21 Ideas for Substituting Soy Sauce
That umami flavor that we all love: soy sauce has plenty! So, if you’re running out of this Asian staple, don’t despair! There are ways around it. How about you try a substitute for soy sauce? We’ve collected quite a few…
As soy sauce is a key ingredient in various recipes, you shouldn’t skip it. Nor should you change the menu if you don’t have it around. A good sub for soy sauce will sort you out; you just have to find the proper replacement. But first:
What is Soy Sauce & its Flavor Profile
Soy sauce is quite the symbol in Asian cuisine. Its aroma has traveled around the globe and it’s become famous in so many recipes. It doesn’t only complete a stir-fry! You can use it to marinade and tenderize your meats for that salty-earthy-umami flavor.
- Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans, wheat, salt, and yeast. That mix of flavors is what Asians call umami, or what can be described as savoriness.
- Soy sauce has a salty taste and yet it encompasses a sweet, caramel-like undertone.
- Soy sauce has a slightly bitter undertaste and a certain mild, delicate, barely-there tanginess that comes from fermentation.
- Soy sauce has a deep, profound, earthy aroma, coating the dish in rich, velvety goodness.
What’s the Best Substitute for Soy Sauce?
So when you’ve just used the last drops of your soy sauce and you want to finish that stir-fry with a coating of umami, reach out for a replacement. We’ve got plenty of suggestions, even gluten-free ones, even some options if you’re allergic to soy! Let’s go!
If you’re looking for a dark soy sauce substitute, tamari is your go-to alternative. Tamari is a Japanese-style soy sauce, and although it’s also made from fermented soybeans, it’s thicker. Tamari is a good variant if you are allergic to gluten since it doesn’t (usually) contain any wheat. It is also vegan. Use it in a 1:1 ratio.
2. Worcestershire Sauce
Who would have thought it, right? Worcestershire sauce, while from the other side of the globe, packs the same umami feel. That’s because this sauce is also made via fermentation.
The thing is it has a more complex taste since it also contains anchovies, so it’s not a vegan option. You can substitute soy sauce with this sauce in a 1:1 ratio.
3. Shoyu Sauce
Shoyu is another good substitute for soy sauce and yet another Japanese ingredient. If you have it around you can swap it for soy sauce. Just keep in mind that Shoyu sauce is a little sweeter and less salty than soy sauce. A 1:1 ratio will do just fine.
4. Liquid Aminos
The thing with liquid aminos is that they come from soybeans, which offer a similar aroma to soy sauce. The downside is that liquid aminos are not fermented, so no umami for you. Another plus: they are gluten-free. Another minus: they have a milder flavor, compared to soy sauce. Still, a 1:1 ratio is ideal.
5. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos are a complete protein source of amino acids. They come from coconut, rather than soybeans, and they are just perfect for people with soy and gluten allergies.
Coconut aminos resemble soy sauce, although they are on the sweet side. A 1:1 ratio will do.
6. Fish Sauce
But it also has an extra kick, bringing more bold aromas to the table. Start with a 1:2 ratio with this one and go from there, so it doesn’t overwhelm your dish.
7. Shrimp Paste
This works as a soy sauce, miso, fish sauce, and tamari substitute. If you have it around, shrimp paste will bring a lot of flavors and plenty of umami to go around.
Shrimp paste is quite strong and aromatic and can be on the salty side, or the sweet side. Some types of paste are pale pink, others are dark brown, but they are all flavorsome. A 1:1 ratio will do.
8. Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce is yet another Asian staple ingredient and one of the best substitutes for soy sauce. Oyster sauce is milder than fish sauce and less salty than soy sauce. With a hint of sweetness, this sauce can replace soy sauce.
It’s especially a good idea if you want a thicker sauce or are looking for a dark soy sauce replacement. And it’s a good sweet soy sauce substitute. A 1:1 ratio is enough.
Made from fermented soybeans, miso has a similar taste to soy sauce. Miso paste has a distinct consistency, being thicker than liquid soy sauce. Diluted with a little water, it will do. Use it in a 1:1 ratio.
10. Maggi Seasoning
Maggi seasoning brings some of that umami you’re looking for in soy sauce. Made from fermented wheat proteins, Maggi seasoning has a similar flavor profile to soy sauce.
