Often served with sushi, Pickled Sushi Ginger (or Gari), is perfect for cleansing the palate and enhancing the flavors of your meal. This recipe teaches you how to make sushi ginger at home.
If you enjoy my sushi recipes like Hand Roll sushi, California Roll, Dragon Roll, and Spicy Tuna Roll, there’s one crucial complementary item you need to enjoy with the amazing sushi. And that’s Pickled Sushi Ginger.
What is Pickled Sushi Ginger
In Japan, we call the pickled ginger Gari (ガリ) or Shin-shoga no Amazu-zuke (新生姜の甘酢漬け).
It’s young pickled ginger that is soaked in sweet vinegar brine. It can have a blush pink color when made from young ginger or artificially colored, or beige if made by regular ginger.
Pickled sushi ginger is often served and eaten while you eat sushi and it’s an essential part of a sushi meal. The spiciness and sweet vinegar flavor of the ginger help cleanse the palate between eating, allowing you to enjoy different pieces of fish and rolls. The name Gari is said to be from the onomatopoeia of the crunching noise or the sound of a knife thinly slice the ginger. At a sushi restaurant, you can ask more gari if you want extra.
Sweet Pickle – Amazuzuke
There are many types of pickles or what we call Tsukemono (漬け物) in Japan. The sweet and vinegar type is called Amazu-zuke (甘酢漬け).
All you need is just 3 ingredients for the pickling solution: rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan to meld and let cool completely. You can keep the finished Amazu for 2-3 months in the refrigerator, and use it in batches.
Do you need to use rice vinegar? Ideally, yes. The taste of rice vinegar is mellow, milder and refreshing compared to the other types of vinegar, and because of that, you can use less sugar. If you use another type of vinegar, please adjust the amount of sugar. For authentic Japanese flavor, rice vinegar is preferred!
How to Make “Gari” – Pickled Sushi Ginger
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Young ginger (We’ll talk more about this later)
- Salt (Roughly 3-5% of the ginger weight. It helps remove moisture from the ginger and better absorb the pickling solution)
- Sweet pickle solution – rice vinegar, sugar, and salt
*Note: If you use white granulated sugar (in my recipe, I used organic cane sugar), the pickle solution will be lighter in color and showcase the pink more visibly (see below).
Overview: Cooking Process
- Thinly slice ginger and dehydrate with salt.
- Blanch the sliced ginger to remove spiciness.
- Let cool and squeeze the liquid out.
- Combine ingredients in a pot to make sweet pickle solution.
- Pour the hot solution to ginger and pickle for a few days.
It’s simple and easy to make, and lasts for a long time! If you can get young ginger, make a lot and preserve!
Why Do We Use Young Ginger?
Young ginger has a mild zesty flavor and a fine fleshy texture that is tender. Unlike matured ginger that’s usually used for cooking, the young ginger’s skin is very thin and easy to peel with fingers or a spoon.
To make sushi ginger, only young ginger is used. It’s thinly sliced and then pickled in a sugar and rice vinegar mixture. The sliced ginger will naturally become light pink from the tips of the young ginger (see the photo).
Many commercially produced and sold pickled ginger are artificially dyed pink. If you’re purchasing pickled sushi ginger, you can find some brands that avoid artificial coloring.
Young ginger is harvested and sold in early summer around May/June!
Young gingers found in Asian grocery stores sometimes do not have the pink tip (already cut off). You can still make pickled ginger with these, but they won’t be naturally pink.
Where to Find Young Ginger
- Japanese/Asian grocery stores
- Farmers markets
- Etsy (I’ve purchased young ginger from Hawaii before)
- Good Eggs
What to Serve with Pickled Sushi Ginger
When you find young ginger in the grocery store, you know what to do now! I hope you enjoy this homemade pickled ginger recipe.
Pickled Sushi Ginger (Gari)
- 8 oz young ginger (you can increase the ginger by as much as 50% for this recipe; regular ginger will be VERY spicy, but you can use it if you increase the boiling time to reduce the spiciness)
- 2 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (for sprinkling; 3-5% of the ginger's weight)
For the Sweet Vinegar (Amazu)
- 1 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned) (rice vinegar is mild compared to other vinegars; if you use another type, adjust the taste by adding more sugar)
- ½-¾ cup sugar (I used organic cane sugar, but using white granulated sugar will make a clear pickling solution that showcases the pink color better; DO NOT USE LESS SUGAR than specified because the ginger will not preserve well; ½ cup is the least you can use, and it is still quite tangy; if you prefer the taste of store-bought sushi ginger, use the higher measurement of sugar indicated)
- 1 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Prepare the Ginger
- Using a knife (you can also use the back of the knife or a spoon), scrape off the brown spots and thin skin of the ginger.
- Using a peeler, thinly slice the ginger. You can also use a mandolin. I prefer to use a peeler as it slices very thinly.
- When you can't slice the ginger anymore with the peeler/mandolin, use the knife to slice the rest thinly.
- Sprinkle the salt on the ginger slices and set aside for 5 minutes. The salt helps remove the moisture from the ginger so it can better absorb the pickling solution.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, blanch the thinly sliced ginger for 1-2 minutes. If you want to keep it spicy, take it out after 1½ minutes. If you are using regular ginger (not young ginger), blanch it for 2-3 minutes to remove the extra spiciness.
- Drain the ginger slices in a sieve. Let them cool slightly so you can handle them with your hands.
- With your clean hands, spread out the slices in a single layer over a large Japanese bamboo sieve (called bonzaru 盆ざる) or paper towel/wire rack. Set aside until it's completely cooled and dried out a bit more.
- Once cooled, squeeze the liquid from the ginger slices and put them in a sterilized airtight jar.
To Make the Sweet Vinegar (Amazu)
- In a small saucepan, add the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.
- Mix and bring it to a boil on medium heat. Cook the vinegar mixture until the strong vinegar smell has evaporated and the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly because the just-boiled liquid could break the glass jar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture into the jar with the ginger slices. Using clean chopsticks (or any utensil), mix it well together. Close the lid, let it cool completely, and refrigerate.
- After 4 hours or so, the ginger will turn slightly pink (see the photo below). I recommend waiting until the following day or a few more days to enjoy.
- Keep the pickled ginger in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one year. Always use clean utensils to remove the pickled ginger from the jar to avoid contamination and to help them keep for a long time.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 11, 2015. The images and content have been updated and a new video is added in June 2021.
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