12 Best Japanese Spices and Herbs 2022

by Erika Shinomoto
best japanese spices and herbs

Have you tried these best Japanese spices and herbs yet? I absolutely love them! Check it out! We all love Japanese cuisine, but when it comes to replicating the same flavors and taste at home, we might not always succeed. The secret to any Japanese dish is some of the best Japanese spices and herbs, as well as other condiments used in Japanese cuisine. 

Well, not the herb he’s talking about but Japanese spices and herbs is what makes Japanese cuisine so unique. And culturally speaking Japanese herbs have always been an important part of Japanese culture as many of them grew these herbs in their backyards.

Best Japanese Spices and Herbs: Quick Summary

Best Japanese Spices And HerbsTastes LikeCommonly Paired With
Wasabi$5.90Pungent, SpicySushi, Sashimi, Cold Soba Noodles, Udon Noodles
Karashi$4.98BitterOden, Tonkatsu,   Shumai, Natto, Yakisoba
Shichimi Togarashi$9.14SpicySoba noodles, udon noodles, nabe hot pots, tendon, tempura
Sansho Pepper$14.99CitrusyGrilled or boiled eel, noodles, soup, and kaiseki dishes
Yuzu Kosho$14.70CitrusyTea, alcoholic drinks, desserts
Ponzu$10.30CitrusySashimi,  Hot pot dishes
Moshio Salt$15.59Salty, SeaweedSoups, salads, Udo, Crackers
Rayu$12.72SpicyRamen, noodles
Japanese Curry Roux$23.70Sweet and savoryGrilled meat, rice
Umeboshi Paste$14.99Citrusy, saltyOnigiri, sushi, salads, cooked veggies
Japanese Black Sesame Seeds$9.99Bitter, nuttyOnigiri, Salad dressing, tonkatsu dipping sauce, rice
Shiso$5.75Citrus, cinnamon, aniseSashimi, sushi, meat, salad. fish, noodles

Japanese spices and herbs not only enhance the flavor of whatever you add it to but also have loads of medicinal properties and health benefits.

Check out the best Japanese spices and herbs below and let me know which ones you’ve tried in the comment section below!

#1 — Wasabi

Wasabi is probably one Japanese spice that everybody is familiar with, thanks to its wide popularity. Wasabi has a strong pungent smell and is quite spicy. The pungency of Wasabi is similar to that of mustard. It is uncommon to find Wasabi plant growing naturally outside of Japan, so chances are, you will not find one growing in your backyard.

The wasabi plant grows along stream beds in the mountain river valleys of Japan. Depending on the quality of the water, the quality of the wasabi can vary. The most famous wasabi farm in Japan is the Daio Wasabi Farm. If you go to a high-end restaurant in Japan, you will find freshly grated raw wasabi upon order. It is the most luxurious form of delicacy as this type of wasabi can go bad within 15 minutes if left uncovered. That is why regular restaurants offer wasabi paste made from dried wasabi powder, or they simply use ready-to-use wasabi tubes. 

The most common way of eating wasabi is with sushi or sashimi. You can also add this to your cold soba noodles or udon noodles. You may want to add wasabi to soy sauce to create a dipping mixture, however, this is considered to be unsophisticated. The traditional way is to add a tiny amount of wasabi on top of the fish or other food items. However, be careful when eating wasabi. Too much of it can cause your eyes to water because of its pungency and strong flavors. 

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Key Features:

  • Type: Spice, Paste, Powder
  • Flavor Profile: Pungent, Spicy
  • Commonly Paired With: Sushi, Sashimi, Cold Soba Noodles, Udon Noodles

Here are my top picks:

#1 — S&B Premium Wasabi Paste in Tube

#2 — Dual Spices Japanese Wasabi Powder

#3 — Japanese Shizuoka Wasabi Paste

Related: You will love these yummy Japanese snacks. Check it out here!

#2 — Karashi

Karashi is a type of Japanese mustard, which is made from crushed Brassica Juncea seeds. It is most commonly used as a condiment or seasoning in Japan. The Karashi mustard is unlike any other type of mustard you have ever tried. It has a strong flavor and is more bitter. Karashi has been in Japan from the 8th century and got popular during the Nara Period. 

