Tsukemono – Japanese Traditional Pickles

Japanese people have been eating Japanese pickles for a very long time. The pickles are one of the most amazing super foods because you can take in a lot of rich nutrients. The process of pickling has anti-bacterial and preserving effects. People have been using this process to increase the food’s shelf life since it was discovered until today. There are many kinds of pickles and here are more things you should know about them!

1. Types of Japanese Pickles

Shio-zuke (pickling in salt) is the original way of Japanese pickling. This is done by putting a heavy stone on the ingredients after sprinkling salt over them. Other than shio-zuke, there are many different kinds of ways to pickle, as shown below with some popular ingredients for each method.

Umeboshi …Umeboshi is a dried plum after marinated with salt. It may taste very sour by itself, but it is usually eaten with rice. Its salty and sour taste goes well with rice.


Asazuke…light pickle with less salt. It is made through a shorter preparation time than usual pickles. Cabbage, carrots, Hakusai (Chinese cabbage) and/or cucumbers are used for ingredients.


Su-zuke (pickling in vinegar)…shallot or ginger. One of the most common su-zuke is a ginger. It is usually served alongside sushi, and it’s called gari. Why?  The sour taste of gari offset the fatty taste of sushi, and refreshes our mouth during eating sushi. In terms of health benefit, the combination of ginger and vinegar of gari promotes digestion.


Takuan…also known as takuwan is a pickled daikon. Daikon is hung in the sun to dry for  weeks, and the it is picked with nuka (rice bran) and salt. Kombu is sometimes added for flavor.



2. Health Benefits of Tsukemono

Nutrition and Benefits-

By putting salt into vegetables, the water comes out from the vegetables and they absorb the salt. This enhances the flavor and ferments the ingredients while improving preservative quality. Most vegetables are rich in some types of vitamins C, A and B which are not really contained in grains, fish or meat. They stimulate collagen and white blood cells, and also have good effects on body growth, skin, energy metabolism as well as fatigue recovery.  A lot of vegetables contain high calcium, potassium and dietary fiber. While vitamins in fresh vegetables are easily lost when heated, you can absorb all the vitamins into your body from pickles. Isn’t that amazing?

Moreover, although most lactobacillus die before they reach the intestine, plant lactobacillus in pickles survive on the path through the intestine. The lactobacillus help relieve constipation, lose weight, improve the immune system, prevent allergies and smooth out rough skin.

Another benefit of pickled foods is their anti-bacterial effect. When Cholera or E.coli O157 has an outbreak, the sales of umeboshi apparently get higher. This is because umeboshi and garlic have a strong anti-bacterial ability which stops most microbes from increasing. Pickled garlic, onion and shallot help prevent clots in veins and colon cancer. Ginger is used as a medical treatment as it helps promote sweating and alleviates fever.


Nuka-zuke, representing the rich fermentation culture of Japan

Nuka-zuke is a kind of pickles marinated in fermented rice bran called nuka. Nuka is high in nutrition, and possibly increases the nutrient contents of the vegetables by 10 times when pickled in nuka, such as protein, sugar, dietary fiber, vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and E, calcium, phosphorus and iron. The vegetables themselves contain vitamin C so nuka-zuke is a great sauce containing almost all nutrients. By pickling in nuka, the water comes out of the ingredients, their nutrients concentrate and they absorb nutrients in nuka like enzymes. Enzymes aid metabolism, digestion and assimilation remove wastes and improve the immune system.

For more detail about Nukazuke, read the column: Rice and “Nukazuke” as Japanese soul food!


Nukadoko – pickling bed made from rice bran and salt, where vegetables are pickled inside.

Does salt of tsukemono affect the body?

You may be concerned about the amount of salt contained in pickles. The recommended salt intake for Japanese is 10g per day, and salt in pickles served per day is believed to be about 1g. You shouldn’t eat them too much in a day, and it’s probably a good idea to wash off the salt on the pickles before you eat them. Then enjoy these nutritious picked foods with your meals!