Yuzu Kosho, The Missing Condiment in Your Life

Hot, sour and salty, with a just a hint of fruity sweetness, the Japanese condiment yuzu kosho has become a staple of the creative kitchen.

It’s nothing more than searing-hot chilies, salt and the aromatic zest of the yuzu citrus. It comes in green and red varieties—the green from green chilies and unripe citrus, the red from red chilies and ripe citrus. And, they differ subtly in flavor: The green is sharper and more herbal, while the red is rounder and fruitier. But, they can be used interchangeably.

Traditionally stirred into “hot pot” dishes and soups, it also makes a nice accompaniment or rub for briny fish and juicy beef. Steakhouse chains Nick & Stef’s and Wolfgang Puck’s Cut both offer yuzu kosho sauces alongside classics like Béarnaise.

“We’re using it now in an oyster mignonette, but it’s also great for cutting richness in meat,” says Chris Kajioka, chef-owner of Honolulu’s new Senia. “You can use it on almost any fish, meat or even vegetables to give subtle spice and brightness.”

Where to Try It

Sepia (Chicago)
Spinach chitarra (egg pasta) with smoked whitefish and yuzu kosho butter
The Dutch (New York City)
Catfish tacos with tobiko, Oregon wasabi and yuzu kosho
C.O.D (Los Angeles)
Scallop carpaccio with yuzu kosho, smoked sea salt, ponzu and olive oil
Aviary (Portland, Oregon)
Miso-braised beef short rib with taro root, Asian pear and yuzu kosho slaw

Fun Facts

  • Yuzu kosho is widely available in Asian groceries and online, but you can make your own in a mortar and pestle or food processor. Grind together 3 serrano or green Thai chilies (stemmed and seeded), the zest of 6 yuzu or 4 Meyer lemons, 1 tablespoon salt and just enough citrus juice to make a paste.
  • There are yuzu kosho-flavored Kit Kats in Japan.
  • For a change of pace, add a little yuzu kosho to a simple salsa of chopped tomato, onion and cilantro.
  • When you buy yuzu kosho, also pick up a bottle of yuzu juice. Its floral flavor, like a mix of sour orange and grapefruit, is a great change from lemon or lime in cocktails and sauces.

Pairings

Yuzu kosho needs wines that can stand up to its spicy, tart and salty flavors.

When using it on fish, Yukiko Kawasaki, wine director at Yellowtail in Las Vegas, likes Merry Edwards’ 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley. “Floral notes and rich body from a substantial percentage of Sauvignon Musqué gives beautiful harmony with the herbal touch of Sauvignon Blanc, while a hint of French oak helps…balance the yuzu kosho’s acidity.”

For chicken, Kawasaki pairs yuzu kosho-driven dishes with Favia 2013 Rompecabezas, a Rhône-style red blend from Amador, California.

“The [yuzu kosho’s] spiciness goes well with the wine’s aromas of cocoa and black tea, and the pepperiness of the Grenache and Syrah balance the [chicken’s] richness,” Kawasaki says.

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