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What Is Wasabi and What Does It Taste Like?

What Is Wasabi and What Does It Taste Like?

Last Updated on 21st September 2022 by

Have you ever noticed a green paste being served with some Asian foods? The condiment wasabi is notorious for its spiciness and bright green color, but what is wasabi and how do you use it?

What Is Wasabi?

Have you ever noticed a green paste being served with some Asian foods? The condiment wasabi is notorious for its spiciness and bright green color, but what is wasabi and how do you use it?

Where Does Wasabi Come from?

Wasabi comes primarily from Japan and South Korea, but people also use it extensively in Russia as well. It’s known as Japanese horseradish sauce, since you use it similarly to that, as a condiment to be served for dipping, as a garnish, or mixed into certain foods.

It is a product of the mustard family, and the powerful, distinctive taste comes from the way its rhizomes (root parts) are ground and used to make the green paste we know as wasabi.

What Is Wasabi Made Of?

Wasabi sauce is made from a plant called the wasabi, a relative to the mustard family. To make authentic, traditional wasabi sauce, you’ll need wasabi rhizome. You may find it in some Asian groceries or in the ethnic aisle of your local grocery store.

If you can’t source that one component, you can use a mixture of regular horseradish sauce and Chinese mustard to make an imitation wasabi. This will look and taste a lot like the real thing, and if you’re not used to eating a lot of wasabi, it’s a passable substitute.

For the substitute, making imitation wasabi, you’ll need a few other ingredients to help perfect the flavor, but the authentic wasabi uses fewer components. It only requires that wasabi rhizome, and once you’ve prepared it according to the traditional method, you’ll have your wasabi paste.

What Does Wasabi Taste Like?

Wasabi has a powerful, pungent flavor and is usually very spicy. For people who aren’t accustomed to eating really hot foods or who don’t like foods that have a long-lasting heat, wasabi may be a good condiment to try. It’s pretty hot, but that heat doesn’t last very long.

It’s the kind of heat that helps accentuate flavors rather than cover them up, so it’s ideal for people who don’t like how overpowering spicy sauces and condiments can be.

Wasabi has a fairly delicate flavor. Although the heat can be intense for a moment, nothing about wasabi is going to drown out the rest of your food. It helps to bring out other flavors around it, which is why it’s such preferred condiment.

How Hot Is Wasabi?

Wasabi will burn your sinuses a little bit, but it doesn’t tend to burn the front of the tongue or the roof of your mouth as much as typical spicy sauces do. Like I mentioned already, that spiciness and heat doesn’t last too long. You’ll feel a little heat in your sinuses, and then it disappears quickly.

You can’t really measure wasabi on the Scoville scale, which is meant to measure the heat level in different kinds of chili peppers. Since wasabi is a root and not a chili, the Scoville scale isn’t a good measurement for it.

Wasabi has a lot of the characteristics of something that’s spicy, carrying that spicy aroma, but its spiciness is comparable to something like jalapenos and is not very severe.

Why Is Wasabi Spicy?

If you want to be really scientific about wasabi and its spiciness, you can look at the chemical component that causes it to have some heat. That would be allyl isothiocyanate, which is found in horseradish too.

That’s why wasabi is called Chinese horseradish sometimes, and it’s also why you can use horseradish with a mixture of other ingredients make a knock-off wasabi sauce.

This very chemical causes your body’s taste receptors and smell receptors to light up, recognizing its heat when you taste it.

How Is Wasabi Made?

I want to show you a couple different ways to make wasabi, depending on what ingredients you have on hand or what you have available to you. Let’s start with authentic wasabi that’s made with wasabi root or wasabi rhizome.


  1. Wash the rhizome thoroughly and then allow it to dry naturally. Don’t pat it dry, as you can damage it.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler and remove about 6 inches from the end of the rhizome.
  3. Grate the wasabi rhizome with a small grater, like the smaller end of a cheese grater or with a sharkskin wasabi grater. Only grate off what you need for a single serving at a time.
  4. You can take what you have grated from the root and shape it into a ball. Allow the ball to stand for 10 minutes so that the flavor can strengthen and develop.
  5. Your leftover wasabi rhizome should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and then wrapped again with plastic wrap.

As you’re working with wasabi, take note that it has a very strong flavor. You don’t want it to get into your eyes as you grate it.

The flavor of wasabi can disappear quickly if you’re not handling the root properly. You want to store it quickly, wrapping the leftovers as I directed, and putting your prepared wasabi into an airtight container and storing it in the fridge if you’re not using it.



  1. Just combine all of your ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly until you’ve made a smooth paste.
  2. Adjust the flavor by adding more soy sauce or vinegar as desired.
  3. Store the wasabi in the fridge in an airtight container until it’s ready to be used.

Whether you are using the authentic wasabi preparation method or you’re making an imitation, you have a tasty condiment that you can use with all sorts of dishes.

Try dipping veggies or fried foods or some oven baked spring rolls into the wasabi or adding a little bit of it to a rice dish. It’s really good with salmon or other types of fish, as well as with sushi.

It pairs so well with these foods, because wasabi brings out the flavors, accentuating them without taking them over.

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I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!

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Thursday 8th of February 2024

Your point of view caught my eye and was very interesting. Thanks. I have a question for you.