Soy sauce is a staple in many kitchens, especially if you like Asian cuisines, including Japanese, Chinese, or Korean.
Because soy sauce brings an umami flavor to meals, it has even become a staple in other dishes that may not be traditional, including BBQ sauces, salads, marinades, and stews. But if your recipe calls for soy sauce and you have none at home, there are other options you could try instead.
What Is Soy Sauce?
Let’s talk soy first. What is soy sauce exactly?
This salty liquid is made from fermented soybean paste, roasted grains, saltwater, and a type of mold named Koji. It originated in China, and it traditionally takes months for it to be ready.
First, the soybeans are soaked, cooked, and the wheat is roasted and ground. The koji is mixed in along with the saltwater and left to brew.
Once fermented, the liquid is removed from the solid ingredients and what remains is the soy sauce. There are variations in soy sauce though. Some are dark, others light, some are sweet, and others are salty.
What Can I Prepare With Soy Sauce?
The umami flavor from soy sauce can be attributed to the fermentation process, which is why it is commonly used in a variety of dishes. Some of the most common dishes include Pekin duck, stir fry, spring rolls, Bibimbap, fried rice, and teriyaki style dishes.
As you can see, soy sauce is very versatile and its uses seem to be endless, but if you can’t find any, there are other options for you to use.
What Can I Replace Soy Sauce With?
These are the best soy sauce substitutes to use in your favorite recipe:
If you don’t have a soy allergy, this choice is the closest to soy sauce. Tamari is a Japanese type of sauce made from soybeans as well, but this one doesn’t contain any grains. It is gluten-free which makes it great for those with allergies and sensitivities. This sauce has a darker, richer flavor, but less salty.
You can find tamari in grocery stores, though it may not be widely available for everyone, so you can try Japanese specialty stores. Tamari is commonly used in soups, sauces, and stir fry, but you can pretty much replace soy sauce with this choice in equal parts.
#2. Liquid Aminos
Liquid aminos are a variety of ingredients mixed, which includes proteins and amino acids. It contains 9 essential amino acids, most of which are only found in animal products, so this is a good choice for those following a vegetarian diet. The flavor is very similar to soy sauce. It is salty and umami, but it doesn’t contain any wheat and it is not fermented.
This product is used in marinades, salad dressings, soups, and sauces. You can find liquid aminos in grocery stores, usually with the rest of the marinades. If your local store doesn’t have it, try an organic grocery store, instead.
#3. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos is a soy-free and wheat-free alternative to soy sauce. It is especially preferred by people who are on the keto diet.
It is extracted from coconut blossom sap and fermented with salt which gives it a salty and savory flavor. It has a dark brown color which makes it a perfect choice when you don’t have soy sauce.
Related: Top 6 Substitutes for Coconut Aminos
#4. Worcestershire Sauce
This is a complex sauce that packs a lot of flavors, so it can be a good replacement for soy sauce in certain cases, including making gravies, marinades, and stews.
Worcestershire sauce is made from vinegar, tamarind, sugar, garlic, onions, anchovies, and other spices. So, if you want to replace soy sauce, use about half of what the recipe calls for, and taste as you go.
This sauce is originally from the United Kingdom and it has less sodium, but it still adds umami and sweetness to the dish. Commonly, Worcestershire is used in making beef, kidney, or chicken pot pie, meat stews, and other meat sauces, but it can also be used in drinks, such as Bloody Mary. You can buy this sauce in any grocery store, usually by the condiments section.
#5. Fish Sauce
This sauce is not the first choice when it comes to replacing soy sauce, but it is also a staple ingredient in Asian dishes.
This sauce is made from fish that has been fermented in salt for about 2 years, which is why it has a very strong fishy smell and high sodium. It is common to find this sauce in the Asian condiment section of your grocery store.
You can use fish sauce in fried rice, soup, and stir fry. If you want to replace soy sauce, we recommend you go for half of what the recipe indicates, as some may find the fish flavor to be too strong.
#6. Miso Paste
Another common ingredient in Asian dishes, miso paste is also made from koji and soybeans, so the flavor is similar to soy sauce if mixed with a liquid ingredient, like liquid aminos or vinegar.
The flavor of miso can be too salty if used alone, but when it is diluted with liquid ingredients, it can create umami as well. Miso is found in grocery stores, but it is common in specialty stores and organic supermarkets too.
Traditionally, miso soup is the number one use of miso paste, but it is now used in a variety of sauces, broths, and fish dishes. You can add ½ tablespoon along with water or any liquid of your choice, to replace 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
While balsamic vinegar is sweet, it doesn’t add the umami that soy sauce does. However, if it is your only choice, you could mix it with ume plum vinegar for a similar flavor. Otherwise, we don’t recommend this option as a substitute for soy sauce.
While some people use soy sauce when making teriyaki sauce, the opposite doesn’t work. Unless you’re making a recipe with sweet ingredients, such as honey, teriyaki may be extremely sweet and can affect the overall flavor of your dish.
Despite being naturally salty, soy sauce can’t be directly substituted with salt. Soy sauce has a distinct flavor that adds umami to any dish and not just a salty ingredient. It enhances the flavor of a dish which the salt may not be able to achieve.
Soy sauce is a staple in Asian dishes, but it has become extremely popular in many dishes. However, if you have to find a substitute, these are good choices that can be used in different recipes without a problem. We recommend you taste each one before you pick and always measure first.
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*Photo by serezniy/depositphotos