This 5-minute salad dressing will make you feel like you're at a Japanese restaurant.


Down the street was a small, cozy, dimly lit sushi restaurant from where I grew up. We were regulars there, showing up every other Friday at 5pm to enjoy our favorite meal together.

We all loved the sushi, but the carrot salad with ginger dressing was one of our favorites on the menu. There was something unique about its vibrant color and taste. It was bright and punchy, and we sometimes requested a second helping.

If you've been to a Japanese restaurant in America, chances are you've been treated to a salad served with carrot and ginger dressing. I say “treat” because, if you're like me, you know that this salad is a delicious part of the meal that shouldn't be missed.

The restaurant closed a few years ago, but I still have fond memories of this dressing. I've tried to recreate this several times, and I think I've finally come close to nailing the tangy, sweet and savory flavors.

What is Carrot Ginger Dressing?

Japanese restaurants in America often serve this salad as part of a first course, but it is not traditionally Japanese. In Japan, they often serve otoshi, a small starter of sorts, which can be anything from edamame to pickled vegetables, while the kitchen prepares the main dishes.

Namiko Hirasawa-chan, founder and creator of the Just One cookbook, believes that Japanese-American restaurants adopted this custom because American restaurants often serve a salad before the main dish. Chen added that it's a quick and easy “addition” for the restaurant because the salad uses “year-round ingredients, easy to prepare and suitable for serving at room temperature.”

Although it is possible to buy a bottle of “carrot dressing” at gourmet grocery stores in Japan, Chen says, “the carrot-ginger dressing commonly seen in Japanese-American restaurants is different and not as popular in Japan.”

Just recipes / Sarah Haas

Tips for making Carrot Ginger Dressing

  • To make it smooth: Chen recommends using a high-speed blender for the right smooth texture. If you don't have one, she recommends using a large chickpea to help bring out the natural sweetness of the onions and carrots. Another option is to blanch the carrots to soften them before blending.
  • For a large blender: A larger blender requires more volume to function properly, so consider doubling the ingredients. You'll want extra anyway because it's so delicious and keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Use fresh ginger.: If your ginger is young and thin-skinned, there is no need to peel it. Super fresh ginger works best here anyway because it won't leave tough chunks in your dressing.
  • Use a neutral oil.: You'll want to taste the carrot, ginger and soy but not the oil in the dressing, so make sure it's neutral. If you don't have grapeseed oil, avocado or vegetable oil will work.
  • Let it cool.: This dressing is even better the next day, so make it the day before if you have time.

How to Make My 5-Minute Carrot-Ginger Dressing

This recipe yields about 1 cup of dressing—enough for dinner for four, and extra to keep in the fridge for lunch the next day. Scale the recipe up or down proportionally based on how much dressing you need.

You will need:

  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cooked rice vinegar
  • 2 medium carrots (about 4 ounces), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh ginger
  • 2/3 cup avocado, grape seed, or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Add all ingredients to a small to medium high speed blender and process to desired consistency. For a smooth dressing, process for at least 2 minutes.

For best flavor, refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, stirring again before serving. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Just recipes / Sarah Haas


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