What can I substitute for soy sauce?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for soy sauce?”. Moreover, we will discuss some substitutes for soy sauce along with their benefits and disadvantages.

What can I substitute for soy sauce?

Soy sauce can be best substituted with fish sauce, coconut amino, tamari, miso paste, lemon balm and Worcestershire sauce. 

The main fermentation processes of soy sauce are low-salt solid-state method and high-salt dilute-state method, the former of which dominates nearly 90% of the market due to its high production efficiency and low cost. Optimizing fermentation process is a key way to improve the nutritional value and flavor of low-salt solid-state soy sauce (1).

What is soy sauce? 

Soy sauce originated in China. It is a liquid condiment that is prepared from a fermented paste of soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae moulds. Soy sauce is used for various purposes, it can be added to food to enhance the flavour of food. 

Soy sauce is made by a two-step fermentation process from wheat flour and soy beans with a mixture of molds, yeasts and bacteria. The first step involves fermentation with mold to produce proteolytic and amylolytic enzymes in the Koji which is a culture starter. This is followed by a second fermentation with yeast and bacteria in the presence of 18-20% salt. The microorganisms used in these fermentation steps are not inoculated at the same time, but are applied sequentially (2). 

In case of a shortage of soy sauce, you can substitute it with a number of different products. 

Substitutes of soy sauce

Following are some substitutes for soy sauce


Tamari is a rich soy sauce that is naturally fermented. The procedure of brewing tamari is almost similar to soy sauce. The only difference is that in the production of tamari, wheat is not used, or is used in small amounts. The taste of tamari is almost similar to soy sauce, so no difference is felt. It has a slightly higher amino acid content, but lacks in aroma (2).

There are many benefits of using tamari like it is very good for the digestion of fruits and vegetables. Apart from containing a lot of nutrients, tamari is also rich in vitamins. Antioxidants that are present in tamari help to prevent cells from damage caused by free radicals. It is also found that vitamin K2 (Menaquinone), which is found in fermented soy products, has a role in bone metabolism (3).

One of the main shortcomings of tamari is that it contains a much high quantity of sodium which is not good for health. If tamari is consumed in high quantities by those who are allergic to soy products, it can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea (3).

Coconut amino: 

Coconut amino is a healthy substitute for soy sauce and is made by  the fermentation of coconut water and sap of coconut palm by Saccharomyces cerevisiae (4). Coconut amino is in fact coconut vinegar and is utilized to make various food products. As its consistency and colour resemble much of soy sauce, so it can easily replace soy sauce.

Coconut amino has many advantages like it has a good content of phenolic compounds and organic acids, such as citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid resulting from the fermentation, which are beneficial for health (4). . Coconut amino contains gallic acid  that helps to prevent diabetes and some other diseases like heart issues. Coconut vinegar is anti-carcinogenic and thus protects us from the risk of cancer (5).

Coconut amino also has some drawbacks like their cost is very high and there is also an availability issue as it is available in all regions. Besides this, coconut amino can act as an allergen in certain people and cause itching and redness of the skin. Reports of immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated coconut allergy are rare and only a handful of cases have been reported in the literature in adults and children (6).

Fish sauce: 

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment. It is made from those fish that are killed and have been coated with salt and fermented for up to two years. Its flavour does not resemble fish much. Fish sauce has a savoury flavour.

There are many health benefits of using fish sauce as it contains a lot of nutrients. Besides this, it also provides amino acids to our body. The minerals content of fish sauce is very beneficial for our growth.

Fish sauce contains omega-3 fatty acids. Health-promoting advantages of consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3 long-chain fatty acids, in relation to serum cholesterol levels and prevention of cardiovascular diseases have been reported in the scientific literature. Fish sauce has been concluded to be a good source of bioactive compounds for humans, with high levels of both essential amino acids and fatty acids (7). 

Miso paste: 

By using fermented soybeans, miso paste is made. It can also be used by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji. Miso paste has an umami flavour with toasty, funky salty-sweet richness (2).

Some health benefits of miso paste are that these are used as anti-carcinogenic agents to protect us from cancer. Miso paste is also very good for gut health and promotes the health of brain cells, thus it has a neuroprotective effect (3).

Besides these properties there are some shortcomings of miso paste like it can cause allergy in some people due to which skin becomes itchy (3). Another disadvantage is that it contains a high amount of sodium which is injurious for health (2).

Lemon balm: 

The alternative name of lemon balm is balm mint. By look, lemon balm is much attractive and has a pleasant smell

The advantage of using lemon balm is that it helps to relieve stress, boosts cognitive functions, treats herpes labialis, gastrointestinal disorders, and helps to treat insomnia and other sleeping disorders (8).

There are also some shortcomings of using lemon balm. Like consuming lemon balm can lead to an increase in appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain (9).

Worcestershire sauce: 

Worcestershire sauce is a fermented liquid condiment. It was made in the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England for the first time.

Its benefits are that it contains a lot of nutrients and vitamins which are good to maintain a healthy life. It is made with tamarind. In addition to its high energy and fiber content, the tamarind is a great source of B-vitamins and a number of minerals  (10).

Other FAQs about Sauces that you may be interested in.

How to thicken the sauce without flour or cornstarch?

What Can I Use Instead of Louisiana Hot Sauce

Can you freeze bearnaise sauce?


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What can I substitute for soy sauce?”. Moreover, we will discuss some substitutes for soy sauce along with their benefits and disadvantages.


  1. Ruan, Luchen, et al. Improved umami flavor of soy sauce by adding enzymatic hydrolysate of low-value fish in the natural brewing process. LWT, 2022, 155, 12911.
  2. Luh, B. S. Industrial production of soy sauce. J ind Microbiol, 1995, 14, 467-471.
  3. Gopikrishna, T., Suresh Kumar, H.K., Perumal, K. et al. Impact of Bacillus in fermented soybean foods on human health. Ann Microbiol, 2021, 71, 30. 
  4. Malakul, Wachirawadee, et al. Novel coconut vinegar attenuates hepatic and vascular oxidative stress in rats fed a high-cholesterol diet. Front nutr, 2022, 156.  
  5. Chen, Weijun, et al. Reactive oxygen species scavenging activity and DNA protecting effect of fresh and naturally fermented coconut sap. J Food Biochem, 2011, 35, 1381-1388.
  6. Anagnostou K. Coconut Allergy Revisited. Children, 2017, 4, 85. 
  7. Rabie, Mohamed A. Acceleration of mackerel fish sauce fermentation via bromelain addition. Nutr food sci, 2018.
  8. Mahboubi, Mohaddese. Melissa officinalis and rosmarinic acid in management of memory functions and Alzheimer disease. Asian Pacific J Trop Biomed, 2019,9, 47.
  9. Sharifi-Rad, Javad, et al. Phytochemical constituents, biological activities, and health-promoting effects of the Melissa officinalis. Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2021.
  10. Sulieman, Abdel Moneim E., et al. Physicochemical characteristics of local varieties of tamarind (Tamarindus indica L), Sudan. Int J Plant Res, 2015, 5, 13-18.