Japanese Soy Sauce Pickled Garlic

Get ready to elevate your meals with my Japanese Soy Sauce Pickled Garlic, also known as “ninniku zuke” in Japanese! This quick and easy recipe bursts with vibrant flavors and is a must-have condiment for any fans of Japanese food! Experience the thrill of crafting your own pickled garlic and unlock a world of bold, savory tastes that will pair perfectly with your next meal!

Japanese style pickled garlic being picked up with a pair of wooden chopsticks.

Why I Love This Recipe

What I absolutely love about my recipe is its effortless preparation process, taking just 5 minutes to whip up a batch of flavorful Japanese Soy Sauce Pickled Garlic right in my own kitchen! Crafted with love, my handcrafted brine infuses traditional Japanese flavors into every garlic clove, creating a side dish that perfectly complements any Japanese-inspired meal!

Utilizing the same pickling technique from my trusted Asian Pickled Vegetables recipe and inspired by a blend of my Japanese Ramen Eggs and Korean Pickled Vegetables brine, this dish is for anyone eager to add a burst of savory soy sauce goodness to their dining experience! So come join me as we dive into the world of homemade Japanese pickles to elevate your meals with my fuss free recipe today!



  • Garlic Cloves – fresh peeled garlic cloves. Cut in half to quicken the pickling process.
  • Sweetener – use your preferred sweetener.  
  • Soy Sauce – low-sodium Soy Sauce preferred. Can also use tamari for gluten-free.
  • Distilled White Vinegar – regular distilled white vinegar found at grocery stores.

Additional Add Ins

Elevate your pickled garlic by adding Red Pepper Flakes or Jalapeno Slices into the brine for a spicy kick.

Bowl of peeled garlic.

Essential Kitchen Equipment


Step 1 Start by adding sweetener, soy sauce, and vinegar to a saucepan. Allow the mixture to come to a soft boil and then let it cool down.

Brine for soy sauce pickled garlic in a sauce pan.

Step 2 Next, peel fresh garlic or use pre-peeled garlic, and transfer the garlic to a pickling jar.

Brine for soy sauce pickled garlic in a pickling jar.

🧄 Garlic Pro Tip

To quicken the pickling process, consider Halving the Garlic Cloves. This facilitates quicker penetration of the brine, ensuring a more thorough soaking for flavorful pickled garlic.

Step 3 Pour the brine over the garlic in the jar and pickle for at least 14 days in the refrigerator.

Garlic being picked in a pickling jar.

💡 Pickling Pro Tip

For optimal results, it’s advised to pickle the garlic for At Least 21 Days or longer. This duration allows the flavors to fully develop, resulting in a more vibrant and flavorful pickled garlic.

Pairing Recommendations

These pickled garlic complement Japanese-style steak dishes like Steak Donburi Bowl or classic Japanese Beef Tataki Steak perfectly. To complete your Japanese-style meal, serve alongside a side green salad dressed with my Japanese Wafu Salad Dressing and a comforting bowl of Tofu Miso Soup.

Garlic being poured into Japanese soy sauce pickle liquid.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of garlic works best for pickling?

For pickling garlic, standard peeled garlic cloves work best. To enhance the pickling process, I recommend to cut the garlic cloves in half. This allows the brine to penetrate more effectively, ensuring a thorough pickling process and flavorful results.

Can I reuse the brine for future batches of pickled garlic?

While it's possible to reuse the brine for future batches of pickled garlic, I recommend making a fresh batch each time for optimal flavor and quality.

What if garlic turns blue, is it still safe to eat?

Yes! Garlic can turn blue during the picking process. It’s an enzyme reaction to the ingredients and it’s perfectly safe. The color should change back once the pickling process is completed.


Japanese pickled garlic served with grilled meats.

Storage Tips

To store leftovers, simply keep them in the pickling jar and store in the fridge. This method ensures freshness for up to 3 months or more.

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Watch How To Make It

Japanese style pickled garlic served in a dish.

Japanese Soy Sauce Pickled Garlic

Savory delight of Japanese Pickled Garlic! Elevate your meals with this flavorful side dish that perfectly complements Japanese cuisine. Crafted with traditional Japanese flavors, it's a must-try for any home cook seeking to add a burst of savory soy sauce goodness to their dining experience.
4.09 from 36 votes
Course: Appetizer, Pickles, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Japanese
Keyword: Japanese pickled garlic
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Pickling Time: 14 days
Total Time: 14 days 5 minutes
Servings: 10
Print Recipe
Calories: 37kcal


  • 1 Cup Peeled Garlic Cloves
  • 3/4 Cup Sweetener your preferred sweetener
  • 1 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Distilled White Vinegar


  • Gather all the ingredients.
    Ingredients to make soy sauce pickled garlic on the countertop.
  • In a stove top pot, add sweetener, soy sauce and distilled white vinegar. Bring to boil on high heat then remove from heat and let it cool down.
    Brine for soy sauce pickled garlic in a sauce pan.
  • Once liquid is cooled, transfer sauce to a glass pickling jar.
    Brine for soy sauce pickled garlic in a pickling jar.
  • Combine peeled garlic cloves and transfer to fridge. Let it pickle for at least 14 days before enjoying but we recommend waiting for 21 days or more for best flavors. Pickles should hold in the fridge for at least 8-12 weeks, if not longer. Note - we recommend cutting the garlic cloves in halves to quicken the pickling process.
    Garlic being picked in a pickling jar.


Calories: 37kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1299mg | Potassium: 104mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg
*Values Based Per Serving
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  1. Thanks for sharing this. Very timely for me.
    I recently went into fermentation basically for some health issues of a loved one. . AND I am greatly enjoying it. Can I use organic honey in place of any other sweetener.

