Japanese Restaurant Salad Dressing

japanese restaurant dressing

You know the one. It arrives almost 30 seconds after you place your order for the lunch special at Sakura Garden.

Soup or salad the waiter asks?


The lumpy  orange mass on top of a few roughly chopped pieces of iceberg lettuce that proceeds a meal at most moderately priced Japanese restaurants in this country. This generic carrot/ginger/miso dressing is ubiquitous and alarmingly addictive. Are you tempted to drink it? I know I have. It feels healthy, almost like the dressing is a vegetable itself. You can’t exactly pinpoint the flavors. Definitely carrot, you can see pieces of it. There’s something sweet and also salty. Is it soy sauce? I taste ginger. Some restaurants are too generous with the ginger.

After a bit of research and a lot of experimentation I came up with a version that is just barely sweet and light on the ginger. You have been warned, this stuff is addictive.

The secret to this dressing? Yellow onion and one night spent in the fridge. You can serve it straight out of the food processor but the ginger and onion flavors will be too tame. Make this a day ahead of when you plan to eat it so that the sugar has time to balance the flavors. You can also keep a jar in the fridge for three days.

The recipe is simple. Throw a bunch of stuff in a food processor and whir away. Don’t be afraid of adding water to thin it out. Depending on the capability of your food processor the carrots will need some extra liquid to break down. I recently upgraded from my 3-cup to a 9-cup Kitchen Aid red beauty so my carrots and onions blended with a few pulses.

japanese restaurant dressing

Japanese Restaurant Salad Dressing

Serves 6

1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or Canola but don’t use olive oil)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon warm water
1 head of boston lettuce
1. Add the carrots, ginger, sugar, salt, onion, water and vegetable oil to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for about 15 seconds until the carrots have broken down but are not quite a puree.
2. Add the rice vinegar, miso paste and soy sauce and pulse a few more times until combined. Transfer to a container and chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
3. Wash and dry the lettuce and serve with the dressing.
japanese restaurant dressing

You may also enjoy one of these recipes…

Miso Beef Noodles

Double Black Garlic Rice Noodles 

Chopped Salad with Green Goddess Dressing 

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