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Soy sauce is a staple condiment in many kitchens and restaurants. Its use in Asian cuisine is prevalent, and you might find it in other recipes, such as those for homemade sauces, comfort foods, and soups.
If you want to avoid soy sauce, it may be difficult to find another ingredient to use in its place. There are alternatives to this savory sauce, but some may work better than others for your needs.
One reason why you may wish to stay away from soy sauce is its main ingredient, soy. Soy is a common allergen, especially among children, with 0.4 percent of them having a soy allergy. While many children outgrow their soy allergies, some don’t.
There are other reasons one may want to avoid soy sauce. It contains gluten, which is a problem for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It also often contains high levels of sodium.
No matter your reasons, there are several alternatives on the market and substitute recipes to try.
A popular soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan soy sauce alternative is coconut aminos sauce, made by Coconut Secret. This sauce comes from the sap of coconut trees and is made with Gran Molucas sea salt, cultivated in the Philippines.
It contains just 90 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving, which is far less than soy sauce and some other alternatives. The sauce also contains 17 amino acids, giving it health benefits beyond those of soy sauce.
Drawbacks to coconut aminos are the cost and availability. Some people also notice a sweeter flavor and aftertaste when compared to soy sauce.
Try it now: Purchase Coconut Secret coconut aminos sauce.
This sauce is derived from wild-caught anchovies from the Phú Quốc island in the Gulf of Thailand.
The sauce doesn’t contain soybean proteins and is gluten-free. It’ll enhance the flavor of your food without you having to use soy sauce.
The Red Boat brand does contain 1,490 mg of sodium per serving, however, so it wouldn’t be a good choice for those watching their salt intake.
Try it now: Purchase Red Boat fish sauce.
This is a more-than-a-century-old sauce from Europe with many fans. People use Maggi seasoning sauce to enhance the flavor of just about any food dish.
However, Maggi can sometimes contain soy and does contain wheat, another common cause of food allergies. The manufacturer customizes the recipe by world region to tailor its flavors to the local cuisine, so be sure to check the list of ingredients if you’re avoiding a particular product.
You wouldn’t want to consume the sauce if you had a soy or wheat allergy, but you should try Maggi if you’re looking for another flavor enhancer that differs from soy sauce.
Try it now: Purchase Maggi seasoning sauce.
Umami-rich Worcestershire sauce may be associated with steaks or Bloody Marys, but you can also use it to season less traditional fare, from stir-fried vegetables to popcorn. The US recipe doesn’t contain soy or gluten; however, the UK recipe contains malt vinegar and is not considered gluten-free.
The original Lea & Perrins sauce has just 65 mg of sodium per serving, but a reduced-sodium version, with only 45 mg, is also available.
Try it now: Purchase Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce.
This Japanese sauce is made with sea salt, distilled sake, and lots of wheat, giving it a thicker texture than traditional soy sauce.
It’s billed as fruity-smelling and slightly sweet. Its golden honey color also sets it apart from traditional soy sauces.
Shōyu means “soy sauce” in Japanese, but this sauce from the brand Ohsawa is actually soy-free, despite its name.
Try it now: Purchase Ohsawa White Nama shoyu sauce.
Another soy sauce alternative rich in amino acids is Bragg Liquid Aminos, which has a serious following among health food circles.
It does contain soy, so it isn’t appropriate for people avoiding soy sauce because of an allergy. It also has 320 mg of sodium per teaspoon, according to its nutrition facts.
However, it’s concentrated in flavor, so less is needed than with soy sauce.
Try it now: Purchase Bragg Liquid Aminos.
If prebottled soy sauce alternatives don’t suit your needs, try making a sauce from scratch. By preparing your own sauce, you control the ingredients added to the recipe and can modify them if needed.
Don’t Mess with Mama’s soy sauce substitute is soy-free and gluten-free. It contains bone broth, vinegars, organic dark molasses, and date sugar, among other ingredients. The sauce can be used for up to a week when stored in an airtight container.
Well Fed recommends a recipe that incorporates beef broth, cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses, and other ingredients to make a soy sauce alternative. The recipe also recommends adding a 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce, such as Red Boat, to enhance the sauce’s flavor.
A similar recipe from Wellness Mama uses beef broth, traditional molasses, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and fish sauce with other ingredients.
For a vegan soy sauce alternative, try this one from Vegan Lovlie. It calls for vegetable bouillon, blackstrap molasses, and even fenugreek seeds to establish a flavor that mimics soy sauce. It’s a budget-friendly recipe that can be made in larger batches for freezing.
Steamy Kitchen shows you how to make a variety of Asian-style slow cooker bone broths. Start with ingredients such as garlic, ginger, and green onions. For a Chinese-inspired broth, add dried shrimp or dried black mushrooms. Use dried kombu, a type of seaweed, for a Japanese broth.
Make your own: Pick up the following ingredients so that you can make your own sauce at home:
- Bouillon: Shop for vegetable bouillon.
- Broth: Shop for beef broth and bone broth.
- Dried items: Shop for dried black mushrooms, dried kombu, and dried shrimp.
- Herbs and vegetables: Shop for fenugreek seeds, garlic, ginger, and green onions.
- Molasses: Shop for blackstrap molasses, organic dark molasses, and traditional molasses.
- Vinegar: Shop for balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and rice wine vinegar.
- Other pantry items: Shop for date sugar and fish sauce.
It may take some trial and error to use soy sauce alternatives in your cooking, but there are plenty of options to try. Some substitutes may work better than others for specific recipes.
You may decide that springing for a more expensive option is best for entertaining while thriftier options work fine in day-to-day cooking. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices when it comes to soy sauce substitutes.