You’re making a poke bowl, but what sauce to go for? Well, that is the question, and I have the answer. That’s to say–I have several answers. Believe it or not, you can serve a poke bowl with several different sauces. There are certainly some sauces to avoid, too, and I’ll get to those, as well.
So, what are the best sauces for a poke bowl? The best sauce for a poke bowl is perhaps the original poke or OG sauce–one that combines soy sauce and sesame oil and sometimes contains herbs and spices, such as chili, ginger, green onions, and garlic. Some people like to add some rice vinegar or citrus juice, as well as a sweetener, such as sugar or honey.
Ponzu sauce is fairly similar to poke sauce (at least the more modern versions) and works really well with a poke bowl.
Another great option is a flavored mayonnaise, such as sriracha aioli or wasabi aioli. If you like it creamy, you could also go with a coconut cream sauce flavored with ginger and perhaps some chili and garlic.
Now, let’s deep dive into these different sauce options–their ingredients and flavor profiles–as well as some thoughts on other sauces that will work well and sauces that absolutely won’t work.
Best Sauces For Poke Bowls
Poke Sauce or OG Sauce
Traditional poke sauce has many names. Some simply call it poke sauce. Others call it OG sauce. Some might just refer to it as a soy and sesame sauce.
Most restaurants treat their poke sauce recipe like a national treasure and keep it under lock and key–talking about the secret ingredients in their OG sauce.
The basics aren’t that difficult, though.
Traditional poke sauce is simply made of soy sauce combined with sesame oil and perhaps some pepper or chili flakes. That’s it.
Now, most people don’t stop there, however.
They like to add some more spice to their poke sauce. Which usually means adding ginger and chili.
Sometimes garlic and/or green onions. Many people like adding a little bit of sugar or honey for sweetness, and some add lemon, lime, or rice vinegar, too, for acidity.
Some restaurants get really inventive–I’ve heard of jalapeños being marinated in the sauce overnight to give it its spiciness! And Jalapeños aren’t exactly a traditional Japanese ingredient!
There are many different variations on a theme when it comes to poke sauce, but one thing tends to remain the same–you combine soy sauce with sesame oil.
And with that as a starting point, it’s actually quite simple to come up with your own recipe by adding and subtracting the ingredients mentioned above to find out what you like best.
If you don’t enjoy coming up with your own recipe, the internet is teeming with them. One quick search on Google will bring you hundreds of recipes for poke or OG sauce.
Aioli is, traditionally, mayonnaise mixed with garlic. These days, anything mixed with mayo tends to be described as aioli of some kind or other. Hence, when you combine mayo with sriracha, you get sriracha aioli.
Sriracha is a sauce made with chili paste, sugar, vinegar, and garlic. It’s hot and spicy, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
However, when mellowed out with some mayo, it suddenly becomes palatable even to those who can’t tolerate too hot sauces (what a sentence!).
If you find that mayo on its own is too fatty, blend it with some Greek yogurt. It will make the sauce a bit tarter, but it will still be creamy and delicious!
If, on the other hand, you want to take the edge off, add some honey in there. A little bit of sweetness will bring out the flavors more.
You can add salt, too, but go lightly with it.
And hey, there’s nothing saying you can’t add garlic, too! Just as in “real” aioli. Which is, as most of us know, delicious.
And here’s a tip–if you find raw garlic too much (too smelly), boil it quickly before you mince it. It will take the worst edge off it and still leave you with that wonderful garlic taste!
Raw fish and wasabi go together like coffee and cream. Excuse the food metaphor, as coffee and cream don’t go very well together with wasabi and raw fish, but you get my point!
While poke bowl is a Hawaiian recipe, chances are it was developed by or influenced by Japanese residents in Hawaii.
And in Japan, you find wasabi served with sushi and sashimi. Therefore, not surprisingly, wasabi works well with a poke bowl, too.
To mellow out the intense flavor of wasabi–and turn it into more of a dressing–you can blend it with mayo.
As with the sriracha aioli, you can add some Greek yogurt to the mix if you feel that mayo on its own gets too fatty.
It will, as mentioned, make the sauce tarter, though, which is not something you traditionally do with poke sauce.
You can also add honey to give it a sweeter twist and some salt for extra flavoring if desired.
