Articles & Recipes

What Can I Substitute for Soy Sauce?

September 29, 2014


Soy Sauce

Also known as shoyu (Japanese). A complex, salty brown condiment that’s inextricably bound with the cuisines of China, Japan, and other Asian countries. At its most basic, soy sauce is the liquid produced from a long and complex process of fermenting soy beans. Numerous styles exist, just a few of which are described right. One important distinction to note is that Japanese soy sauces (except for tamari) include roasted wheat in the mash, which makes them sweeter than Chinese soy sauces. The Chinese sauces are made primarily from soybeans, sometimes with small amounts of other grains added.


If You Don’t Have It

Substitute 1 tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce with:

1 tbsp (15 mL) Maggi Seasoning (darker; more complex flavor

scant 3⁄ tsp (3 mL) Kosher salt + 1⁄ tsp (2 mL) granulated sugar dissolved in 1 tbsp (15 mL) hot water (lighter color; less complex flavor)

1 tbsp (15 mL) teriyaki sauce (sweeter; thicker)

 1 tbsp (15 mL) kecap (sweeter, more complex)


Soy Sauce Varieties

Choose 1 tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce from these varieties:

1 tbsp (15 mL) light Chinese soy sauce (thin, light-brown, salty sauce; made mostly with soybeans; used often in cooking)

1 tbsp (15 mL) dark Chinese soy sauce (dark brown, somewhat salty sauce; thicker and aged longer than light Chinese soy sauce; includes molasses, which enhances sweetness; made mostly with soybeans; used often as a table sauce)

1 tbsp (15 mL) Japanese shiro (thin, very light brown, fairly sweet sauce; made mostly with wheat and a relatively low amount of soybeans)

1 tbsp (15 mL) Japanese usukuchi (light brown, salty and sweet sauce; sweetness is enhanced through the addition of amasake, a fermented rice drink)

1 tbsp (15 mL) Japanese koikuchi (medium brown, gently salty sauce; made with equal parts soybeans and wheat; the most widely used soy sauce in Japan)

1 tbsp (15 mL) Japanese saishikomi (dark brown, rich, strong-flavored, gently salty sauce; made with soybeans and wheat)

1 tbsp (15 mL) Japanese tamari (dark brown, rich, strong- flavored, gently salty, lightly sweet sauce; made with soybeans and very little or no wheat; similar to dark Chinese soy sauce)

1 tbsp (15 mL) Thai sweet black soy sauce (dark brown to black, rich, strong-flavored, gently salty, fairly sweet sauce; made with soybeans; similar to Indonesian kecap)


For more food substitution tips, pick up a copy of The Food Substitutions Bible Second Edition by David Joachim.


Buy the Book


A new edition of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award winner.
Practical and enjoyable to read, this new edition of The Food Substitutions Bible has the best...

Buy Now


View store listing