This authentic Pickled Ginger is made with only four ingredients. Peppery and naturally pink, our thinly sliced sushi ginger (gari) is super quick and easy to make at home! An absolute must for sushi. We also love this pickled ginger recipe with salad, rice bowls and veggie burgers.
Pickled Ginger (Sushi Ginger)
Pickled ginger is often served with sushi in Japan. When you purchase sushi rolls and inari sushi, little pinkish pickled ginger comes with them. This pickled sushi ginger is called gari in Japan.
You may think of sushi as just being about raw fish. But in Japan, sushi is made in many varieties at home. Seasonal fresh vegetable sushi rolls are not uncommon, and is so delicious! I’m thinking of some vegetarian sushi recipes for this summer, so stay tuned!
For me, vegetable sushi rolls must be accompanied by homemade pickled sushi ginger. It’s simply essential! So I am preparing pickled ginger now, and can’t wait to share it with you.
The best thing about my pickled sushi ginger is that pickling is genuinely good fun! So, read on to make authentic pickled ginger. It’s simple and easy, and I’ll show you how to make ginger for sushi step by step!
Why is ginger served with sushi?
Gari, (pickled) sushi ginger, is often eaten after sushi. It’s served as a palate cleanser. After you eat each sushi piece, gari is eaten to refresh the mouth. When the next sushi piece is eaten, the taste is enhanced. Pickled ginger is deliciously refreshing, slightly spicy and aromatic. That’s why everyone loves it!
Why new ginger roots for pickling?
New and young ginger is best for pickling. It has a mild, juicy, and slightly less spicy flavour. The skin is thin and peeling is not difficult. As it’s fresh and firm, it’s easy to slice thinly.
So, I suggest using new ginger roots for pickling. It’s perfect for ensuring a natural pink colour to the ginger.
Ginger you usually buy at a super market is matured for a few months to increase spiciness. They are great for cooking but not preferred for pickling, as it’s a bit too spicy and pungent. The texture is a bit rough and fibrous.
So, when choosing ginger to pickle, look for firm and slightly yellowish ginger with ‘pink coloured stems’. That means it is new and young ginger.
Why the sushi ginger is pink?
You may have noticed that the sushi ginger is pink. Commercially produced sushi ginger is often artificially colored. But I’ll show you how to add colour naturally. Only young ginger can develop a pinkish tint. It has the right flavour and adds natural colouring to the ginger.
How to get a natural pink colour
Simply cut off the pink stems before you peel the ginger. The stems give it a natural pink colour but are rather hard in texture. So cut them finely. They’ll be soaked by sweetened vinegar with the thin ginger slices.
You may notice red pickled ginger that is served with okonomi yaki, yakisoba, yakimeshi or yaki udon at Japanese restaurants. That red pickling ginger is called beni shoga. It’s another way to colour the ginger in pink.
Ingredients for the pickled ginger recipe
Japanese Ginger: You can find new and young ginger at local Japanese or Asian grocery store from May to June or Autumn. Japanese ginger is traditionally used for this recipe. If you cannot find it, find a replacement. You need to use fresh gingers. Sometimes the shop cuts off the stem but if you’d like to add natural pink colours, find the ginger that has the pink stems left on.
Rice Vinegar: I recommend using rice vinegar. The taste of rice vinegar is milder than most other types of vinegar and perfect for pickled ginger. I use rice vinegar from Marukan, a leading Japanese vinegar producer. Their products are widely distributed outside Japan. It can be used for sushi, salad, ramen and much more! Also it works for gyoza dipping sauce! You can enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine and flavour at home.
Sugar: I use organic granulated beet sugar. You can also use granulated cane sugar. These are not processed and whitened with bone char. The pickling vinegar will brighten up the colour and remain pink.
How to Make Pickled Ginger for Sushi
- Clean the airtight container with warm water and detergent. Rinse out all of the detergent and air dry the container. Then clean it with alcohol, such as vodka, using a kitchen cloth (this ensures you can preserve the ginger without contamination).
- Peel the skin of the ginger with a spoon.
- Wash the ginger with water. Remove the pink stem. Slice them finely, and set aside.
How to make the ginger vinegar
Place rice vinegar, sugar, salt and water in a pan on medium heat. Allow sugar and salt to completely dissolve. Turn off the heat once it’s boiled. Set aside.
How to slice the ginger
It depends on your preference, but I recommend slicing thinly in the beginning. It’s smoother and milder. The best way is to use a peeler. If you prefer it a little thicker, use a slicer. They make julienned ginger easy. Of course, you can use a knife, but it takes more time.
When you slice the ginger, cut it along its fiber (see the image). This way, the texture of the pickled ginger becomes smooth while keeping its freshness.
Put water and the sliced ginger into a pan on medium heat until it boils. It usually takes 3 to 4 minutes. Do not leave it longer. Keep it fresh and juicy. Then drain the hot water.
There is an important tip here. Do not squeeze the ginger, but pile the sliced ginger on one hand and push from top to the bottom with the other hand.
Place the cooked ginger in the airtight container. Add ginger vinegar and top up with sliced pink stems. Leave it in the fridge for an hour. It’s ready to serve! Enjoy!
How to save pickled ginger
You can save the sushi ginger in a fridge for 1 month. If you want to keep the ginger longer than one month, there are two steps to add:
- Clean the airtight container with warm water and detergent. Rinse out the detergent completely. Air dry it. Then spray alcochol on the lid and the container. Or add alcohol on a clean kitchen cloth and wipe out the container.
- Use disposable gloves, when you remove the water after boiling the ginger, and place it into the air tight container.
More Pickling Collection
Pickled Ginger (Sushi Ginger)
- 1 lb new and young ginger (450g)
- 1½ cup granulated sugar (300g beet or cane sugar)
- 1¾ cup rice vinegar (400ml)
- 2 tbsp sea salt (30g)
- 2¼ cup water (500ml)
- Clean the airtight container with warm water and detergent. Rinse off the detergent completely. Air dry the container. Then clean it with alcohol, such as vodka, with a kitchen cloth.
- Place rice vinegar, sugar, salt and water in a pan, and add medium heat. Allow sugar and salt completely to dissolve. Turn off the heat once it's boiled. Set aside.
Cut & Cook Ginger
- Clean the ginger with water. Remove the pink stem. Set aside the stem.
- Peel the skin of the ginger with a spoon. Slice them finely along the fiber. Use a peeler to cut thinly and evenly. Or use a slicer or a knife if you prefer it a little more thicker.
- Transfer the ginger into water on a pan on medium heat until it boils. It takes 3 minutes. Do not boil longer. Keep the ginger moist but drain water.
- Once the ginger has slightly cooled down, remove water from the ginger by hand. Do not squeeze the ginger, but pile the sliced ginger on one hand and push from top to the bottom with the other hand.
- Place the cooked ginger in the air tight container. Add ginger vinegar and top up with sliced pink stems. Leave it in the fridge for an hour.Ready to serve! Enjoy!