Soy Sauce

Fermented soybeans, wheat, water, and salt are the main ingredients in soy sauce. The best sauces are then “brewed,” through an aging and fermenting process that lasts months before reaching store shelves.

Some commercial products are produced in a matter of days through the use of chemicals. These are less expensive, but the taste may also reflect added ingredients.

Soy sauce is used in a broad range of Asian dishes, both in cooking and for table service.


Light (or medium) sauces are more fluid while dark sauces, usually with molasses added, are syrupy in texture.

Some Japanese sauces are light and sweet by comparison to other Asian brands. They should not be substituted in most recipes. Tamari sauce is a strong and tasty accompaniment to sushi dishes.

Specialty markets will carry Oriental products, including the Japanese shoyu, that are different in flavor from other mass-produced sources. You may also find shrimp- or mushroom-infused soy sauces, which are interchangeable with other varieties.

Most commercial manufacturers make soy sauces in reduced sodium versions.

Storage Tips

Soy sauce can be stored for twelve months or longer (check the “sell by” date – some have a shelf life of more than two years).

While some manufacturers state it does not require refrigeration after opening, the taste may be altered over time.

Usage Tips

  • Dark soy sauce is recommended for marinades and cooking beef.
  • Light sauces are general-purpose and used in most recipes.
  • When adding soy sauce, remember to adjust the amount of salt already listed in a recipe.
  • It is a flavor enhancer to so many dishes, but is especially good in stir-fries, with rice or mushrooms, and with most meats and poultry.
  • Use it as a basting sauce or with a thickening agent such as cornstarch to help bind foods.

Substitution Tips

Reduce the amount of Worcestershire sauce about one-third and add enough water to create an equal serving replacement.

Try one of our favorite soy sauce recipes:
Chicken satay skewers
Korean Barbecued Beef
Braised Garlic-Ginger Chops