Sanpeijiru (Japanese salmon soup) 三平汁

SANPEIJIRU — A popular soup from Hokkaido, Sanpeijiru features salted salmon and a variety of root vegetables and cooked in konbu dashi broth. photo by Namiko Chen

A popular soup from Hokkaido, Sanpeijiru features salted salmon and root vegetables and is cooked in konbu dashi broth. You’ll enjoy this delicate and tasty soup on a cold day!

If you’ve had a chance to visit the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido (北海道), have you tried the popular regional salmon soup called Sanpeijiru (三平汁)? I’ve had it several times during my visits, and it is fabulous!

As many of you know, winter in Hokkaido is very cold, and a bowl of piping hot soup with salmon is a great way to keep yourself warm.

What is Sanpeijiru?
Sanpeijiru is a salt-flavor based soup that’s popular in Hokkaido, and it is enjoyed both at home and at restaurants. I love ordering this soup at sushi restaurants whenever I visit Hokkaido.

Hokkaido is known for its delicious salmon and potatoes. For this recipe, salmon, potatoes, daikon radish, carrot, and negi (leeks/scallion) are cooked in konbu dashi broth. Some people put konnyaku (konjac) and other root vegetables in the recipe as well.

Also, herring, cod, or hokke (Okhotsk atka mackerel) are sometimes used instead of salmon, but I haven’t had a chance to try the soup with other fish besides salmon.

Origin of the Name — Sanpeijiru
For a regional recipe like this, I try to share a bit of background story with the recipe. If you’re wondering about the origin of this recipe’s name, there are three theories about where it came from.

First of all, jiru (汁) in Japanese means “soup.” Sanpei  (三平) was a pretty common name for males back in the samurai days.

1. The first theory is a Nanbu feudal warrior from Aomori Prefecture named Sanpei Saito was cast ashore on Okushiri Island; he served this soup to his workers and the soup was later named after him.

2. The second theory is a fisherman named Sanpei made this soup for a Matsumae feudal lord and it was named after the fisherman.

3. The last theory is that the soup was served on the Sanpei-zara dish (plate, 三平皿).
No one knows which theory is true, but it is interesting that all these theories came from the late Edo period, which means Sanpeijiru has been around for more than 200 years.

Difference between Sanpeijiru and Ishikari Nabe
If you’re familiar with Hokkaido’s regional foods, you might realize that Sanpeijiru is very similar to another Hokkaido popular dish, Ishikari Nabe (石狩鍋). Here’s a quick glance at the differences:

• It’s a soup.

• The main ingredients are salmon scraps (bones, belly, head, etc).

• You can add salted salmon (塩鮭), but it is optional.

• Besides salmon, herring, cod, or hokke are also used.

• The soup is usually salt flavor, and seasoned only with sake and salt.

• Serve it as a main dish or as a replacement for miso soup (which means to accompany with rice and main dish).

Ishikari Nabe
• It’s a hot pot (nabe).

• Uses raw salmon (生鮭).

• The hot pot broth is miso flavor.

• The hot pot ingredients include salmon scraps, tofu, onion, cabbage, potatoes, daikon radish, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, long negi (Tokyo negi).

• Some people add sake, leeks, butter and milk (dairy is Hokkaido’s top product)

• Sprinkle sansho powder to enjoy.

Cooking with Salmon Scraps
In Japan, Japanese people eat all parts of many kinds of fish, including the head, skin and of course, the meat. With salmon, you can eat the entire fish. If you purchase or catch a whole salmon, this recipe is a wonderful way to enjoy salmon scraps (as I said earlier, those are the main ingredients for this soup!).

• For those of you who don’t fish or deal with fish, go to a reputable fish monger and ask for salmon scraps, sometimes called “fish chowder,” as they usually keep them in the back. Japanese grocery stores also sell salmon scraps, so look for a package that says “Ara” (あら) or “Kiriotoshi” (切り落とし).

• If you can’t find salmon scraps, use salmon fillet; but remember, you need to use salted salmon instead of raw salmon. You can make it yourself (using my recipe here: or buy one from Japanese grocery stores. The package should say “salted” salmon.

• Back to salmon scraps. Salmon is very delicious, but remember that oil from salmon is quite smelly and you definitely don’t want that in your soup.

• My mom (who taught me this recipe) would pour boiling water over salmon to remove the fishy smell and some of saltiness. However, when I did the same method with the salmon I got in the U.S., the final soup still had a strong fishy taste. Instead, I decided to blanch the salmon for 30 seconds and it worked perfectly. There was no strong fishy smell in the soup!

I hope this tip is helpful when you make your soup.

Sanpeijiru (Japanese Salmon Soup)
Prep time: 15 min.
Cook time: 45 min.
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

A popular soup from Hokkaido, Sanpeijiru features salted salmon and a variety of root vegetables and cooked in konbu dashi broth. You’ll enjoy this delicate and tasty soup on a cold day!

1 lb salmon scraps (Salmon scraps don’t have to be exactly 1 lb. Please read more about salmon scraps [ara or kiriotoshi in Japanese] in the blog post.)

3 salted salmon

1 piece konbu (dried kelp) (2” x 3”, 5 x 8 cm)

4 cups water

8 inches daikon radish

1 carrot

2 negi (long green onion) (or 4 scallions/green onions)

2 potatoes (I use Yukon gold potatoes as they don’t break easily compared to Russet potatoes.)

4 Tbsp sake

1 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit

To read the recipe, visit the Just One Cookbook post here.

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