You can add Karashi to various dishes to enhance their flavors. Oden, Tonkatsu, Shumai, Natto, or Yakisoba – whatever you wish to enjoy, enjoy it with a dressing of Karashi. In addition to this, there are various other Karashi products available as well. You can get Karashi mayonnaise, Karashi Su (Vinegar) miso, as well as Karashi Nasu (eggplants), which are a popular form of Japanese pickles. 

To make the perfect Karashi, simply add lukewarm water to Karashi powder and leave it covered for a few minutes. And if that’s not what you would like to do, simply buy Karashi paste tubes. 

Key Features:

  • Type: Seasoning
  • Flavor Profile: Bitter
  • Commonly Paired With: Oden, Tonkatsu, Shumai, Natto, Yakisoba

Here is my top pick:

#1 — S&B Karashi Paste

Related: Your Japanese dish is incomplete without these Japanese soy sauces. Check it out here!

#3 — Shichimi Togarashi

Shichimi Togarashi literally translates to seven taste chili pepper. So, as the name suggests, this spice is made of a mixture os seven ingredients – red chili pepper (the main ingredient), ground sansho, roasted orange peel, black sesame, hemp seeds, ground ginger, and nori (seaweed). 

Shichimi Togarashi is used to add flavor, spiciness, and aroma to a dish. You will find that this spice is often sprinkled on dishes such as soba noodles, udon noodles, nabe hot pots, tendon, tempura, and more. It is also believed that this spice is good for the stomach. It helps improve your digestion as well as appetite. If you have a cold or flu, sprinkle some of this spice on your food or soup and it will help relieve you from the problems. 

You can get this wonderful spice for your pantry without having to fly to Japan.

Key Features:

  • Type: Spice
  • Flavor Profile: Spicy
  • Commonly Paired With: Soba noodles, udon noodles, nabe hot pots, tendon, tempura

Here are my top picks:

#1 — 7 Pepper Spice Mix

#2 — Shichimi Togarashi from S&B

Related: These Japanese rice crackers are a healthy way to beat hunger! Check it out!

#4 — Sansho Pepper

Sansho is a spice that is often confused as pepper. This herb has a long history in Japan; the stories of this spice being used in Japan goes back to the 8th century. Sansho is Japanese prickly ash, belonging to the citrus and rue family. 

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If you get Shichimi Togarashi for your pantry, you must know that Sansho is one of the seven ingredients used to make the spice. You do not need a large amount of this spice to add flavor. A small quantity is quite enough as it has a sharp, strong taste that is citrusy. The citrus flavor can leave a tingling numbness that can last for quite some time. Popular Japanese dishes that use this spice are grilled or boiled eel, noodles, soup, and kaiseki dishes. 

And that’s not all. Sansho is also known to be a Japanese healing herb. It is consumed widely in Japan to treat diarrhea and stomach pain. It also helps with digestion, appetite, and metabolism. 

Key Features:

  • Type: Spice
  • Flavor Profile: Citrusy
  • Commonly Paired With: Grilled or boiled eel, noodles, soup, and kaiseki dishes

Here is my top pick:

#1 — S&B Sansho

#5 — Yuzu Kosho

Yuzu originated in East Asia and is a citrus fruit. On the outside, you may think that it looks like a smaller version of the grapefruit. The spice is aromatic and you will find that it is very rarely eaten as a fruit. It is commonly used as a condiment for various types of food items. The juice from Yuzu is used as a seasoning or even to make drinks in Japan.

The most common form in which Yuzu is available is Yuzu Pon, which is a citrus-based sauce used in Japanese cuisine. Other forms include Yuzu Vinegar. Yuzu honey is also popular to make tea and alcoholic drinks. Japan drinks a lot of green tea, and adding yuzu to it is quite a common practice. 

Yuzu is also mixed with other spices and herbs to create a wonderful combination. You can add yuzu to Shichimi Togarashi to create Yuzu Shichimi Togarashi. You can also make sweets and desserts using Yuzu.

Key Features:

  • Type: Condiment
  • Flavor Profile: Citrusy
  • Commonly Paired With: Tea, alcoholic drinks, desserts

Yuzu is available in various forms online.

Here are my top picks:

#1 — Organic Yuzu Juice

#2 — Chopped Yuzu Paste

#6 — Ponzu

Ponzu is a common and popular condiment in Japan. It is a citrus-based sauce that has a watery consistency. You can mix Ponzu with soy sauce to make Ponzu shoyu, which becomes a great dipping sauce for sashimi as well as hot pot dishes.

