The Best Soy Sauce Substitutes

Most of us keep a bottle of soy sauce in our fridge. Thanks to its flavorful salty, savory taste, soy sauce makes a great addition to all sorts of dishes. But if you've run out of this tasty condiment, never fear. We've rounded up the 11 best soy sauce substitutes to you when you're fresh out of soy sauce.

By Cookist
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Soy sauce is a tasty, salty, savory condiment used in so many dishes. It's essential for different marinade recipes and seasoning stir-fries, and as a dipping sauce for sushi. Soy sauce is even added to stews and soups to give them a richer flavor. However, if you've used up your last bit of soy sauce, there are plenty of fantastic alternatives you can use in your cooking to infuse your dishes with a similar flavor.

What is Soy Sauce?

Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and wheat. It's a common ingredient in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Soy sauce has a salty, savory flavor that enhances meat, fish, tofu, chicken – pretty much any kind of savory ingredient goes with soy sauce.

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How to Use Soy Sauce

Add soy sauce to sauces, marinades, stir-fries, stews, or soups to give your dishes a savory, salty, complex flavor. It can also be served as a dipping sauce with sushi, potstickers, egg rolls, and more. Depending on what you're making, you may need as little as a tablespoon or two of soy sauce, or you may need up to ½ cup or more. Soy sauce is ideal for adding a salt umami character to food, which is why you'll see it in recipes outside of China and Japan.

The Best Soy Sauce Substitutes

Liquid Aminos

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Made from unfermented soybeans, liquid aminos share many of the same flavors as soy sauce, with a slightly sweeter taste. You can use liquid aminos as an equal substitution for soy sauce in any recipe (although if the recipe calls for sugar, you may want to reduce the amount you add).

Tamari

If you're looking for the closest flavor to soy sauce, tamari is your best option. It's produced in a similar method from soybeans and has an umami-rich, salty taste that's strongly reminiscent of soy sauce. Tamari vegan, gluten-free, and suitable for those people on a keto-diet, but is high in sodium.

Coconut Aminos 

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Coconut aminos are similar to liquid aminos but are derived from coconut sap. It's sweet, savory, but less salty than soy sauce. It's a perfect 1:1 substitute for soy sauce and is also gluten-free and vegan.

Dried Mushrooms

Another vegan-friendly, gluten-free soy sauce substitute is dried mushrooms. Dried mushrooms are notable for their umami flavor and can be rehydrated in water or stock. That liquid can then be used instead of soy sauce. Dried mushrooms are a low-sodium soy sauce alternative, and you can find them in pretty much any store. Keep a bag in your pantry for emergencies!

Worcestershire Sauce

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This classic condiment hails from the UK and is made from vinegar, tamarind, molasses, anchovies, garlic, sugar, spices, and salt which are then fermented. Worcestershire sauce is packed with savory flavor, but it has less salt than soy sauce and doesn't contain gluten. Use it in any of the same recipes you'd add soy sauce to as a flavor enhancer. It's especially good in soups, stews, sauces, and marinades.

Miso Paste

Also made from fermented salt and soybeans, miso paste can be thinned out and used for sauces or as a dipping sauce. The paste will add loads of umami, salty flavor to marinades, and it's particularly good as a soy sauce substitute in soups, stews, and sauces – the miso paste will melt seamlessly into the liquid.

Shoyu Sauce

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This Japanese condiment is made from distilled sake, wheat, and salt, and has a more viscous texture than soy sauce. Shoyu is a little sweeter than soy sauce but is still has loads of savoriness and saltiness that work in most recipes. Avoid this one if you're gluten-free.

Maggi 

Maggi is made from fermented wheat proteins which gives this tasty condiment a similar savory taste to soy sauce. It's suitable for vegans but not for those on a gluten-free diet. It can be used as a soy sauce substitute in pretty much any recipe.

Fish Sauce

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Fish sauce is made from fish or shrimp that has been fermented in salt. Fish sauce has a distinctive funky fish flavor that might not work in every recipe, but you can use smaller amounts of it in most recipes that call for soy sauce.

Salt

If you don't have anything else on hand, good old-fashioned salt is a great way to season food. It doesn't have anywhere near the same complexity nor will it add any kind of savory notes to a dish, but if just need a bit of seasoning, salt won't let you down. Plus it's vegan, gluten-free, and fine for those on a keto diet.

Anchovies

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Anchovies are a good way to add a salty umami flavor to certain dishes. Anchovies more or less dissolve when they're cooked in liquids, so they're best saved for sauces and stews as opposed to using them in a stir-fry, for example. They're an excellent soy sauce substitute if you're on the keto diet as these tiny fish contain high-quality protein and healthy fats.

Homemade Soy Sauce Substitute 

If none of the above ingredients seems like they'll work in your recipe, you can make a soy sauce substitute at home with ease. Combine 2 tablespoons of beef bouillon 1 teaspoon of molasses, and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, with ground ginger, garlic powder, and ¾ cup water. Heat the mixture until it boils, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Take the sauce off the heat and let it cool slightly before using. Store it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

How to Store Soy Sauce

Soy sauce does eventually go bad, but because it's a fermented product, it can last for 2 to 3 years unopened. Once opened, store it in the fridge and use it within one year. Keeping soy sauce in the fridge will help preserve its flavors and keep it from spoiling.

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