What’s the Best Substitute for Soy Sauce? Here Are 10 Delicious Options

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substitute for soy sauce: A small dish of soy sauce with chopsticks in the background
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It gives marinades a boost of umami, it makes a mean sauce for all sorts of stir fries and sushi, fried rice and dumplings just aren’t the same without it. Needless to say, soy sauce is a pantry hero. It’s salty, tangy and savory in all the right ways, not to mention versatile. But if you have a soy or wheat allergy, are watching your sodium intake or simply ran out, the condiment is off-limits. Is there a worthy substitute for soy sauce? Yep—in fact, we found ten.

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But First, What Is Soy Sauce?

Chinese in origin, the salty brown liquid known as shoyu is actually made from a fermented paste of soybeans, roasted grains, brine (aka saltwater) and a mold called kōji. (Fun fact: It dates back to the Western Han dynasty in 206 B.C. and was historically used as a way to stretch salt, a luxurious and expensive commodity at the time, per Science and Civilization in China, Volume 6.)

Traditional soy sauce takes months to make. First, soybeans are soaked and cooked, and wheat is roasted and crushed. Then, the mixture is inoculated with kōji, mixed with brine and left to brew. The liquid is pressed from the solids, pasteurized and bottled, and voilà: It finally ends up on your table. Depending on the country and region of origin, soy sauce can taste different from bottle to bottle, and there are endless varieties and flavors (light, dark, sweet and thick are common ones).

How to Use Soy Sauce

Soy sauce does double duty, acting as a seasoning while also adding layers of complex umami. You can use it in any recipe that would benefit from a savory boost, from simple fried eggs and steamed rice to sautéed vegetables, soups, marinades, salad dressings and sauces.

If you’re avoiding soy sauce for dietary reasons (or just plain ran out), don’t worry. You can substitute other comparable ingredients. The following ten substitutes for soy sauce can be swapped with success, but keep in mind that they aren’t exact matches and might change the flavor of the final dish. Unless otherwise noted, we recommend starting slow and tasting as you go (instead of blindly substituting in a 1:1 ratio) for the best results.

The Best Soy Sauce Substitutes

1. Tamari

If you’re not dealing with a soy allergy or monitoring your sodium intake, tamari is the closest in taste to soy sauce. That’s because it’s also made from soybeans and brewed in a similar way, but it doesn’t contain wheat, so it’s gluten free. (However, some brands contain trace amounts of wheat, so check the label if you’re sensitive or allergic.) This sauce can replace soy in a 1:1 ratio since it’s similarly saline. San-J is a favorite brand.

  • Dietary notes: gluten free, vegan
  • Try it in: any dish that calls for soy sauce
  • How to substitute: tamari can replace soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio

2. Worcestershire Sauce

Another fermented sauce, this British condiment usually contains a blend of malt vinegar, anchovies, spices, sugar, salt, garlic, onions, tamarind extract and molasses. It has the same umami quality as soy sauce, but much less sodium and no soy or gluten. (But if you’re allergic to shellfish or seafood, you’ll want to skip it.) We like Lee & Perrins Worcestershire.

  • Dietary notes: low sodium, gluten free
  • Try it in: dishes that use soy sauce for flavor but not saltiness, since Worcestershire is less salty
  • How to substitute: Worcestershire can replace soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio

3. Coconut Aminos

A sauce made from fermented coconut sap, coconut aminos has an umami flavor profile that’s similar to soy sauce. It’s a little bit sweeter, but it’s also lower in sodium (about 90 milligrams per teaspoon compared to 290 milligrams in soy sauce) and gluten free. You can find brands like Big Tree Farms in health food stores, well-stocked groceries and online. (Trader Joe’s also has a version, FYI.)

  • Dietary notes: low sodium, gluten free, vegan
  • Try it in: any dish that calls for soy sauce
  • How to substitute: coconut aminos can replace soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio

4. Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos (such as Bragg) is a liquid protein concentrate that’s made from soybeans but not fermented. Like coconut aminos, it’s gluten free, but it does contain soy and has a similar sodium content. It tastes a lot like soy sauce, albeit milder and sweeter.

