Intense, pungent, and highly versatile, dark soy is a star in Chinese cuisine and the main component in several Asian recipes. You’ll find this sauce in almost every Asian pantry.
However, it is not as readily used in Western countries. Also, many people are reluctant to use it because of its gluten and high sodium content and, in some cases, soy allergies.
If you can’t use dark soy sauce, other options can make your food equally delicious. Here’s a list of some of the best dark soy sauce substitutes.
Best Substitutes For Dark Soy Sauce
Like all types of soy sauce, this one also has a prominent umami flavor. However, it is much sweeter, darker, and thicker in consistency than light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce works as an amazing condiment, marinade, and flavoring agent. Use these substitutes that do the same work in a recipe.
1. Light Soy Sauce
Light soy sauce is like a muted version of dark soy sauce and is frequently employed in Asian cuisine. When you need a flavoring agent, you can use this as a substitute. It has a similar but less intense umami, sweet, and salty flavor.
However, due to its thinner consistency, light soy sauce cannot be served as a dipping sauce. You can use it as a marinade. But it won’t impart a silky appearance like dark soy sauce.
This sauce tastes best in meat recipes. You can also use it when preparing stir-fries, sautéed veggies, pasta, soups, or stews.
Light soy sauce contains both soy and gluten. However, the sodium content in it is less than that of dark soy sauce. Follow a 1:1 ratio when using it as a replacement. To get a more intense flavor, use 2 teaspoons of this sauce with half teaspoons of sugar and molasses each.
2. Double Black Soy Sauce
Just opposite of the previous alternative, the double black sauce is an intense version of dark soy sauce. This is because of the extra molasses added to it.
It is darker, thicker, and sweeter than dark soy sauce. Hence, it works best as a marinade. It also imparts a nice silky appearance to the food.
Use double black soy sauce when working on a recipe with intense flavors. This condiment works nicely in stews, braises, soups, and dipping sauces.
It is soy-based and contains gluten. Follow a 1:1 ratio when using this substitute. Remember not to use too much as it adds sweetness to the food.
Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce. Although it is soy-based, it is considerably low in sodium content. It may or may not contain gluten, depending on the brand. So if you need a gluten-free option, check the label before buying.
It has a similarly sweet, salty, and umami flavor as dark soy sauce. But the umami notes are more prominent than the sweeter ones. Also, it is lighter in color and thinner in texture.
You can use this substitute in marinades and savory recipes like soups, salads, meat recipes, braises, and stir-fries.
When preparing a strongly-flavored recipe, use equal amounts of tamari as you would dark soy sauce. Otherwise, use ¾ teaspoons of it for one teaspoon of dark soy sauce.
Learn more: Best Tamari Substitutes To Use For Your Food
4. Teriyaki Sauce
This dark and glossy sauce is your best shot if the appearance of the recipe is your priority. When used as a marinade, teriyaki imparts a silky and vibrant appearance.
Soy sauce is the main component for the preparation of teriyaki along with garlic and ginger. It also includes either sake, a lower alcohol alternative, or mirin, a rice wine. It does not contain wheat. This sauce is most popular in Japanese cuisine.
Its sweet and salty flavor makes it an apt alternative for dark soy sauce. And since it is vibrant in color, it adds a mouthwatering hue to the food. However, the ginger and garlic give it a distinct taste from dark soy sauce. But when used in soups, stews, and meat recipes, this taste suits well
Teriyaki can be used as a flavoring agent, marinade, or condiment. It may or may not contain gluten. Check the label when buying.
Use this alternative when making dumplings, salads, or pasta. You can follow a 1:1 ratio.
5. Oyster Sauce
If you’re looking for a non-soy alternative, try the oyster sauce. Its sweet, salty, and prominent umami flavors make it a good alternative. This sauce also resembles dark soy sauce in its dark color. However, it overpowers dark soy sauce in terms of sweetness and has a thicker texture.
Oyster sauce has a prominent oyster flavor along with caramel and earthy hints. So if you don’t like the taste of oysters, try other options on the list.
When used as a marinade, this sauce adds dark color and caramel-like texture to the food.
Use this alternative when preparing kung pao shrimp, Sichuan noodles, or broccoli. Oyster sauce tastes best when used in beef, duck, tofu, or chicken-based recipes.
Due to the sweetness, use it in smaller amounts. We advise you to begin with half the amount of dark soy sauce and increase as needed.
6. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is made of fermented onions, garlic, vinegar, tamarind paste, molasses, and cured anchovies. It also contains seasonings and spices like sugar, salt, coriander, and citrus peel. This all gives it a complex flavor.
This sauce has a prominent sweet, savory, umami, and tangy taste. It lacks the sweetness of dark soy sauce and has a thinner consistency.
Use it as a marinade when making burger patties, sauce, pasta, and stir-fries. Add only half the amount of dark soy sauce to your recipe. Add more only after tasting.
7. Coconut Aminos Sauce
This is the healthiest alternative on our list. And although it tastes considerably different than dark soy sauce, it can be used as an alternative.
Coconut aminos sauce is soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and has a very low sodium content. It is made by fermenting the sap of the coconut tree along with sea salt. This gives this sauce a savory and sweet flavor along with nutty tones.
When using it as a dark soy sauce substitute, you’ll need to add extra salt. Add this sauce to recipes like soups, pasta, and ravioli.
Coconut aminos sauce is expensive and not easily accessible in the local markets. But if you happen to find it, it is worth giving it a try.
8. Kikkoman Japanese Soy Sauce
Despite what its name suggests, Kikkoman Japanese Soy Sauce is made in the USA. Going with this sauce can be a good choice, since its flavor is tailored towards American taste buds. Unless you’re insistent on authentic taste, you could use this sauce as a general replacement for dark soy in most recipes.
Kikkoman Japanese Soy Sauce works well with Japanese, Western, and Chinese recipes that call for soy sauce. It’s made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. It tends to be high in sodium, but manages to keep the umami flavor and taste that dark soy sauce is famous for.
9. Maggi Seasoning Sauce
Sauces from Maggi are a household name in several parts of the world. Maggi Seasoning Sauce is quite popular in Europe and is well-regarded for its taste and flavor. The sauce has an umami rich soy sauce flavor, which makes it great for seasoning and general cooking.
While it is a good substitute for soy sauce, the principal ingredient for Maggi Seasoning Sauce is wheat protein. It has a thinner consistency compared to dark soy sauce but it works as a replacement. It won’t add the same depth of soy flavor, but the complex flavors of this seasoning sauce have stood the test of time for more than a century.
A by-product of manufacturing sugar, the deep and syrupy molasses can be a half decent substitute for dark soy sauce. Syrupy molasses often have a consistency quite similar to dark soy sauce. While it has the mouthfeel and texture covered, the taste is an entirely different thing.
Molasses have a bitter-sweet taste that’s nowhere near the same as dark soy sauce. There’s no salt in molasses, so if you do use it, you will have to adjust for the addition of sugar and the lack of salt.
How To Cook With Dark Soy Sauce
Soy sauce has been around for over 2000 years now. There are now many versions of this sauce. But mainly, it is made of fermented soybean paste, wheat, salt, and brine.
Dark soy sauce is popular in recipes like fried rice, Cantonese noodles, dipping sauces, and Hong Shao Ru. In marinades, this sauce is known to impact a tempting dark color and silky texture.
Usually, only one to two teaspoons of dark soy sauce is enough in a recipe. If used in larger amounts, it can easily overpower the other flavors in the recipe.
Choose The Best Dark Soy Sauce Substitute
A wide range of dark soy sauce alternatives is available in the market. Soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, or with a similar taste—you’ll get it all. Compare the flavors and components of these alternatives. Then choose which dark soy substitute fits best with your recipe requirements.