Picking the best tamari substitutes can be a difficult exercise. It is a type of soy sauce, but it isn’t just a soy sauce. Tamari contains no wheat and has a richer, more savory flavor. That’s one reason it’s often seen as a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce.
As for tamari itself, the substitutes are more limited. We’d want the same savory and rich flavor, and the gluten-free part doesn’t hurt either! However, as things are with substitutes, there might occasionally be a need to cut corners. So, take a closer look when choosing the replacement you want.
Top Tamari Sauce Substitutes That Are As Good
1. Soy Sauce
The easiest and most approachable choice as a tamari sauce substitute is soy sauce. As we know, tamari is a type of soy sauce. So, the flavoring comes pretty close as does the umami character. Although soy sauce isn’t as savory as tamari, it isn’t any slacker either. When going with this option, remember that soy sauce is saltier and contains gluten.
2. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos are a good choice if you want to work around soy as well as gluten. So, if allergies are what’s causing a problem, this substitute can make things easier.
The cherry on top of this cake? Coconut aminos are very close in flavor and profile to tamari sauce. The only thing to watch out for with this substitute is that it has less salt.
3. Liquid Aminos
Much like coconut aminos, liquid aminos bring an umami character and savory feel as replacements. To make this option better, its salt and flavor profile is pretty similar to tamari. In fact, it might approach soy sauce levels of saltiness, so some adjustments might be necessary. Liquid aminos is gluten-free, but it contains soy.
4. Miso Paste
If savory deliciousness is what floats your boat, then the umami-rich flavors of miso paste will make you happy.
So what’s to watch out for? Miso paste is, well, a paste! It’s more concentrated than Tamari, so you’ll either want to use a very small quantity or dilute it with water. Add two parts of water to every part of miso paste for a consistency and style that matches tamari.
5. Fish Sauce
Clamoring for that nice umami flavor of the sauce? Well, fish sauce can get the job done. Most fish sauce brands have pretty much the same color and consistency as tamari. The tangy, salty, and umami flavor of fish sauce should fit right in with tamari. Note that fish sauce is way stronger, so start with small amounts.
6. Oyster Sauce
Okay, this is a bit of a reach, but we’re playing more on oyster sauce’s close resemblance to soy sauce and to some extent, fish sauce. This one’s thicker and sweeter than tamari, so use it with some care. Although, there are plenty of points where this condiment will work, like with savory stir-fried recipes.
These little fish are versatile and come in handy in a whole lot of dishes. They’re a choice ingredient for many recipes and you could even play them for tamari substitutes if you’re in a bind. The idea is to use finely chopped anchovies for stir-fried recipes or in a curry. Again, this isn’t the best option, but something to cover up the lack of tamari sauce.
8. Various Salt Types
Can’t think of any viable options? Use salt as a replacement. Using salt as a garnish can add a nice visual touch and texture to the recipe, while also matching the saltiness added by tamari. Of course, it won’t add the rich flavors, but it’s workable as a last-ditch option.
The good part is that you have plenty of options to work with here. Table salt, sea salt, and kosher salt are all good for this role. Some flavored options like garlic salt, chili salt, and onion salt could work too. If you’d like that touch of umami flavor, consider ajinomoto as well.
For our current purpose, salt should be sprinkled over the recipe as a garnish, not cooked into the dish.
9. Balsamic Vinegar
You could use balsamic vinegar in place of tamari sauce, but remember that it has very limited uses. The color and consistency of balsamic vinegar are good enough to use as a salad dressing. However, using it in other recipes might not work, considering its flavor is very different from tamari sauce.
10. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce has that interesting umami character, plus color and consistency that can work with tamari sauce. To be fair, it isn’t as thick as tamari, but the difference isn’t that big a deal. Use it with savory recipes to bring out the flavor and add richness of taste.
After all, worcestershire sauce too is a storied condiment with a long history and cooks that swear by its flavor. But it’s important to note that this sauce is hotter and has sweet notes that aren’t as common with tamari sauce.
11. Umeboshi Vinegar
Umeboshi Vinegar or plum vinegar is a lesser-known, but viable substitute for tamari. While its color is a match, umeboshi vinegar takes a whole different approach for flavor and aroma. Since it’s made from plums, it adds a nice fruity flavor and aroma. On the other hand, its uniquely salty touch will help with many recipes.
As such, the use of plum vinegar as a tamari substitute is rather limited. It’s best employed as a salad dressing or perhaps with some stir-fried dishes.
FAQs And More On Tamari Sauce
What Is Special About Tamari Sauce?
Tamari is a type of soy sauce, though it originates as a by-product of making miso! In a way, this also explains why both these ingredients can substitute tamari in several recipes.
Conventionally, Tamari doesn’t include any wheat and only utilizes soybeans. This makes it more similar to Chinese-style soy sauce, rather than its siblings, the Japanese-style soy sauce. But it’s worth noting that many modern tamari sauces do contain wheat. So if you’re going gluten-free, be sure to check the bottle first.
It has a rich and deep umami flavor but is mellow in comparison to soy sauce. Usually, you’ll find tamari possesses a rich and thick texture.
What Is The Shelf-life Of Tamari Soy Sauce?
Commercially bought tamari can last for a fairly long time. You can store the bottle in a cool, dark, and dry cupboard. However, it’s best to keep the bottle in a fridge once you’ve opened it. That will help maintain its flavor and character for longer.
Is It Tamari Soy Sauce Or Tamari Soya Sauce?
The answer is a bit nuanced, but both can be correct depending on where you live. While the American English spelling and pronunciation prefers soy sauce (and soybeans), British English takes a preference for soya sauce (and soya bean).
The spheres of popularity for both languages around the world can impact the spelling and pronunciation. However, the American style seems to have the edge, and soy sauce is increasingly used even with British English.
Deciding On The Right Substitute
Choosing the right tamari substitute is complex. But once you get the basics right, several commonly available ingredients and condiments can fill its place. You could simply go with conventional soy sauce. If you’re more particular about the ingredients, look at coconut aminos, liquid aminos, and even miso paste. In the hopes of being helpful, we’ve included an expansive list of ingredients and foods you can put to use here.