There are as many ponzu sauces as there are, well, recipes for ponzu! And there are a lot of recipes for ponzu sauce!
A more traditional ponzu sauce recipe calls for rice vinegar, mirin (rice wine), katsuobushi (dried fish), yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), soy sauce, and kombu (a seaweed). You can find one such recipe here.
A more Westernized recipe might call for juice from a lemon, lime, and/or orange, soy sauce, mirin, and chili.
You’ll find all sorts of interpretations floating about the internet, and while all may not be authentic, even with just those ingredients mentioned here, you can create a very tasty ponzu sauce!
Oh, and some call traditional poke sauce ponzu sauce. It gets a tad confusing, but as you can see, traditional ponzu includes ingredients you wouldn’t find in a traditional poke sauce.
Poke Bros. has a coconut and ginger sauce made with fresh coconut cream. If you’ve ever had a Thai curry made with fresh coconut cream, you know what a treat fresh coconut cream is!
It’s therefore not a bad thing that you can use fresh coconut cream to make a sauce for a poke bowl.
Try spicing it with some ginger, chili, and garlic, as well as salt and a tad of honey, for an extremely delicious sauce!
You could also try using coconut cream instead of mayo for the “aiolis” described above.
What Types of Sauces Pair Best With Poke Bowls?
The most popular sauces for poke bowls are the traditional poke/OG sauces (soy-based sauces), ponzu (soy and citrus-based sauces), and mayo-based sauces–usually flavored with sriracha, wasabi, or traditional Asian spices such as ginger and chili (similar to what you’d flavor the OG/poke or ponzu sauce with, in other words).
Nothing beats tradition, and if tradition is right, a soy and sesame oil sauce (poke sauce or OG sauce) is the number one favorite for poke bowls.
The most common spices used to flavor the sauce are ginger, green onions, garlic, and chili.
And usually, the sauce has some added sweetener (sugar or honey) and sometimes some acidity in the form of the juice from citrus fruits or rice vinegar.
As ponzu sauce, at least the less traditional versions of ponzu that don’t call for seaweed and dried fish, have pretty much the same ingredients; that’s another sauce that pairs really well with poke bowls.
The traditional version of the sauce pairs well with a poke bowl, too; it’s just a tad different from your average OG sauce or poke sauce.
Other good options are creamy sauces flavored with sriracha, ginger, or wasabi. Try using mayo or coconut cream as a base.
You can have a bit of fun with this and try flavoring the coconut cream or mayo with other flavors, such as adding some lime or orange juice together with ginger, garlic, and chili.
You can do the same with the soy and sesame oil combo–toss in some orange juice, chili, and green onions. Or try adding lime, ginger, and honey. Or wasabi and honey.
There aren’t really any other sauces that stand out as being great poke bowl sauces, but as you have plenty of ways to alter the “base” sauces mentioned above, you can keep experimenting till you find the perfect sauce for you.
You can also go to the nearest well-stocked supermarket and pick up an OG sauce or poke sauce.
What Sauces To Avoid Serving With Poke Bowls
As a general rule, salad dressings and sweet and hot/spicy or sweet and sour sauces bought in a bottle do not pair well with poke bowls.
While a poke bowl, in a sense, is a salad bowl (rice topped with vegetables and raw fish), you don’t want to be serving it with salad dressing! No honey mustard sauce, Italian salad dressing, or Rhode Island!
You could argue that traditional poke sauce is a dressing (vinegar, oil, and soy), but it is flavored with Asian flavors (or Hawaiian, depending on how you see it), such as ginger, chili, green onions, and garlic.
And the vinegar used tends to be rice vinegar, while the oil used is normally sesame oil. This is very different from your standard salad dressing made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
You might think that something a bit more Asian, like sweet chili sauce, will work. Or a sweet and sour sauce or simply sweet and spicy sauce.
Sadly, it will be a bit too overpowering and sweet. You want something a tad more delicate.
Hello. I’m Jeremy – an experienced saucier who has worked in some of the top kitchens over the last few decades. With a love for sauces, food, and nutrition, I decided to create WeWantTheSauce. Here I share my knowledge and expertise; from ingredients and recipes to storage all the way through to recommendations for every sauce imaginable.