Alternatives to soy sauce
May 11, 2014 3:18 PM   Subscribe

What are some alternatives to soy sauce that provide the same type of flavor?

I am looking for something that I can just put onto what I am cooking, not something that I have to prepare, so a store bought sauce, or something that only takes one or two steps and can be prepared in mass would be great.

Thanks for your ideas!
posted by 517 to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What are you trying to avoid by not using soy sauce? Soy allergy? Sodium? This may help to answer the question.
posted by softlord at 3:21 PM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

bragg's liquid aminos or coconut aminos?
posted by zdravo at 3:22 PM on May 11, 2014 [13 favorites]

The main things you get from soy sauce are salt and glutamates, so kosher salt and MSG would be two good ingredients.
posted by ftm at 3:26 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I find soy sauce to be too heavy and prefer tsuyu (traditional dipping sauce for soba noodles) instead. All you do is add miren and sake to soy sauce.
posted by cazoo at 3:31 PM on May 11, 2014

Is ponzu too similar to soy sauce for your situation?
posted by briank at 3:40 PM on May 11, 2014

Anchovy paste delivers a hefty punch of umami, and if you use it sparingly, doesn't taste overly fishy.
posted by Specklet at 3:49 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I like coconut aminos, especially with a drop or two of fish sauce added, as a soy sauce replacement.
posted by bakerina at 3:58 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maggi seasoning sauce is the bomb.
posted by smoke at 4:10 PM on May 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

On preview, smoke beat me to it. A bit more Maggi info:

Without knowing what you are trying to avoid, maybe Maggi sauce (technically Maggi-W├╝rze)? It's basically soy sauce but with wheat protein rather than soy. Delicious, adaptable, but not exactly a healthier alternative to soy--lots of sodium and varying levels of MSG depending on manufacturing location. (The recipe is tweaked for various markets, so there's more or less MSG depending on where it is made. I like the German version, though that could be because that's the first kind I had.)
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 4:12 PM on May 11, 2014

This is very difficult to answer without knowing why you want an alternative. Allergy to soy? Avoiding salt? Just want a variety of flavor options for your cooking?
posted by madmethods at 4:18 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fish sauce.
posted by JPD at 4:25 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sensei sauce!
posted by ainsley at 4:29 PM on May 11, 2014

Worcestershire Sauce has a similar function to soy in Western Foods - the Asian version of this (in Japan at least) is called Bulldog sauce (that's the brand). I'm partial to Eel sauce (again, Japanese, and various brands) - it's soy based but with a sweet umami punch rather than just salt.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:38 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tamari sauce?
posted by w0mbat at 5:14 PM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

> bragg's liquid aminos

Bragg's Liquid Aminos are also made from soy (unfermented at that, even), and is basically salt water with unsubstantiated health claims. More sodium than most soy sauces too. You're better off just using table salt than Braggs.
posted by planetesimal at 5:31 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, I'll go ahead and just recommend MSG. A little bit of Accent or other commercially available MSG-based powders will be every bit as safe as a splash of soy sauce.
posted by planetesimal at 5:33 PM on May 11, 2014

Miso is very umami-ey
posted by whistle pig at 5:49 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about a blend of nutritional yeast, dehydrated powdered onion, and salt; maybe with a little brown sugar added. I've been thinking of making a stock base like this.
posted by amtho at 6:29 PM on May 11, 2014

Fish sauce.
posted by lunasol at 6:29 PM on May 11, 2014

Umm, gluten-free soy sauce?
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:35 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used Marmite in place of soy sauce.
posted by herox at 4:16 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Careful with that fish sauce! A little goes a long way...
posted by sam_harms at 5:23 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

An old Roman fish sauce, having a small revival: Garum. Nominally for sale here, but out of stock at the moment. It's an ancestor of Worcestershire sauce.

Modern (tomato) ketchup has salt and glutamate, but also sugar, not really what you want. However, savory mushroom ketchups used to be very popular---that link even calls it the "English soy sauce". Your can make or buy them still.

One of the reasons this is hard to answer for cuisines which don't rely on fermented soy or fish sauces, is that salt and glutamates are delivered differently. Glutamates tend to be added separately either as a sauce or forming one while while cooking. Common high glutamate ingredients include meat reductions (demi-glace), anchovies, mushrooms, tomatos, and probably most importantly, cheese. Cheese is the "soy sauce" for French and related cooking styles.
posted by bonehead at 7:26 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use marmite - and discovered it's better in my vegetarian chilli than soy sauce for salt & umami.
posted by jb at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oyster sauce is delicious.
posted by ellieBOA at 8:51 AM on May 12, 2014

Balsamico vinegar, and even better: reduced balsamico vinegar.
posted by mumimor at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2014

notably in the NPR link bonehead cited for garum, Red Boat fish sauce is claimed (via link) to have the closest protein:salt ratio (and thus likely flavor profile) to traditional Roman garum. There's a reason for this - Red Boat is processed with zero sugar. It's just fermented fish + salt. And it's not heavily salty.

I use it and can confirm that it is absolutely amazing.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:26 PM on May 12, 2014

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