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why is sushi ginger pink?

And how do I make it at home?

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  1. FD&C Red #40 according the ingredients label on my jar.

    1. If you use the baby ginger -- this is young ginger with very thin skin (just scrape it off) & no fibers inside -- & slice it very thinly, then add lemon juice or rice vinegar, it will turn pink on its own. Mature ginger doesn't do this.

      The natural pink of pickled baby ginger is not that heavy-duty fuschia of commercial sushi ginger; it's more of a blush, if you see what I mean. If it's bright glaring pink, there's food coloring in it.

      So you can either get the baby ginger, if you can find it, & settle for a paler pink & no chemicals (but a lovely texture & flavor), & prepare as above; or get mature ginger, slice it even more thinly (so it isn't fibrous) & add your acid (rice vinegar or lemon juice -- I'd be willing to bet that the commercial stuff has sugar, too, but you don't need it with baby ginger) & either let it stay its natural color (mine turns sort of a peachy beige) or put in a drop of food color.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mshenna

        Thank you. Does anyone know where to look for baby ginger -- is it commonly available? And what does it look like /how will I know I've found it?

        Also, i wonder what's used in sushi restaruants? Admittedly it's had food coloring added, but it's sliced into thin pieces that completely lack fibers -- I'd love to be able to reproduce that at home. Is it just the difference between young and mature?

        1. re: BeckyAndTheBeanstock

          My local grocery store carries and I believe whole food does.

          1. re: BeckyAndTheBeanstock

            The skin on really young ginger is so thin it is translucent & the tips of the "fingers" can be pink/purple -- ginger with nail polish? Look at http://www.foodsubs.com/Ginger.html for a picture (scroll down to "green ginger"). Should have added that it does not keep well (even when unpeeled), nothing like the way mature ginger does, & it does indeed need pickling (see scubadoo97 & Alan408) if you aren't going to eat it right away (& are better than I am at deferred gratification).

        2. I make pickled ginger often sans coloring. Slice ginger very thin and cook in a mixture of rice vinegar, mirin, sake and sugar. Let cool and enjoy.

          1. Baby ginger is not a requirement, but "young" ginger root tastes less sharp than roots from storage. Young ginger is available in my area in May/June, or that is when grandma would make a batch. Young ginger is sort of pink.

            Slice ginger thinly, start with ~8 oz before peeling, boil in salted water for ~30 seconds, drain.
            Heat: 1 cup rice vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, 1t salt until sugar dissolves, cool.

            Place sliced ginger and cool liquid on a covered glass container, let it soak for 2-3 days, then eat.

            1. It's not "sushi" ginger. It's pickled ginger. Doesn't *have* to be pink. Recipes abound on the Net. You need a mandolin to get really thin slices.

              2 Replies
              1. re: KiltedCook

                Or Japanese knife with razor sharp blade. Watch those fingers.

                1. re: KiltedCook

                  According to Wikipedia, it is sometimes referred to as "Sushi ginger" (See below copy & paste or perhaps you'd like to look it up yourself)

                  Gari (ginger)

                  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
                  Not to be confused with beni shōga.

                  Gari (ガリ?) is a type of tsukemono (pickled vegetables). It is sweet, thinly sliced young ginger that has been marinated in a solution of sugar and vinegar. Young ginger is generally preferred for gari because of its tender flesh and natural sweetness. Gari is often served and eaten after sushi, and is sometimes called sushi ginger. It is considered to be essential in the presentation of sushi. It primarily is used to cover up the smell of raw fish in the sushi restaurant, but also has the secondary function of cleansing the palate between eating different pieces of sushi.

                  Although not standard, some people may eat the sushi by placing the gari on top of the sushi.

                  When traditionally prepared, gari typically has a pale yellow to slightly pink hue from the pickling process. Only very young ginger will develop the slight pink tint.[1] Many brands of commercially produced gari are artificially colored pink (often by E124 and/or beet juice), either to intensify the color or because the ginger used is too mature to turn pink upon pickling.

                  Gari can help ease stomach nausea,[2] and has antiseptic properties.[3]

                2. I have made it with regular(mature) ginger and the taste is the same, just not pink. I'm sure most of the pickled ginger you can buy is dyed pink rather than actually made with "young' ginger.

                  1. I think traditionally red pickled ginger was colored with the dark red variety of shiso (perilla) leaves. there are other uses for shiso in japanese cuisine

                    Perilla comes in dark red and green leaves, flat and frilled, - looks rather like a coleus - and once you have it in your garden and allow it to go to seed you will keep having it. - for years.

                    You will see the young ginger periodically in asian greengrocers - since it comes from different parts of the world , like Hawaii and Australia, and is actually a major ingredient of some dishes it is not strictly seasonal, at least here in NY.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Akajiso or red shiso (perilla) is what is used to naturally color ginger. Most commercial gari (pickled ginger) uses artificial red dye.

                    2. AFAIK, there is no rhyme or reason for being pink other than it looks cool. As to making it at home: been there done that many moons ago as a kid with my mom, but it was never as good as the commercial stuff. Just buy it premade from the store in a jar and be done with it. It is pretty good.

                      1. The Baby Ginger Is or Can Be Colored Darker with a little Beat Juice So You Are Going Completely Natural If You So Desire! Also, If You Wrap Your Ginger Very Well in Saran Wrap....NO AIR In It....Place In Plastic Ziploc Baggy....Pressing The Air Out ~ You Can Freeze It For Quite Some Time! Which Also Makes Slicing It Very Thin Far Simpler! Just Let It Defrost a Bit. Enjoy!

                        1. agreed with the comments. It is dyed. I'm not sure why. maybe they thought it looked more appealing that way.

                          My go to sushi place serves it as its natural pale yellow color.