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Yum Yum Sauce vs Spicy Mayo

Yum Yum Sauce and Spicy Mayo both add a pleasant kick of flavor to Asian cuisine, but while they are both mayonnaise-based sauces, they are not the same. Learn the difference so you can be sure and add the correct condiment to your next meal!

Whisk resting in a bowl of homemade yum yum sauce.
Photo Credit: The Foreign Fork.

Spicy Mayo and Yum Yum Sauce are two popular Japanese condiments that make a tangy, flavorful addition to many Asian recipes.

From hibachi-style grilled meats and sushi to french fries and sandwiches, who doesn’t love to add a good mayonnaise-based sauce? The mayo gives the dish a little sweetness and tang while the other additions give some spice and flavor.

While Yum Yum Sauce and Spicy Mayo may look very similar and are often confused with one another, they are not quite the same.

When you are looking for a sweet and tangy dipping sauce, Yum Yum Sauce is the way to go, while if you are craving a bit of spice and additional flavor for your dish, Spicy Mayo may be the best fit. 

A closer inspection of what makes each unique will help you decide the correct bottle to reach for next time!

What is Spicy Mayo

Spicy Mayo in a small bowl.
Photo Credit: Canva.

Spicy Mayo is a simple condiment usually spread on sandwiches or served with chicken and french fries.

Spicy Mayo is popular in Japanese cuisine but can also be served with American and Latin dishes. It has the flavor and texture of mayonnaise but with the kick and flavor of hot sauce. 

The heat level may vary depending on the type of hot sauce or chili added to the mayonnaise. The goal is for a good balance so the mayonnaise flavor is not overpowered but the heat is noticeable. Some Spicy Mayo is mild with a kick while some is strong and spicy.

What is Yum Yum Sauce?

A small bowl of yum yum sauce on a plate with shrimp fried rice.
Photo Credit: The Foreign Fork.

Yum Yum Sauce is another popular Japanese condiment but Yum Yum Sauce focuses less on spice and more on the sweet and tangy.

Yum Yum Sauce has a complex list of ingredients and spices that give it a tangy, flavorful profile perfect for salads and dipping in french fries, sushi, and seafood

Yum Yum Sauce is comparable to tartar sauce, fry sauce or ranch. It is used more as a dipping sauce to add extra flavor and interest to your dish.


When it comes to which condiment is the original, that would have to go to Spicy Mayo. Spicy Mayo has been enjoyed throughout Spain and Europe since the 18th century and made its way to Asia around that time.

Yum Yum Sauce, while served at many Japanese hibachi restaurants, is actually an American invention. In fact, it’s not eaten by most Japanese people. 

Yum Yum Sauce was introduced to Japanese steakhouses in the United States in the 1900s and became particularly popular around the 1960s. Each of the hibachi grills had their own secret ingredients for the yummy sauce and often their own name for it as well.

Yum Yum Sauce may be called Japanese white sauce, orange sauce or even pink mayo. 

In 2012 a southern restaurant owner, Terry Ho, began bottling the sauce, making it accessible all over the world online and in grocery stores. This first bottled Yum Yum Sauce is the first to go by that name, which has stuck ever since.


Spicy Mayo on Sushi.
Photo Credit: Canva.

Both Yum Yum Sauce and Spicy Mayo are made with a combination of mayonnaise and spices but the biggest difference is the list of ingredients beyond the mayonnaise. 

Spicy Mayonnaise is fairly simple. It consists of a mayonnaise base with some hot sauce, chili peppers, or chili oil. The most popular hot sauce to use for this spicy sauce is sriracha, but you can use any hot sauce you prefer. You can often find sriracha mayo sold next to popular condiments in the grocery store.

Yum-Yum Sauce is much more complex. This delicious sauce starts with mayonnaise, water, tomato paste, sugar and paprika. Some recipes call for lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, melted butter, and vinegar as well as cayenne pepper for just a hint of spice in the creamy sauce.

These ingredients make the flavor of Yum Yum Sauce more complex as it draws its flavor from many different sources.

Taste and Use

Spicy Mayo has a bold and spicy flavor, balanced out in the end by the creaminess of mayonnaise. It tastes like its ingredients, hot sauce and mayo. The flavor is simple, due to the simple ingredients, but delicious!

Yum Yum Sauce is more complex. This hibachi sauce has the creaminess of mayonnaise but also the flavor of several different spices, chilis, and tomatoes and the tangy flavor of vinegar or lemon juice. 

Spicy Mayo is great for adding a bit of zing to a sandwich, wrap or fried chicken. Its simplicity makes it an excellent condiment to add just a bit of interest to a dish. It is often used in sushi rolls and served at sushi restaurants.

Yum Yum Sauce is less spicy than Spicy Mayo, with a hint of sweetness and tanginess. It’s a flavor many people enjoy as a dipping sauce for seafood dishes, shrimp, fish, hibachi steak, french fries and more. It also makes a great salad dressing.

Yum Yum Sauce is more overpowering than Spicy Mayo, because of the combination of flavors it delivers. Yum Yum Sauce is great for dipping but it has a tendency to become the star of the show.

Some people may try to use Spicy Mayo as a substitute for Yum Yum Sauce. This may work in a pinch but the real deal is much more flavorful and interesting!

Whether you choose Spicy Mayo or Yum Yum Sauce is up to you. Yum Yum Sauce and Spicy Mayo are not the same thing. While their flavor and uses may differ, they ultimately complement each other as well. The next time you need to choose which is best for you–try both!

Frequently Asked Questions

Spicy Mayo in a small bowl.
Photo Credit: Canva.
Is Yum Yum Sauce Gluten Free?

The most popular brand of Yum Yum Sauce is Terry Ho’s Original Yum Yum Sauce, which is advertised as gluten-free. However, there are many different brands that have tried to replicate the recipe and many home chefs who make their own Yum Yum Sauce. If you are intolerant to gluten the best way to ensure your Yum Yum Sauce is gluten-free is to make it yourself with gluten-free ingredients. My recipe for Homemade Yum Yum Sauce is gluten-free! 

Do Spicy Mayo and Yum Yum Sauce Contain Dairy?

Both of these condiments get their creaminess from mayonnaise which is dairy-free, but different recipes may make substitutes for the mayonnaise. Make sure you check the label or mix up your own if you want to avoid dairy. My recipe for Homemade Yum Yum Sauce is dairy-free! 

What Is Kewpie Mayo?

Kewpie Mayo is a thick mayo made with rice vinegar and egg yolks. It is often used to add flavor to Asian dishes, and it is loved for its natural sweetness and rich texture.

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