All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Shiokoji salted rice malt

A traditional seasoning made of rice malt and salt from the northern part of Japan, where it was mainly used to marinate fish or make vegetable pickles. A few years ago shiokoji started to receive lots of media attention all over Japan as a versatile seasoning full of umami. Shiokoji hydrolyzes carbohydrates and proteins into sugars and amino acids, thus boosting the umami in other food when used as a seasoning. Because of this property, chicken breasts marinated in shiokoji, for example, will be moist and supple – not dry -- when cooked. Shiokoji also tenderizes proteins, and tough red meat marinated in shiokoji will turn out very tender. Because of the salt added to preserve finished shiokoji, it can be used as a full or partial replacement for salt or soy sauce. When a small amount is added to ordinary scrambled eggs, they become super fluffy. It is truly amazing.

Shiokoji does not add any Japanese or Asian flavoring, and it can be used in any cooking as a meat tenderizer or salt substitute. When used to tenderize meat or as a marinade, it does add a slight salty taste, and final flavoring needs to be adjusted (reduce the amount of any salty seasoning). At the same time, shiokoji adds a mellow note, especially when ingredients are marinated for a long time or when shiokoji has aged longer. When cooking, set the heat level lower than usual, as shiokoji tends to make ingredients burn easily. Shiokoji-marinated meat and fish are best grilled, simmered or steamed. Searing and browning meat can be a challenge.

How much shiokoji should you use? As a rule of thumb, an amount equal to 7-10% of the total weight of other ingredients is said to be suitable. One tablespoon of shiokoji is approximately 20 g. When used as a salt substitute, use twice as much shiokoji in place of salt (2 tsp shiokoji when 1 tsp salt is called for). In terms of sodium content, 1 tsp (6g) of shiokoji contains 182 mg sodium when made with 100 g dry koji, 30g sea salt and 260 cc water. When using 2 tsp shiokoji as a replacement for 1 tsp salt, sodium intake would be 364 mg with shiokoji instead of 2323 mg with refined table salt (6 g/tsp) or 1811 mg with sea salt (5 g/tsp).

Shiokoji is now available at Japanese grocery stores in the US, including Uwajimaya in Seattle. Just as with all imports from Japan, the price is high. But it is very easy to make yourself. The main ingredient -- koji or rice malt, which is also a key ingredient in miso paste -- is commonly found at Japanese and other Asian grocery stores.


100 g koji rice malt
260 cc water
30 g sea salt


Mix koji and sea salt, add water to cover, loosely cover the container, and keep at room temperature.

Stir once a day, add water if the level goes down, and patiently wait 1-2+ weeks. (If made in a Ziploc bag, let the air out from time to time.)

When ready, it starts to have a mellow smell and the sharp salty taste becomes milder, leaving a lingering umami taste on your tongue.
(On our cold granite kitchen countertop in December, it took 20 days to reach this stage; only 1 week in April.)

Keep refrigerated, and finish in 6 months.

  • The proportion of koji and salt is 10:3 by weight.
  • Shiokoji can be frozen up to 1 year.
  • Shiokoji starts to taste milder after 3-4 weeks.
  • Pureeing would make it easier to measure and prevent koji pieces appear on food, if this is a concern.

Recipes with shiokoji

    (Last updated: April 27, 2019)

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