4 Soy Sauce Substitutes for Cooking

Small condiment dish filled with liquid soy sauce


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Soy sauce is a liquid condiment that has strong umami, salty flavor. The current form of soy sauce was created more than 2,000 years ago in China. Japanese-style soy sauce is also known as shoyu. It is a staple in many Asian cultures and is widely used in cooking around the world today.

Traditional soy sauce is made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and fermenting agents, though soy sauce comes in a variety of flavors. People with celiac disease must avoid soy sauce and cannot consume it safely as it contains wheat which has gluten. In addition people with a soy allergy need to avoid soy sauce as it is made from fermented soybeans.

If you don’t have soy sauce on hand or have dietary allergies to the ingredients in soy sauce, there are alternatives. These soy sauce substitutes have similar flavor and nutrition profiles.

Why Use an Alternative?

Soy sauce is a core ingredient in many recipes from stir-fries to tofu dishes. If a recipe calls for soy sauce but you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute it with an alternative that will yield a similar taste.

Dietary allergies may play a role in the search for a soy sauce substitute. Like the name suggests, soy sauce is a soy product. People with allergies to soy must avoid soy sauce. Traditional soy sauce is made from wheat. There are some varieties that are gluten free which are made from rice. Those with wheat or other grain allergies should check the label carefully before consuming.

Those who follow a low-sodium meal plan may worry about the sodium content in soy sauce. This condiment is known for having a salty flavor, and the high sodium content is largely responsible for that. Though there are low-sodium varieties of soy sauce, some alternatives contain even less sodium.

Soy Sauce Nutrition

Condiments are not usually a significant source of nutrients. Though soy sauce contains small amounts of some nutrients, it’s mainly consumed for flavor purposes and not for its nutritional profile. This nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (16g) of soy sauce is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 8.48
  • Fat: 0.09g
  • Sodium: 878mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.79g
  • Fiber: 0.13g
  • Sugars: 0.06g
  • Protein: 1.3g

Soy sauce is usually consumed in small amounts, so it is not a significant source of macronutrients or micronutrients. It contains 1.3 grams of protein in a small serving.

The sodium content in soy sauce can add up quickly. One tablespoon provides 878 milligrams of sodium, which is approximately 38% of the recommended amount. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for adults.

Popular Substitutes

If you are looking for a substitute for soy sauce, look for other condiments that have a salty flavor. Liquid condiments can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio, making them the easiest to work with.

Tamari

Those looking for a soy sauce substitute with the closest flavor profile should consider tamari. It is a Japanese-style condiment that is also made with soybeans. However, tamari is not as salty as traditional Chinese-style soy sauces. This can affect the flavor and nutrition profile of your dish.

Though it does contain soy, tamari is usually a gluten-free soy sauce substitute. If you have celiac or gluten sensitivity you should be able to safely consume tamari, but it's always important to read labels to confirm.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos is an allergy-friendly alternative to soy sauce because it is soy-free, wheat-free, and gluten-free. While soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans, coconut amino sauce is made from coconut sap. The color and consistency of coconut aminos are similar to soy sauce, so it can be used at a 1:1 ratio.

The nutritional profile of coconut aminos will vary depending on the brand, but a one-teaspoon serving size of coconut aminos contains only 66 milligrams of sodium. Those looking for a low-sodium soy sauce alternative may be happy with the lower sodium content in coconut aminos sauce.

Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos is a soy product that is made from the concentrated amino acids found in soybeans. Soybeans are a rich source of protein, and amino acids are the building blocks of that protein.

Often dubbed a soy sauce alternative, liquid aminos have a similar consistency, color, and taste as soy sauce. However, this sauce contains less sodium. A one-teaspoon serving contains 350 milligrams of sodium, 5 calories, and 1 gram of protein. If a recipe calls for soy sauce, use the same amount of liquid aminos in its place.

Miso Paste

Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans mixed with salt and a mold called koji. It’s often used to make broths, soups, and marinades. This soy sauce substitute is best for making liquid dishes like ramen or salad dressing. As a fermented food product, miso may have beneficial properties for gut-health.

Like soy sauce, it has a salty, umami flavor. However, some describe the taste as being funky. This will add a similar but unique taste to your recipe. Many miso pastes are gluten-free, but be sure to check the label if you have allergies. People with allergies to soy should not consume miso paste.

Substitute miso paste at a 1:2 ratio for soy sauce. You will need twice as much miso paste as soy sauce to yield a similar flavor.

A Word From Verywell

Replacing soy sauce with other condiments can yield similar results. Because soy sauce is a liquid condiment, replacing it with another liquid condiment will be the easiest. Typically, these alternatives can be used at a 1:1 ratio. Using non-liquid alternatives like miso paste may require trial and error, though. 

If you are replacing soy sauce due to soy and wheat allergies coconut aminos is a soy-free alternative and tamari is usually gluten-free. However, many soy sauce substitutes contain soy and other allergens, so check the label if you have dietary intolerances.

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4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USDA, FoodData Central. Soy sauce made from soy and wheat (shoyu). Updated April 1, 2019.

  2. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.

  3. USDA, FoodData Central. Coconut amino sauce, coconut amino. Updated April 8, 2020.

  4. USDA, FoodData Central. Liquid aminos, soy sauce alternative. Updated December 18, 2020.