  • Dietary notes: gluten free, vegan
  • Try it in: any dish that calls for soy sauce
  • How to substitute: liquid aminos can replace soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio

5. Dried Mushrooms

If you need a substitute for soy sauce that’s free of gluten and soy and low in sodium, dried shiitake mushrooms can work in a pinch. Rehydrate the mushrooms in water, then use that liquid in place of the soy sauce. It’s not the closest substitute in the bunch, but it packs an umami-rich punch. You can find dried shiitakes in most grocery stores (look in the mushroom section) and online.

  • Dietary notes: gluten free, low sodium, vegan
  • Try it in: a dish that calls for only a small amount of soy sauce, since the flavor is less concentrated
  • How to substitute: the mushroom broth can replace soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio, but season it first with salt

6. Fish Sauce

This flavorful condiment is made from fish or krill that’s fermented in salt for up to two years. Fish sauce has a savory, umami quality like soy sauce, but you probably won’t want to substitute it in equal amounts, since it’s more pungent than shoyu. Red Boat Fish Sauce is chef-approved and our go-to brand, but Squid is another, more affordable option.

  • Dietary notes: gluten free (depending on the brand)
  • Try it in: any dish that calls for soy sauce
  • How to substitute: for a given amount of soy sauce, use one-third fish sauce and two-thirds lemon juice

7. Miso Paste

Like soy sauce, miso paste is a fermented ingredient made from soybeans, salt and kōji (although there are many varieties made with other grains, like barley or rice). It’s salty and savory like soy sauce, and when blended with water, it can be used as a substitute in a pinch. Miso Master is our recommended brand for its quality and selection.

  • Dietary notes: gluten free (when made from beans or rice), vegan
  • Try it in: soups and sauces with a lot of liquid, so the miso can melt in
  • How to substitute: miso paste can replace soy sauce in a 1:2 ratio, using twice as much miso as you would soy sauce in a recipe

8. Maggi Seasoning

Maggi seasoning is a Swiss condiment made from fermented wheat proteins, which means it has a ton of savory umami flavor. (It’s almost like a liquid version of Vegemite.) Since it’s particularly concentrated, you’ll want to add it to your dish in small increments.

  • Dietary notes: vegetarian
  • Try it in: any dish that calls for soy sauce
  • How to substitute: Maggi seasoning is super concentrated, so start with half the amount of soy sauce called for and adjust from there

9. Anchovies

Swapping anchovies for soy sauce won’t work in every recipe, we’ll admit. But the tiny, chef-approved tinned fishes can add a punch of savory flavor, and they really don’t taste fishy—promise. If you’re making something like a sauce or curry, a few finely chopped anchovies will melt right in. (But this wouldn’t be our first choice, just FYI.) Ortiz is our favorite brand, if you’re willing to splurge a little.

  • Dietary notes: gluten free, high protein
  • Try it in: cooked sauces that call for soy sauce, which will give the anchovies a chance to melt into the dish
  • How to substitute: start with one or two chopped anchovies, then taste and adjust as needed

10. Salt

Just like salt, soy sauce is a seasoning for food. And while its flavor is much more complex than plain old Diamond Crystal (our preferred brand of kosher salt), you can use salt as a substitute in a pinch. Just keep in mind that you’ll lose the umami factor.

  • Dietary notes: vegan, gluten free
  • Try it in: a dish that doesn’t rely on soy sauce for all of its flavor (or moisture), since salt is less complex and not a liquid
  • How to substitute: to replace soy sauce with salt, simply season to taste

Does Soy Sauce Go Bad?

Maybe the reason you’re out of soy sauce is that you tossed an old bottle when you deep-cleaned your fridge. Even though the expiration date passed, you probably didn’t need to throw it away. Since soy sauce is a fermented product, it contains microorganisms that help preserve it for quite some time, even at room temperature. (Think of all those soy sauce packets you get with takeout—they’re not usually refrigerated.)

An unopened bottle of soy sauce can last as long as two or three years unrefrigerated, and you can safely leave an opened bottle out of the refrigerator for up to one year. Even then, it likely won’t spoil, though it will definitely lose some flavor. Storing it in the fridge will keep it tasting its best.

Want to Make a Homemade Substitute for Soy Sauce? Here’s How


  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon (regular or low-sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider or balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch ground ginger
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Step 1: Combine the Ingredients

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the beef bouillon, molasses, vinegar, ground ginger and garlic powder with ¾ cup water.

Step 2: Simmer and Reduce

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced to your desired flavor strength, 10 to 12 minutes.

Step 3: Season

Season to taste with a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper. The mixture will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...