Soy sauce alternatives: What to substitute for soy sauce?
Ever found yourself caught short with a stir-fry on the go and no soy sauce in the cupboard? It’s cooking quickly but it’s just not going to taste the same without your usual splash of soy sauce! Argh. Note to self: buy handy 6x packs of soy sauce from Kelly Loves to keep stock at all times. But right now, you have a problem to fix. Is there anything in your kitchen cupboard that can help out? We run through the different soy sauce alternatives in case you find yourself in the midst of an emergency shortage of soy sauce (not to worry, it happens to the best of us).
What is soy sauce?
Soy sauce is a liquid sauce of Chinese origin (shoyu is Japanese soy sauce). It’s made from Aspergillus oryzae (koji spores) or Aspergillus sojae mould, grains, fermented soybeans, and saltwater. The process of making soy sauce is slow. It takes from months to years to naturally ferment. There are also many different types of soy sauce that vary depending on the production process, region and ingredients.
Sushi soy sauce is poured into a dish, mixed with wasabi paste and used directly as a dip. But soy sauce can also be used in cooking to add umami richness and/or darker colour or to add a salty seasoning. Soy sauce is typically used to add depth of flavour to noodles, rice, stir-fries and vegetable side dishes.
What is the best substitute for soy sauce?
If you’re looking for an easy swap, tamari is the one because it is in fact a type of soy sauce! So a sneaky one here, but perhaps you might not have considered it as a soy sauce alternative as it’s quite different to other types of soy sauce. Tamari’s flavour is more subtle and it’s got a darker colour and usually no gluten. As the flavour isn’t as strong as regular soy sauce, it makes it harder to use too much, but nevertheless, go easy and taste as you go.
If you’re actually looking for a soy-free alternative, this is a great option. Plus, it’s also naturally gluten-free. These aminos are made from coconut plant sap but there’s no coconutty taste. It has a naturally sweet, salty and savoury flavour. Using coconut aminos won’t provide as rich a flavour as soy sauce, but it can be used for seasoning any dish or for marinades.
A good old Brit favourite, you might have Worcestershire sauce in your cupboard for cheese on toast — but did you know that you can add it to a stir-fry or wherever else you’d normally add soy sauce? Also known as Worcester sauce, its ingredients include vinegar, tamarind, anchovies, onion and garlic which are all fermented for a sweet and umami flavour.
The sauce was invented by pharmacists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins (Lea & Perrins) during the first half of the 19th century in the city of Worcester in Worcestershire. In the past, soy sauce was used in variations of Worcestershire sauce, but soy is not stated as an ingredient in the Lea & Perrins branded sauce. There are also vegan versions of the sauce available today, without the fish.
Miso is a fermented paste, with a very different texture to soy sauce, but it offers another option to add some umami to dishes. Miso is made from soybeans, koji, salt and grain. Due to miso being a paste and not a liquid, you might not have thought of it as a soy sauce substitute, but you can simply stir the paste into a stir-fry at the end of cooking for some extra flavour.
Liquid aminos aren’t soy-free if you’re looking for a soy alternative, but as it contains soybeans (unfermented) it offers another potential swap. It’s sweeter and milder to taste compared to soy sauce but with more salt. There is some goodness in there too — they contain essential and non-essential amino acids and these are both important for your health (boosting immunity and building muscle to name just a couple of health benefits). In fact, essential amino acids can only be gained from your diet. Some people describe liquid aminos to taste like a milder soy sauce — so this could be the perfect substitute.
Fish sauce is another great substitute which offers you that umami flavour as it’s fermented. Fish sauce is made from fermented fish aminos (not a soybean in sight). If you like a fishy flavour which packs a punch, then this one’s for you. It’s incredibly salty though, so you should avoid it if you need to cut down on your salt intake.
One of the reasons why people look for a soy sauce substitute is that they are looking for a low-sodium option. Coconut aminos and low-sodium tamari offer gluten-free alternatives. But no substitute is going to replace the moreish flavour of soy sauce. This is where Kelly Loves can come to the rescue with naturally brewed, authentic, reduced salt soy sauce with maximum flavour and containing the highest quality ingredients. Plus, it’s vegan and palm oil and MSG-free. And to prevent a panicky ‘no soy sauce’ moment when a recipe requests it? Stock up on our multi-packs of soy sauce so you’re always prepared!