How Many Ways Can You Use Sake Lees? | CoolJapan

Sake lees, or sake kasu, is a by-product of sake production.

Sake lees, or sake kasu, is a by-product of sake production. (Photo from: Shutterstock)

Sake is widely known as Japan’s national drink — residents of Japan take their nihonshu (as they call sake in Japan) seriously, and aficionados usually come up with different pairings to maximise the flavour potential of sake.

What is often overlooked, however, is sake lees, the by-product of sake production. Known in Japanese as sake kasu (酒粕), sake lees are essentially the leftover residue when sake is squeezed out of fermented rice mas. Its alcohol content goes around five to eight per cent, but it actually provides health benefits and is of high nutritional value.

Owing to Japan’s culture of not wasting anything, we identify some of the ways that sake lees can be used.

1. Cooking

As an ingredient packed with flavour and nutritional value, sake lees can be used as an ingredient in many dishes: add it with miso for a comforting soup dish, use it as a marinade for fish or vegetables (commonly referred to as kasuzuke in Japanese) or even on meats such as pork, or even try incorporating it into a pasta dish. Using it as an ingredient to create desserts is well worth the effort too — we recommend using it to make ice cream or a custard pudding!

sake lees used in cooking

Sake lees are commonly used in Japanese cuisine, and a good example is kasuzuke, which refers to a vegetable or fish dish pickled with sake lees. (Photo from: Shutterstock)

2. Baking

Due to the presence of live enzymes in it, sake lees work well as a substitute for yeast in making bread, but must still be combined with flour to create a starter — this helps to accentuate the overall structure and taste of it. Sake lees can also be incorporated into brownies, scones, cheesecakes and chiffon cakes, to name a few!

Sake lees for baking

Sake lees act as a good substitute for yeast in baking, and in some instances give the bread more bite. (Photo from: Pixabay)

3. Pickling vegetables

Pickled vegetables, or tsukemono, are vegetables generally fermented in simple ingredients such as salt or vinegar or made through more sophisticated methods that involve cultured moulds — they are part of a traditional Japanese meal (washoku/和食). Sake lees make for a great pickling agent due to the active enzymes present in it, which imbues them with a sweetness and tanginess similar to Korean kimchi. We can’t imagine pickling your own vegetables using sake lees so here is an example of a great do-it-yourself recipe!

sake lees for pickling vegetables

Sake lees make for a great pickling agent to pickle vegetables. (Photo from: Wikipedia)

4. Skincare

You would think that too much alcohol content in skincare products tends to dry out the skin, but on the contrary, sake lees contain crucial anti-ageing ingredients: vitamin B helps with skin regeneration, linoleic acid helps retain moisture in the skin, and arbutin helps with lightening age spots and pigmentation. It’s little wonder that skincare brands such as Edobio have incorporated sake lees into their skincare product range!

Edobio’s SAKETERNAL range uses sake lees as a core ingredient.

Which of these ways would you use sake lees? 

Next, learn more about the art of Japanese highball here.