Pickled Sushi Ginger (Gari) Recipe with Shiso

Shiori gingerIf you make your own sushi and sashimi, then you owe it to yourself to make your own pickled ginger, or gari, to go with it.

I used purple shiso (Perilla frutescens) leaves in this version to give the ginger a pink color and interesting herbal background flavor, but homemade pickled ginger is also good without the shiso.

If you do decide to use shiso, you’ve basically got two choices: grow it or forage it. I’ve only rarely seen it for sale even though it is a staple in Japanese cuisine.


If you choose to grow beefsteak plant (another name for shiso), it is a fast-growing annual worth starting from seed even as late as midsummer. I got my seeds here.

Shiso grows wild not far from human habitation as a garden escape. I’ve found it growing wild in Central Park in New York City, and outside of a farm in California’s Marin County.

There are two forms, green-leaved and purpled-leaved. Keep in mind, though, that the purple can revert to the green form if it isn’t getting direct sunlight.

Look for broad teeth on the leaf margins, a wide base and pointed leaf tip, opposite leaf arrangement (the leaves join the stems in neatly lined up pairs), and square stems (shiso is in the square-stemmed mint plant family, Lamiaceae).

Shiso looks like the cultivated plant coleus to many people, and they’re not far off: wild coleus is another name for shiso.

More info on identifying wild shiso in Northeast Foraging.

Homemade pickled ginger in the foreground, with a little of the shiso used in the pickle on top

Homemade pickled ginger in the foreground, with a little of the shiso used in the pickle on top

Pickled Ginger with Shiso (Gari)

Makes 3/4 cup, about 6 servings

Pickled ginger (called gari in Japan) is served as a palate cleanser alongside sushi and sashimi.

Commercial brands of gari, come in two colors: the natural light tan of raw ginger root, and a shocking pink color that nowadays comes from food coloring. What that pink is supposed to come from is very young ginger, which does turn ballerina pink when pickled.

This recipe gives you that color naturally even when you’re working with older ginger root, and subtly flavors the pickle as well.


4 ounces fresh ginger root, peeled

1 teaspoon non-iodized salt such as kosher or sea salt

4 – 5 large purple shiso leaves, torn into a few pieces each

1/2 cup rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

Use a vegetable peeler to scrape off thin slices of the ginger. Place these in a bowl and rub them with the salt until the salt starts to dissolve and lose its gritty feel. Let sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.

Transfer the ginger to a sieve and rinse it under cold water. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then put the ginger into a clean glass jar. Tuck the shiso leaves in among the ginger (a chopstick helps with this maneuver).

Put the vinegar, sugar, and water  into a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the brine over the shiso and ginger. Use the back of a spoon to press out any air bubbles and make sure that the brine completely covers the solid ingredients. Cover the jar and refrigerate. At first the ginger will resist the color seeping into the brine from the shiso leaves. Wait at least 1 week for the flavor and color to develop before tasting.

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer


One response to “Pickled Sushi Ginger (Gari) Recipe with Shiso”

  1. Reuben Glass says:

    Thank you for this overview Leda (and the Swan!), having worked in a Japanese restaurant among several other restaurants, and in the natural/organic foods industry as well as organic farming, I had a general idea of where to start, and this helped narrow it down considerably. I\’ve considered a few adjustments I\’ll try in different batches, including organic brown syrup in place of or in addition to natural sugar. I\’ll use Himalayan pink sea salt, organic ginger, you answered my question regarding red shiso/perilla or the green ao shiso, and I have the organic brown rice vinegar as well as umeboshi vinegar on the shelf, so I\’ll start with these ideas. I\’m sure over time I\’ll find the right balance, blessings!

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