What Can You Substitute for Soy Sauce? Ideas and Recipes

By Angela Tague in Healthy Feeling

I love California rolls. But my body rejects the savory soy sauce that usually accompanies this fresh sushi treat. Whether you have an allergy to soy, or have celiac disease like me and need to avoid soy sauce due to the wheat and barley ingredients, you can still enjoy ample amounts of Asian food. Bring on the fried rice, stir-fry, and pad Thai!

What Can You Substitute for Soy Sauce?

Over the years I've learned about many healthy soy sauce alternatives, and I no longer feel like I'm missing out on my favorite Asian foods, either at home or when I go to a restaurant.

Last month I spent a week in Boston and was delighted when the Japanese restaurant next to my hotel was able to accommodate my no-soy sauce request. I explained my dietary needs and was presented with a little bowl of tamari, a gluten-free dark sauce that tastes nearly identical to classic soy sauce.

Tamari is made from soy and doesn't contain wheat, explains the Kitchn, so it's a good alternative for those who avoid soy sauce due to wheat allergies or celiac disease. If you have a soy allergy, skip the tamari and try coconut aminos instead.

When I cook at home, I use this coconut-based sauce for flavor. It's also a dark liquid with a salty, umami flavor much like that of soy or tamari sauces. Coconut aminos are a little sweet, so they mesh perfectly with Asian dishes featuring pineapple or sticky sweetened rice.

Coconut aminos are gluten-free, soy-free, paleo-approved, and vegan. They're made from the sap of the coconut flower, which is fermented and mixed with sea salt, according to Health. As a bonus, coconut aminos are lower in calories and sodium than traditional soy sauce.

edamame with salt and tamari sauce on the side

Your Favorite Recipes Without Soy Sauce

Now that you know there are alternatives out there, I want to tempt your palate and inspire you to get back in the kitchen to make your favorite meals soy sauce-free:

  • The Best Stir Fry Sauce: Natalie at Tastes Lovely created a simple garlicky ginger sauce recipe that can be used with any vegetarian protein, noodles, or rice. Her recipe uses tamari, but feel free to substitute coconut aminos if you're allergic to soy.
  • Pad Thai (Gluten-, Soy-, and Dairy-free): From Jessica's Kitchen cooks up a classic pad Thai using fresh lemon and lime juice, fish sauce, and tamarind paste to create a delicious savory flavor.
  • Cauliflower Fried Rice: Jessica at Jay's Baking Me Crazy whipped up a classic fried rice dish that uses coconut aminos, garlic powder, and fresh ginger to season the vegetables and eggs in this gluten-free, paleo recipe.

As you explore Asian meals without soy sauce, have you stumbled onto a favorite recipe? What can you substitute for soy sauce that we haven't thought of? We'd love to hear about it. Tweet us a picture of your meal!

Images source: Angela Tague

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Why It’s Good

You can enjoy salty, umami flavors and enjoy classic Asian foods without soy sauce. When you go soy sauce-free there are tasty substitutes like coconut aminos and tamari sauce to try. Or, skip the sauces all together and rely on savory ginger, vinegar, and garlic to make Asian dishes come alive.