If you make takoyaki (fried dough with octopus inside) at home, you can top it up with ponzu for an excellent taste.

Key Features:

  • Type: Condiment
  • Flavor Profile: Citrusy
  • Commonly Paired With: Sashimi, Hot pot dishes

Here are my top picks:

#1 — Ponzu Sauce

#2 — Ponzu Shoyu

#7 — Moshio Salt

Yes, we all have salt, but we do not have seaweed salt, do we? Moshio salt is the oldest form of sea salt, and not many people outside of Japan know about this salt. Making this salt is not an easy task; it requires a lot of energy to make the seaweed moshio salt. 

Moshio salt is a premium Japanese salt that has extra depth to it, thanks to the seaweed. It is a well-balanced salt that adds a lot of flavor to different types of dishes. 

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Go ahead sprinkle some on your dish and thank me later!

Key Features:

  • Type: Seasoning
  • Flavor Profile: Salty, seaweed
  • Commonly Paired With: Soups, salads, Udo, Crackers

Here are my top picks:

#1 — Amabito no Moshio

#2 — Japanese seaweed salt

#8 — Rayu 

Spice things up in your kitchen with this red hot spicy oily, Rayu. It’s made of chili-infused sesame oil, garlic, and diced onion. This Japanese spice is a very popular one in Japan. It goes excellently well with ramen. In fact, if you go to any ramen shops in Japan, you’re most likely to find rayu oil sitting at the counter, waiting to be drizzled all over your ramen. **slurp**

When you’re cooking a Japanese dish by yourself and if it calls for Rayu spicy oil, make sure that you add this spice at your discretion. Taste it before you add it to your dish to see if you can handle the spice.

Key Features:

  • Type: Spicy, oil
  • Flavor Profile: Spice
  • Commonly Paired With: Ramen
best japanese spices and herbs

#9 — Japanese Curry Roux

Japanese curry roux is all the rage in Japan. The flavor profile of this one is sweet and savory. Pour this over grilled beef and serve it with some rice and you’ll reach heaven! You can make this curry at home easily by getting the Japanese curry sauce mix. There are instructions on the pack on how to make it. You can experiment and your own flavors to curry mix as well! 

Key Features:

  • Type: Spice mix, powder
  • Flavor Profile: Sweet and savory
  • Commonly Paired With: Grilled meat, rice

#10 — Umeboshi Paste

This condiment is as tasty as it is healthy! This one is a combination of pickled and pureed umeboshi plums. And the taste profile of this one is citrusy and salty. It’s a red paste and added to make your Japanese dish tangier. This is an excellent condiment to have along with onigiri, sushi, salads, and veggies.

Key Features:

  • Type: Condiment
  • Flavor Profile: Citrusy, salty
  • Commonly Paired With: Onigiri, sushi, salads, cooked veggies

#11 — Japanese Black Sesame Seeds

Black sesame seeds is a superfood ingredient and if you’re obsessed with Japanese cuisine, you’ll see particular spice pretty much everywhere. Black sesame seeds can be sprinkled over onigiri, mixed in salad dressing or tonkatsu dipping sauce, or sprinkled simply over rice as well. 

Key Features:

  • Type: Seasoning
  • Flavor Profile: Bitter, nutty
  • Commonly Paired With: Onigiri, Salad dressing, tonkatsu dipping sauce, rice

#12 — Japanese Herb Shiso

Shiso belongs to the mint family. It is one of the most popular herbs in Japan. It works well with all types of meat, vegetarian dishes, as well as seafood dishes. Shiso is also known as Japanese basil or beefsteak plant. 

Shiso is eaten in different ways in Japan and depending on how it is eaten, it is known by different names. You can eat green shiso leaves with sashimi and sushi. It can also be chopped up into thin strips and added to salad, meat, fish, or noodles. Sliced shiso leaves can also be tossed on top of pasta and pizza. 

Purple form of shiso is used to dye pickled plum.

Key Features:

  • Type: Herb
  • Flavor Profile: Citrus, cinnamon, anise
  • Commonly Paired With: Sashimi, sushi, meat, salad. fish, noodles

You can now bring the taste, aroma, and flavors of Japan home!

These were some of the best Japanese spices and herbs that will help you bring the taste of Japan home. Get these today!

Also Read:

  1. Japanese potato chips
  2. Best Japanese Rice Brands 2021
  3. Best Japanese Curry Brand

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