Tamari sauce is one of those ingredients that you seem to see everywhere and yet, you somehow can’t find it when you need it. If you like Japanese food, then you certainly like tamari. However, it is always good to know what other foods can work in its place when you can’t find it.
What Is Tamari?
This sauce is the equivalent to soy sauce from Japan. It comes from fermenting soybeans, but unlike regular soy sauce, tamari doesn’t contain wheat. Tamari has a darker color, is less salty, and has an umami quality to it.
This sauce is often part of sushi and rice dishes, but can also be added to ramen, broth, and meat recipes.
What Can I Replace Tamari With?
If you find yourself in a pinch, try these tamari substitutes that will create umami and delicious aromas:
For Noodles, Sushi, Ramen and Marinades
#1. Soy Sauce
Your best bet to replace tamari will always be soy sauce. This is virtually the same sauce, except it contains wheat traces and may have more sodium.
Soy sauce is a staple of Chinese cuisine, but it has such a great umami power that it is now part of various dishes across multiple styles of cooking.
This choice is easier to find than others, as it is pretty popular across many cuisines. Use soy sauce in fried rice, sushi, noodles, and soups.
See More: Best Substitutes for Soy Sauce
#2. Coconut Aminos
This choice is a fantastic one if you are trying to cut out excess sodium and preservatives. Coconut aminos is a soy-free alternative that comes from the fermented sap of the coconut palm. It contains a bit of salt and can create umami similar to tamari sauce.
While this option isn’t the most popular, it is a healthy one and can be found in some health stores and organic markets.
You should consider adding more and maybe a pinch of salt, as it can be less strong. This is also the choice to buy if you have a soy allergy or are trying to avoid soy products.
See More: Coconut Aminos Substitutes
#3. Fish Sauce
Now, this option may seem weird, but it is a good choice if you need pungent and strong flavors.
Fish sauce is traditionally used in all Asian cooking, and it is often added to the broths, sauces, fish dishes, noodles, and more. Don’t let the smell fool you, fish sauce tastes sweet and a bit caramel-like.
This sauce doesn’t have that pungency that tamari does, so you can add ½ teaspoon of mashed garlic and a little lime to make a similar flavor. Fish sauce is also a bit more subtle, so you may need to add more as you cook.
See More: Fish Sauce Alternatives
#4. Liquid Aminos
This is another gluten-free option that is healthier than tamari and soy sauce. Liquid aminos is the product of treating soybeans with an acidic solution, which results in a dark, pungent liquid capable of umami.
This option is saltier than coconut aminos, but not as much as tamari, so you may need to add more as you cook.
Some people prefer liquid aminos because it is vegan, contains fewer preservatives, and doesn’t have as much sodium.
Liquid aminos can be a bit too subtle, so you should consider adding things like garlic or mixing in fish sauce. This option goes well in sushi, ramen, noodles, and more.
#5. Worcestershire Sauce
This choice may seem surprising, but Worcestershire sauce is a very umami sauce that can bring the best out of meals. This sauce is the product of many ingredients together, including tamarind, sugar, onions, molasses, vinegar, and anchovies, among others.
If you choose to use Worcestershire sauce, make sure that you only start with a small amount, as this sauce can be too pungent and bitter.
Worcestershire sauce is a good option when you want a soy-free meal, and when you need to work with what you have at home. Use it in cooking sauces, noodles, fried rice, and meat dishes.
See More: Worcestershire Sauce Replacements
#6. Miso Paste
Miso paste isn’t necessarily a sauce, but it is a good ingredient to add when you want to make a broth, ramen, soups, or noodles. This choice is also the result of fermented soybeans, koji, and salt into a paste.
You may have heard of it as part of the ingredients in ramen or soups, but it can be added to anything as long as you do it ahead of time.
Consider that miso paste has a strong bitter flavor due to the koji, so you may want to add a little bit of acid to counterbalance the taste. You can buy red or yellow miso in most grocery stores these days.
See More: Miso Paste Shelf Life
Not everyone likes this choice, but it is a good soy-free and gluten-free option for those who want it.
Anchovies have a salty umami flavor that is natural to them, but they can be used in many dishes, including ramen, soup, broth, and noodles. You can either chop them up finely or mash them into a paste.
If you prefer it, you can make a more subtle addition by mixing anchovies with liquid aminos or with water and lime. Make sure you blend it well and add slowly as you cook, always tasting before adding more.
#8. Umeboshi Vinegar
You may have never heard of this type of vinegar, which is also called ume plum vinegar.
Umeboshi are simply sour plums that are mixed with salt and brined to create an acidic liquid. This choice is more tart than any other in this list, but you can make it more umami by mixing in a bit of miso paste or garlic.
You can find Umeboshi vinegar in many Asian markets and some health stores, but it is a good addition to have around for plenty of cuisines. Use it when you make rice, ramen, and sauces.
Some of the options in this list are soy-free, including coconut aminos, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, and Umeboshi vinegar. You can get a similar flavor and aroma without adding soy to your meals, though you should always check the ingredients list before buying any.
If you can’t find soy sauce anywhere, you can certainly use tamari, but if that isn’t an option, then any of these items will work. Remember that soy sauce is very salty, so you may need to add more salt as you cook.
Tamari sauce is lower in sodium but higher in soybean concentration, so it has more fiber and protein. Still, tamari does contain a large amount of sodium compared to other ingredients, so you may want to watch how much you use.
While tamari is regarded as a healthier soy sauce, it can also be hard to find at times. You can use any of these 8 alternatives and add delicious aroma and flavors. Make sure you taste before you add, and feel free to mix many ingredients.
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