yum yum sauce is on the whiter end, chances are that your restaurant doesn’t use as much of these ingredients. Omit the paprika and use a small amount of tomato based ingredients.
Some recipes call for cayenne pepper, but I prefer mine to be smoky and sweet, not spicy. If you like the heat, go ahead and add it! Also taste it and season to your preference for salt and pepper.
I like my sauce creamy, so it really sticks to my shrimp, rice or steak. To watery and it just drips right off. Others might be a little more runny and that is usually because of the addition of rice vinegar, which also adds flavor. Like I said previously, every restaurant has their own version, so you might have a little trial and error before getting yours right.
But you prefer a looser version, by all means add more water or rice vinegar! Some folks want theirs to be a pourable. Just go slow until you get your desired consistency.
Some also use more oil, like olive oil, but I find there is enough in the mayo and it is overkill with the butter. If you don’t have butter, use olive oil as a substitute.
You can also use margarine, but remember that is just vegetable oil with butter flavoring. A good European butter will give you more bang for your buck than a low grade American butter.
Other folks will even double the amount of spices so it really packs a punch. My advice is to make the basic dipping sauce recipe and then modify from there to match your ideal Homemade Yum Yum Sauce or to match your local hibachi style grill.
Make Ahead & Storage
Please, please make this ahead of time! The flavors will be so much better if they have time to sit and mingle with each other. You can make it and eat it right away, but it won’t have the same impact.
Store, covered, in the fridge for up to a week.
I do not recommend freezing any mayonnaise based sauces. But I’ve also never heard of anyone having leftovers… even when they made a double batch!
Is Yum Yum Sauce Japanese?
Lastly, I want everyone to know that Japanese seafood sauce is not really all that Japanese.
You will not find it in Japan. It is a very Americanized “Japanese” recipe. I’ve been there. There is NO Yum Yum sauce in Japanese cuisine!
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Questions you might have about how to make Yum Yum sauce?
Mine doesn’t taste right. What did I do wrong? You probably did nothing wrong! Every single Japanese Hibachi joint has its own recipe for their white sauce, seafood sauce or yum yum sauce depending on what they call it.
Yours is probably just a little different than mine. Play with the amounts of ingredients to get the right flavor.
Is yours more white? Cut back on the ketchup or tomato sauce.
Less spicy? Omit hot sauce or chili flakes.
Sweeter? Add a tiny bit more sugar.
Is yum yum sauce gluten free? I am not a gluten free expert, nor a trained professional, however to my knowledge, all of these ingredients are gluten free.
Does yum yum sauce have dairy? Yes. Butter is dairy unless you use clarified butter (ghee) with milk solids removed.
Does yum yum sauce have raw eggs? The majority of yum yum sauce, including my recipe, has mayonnaise, which is made with raw egg. If you are cool with mayonnaise, you’ll be cool with yum yum sauce.
I want to make mine fancy, how do I do that? I would garnish with a few sesame seeds, either regular or black and serve your dipping sauce as a duo with either a good quality soy sauce or tonkatsu sauce.
Do I have to use smoked paprika? I prefer smoked paprika because of the subtle smoked flavor, but if you just have regular paprika, that is fine too.
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Also check out our Sweet Sriracha Sour Cream- a Mexican Yum Yum Sauce!
Listen, this yum yum sauce might not be exactly like the one you are dreaming of, but over 100,000 people love it and use it regularly. You should be one of them!
Yum Yum Sauce Recipe
- Combine mayonnaise, tomato paste, melted butter, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, water, sugar and hot sauce in a small food processor. Blend well.
- For best results, allow sauce to chill and flavors to marry for at least 1 hour.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings.