7 Best Substitute For Shoyu

Shoyu Substitute

Shoyu is a pantry staple for many around the world, particularly in Japanese cuisine. Its distinctive umami flavor brings a unique touch to a variety of dishes. However, for reasons such as dietary restrictions, taste preferences, or simple unavailability, you might find yourself in a situation where a substitute is required. Luckily, there’s a world of flavors out there, and several sauces and condiments can offer a worthy substitute to Shoyu. This guide aims to help you navigate the diverse universe of Shoyu substitutes, providing detailed descriptions, nutritional profiles, and practical advice for each of them.

What is Shoyu?

Before we dive into its substitutes, let’s take a moment to understand what Shoyu is. Shoyu is a type of Japanese soy sauce, traditionally brewed using a method that involves the fermentation of soybeans and wheat. It is known for its balanced flavor profile, combining sweetness, saltiness, and a rich umami character that amplifies the taste of many dishes. It’s an integral part of Japanese cooking, used in marinades, as a dipping sauce, and as a flavor enhancer in countless recipes.

Quick Glance at Substitutes For Shoyu

  • Tamari
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Coconut Aminos
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Liquid Aminos
  • Fish Sauce
  • Miso Paste

Each of these alternatives carries its unique flavor profile and culinary applications. Now, let’s delve deeper into each of these substitutes to better understand their properties and how they can fit into your cooking repertoire.

Best Substitutes For Shoyu


When it comes to an almost seamless transition from Shoyu, Tamari is often the first alternative that comes to mind. Originating in Japan, Tamari is a wheat-free variant of soy sauce, making it an excellent choice for those avoiding gluten. It is thicker, darker, and carries a robust umami flavor, somewhat similar to Shoyu but less salty.

Tamari is made by extracting the liquid from miso paste during its fermentation process. This makes it richer and smoother in taste. Its strong umami profile can enhance the flavors of various dishes, from stir-fries and marinades to soups and stews. However, due to its pronounced flavor, Tamari should be used sparingly. This characteristic makes it a great dipping sauce as well, especially for sushi and sashimi.

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Beyond its culinary uses, Tamari holds benefits for your health too. Its fermentation process introduces probiotics into the sauce, promoting gut health. Moreover, it’s a boon for those with wheat allergies or gluten intolerance, making it a widely used soy sauce alternative in gluten-free cooking.

Light Soy Sauce

Next on our list is Light Soy Sauce, not to be confused with ‘low-sodium’ soy sauce. This Chinese condiment is thinner and lighter in color compared to Shoyu, but carries a strong saltiness and umami flavor. It’s made with a higher proportion of soybeans to wheat, which gives it a sharper, more pronounced taste.

Light Soy Sauce is a versatile ingredient in Chinese cooking, used in stir-fries, as a marinade, and to season a variety of dishes. It is typically used during the cooking process to imbue dishes with its characteristic flavor. Given its potent saltiness, it’s advisable to use this sauce sparingly and adjust to taste.

From a nutritional perspective, Light Soy Sauce is relatively low in calories but high in sodium. Therefore, it’s a good idea to balance its use with other ingredients to ensure a healthier meal. Despite its high salt content, it remains a popular Shoyu substitute due to its similarly rich umami essence and wider availability.

Coconut Aminos

Moving away from soy-based sauces, we encounter Coconut Aminos, a soy-free and gluten-free substitute for Shoyu. Made from the fermented sap of coconut palms mixed with sea salt, this sauce is a favorite among those following a paleo or soy-free diet.

While it has a milder and sweeter flavor than Shoyu, Coconut Aminos can still impart a nice umami note to dishes. It’s a versatile condiment, usable in marinades, stir-fries, salad dressings, and even as a dipping sauce. Its mildness can be a plus when you want the other flavors in your dish to shine.

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From a health standpoint, Coconut Aminos is a winner. It’s low in sodium, making it a heart-friendly option, and its natural fermentation process enriches it with beneficial probiotics. Additionally, it contains a wide range of amino acids and is rich in B-vitamins, offering a healthier twist to your culinary endeavors.

Worcestershire Sauce

This English sauce, with its complex flavor profile, can be a surprising but effective substitute for Shoyu. Worcestershire sauce brings a mix of sweet, sour, and umami flavors, thanks to its blend of vinegar, molasses, sugar, anchovies, and various seasonings.

While its flavor is different from Shoyu, Worcestershire sauce can provide a depth of taste to many recipes, including marinades, soups, stews, and stir-fries. Given its intense flavor, it is often used in small quantities. And, it can double up as a dipping sauce for steaks or a cocktail mixer in beverages like Bloody Mary.

Worcestershire sauce, like many fermented foods, holds some health benefits. It contains vitamin B6 and antioxidants. However, its sugar and sodium content can be relatively high, so it’s best used in moderation.

Liquid Aminos

Liquid Aminos, such as those made by Bragg, are another fantastic gluten-free and non-GMO alternative to Shoyu. This condiment is made by breaking down soybeans into amino acids through a process known as hydrolysis.

The flavor of Liquid Aminos is reminiscent of soy sauce but carries a milder, less salty touch. It can be used just like Shoyu in various recipes, from marinades and stir-fries to soups and salads. Its milder flavor profile makes it a particularly good choice when you want to add a savory note without overpowering the dish.

In terms of health benefits, Liquid Aminos, as the name suggests, is an excellent source of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. It’s also lower in sodium compared to traditional soy sauces, making it a healthier choice for those monitoring their sodium intake.

Fish Sauce

Fish Sauce, a staple in Southeast Asian cuisines, offers a unique alternative to Shoyu. Made from fermented fish and salt, it carries an intense umami flavor, a strong aroma, and a salty punch. While its taste and smell might be a bit much for some, it adds depth and complexity to dishes when used correctly.

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Fish Sauce can be used in a variety of recipes, such as soups, stir-fries, marinades, and dipping sauces. It’s commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes, adding a distinctive savory flavor. Due to its potent taste, it should be used sparingly and balanced with other ingredients.

While not particularly rich in nutrients, Fish Sauce offers a unique flavor profile that’s hard to replicate. However, it’s high in sodium, so those watching their sodium intake should use it judiciously.

Miso Paste

Finally, we have Miso Paste, a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. While not a liquid sauce, Miso can offer a unique substitute for Shoyu, particularly when dissolved in a bit of liquid.

Miso Paste brings a robust umami flavor, a touch of sweetness, and a little saltiness to the table. It can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and marinades to glazes for grilled foods. It’s also the primary ingredient in Miso soup, a staple in Japanese cuisine.

In terms of health benefits, Miso is a probiotic food, contributing to a healthy gut. It’s also rich in protein and various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, manganese, and zinc.

Substitutes for Shoyu: Nutritional Profile

SubstituteGlutenCalories (per ¼ cup)FatCarbsFiberProtein
Light Soy SauceContains gluten320g3g0g4g
Coconut AminosGluten-free900g21g0g0g
Worcestershire SauceGluten-free500g13g0g0g
Liquid AminosGluten-free600g8g0g8g
Fish SauceGluten-free601g6g0g8g
Miso PasteContains gluten1506g18g3g12g

Please note that nutritional values may vary based on specific brand and product.

Wrapping Up

Choosing a substitute for Shoyu depends on several factors, from dietary needs and taste preferences to the specific culinary application. This guide offers a comprehensive overview of some of the best substitutes, each with unique qualities. Whether you’re looking for something similar to Shoyu, like Tamari or Light Soy Sauce, or venturing into new flavor territories with Coconut Aminos or Worcestershire Sauce, there’s a world of savory sauces waiting to be explored. Remember, the key is in experimentation, finding what fits your palate and your plate. Happy cooking!

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