How Do I Choose the Best Sauce for Tempura?

Janis Adams

Commonly served with any number of different sauces, tempura is vegetables, meat, or seafood that have been battered and deep fried. Choosing the best sauce for tempura will largely be dependent upon what type of tempura you are serving and your own personal flavor preferences. Sauces can range from those that mimic traditional Japanese cuisine, to those similar to a hot sauce, all the way to those that go well with seafood, such a tartar sauce or cocktail sauce.

Plate of cooked soba noodles, which are often served with tempura.
Plate of cooked soba noodles, which are often served with tempura.

Traditional Japanese sauces for tempura are most often made by combining soy sauce with sake or rice vinegar and a bit of sugar. This type of sauce is served warm. A sauce of this type is often the best sauce for tempura as it goes well with vegetables, fish, and meats. For a cook, this can prove to be quite convenient when serving more than one tempura dish at a meal.

Mayonnaise-based sauce for tempura.
Mayonnaise-based sauce for tempura.

Mayonnaise-based sauces, such as tartar sauce, are popular offerings for tempura that is made from seafood. They can also be paired with a vegetable, such as broccoli or cauliflower, which can have a heavier taste when cooked in the tempura style. Another popular sauce of this type is green mayonnaise. This sauce employs fresh, ground parsley to give it its refreshing taste and bright color. Mayonnaise-based sauces, while admittedly not low calorie, offer a coolness that offsets the heat of a fresh-from-the-fryer tempura-cooked meat or vegetable.

For those who like a bit of spice in their life, a hot sauce can prove to be a great choice as a sauce for tempura. This type of sauce would be most often served with a meat rather than a vegetable, as it might prove to overpower the delicate flavor of a well-cooked vegetable. Hot sauces range in intensity and also in consistency. Some are very smooth and light, while others are thick and gooey. The choice simply comes down to a person's palate.

As opposed to some of the more savory types of sauce for tempura, coconut-flavored sauces are a nice accompaniment, as well. This type of sauce can be made from a base of coconut milk or simply have shredded coconut added to it. Some recipes will even call for a bit of sugar to be added to further sweeten the sauce. The effect is the same: a light, sweet, contrasting flavor that spotlights both the tempura-cooked food and the sauce at the same time.

Traditional Japanese sauces for tempura are often made by combining soy sauce with sake.
Traditional Japanese sauces for tempura are often made by combining soy sauce with sake.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I have eaten various Japanese dishes made with soy and teriyaki sauce, so that is what I prefer to eat with tempura. At home, I usually sautee vegetables like broccoli and zucchini in a wok and pour the sauce on top while cooking them, so I know it tastes good with them.

At my favorite restaurant, I ordered tempura vegetables and chicken. The fried squash, zucchini, and broccoli tasted so good when saturated with the thick teriyaki sauce. The chicken was equally good with it.

Though I don't eat fried foods often, I make an exception for tempura vegetables. I figure that they are healthy on some level, and they give me a good excuse to enjoy some teriyaki sauce.


@cloudel – I also prefer teriyaki sauce with my tempura shrimp. However, when it comes to tempura fish, I prefer tartar sauce.

I grew up associating tartar sauce with all things fish. I ate it with everything from fish sticks to tuna sandwiches, so I just can't eat fish without it.

The coolness of the sauce, along with the dill flavor in it that complements the fish, makes it the perfect dipping sauce. It doesn't matter that the fried batter serves as a barrier between the sauce and the fish, because once I bite into it, the tartar sauce oozes throughout the whole piece.


My favorite Asian restaurant offers up sweet and sour sauce with their chicken tempura. Customers can always request a different sauce, but the cooks know that this one will go best with the chicken, so they offer it automatically.

It reminds me of sweet and sour sauces that you find in fast food restaurants, but there is something extra special about it. I think it may contain ginger. There is some spice that sets it apart from the others and makes it uniquely Asian.

At my friend's urging, I tried dipping the chicken tempura in soy sauce, but it just wasn't as good to me. My tastebuds are inclined toward the sweet and sour, at least when it comes to chicken dipping.


I was shocked to find that my tempura dipping sauce recipe was essentially teriyaki sauce. Instead of having to buy soy sauce, sake, and brown sugar, I could simply buy a bottle of teriyaki sauce, because it is the same thing.

I really enjoy the thickness and slight sweetness of teriyaki with the salty, crunchy tempura. It doesn't really matter what lies fried underneath that batter, because teriyaki goes with just about anything, in my opinion.

Shrimp tempura is perhaps the item best paired with teriyaki, though. The two flavors combined make me shiver with excitement. They were made for each other.

Post your comments
Forgot password?