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hello Tyna! I’m not 100% sure as we never made it that way, but I would guess you can use honey as the sweetener.

      Glad you’re enjoying your new way of eating and hope the health of your loved ones improve.

  2. My jar is in the refrigerator. I have a few questions. Do I remove the garlic from the jar or leave it in? Can I add more garlic cloves as I use the ripe ones? Is it best to dump the brine and make a fresh batch?

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hi Mike! Once the garlic is pickled (we recommend waiting 10-14 days with the best being after 20 days), you can just leave it in the jar. After the full flavors are absorbed, the garlic won’t absorb anymore flavors so you can’t ‘over pickle’.

      I wouldn’t add fresh garlic to the already pickle ones otherwise you won’t know which ones are ready or not. You technically can reuse the pickle brine, but the flavors might start getting lighter the more you reuse the brine. We personally always make new pickle brine when pickling though. Hope that helps!

  3. Hi there! I was very excited to try this recipe as I am a huge garlic lover, pickle lover and fan of Japanese flavours 🙂 however, I have had my jar in the fridge for about a month now and the garlic is still hard and bitter, like eating raw garlic… I had to spit out the one I tried 🙁 I also noticed that there are frozen sugar crystals at the bottom of the jar. I have tried shaking it a few times but they’re still there and won’t melt. Why isn’t it working?

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hi Eli! Sorry to hear that! If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of sweetener & soy sauce did you use for the pickling? 1 month should be plenty of time for the pickling so not sure why the brine isn’t being absorbed by the garlic. Our have some crystallized monkfruit on the on the bottom as well but it didn’t affect our pickling.

  4. My girlfriend and I tried this out. After a little over 3 weeks pickling, we gave it a try. It tasted very much like black licorice. We can’t seem to find anything online about it but a couple posts on Reddit. I’m assuming we haven’t fermented it long enough? Any experience with this? Thanks!

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hi Tum! Never had experience with it tasting like black licorice before! 3 weeks should be plenty of time for the pickling. If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of soy sauce did you use for the pickling? I have tasted some brands of soy sauce that taste much stronger and bitter, which could be the reason you are getting flavors of black licorice.

  5. Hi again 🙂 I used monkfruit per the recipe – it was my first time even hearing about monkfruit, so I found some at the supermarket called Raw Earth Monkfruit sweetener and I used my usual Kikkoman soy sauce. I was very surprised and sad that it wasn’t absorbing because I had some leftover brine and it tastes great – I’ve been using it as dipping sauce for meat 🙂 was so excited about the garlic so it’s very disappointing…

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hey Eli – that’s really odd. Just need to check, but you pickled individual peeled cloves correct? If yes and it’s still not absorbing, I would recommend cutting the cloves into half to help the brine get absorbed. If that still doesn’t work, your garlic must be some kind of super garlic that I’ve yet to come across 🙂 Let us know how it goes!

      • Hi, yes they were individual peeled cloves – I used pre-packed vacuum-sealed garlic from the store, maybe that’s why? I will try cutting them in half and see if that works. Thank you!

        • LowCarbingAsian

          We use the same kind of prepacked peeled garlic so honestly not sure why it’s not getting absorbed. But cutting them in half should def help. LMK how it turns out!

  6. Hello. I did this recipe, but used sugar instead of monkfruit and left the garlic out in a cool dark spot to ferment for 2 days before putting it in the fridge. I noticed the garlic was bubbling, which is a good sign for fermenting, but I have never fermented garlic before, so I wanted to check in to make sure this is normal or okay? Also, I bashed the garlic out of the shells with a stainless steel pot and now the garlic has turned blue! This has happened before to me when I use a stainless steel knife to make garlic dill pickles and the garlic is blue, yet unaffected, but again, I wanted to check in with you for your opinion? I will certainly buy the pre-peeled garlic next time! What a lot of work lol 🙂 Thank you in advance.

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hello Rochelle! I’ve had that happened with recipes that mix lemon/acidity with garlic, but never with this particular recipe. I’m sure it’s fine to eat and after the fermentation period (2-3 weeks), the garlic should all be dark brown anyway. And yes, peeled garlic are the way to go! I can’t remember the last time I actually peeled garlic!

    • For anyone reading this, Yes! Garlic can turn blue during the picking process. It’s an enzyme reaction to the ingredients and it’s perfectly safe. The color should change back. We actually have blue garlic in the fridge from a different recipe right now lol.

  7. any risk of botulism? I scoured the internet and most sites say botulism tends to happen in low-oxygen and low acidic environments and doesn’t thrive well in high-sugar environments. I figured it would be okay since there is sugar and vinegar (I used white rice vinegar like in sushi rice; it was the only thing I could get my hands on). But does anyone have any advice or thoughts on this? I followed the instructions for prepping the brine and have sealed them tightly in a mason jar and stored them in a cabinet for about a week now.

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hi Meg – I had to do a quick search on this and it seems that as long the brine isn’t low in acidity, you should be good. This brine, as well as most, uses vinegar as a base, so I think it should be good. You also have soy sauce in there too, which is acidic.

  8. if replacing soy sauce with coconut aminos would you need to add additional salt and how much would you recommend? (soy allergy).
    thank you in advance ☺️

    • LowCarbingAsian

      Hi Niccii! I can’t say for sure becasue we’ve never made it using coconut aminos. If I were to guess, I would say start with 1/4 tsp salt and adjust it from there.

  9. do I just double the ingredients for a lager batch?

    • Hi Kathleen! Doubling the ingredients for a larger batch of the recipe should work, but keep in mind that slight adjustments may be needed for the exact same results when working with larger quantities.

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