The big difference is that this option is not liquid, but dry, so it won’t coat your food quite like soy sauce does. Start with just a sprinkle and go from there.
11. Kecap Manis
If you require an aromatic, sweet soy sauce, go for this one: Kecap Manis. This Indonesian staple has a syrupy, viscous consistency, and a darker color, resembling molasses in terms of flavor. It’s made from black soybeans which are fermented with salt, water, and mold.
And it contains palm sugar. It often contains coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, star anise, or clove, so beware of extra flavors. Other than that, Kecap Manis is a fine option to replace soy sauce.
12. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Any type of mushroom will bring that earthy, savory flavor that is associated with umami.
Mushrooms, especially shiitake, will replicate soy sauce’s taste. Add them to your stir-fry as they are and sprinkle some extra salt. Ta-da! FYI: dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in hot water will create a tasty broth that can replace soy sauce’s aroma.
13. Mushroom Broth
Just like fresh mushrooms, as we mentioned above, mushroom broth is also a good substitute for soy sauce. One cup of chopped mushrooms boiled in one cup of water will create a nice base. For extra flavor, sautée the mushrooms in a pan. A 1:1 exchange will suffice.
If you’ve made a bowl of your favorite soup or some of your famous stir-fry and just can’t wait to dig in before you realize there’s no soy sauce, look for some anchovies in the fridge.
Chopped anchovies make for a good substitute for soy sauce. They are salty and aromatic so they can trick you into thinking the recipe is complete. One anchovy equals 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Finely chop it and enjoy!
15. Marmite or Vegemite
Marmite and Vegemite are both perfect for adding that soy sauce flavor! They are salty, dark, and savory, and they bring a certain depth and richness to your dish.
16. Nutritional Yeast
How to substitute soy sauce in the healthiest way possible? Go for nutritional yeast! Plenty of savors, no meat, purely vegan, more than healthy: nutritional yeast has that umami feel, with an extra nutty, earthy goodness, and minimal calorie intake. Add to your dish and sprinkle on some salt and that’s that! Enjoy!
17. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce is another thick option that can easily replace dark soy sauce. You likely have it around if you barbeque meats often since it’s ideal for glazing and marinating. Hoisin has a richer consistency and packs more flavor than soy sauce and may need some thinning out. Still, a 1:1 ratio will be perfect.
18. Teriyaki Sauce
Another great option to replicate soy sauce is teriyaki sauce. It won’t bring quite the same aroma and will provide a sweeter taste, but it will do if you have it around. Again, the 1:1 ratio is suitable.
If you’re an Asian fusion fan you probably know of dashi. A seaweed-based stock, dashi is a fine substitute for soy sauce. Made from dried seaweed and shavings of dried, smoked, and fermented fish (sometimes made with shiitake as well), dashi will add depth and richness to the flavor of the dish.
20. Umeboshi vinegar
Odds are if you don’t have soy sauce you won’t have this vinegar around either. Still, there’s a good chance you have if you always cook Asian food. If you just ran out of soy sauce and still have Umeboshi vinegar, use it. Made from fermented dried plums, this vinegar packs a lot of aromas.
It’s salty, sour, fruity, a little minty-fresh, and offers depth to your dish and that umami that soy sauce has. A 1:1 substitute will do.
What to use instead of soy sauce? Miso’s Korean cousin, Doejang is another good solution. Made from fermented soybeans with salt, Doenjang is a paste filled with uuuuumaaami! Expect Doejang to have a coarse, chunky texture, unlike the smooth miso. Other than that, go for it!
How to make your DIY soy sauce replacement?
If you’re a self-made kind of chef, you might want to try this recipe to create your own “soy sauce” at home. You’ll likely have these ingredients around, and it’s quite simple to make a batch:
- 1 ½ cup of boiling water
- 4 tablespoons of beef bouillon granules
- 1 tablespoon dark molasses
- 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of sesame seed oil or vegetable oil
- A pinch of black pepper
Boil the water, add the ingredients, whisk well, and when the granules are dissolved, remove the sauce from the heat. That’s your soy sauce, which incidentally is gluten-free (check the beef granules though!) and ideal for soy allergies!
Who knew? You came here looking for one good substitute for soy sauce and you’re leaving here with plenty of them and probably quite baffled by the richness of choice. Now, which one did we miss from this selection? Do you use anything else to replace soy sauce?