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Have you ever found yourself in need of a soy sauce substitute but not sure where to turn? Fear not! Whether you’re just out of soy sauce or avoid it for health reasons, there are plenty of substitutes for soy sauce that will give your dishes the same rich, umami flavor that you love.
Just like there are lots of egg substitutes and cornstarch substitutes, I’ll show you 10 easy ways to substitute soy sauce, too! Plus, I have a homemade recipe, so you can make your own soy sauce alternative at home.
What Is Soy Sauce?
Soy sauce is a condiment made from fermented soy beans, wheat, salt, water, and some kind of mold, yeast, or bacteria used for the fermentation process. It is commonly used in Asian cuisine to add flavor to dishes.
Why Avoid Soy Sauce?
There are several reasons why people may want to avoid soy sauce: It’s high in phytoestrogens, it’s typically GMO, it contains byproducts of wheat and gluten, it’s high in sodium, and it can inhibit mineral absorption.
Here is a little more detail about why each of these might be a problem:
- Phytoestrogens – Soy in its natural form contains these compounds that act like estrogen in the body [*]. Some research suggests that excessive soy consumption may lead to hormone imbalances for both men and women. However, the full effects are hard to discern, because much of the research on soy is funded by large food companies [*, *].
- Genetic modification – Over 94% of soy in the United states was GMO in 2018 – and soy sauce can contain traces of pesticide residues [*, *]. People wanting to avoid GMOs in their food will want to avoid soy sauce as well.
- Wheat and gluten – Anyone with gluten sensitivity or a soy allergy needs to be cautious and may be better off choosing a soy sauce substitute.
- High sodium content – A single tablespoon of soy sauce contains up to 1000mg of sodium. That’s more than half the recommended daily amount!
- Mineral absorption – Soy contains high levels of phytic acid, which inhibits mineral absorption [*].
If you’re striving for clean eating, you can see why you may want to opt for a soy sauce substitute instead. Soy is also not ideal for a clean keto diet — you can read more about soy sauce on keto here.
10 Best Soy Sauce Substitutes (Pre-Made)
Whether it’s due to allergies, your diet, seeking a different flavor, or you simply ran out, you can substitute soy sauce with these ten pre-made alternatives — some of which are soy-free!
In my opinion, coconut aminos is the best soy sauce substitute — and it has clean ingredients! It’s made from fermented coconut sap.
Tamari is a gluten-free soy sauce with a rich, umami flavor. It uses more natural ingredients than traditional soy sauce and can be used as substitute in many recipes.
Replacing regular soy sauce with tamari will give add depth and more complex flavors. Just keep in mind that other seasonings/spices may need further adjustment.
Worcestershire sauce is a fermented sauce flavored with vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarind extract, onion, garlic, and other spices.
This sauce can work as a soy sauce substitute with its umami flavor. However, its complex and tangy taste makes it better suited for certain dishes than others. It can enhance the flavor of soups and stews, add depth to sauces and gravies, or even make marinades more flavorful.
Fish sauce is an Asian condiment made from fermented fish. It has a strong and pungent aroma, and makes a great alternative to soy sauce for those looking to switch up their cooking routine.
Fish sauce has a deeper umami flavor than soy sauce, and can be used to temper the heat of spicy ingredients. However, it should be used sparingly, as it is saltier than soy sauce.
Oyster sauce is a savory and sweet condiment made with oyster extracts, sugar, salt and other flavorings. It has 1/3 of the sodium content of soy sauce and a unique flavor which enhances dishes while serving as a low sodium soy sauce substitute.
Use oyster sauce sparingly, as its intense taste can easily overpower other flavors. Avoid adding it during cooking, since it will become bitter when overheated.
This sauce is a savory and sweet condiment made from fermented soybeans, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Hoisin sauce has a sweet flavor that can enhance dishes in place of soy sauce. It does contain sugar, but has a much lower sodium content than soy sauce.
The thicker consistency of hoisin sauce also makes it ideal for dipping sauces, marinades, or brushed on as a glaze. It’s typically used as a dark soy sauce substitute. Use it sparingly, as its intense taste can easily overpower other flavors.
