Sake, an alcoholic beverage made from polished and fermented rice, has been a central piece of the Japanese culinary tradition for centuries. It has a smooth mouthfeel and clean, sweet taste you’d be hard-pressed to find in other drinks.
Recently, sake’s popularity has exploded in the Western culinary scene. It’s always been a staple at Japanese restaurants, and now locations as diverse as Michelin-starred establishments and Mexican restaurants are adding sake to their drink menus.
If you’ve been curious about trying sake, this is your sign to go for it. Finding the right sake pairing for dinner or dessert is a tasty way to get familiar with it and develop your knowledge. Let’s get started!
What Flavors Go Well With Sake?
One of the best things about sake is its versatility — in Japan, sake is a palate cleanser and a complement to the meal. As a result, it can go well with almost anything.
Pairing sake with food differs from pairing food with other alcoholic beverages. For example, sake is less acidic than wine and does not contain tannins, so each variety has more potential food pairings than your standard wine.
Sake’s serving temperature is another crucial consideration. Changing the temperature can dramatically alter its flavor profile and acidity, so one bottle can create multiple experiences depending on whether you drink it hot or chilled. Feel free to experiment to figure out how you like it best.
The Best Foods to Pair With Sake
Ultimately, choosing which sake to pair with your meal is all about finding the best way to enhance the dish’s flavor rather than trying to find its equal. Here are some of our favorite pairings.
Pairing sake with sushi is a classic choice. The next time you’re out for sushi, consider how the flavor of your fish plays off the sake.
- Sweet: Fatty fish like salmon are savory with a slightly sweet finish. Robust, sweet sake like our Sho Chiku Bai SHO Ginjo Nigori or Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Silky Mild accentuate the fish’s richness and complement its delicate undertones.
- Rich: Oily, creamy fish like fatty tuna and yellowtail go best with a smooth, round-bodied junmai sake like our Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura Kimoto Junmai. Served either chilled or warm, this sake has a full, velvety body and a lasting, umami finish.
- Spicy: If your sushi has spicy flavoring, opt for a light, dry sake that will neutralize the heat. Our Sho Chiku Bai Premium Ginjo is dry and fruity with a delicate texture, making it a delicious pairing for spicy rolls and sauces.
- Complex: If you order a dish with many different ingredients, you’ll want to choose a milder sake. Something light and simple will cleanse your palate and allow layered flavors to shine.
Some Japanese restaurants offer sake flights so you can try multiple varieties at once without having to buy a full bottle. Take advantage of this opportunity if you can — it’s a delicious way for beginners to get more familiar with the drink.
Sake makes a wonderful complement to any type of chocolate. The combination works so well that Nestlé Japan created a sake-infused white chocolate Kit Kat in 2016.
The ideal sake for chocolate depends on what you’re eating.
- Dark: Dark chocolate is lower in fat and higher in cocoa than milk or white chocolate, resulting in a more bitter, complex taste. A light yet earthy sake, like our Sho Chiku Bai SHO Junmai Organic, is a clean, refreshing pairing.
- Milk: Milk chocolate is creamy and sweet, so it’s best to pair it with a soft, silky sake. Our Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Crème de Sake is smooth and indulgent, with a flavor reminiscent of vanilla ice cream and a lightly savory finish, making it a delicious pairing for this treat.
- White: White chocolate is decadent and creamy, with a lingering hint of vanilla and milkiness. Because it contains no cocoa, it’s slightly sweeter than milk chocolate. A creamy, dessert-type sake, like Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Silky Mild, helps enhance the chocolate’s richness without overpowering the subtleties of its flavor.
The same idea goes for desserts containing chocolate, such as cakes and pastries.
What snacks pair with sake? You might be surprised to find potato chips on this list, but they’re a delightful snack to eat with sake. Salty and fatty yet light in texture, potato chips combine well with sake’s sweet acidity. Pair classic potato chips with warmed Sho Chiku Bai Classic Junmai for a full, umami experience.
Whether you’re snacking on charcuterie or indulging in a greasy deep-dish pizza, pairing sake with your cheese can elevate the experience.
The best sake pairing for your cheese will depend on what you’re eating. Harder cheeses go best with smooth, full-bodied sake, while softer cheeses pair well with light, crisp varieties.
For a hearty cheese-based dish like pizza or grilled cheese, a more acidic sake can lighten the meal. Warmed Sho Chiku Bai Tokubetsu Junmai has a savory, fruity flavor profile that pairs well with melty cheese and sweetly acidic tomato sauce.
There’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a juicy ribeye. A sweet yet acidic junmai beautifully balances a grilled steak’s rich, meaty flavor.
Of course, if you like your steak with sauces or marinades, you might want to choose a different sake to match. Here are some ideas.
- Spicy: Hot sauces are typically challenging to pair with alcohol because they can be overpowering. Choosing a sweet sake that’s lower in alcohol can help balance the heat and cleanse your palate between bites.
- Umami: Using rich dressings like steak or Worcestershire sauce requires a drier sake to neutralize the more powerful salty flavor. Our Sho Chiku Bai REI Daiginjo is dry, soft and floral with a full body, making it a savory choice.
- Sweet: For sweeter marinades, like barbecue sauce, a full-bodied sake is the best match. Try our Sho Chiku Bai Kinpaku Tokubetsu Junmai for a satisfying meal.
Traditional Thai cuisine has a complex, layered flavor profile that’s hard to match with most alcoholic beverages. Tropical fruit-flavored sake, like our HANA Pineapple or YUKI Nigori Mango, are excellent pairings for many Thai dishes, especially those containing coconut. The sweetness helps neutralize the spice in the food, while the fruity flavors echo fruit native to Thailand.
Create Unique Food Pairings With Takara Sake
Now that you have some inspiration for sake pairings, we hope you feel empowered to try it out for yourself. From fruity to dry to somewhere in between, we have a wide range of sakes for every style of cuisine. Browse our online selection to start your culinary sake journey.