8 Soy Sauce Substitutes: Which to Buy and Which to Make at Home

Medically Reviewed on 7/20/2022
8 Soy Sauce Substitutes
There are a few products available in the market that can be used as a substitute for soy sauce.

Soy sauce is a condiment that comes in a wide variety of textures, flavors, and appearances that represent the culinary traditions of its origins.

  • It is the most common seasoning in East and Southeast Asian cuisine and is gaining popularity in Western nations.
  • It has strong umami, salty, and caramel-like flavor that improves the overall savory taste and scent of various meals.

What is soy sauce?

Soy sauce recipes may differ among various regions, but the basic ingredients are the same: 

  • Soybeans
  • Wheat
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Fermenting agents (mold or yeast)

Traditionally made soy sauce is fermented for eight months or more before being pasteurized and bottled.

With advancements in technology, less expensive techniques and faster ways to produce soy sauce are possible. Such varieties of soy sauce are labeled as hydrolyzed soy protein and are more chemically based. Color and flavor enhancers could be used.

Some soy sauce products have been discovered to contain undesirable substances, including known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). During animal trials, 3-monochloropropane diol molecules were found in soy sauce. It has been linked to causing tumors, infertility, and renal impairment.

8 soy sauce substitutes

There are a few products available in the market that can be used as a substitute for soy sauce. These are lesser intense in taste, gluten-free, and far lower in sodium content than soy sauce. They are gluten-free, thus a good choice for people with gluten intolerance.

  1. Tamari
    • Tamari is a soy sauce that is deeper in color, has a somewhat less salty flavor, and has no gluten.
    • You can choose tamari if you want that familiar soy sauce flavor but something less intense or gluten-free.
  2. Coconut aminos
    • These aminos are manufactured from the sap of the coconut plant rather than soybeans.
    • They are the greatest alternative if you want something soy-free and gluten-free.
    • The natural sugars ferment and produce the characteristic salty, savory, and milder flavor.
  3. Fish sauce
    • Fish sauce has a strong flavor because it is prepared from years-old fermented salted fish or krill.
    • The flavor of fish sauce is more intense than soy sauce, so you need not use the same amount of fish sauce as soy sauce in recipes. Fish sauce offers a rich, umami taste to the dish.
  4. Miso paste
    • Miso paste, a Japanese condiment, is another choice for salty, umami-rich flavors.
    • As miso is thicker than soy sauce, it is usually diluted with a little water first.
    • So, to replace 1 tablespoon soy sauce with 1 teaspoon miso paste you additionally need 2 tablespoons water.
  5. Maggie seasoning sauce
    • This is not an Asian condiment, but it has everything you need to replace soy sauce.
    • It is produced from fermented wheat protein and is quite concentrated, so you must use it with caution, just like fish sauce.
    • It provides the most delicious flavors of umami to your cookery.
  6. Worcestershire sauce
    • Worcestershire sauce is made with fermented vinegar, anchovies, molasses, tamarind, onion, garlic, and other ingredients.
    • It provides the same savory and sweet flavors to meals that demand soy sauce for intense flavors.
  7. Anchovies
    • Finely diced anchovies added to a curry or stir fry can provide the savory salinity and depth of flavor you seek.
    • Anchovies are small common forge fish.
    • Adding anchovies to enhance dishes may not be the most preferred choice because of the characteristic pungent smell of fish.
  8. Salt
    • The primary reason why soy sauce is added to dishes is to give a salty taste to the meal.
    • Though soy sauce has more nutrients than table salt, the main motto of adding salt can be fulfilled by table salt.
    • Season your sushi or sashimi with sea salt flakes to see how salt might be a more straightforward substitute for soy sauce.


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Substitutes for soy sauce that can be made at home

Combine the following ingredients and bring it to boil to make a soy sauce substitute:

  1. 4 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
  2. 4 tablespoons of beef bouillon
  3. 2 teaspoons of dark molasses
  4. 1 pinch of white pepper
  5. 1 ½ cups of water
  6. 1 pinch of garlic powder
  7. ½ teaspoons ground ginger

This homemade soy sauce substitute can add an intense umami flavor to dishes.

What is soy sauce used for?

Earlier in ancient China, soy sauce was used to preserve food because salt was expensive. However, in recent years it has been used as a food product rather than a preservative. Soy sauce is used in both cooked and uncooked meals, including sushi, sashimi, stir-fried noodles, and stews.

What are the potential side effects of soy sauce?

Soy sauce, like other fermented foods, has high levels of histamine, which can worsen skin diseases, such as rosacea. Too much histamine can cause:

Soy sauce contains gluten, so it must be avoided if you have celiac disease or intolerance to gluten, wheat, or soy and its products.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/20/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Soy Sauce. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/soy-sauce

Diez-Simon C, Eichelsheim C, Mumm R, Hall RD. Chemical and Sensory Characteristics of Soy Sauce: A Review. J Agric Food Chem. 2020; 68, 42, 11612-11630. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.0c04274#