Miso paste is a flavorful alternative that contains fermented soybeans, salt, water, and a type of fungus called koji used for fermentation. Its strong, salty taste gives sauces, marinades, and salad dressings added flavor without the extra saltiness.
Small, salty fish known as anchovies are commonly packed in olive oil or salt. Their strong flavor makes them a great topping, condiment, or seasoning.
Anchovies lend a hint of saltiness and umami that is similar to soy sauce, but can be too pungent if used in excess. Use sparingly for the best results!
Salt can replace soy sauce in some recipes, although it will lack the intense aroma and flavor of soy sauce. Add spices, herbs, and other flavors to salt to make up for this difference. For example, add a few cloves of garlic, grated ginger root, or a pinch of Chinese five spice to give the dish an added depth of flavor.
Store-bought soy sauce substitutes are convenient (coconut aminos is my go-to!), but you can also make your own homemade substitute for soy sauce using dried shiitake mushrooms! It’s surprisingly easy to do, has much less sodium than the store-bought stuff, and you only need a few ingredients…
Why You’ll Love My Homemade Soy Sauce Substitute
- Similar flavor profile to soy sauce, including umami and salty
- Easy to make
- Just 4 simple ingredients
- Mostly hands-off prep
- No sugar, wheat, grains, soy, or artificial preservatives
- Low carb, gluten-free, and vegan
- Just 100 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon (10% of regular soy sauce!)
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for soy sauce alternative, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Dried Shiitake Mushrooms – Dried shiitake mushrooms provide umami flavor, making them perfect for use in a soy sauce substitute. You can substitute other types of dried mushrooms here, but I find that shiitake works best for the right flavor.
- Salt & Pepper – Add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of pepper for a spicier sauce.
- Balsamic Vinegar – Provides tanginess and a pinch of sweetness.
How To Make Soy Sauce Substitute
This section shows how to make a substitute for soy sauce, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Simmer mushrooms and water. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine mushrooms, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer.
- Strain. Pour the contents of the pan over a fine mesh sieve fitted over a bowl.
- Add balsamic vinegar. Then, return the shiitake broth back to the saucepan on the stove. Simmer to reduce the acidity of the vinegar. Adjust salt to taste if needed.
- Serve. Use this healthy substitute for soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio for any recipe that calls for soy sauce.
- Store: Keep this homemade soy sauce alternative in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Freeze: You can freeze it for up to 3 months and thaw when ready to use.
Ways To Use Soy Sauce Alternatives
Whether you use one of the easy soy sauce alternatives above or make your own, you can use many of them in the same ways you’d use regular soy sauce! You definitely can for the homemade version. Try it in these recipes:
- Thai Recipes – A variety of Thai or Asian dishes use soy sauce. Try this alternative in spicy Thai beef salad, quick 15-minute egg roll in a bowl, nutty Thai shrimp lettuce wraps, or crunchy Asian cabbage salad.
- Beef – This soy sauce substitute works in Hunan beef, Instant Pot beef short ribs, homemade beef jerky, comforting ground beef stroganoff, in a simple steak marinade, or to lock in moisture for juicy burgers (or even turkey burgers).
- Chicken – Use it in fast stir fry recipes like classic chicken stir fry, simple chicken broccoli stir fry, nutty almond chicken, or easy chicken cabbage stir fry.
- Pork – Instead of coconut aminos, use this homemade soy sauce version for slow cooker pulled pork, or use it to season pan seared pork chops.
10 Best Soy Sauce Substitutes
Soy Sauce Substitute (Easy Recipe!)
Learn how to make a homemade soy sauce substitute with shiitake mushrooms and balsamic vinegar. Make it ahead and use in any recipe!
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the shiitake mushrooms, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
To strain the mushrooms from the broth, pour the contents of the pan over a fine mesh sieve fitted over a bowl. (You can use the mushrooms in another recipe.)
Mix in the balsamic vinegar. Return the liquid back to the saucepan on the stove and simmer for 5 more minutes to reduce the acidity of the vinegar. Adjust salt to taste if needed.
Your soy sauce substitute is ready to use. Use in any recipe that calls for soy sauce.
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Serving size: 1 tablespoon
Makes 3/4 cup. Nutrition info only includes 25% of the mushrooms, since they are discarded (or saved for another use) and not included in the final soy sauce substitute.
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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