Soy sauce is an ever-present ingredient in households all across the globe. It has a rich tangy flavor that is loved by all. But did you know there are other types of soy sauces too? Light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, double black soy sauce, and more! While these sauces are a staple in Chinese cuisines, others only need them sparingly.
One day I had an irresistible urge to cook Caramelized Soy Sauce Noodles with Sweet Potato & Mushrooms. I looked up the recipe and was delighted to see that I could make it within 30 minutes only. But my giddiness was short-lived as I realized I hadn’t stocked Dark soy sauce- an essential ingredient in this recipe- for a long time.
My unwillingness to drive to the superstore and intense craving for the noodles compelled me to chalk up any alternatives I could use to mimic the dark soy sauce flavor. So, I ended up with a list of alternatives, each tried, tested, and verified now!
But per custom, let’s do a brief overview on Dark soy sauce before we start.
What is dark soy sauce?
Dark soy sauce or lǎo chōu is a thick, flavorful sauce. It was first used in around 180 BC, making it one of the oldest recognized condiments to humanity. It is not a dipping sauce like light soy sauce and is used in cooking.
Dark soy sauce consists of naturally fermented soy sauce or soybeans, roasted wheat with an addition of molasses to give it a sweeter taste. As a result, dark soy sauce takes longer to age than other sauces of the same family.
How is it used?
Dark soy sauce is used in cooking as its flavor blooms with heat. In Chinese cuisine, it is used to flavor rice and noodles and to give them a deep amber shade. It also serves as a glaze in certain recipes.
What is the difference between dark and regular soy sauce?
Unlike regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce has a thicker consistency. Dark soy sauce may seem less salty than traditional soy sauce, but its nutritional value reveals it has 15% more sodium content than regular soy sauce.
However, both the sauces serve similar purposes, enhancing the color and flavor of meals, albeit different ones.
11 Substitutes for Dark Soy Sauce
Dark soy sauce may be famous because of its special flavor. But it isn’t very unique, and a carefully curated blend could easily mimic its taste. Here’s a list of sauces that can replace dark soy sauce in a recipe.
1. Light Soy Sauce
Light soy sauce is a thin red-brown condiment. It is made from pressing fresh soybeans and double roasted wheat grains and is very similar to dark soy sauce in flavor.
However, it isn’t a great option if you want to duplicate the color of dark soy sauce. But, you can improve the results by blending a small portion of molasses into the light soy sauce. This will sweeten its taste and lend it the dark brown color dark soy sauce is famous for.
In addition, light soy sauce goes well with meaty cuisines and yields a unique flavor. Therefore, it won’t taste too out of place as a dark soy sauce substitute in Asian cuisine.
Light soy sauce isn’t a rare ingredient to find, so you would be able to acquire it from any nearby supermarket.
2. Homemade Dark Soy Sauce
If you have time and the limited skills required, you may make dark soy sauce at home. You will need:
- 2 cups of sugar
- ½ cup of water
- 1 cup of regular soy sauce
The cooking process isn’t difficult itself, but you must take care not to overcook. As doing so will give your sauce a charred flavor.
- Stir sugar into the water and let boil until the sugar is dissolved.
- Next, stop stirring and let the mixture cook until it darkens. It should have a molasses-like appearance.
- Finally, add soy sauce and simmer until thick.
- Pour the sauce in an airtight jar and refrigerate it until use.
3. Oyster Sauce
As the name suggests, the Oyster sauce is made from cooking oysters for an extended time. It is then seasoned with salt, sugar, and sometimes soy sauce. Cornstarch or caramel gives the sauce its viscosity. Oyster sauce has a naturally dark color, similar to dark soy sauce, and the taste is no different either.
Oyster sauce is an excellent substitute for dark soy sauce. It has the perfect balance of saltiness and sweetness. It is best used in seafood, vegetable foods, noodles, and tofu. Furthermore, oyster sauce boasts a rich flavor with a caramel undertone and a tantalizing aroma.
4. Worcestershire Sauce
First created in Worcester in the early half of the 19th century, Worcestershire has a rich flavor profile. The ingredients used to make this sauce, namely tamarind or vinegar, molasses or sugar, and anchovies or soy sauce, give it a sour, sweet, and delicious taste all at once.
Worcestershire sauce is easy enough to find and is a great option instead of dark soy sauce. However, it has a thinner consistency which limits its replacement options. Furthermore, it isn’t very sweet, so you might need to add a little sugar to your recipe.
On the brighter side, it is gluten-free and vegan. Worcestershire sauce goes best in Italian sauces, burger patties, and Asian cuisines.
5. Double Black Soy Sauce
Double black soy sauce is essentially dark soy sauce. It is also made from soy sauce and roasted wheat. However, the difference comes with the quantity of molasses used.
Double black soy sauce has more molasses than dark soy sauce, which gives it a sweeter flavor. It is perhaps the best dark soy sauce substitute on the list, but it has a massive disadvantage as it is even rarer than dark soy sauce.
However, if you do have it in your kitchen need not look elsewhere. Use double black soy sauce modestly since you won’t want its sweetness to overpower the dish.
6. Mushroom flavored Dark Soy Sauce
Mushroom flavored soy sauce has the same consistency, color, and qualities and dark soy sauce. However, it also contains straw mushroom essence. If you don’t mind the mushroom flavor, you can use it to replace dark soy sauce in almost every recipe.
It has a deep rich taste and can replace other types of soy sauce too. Most natives favor mushroom-flavored soy sauce over dark soy sauce in most recipes.
7. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce shares the same origin as dark soy sauce. But, it has a distinctive flavor depending upon the ingredients used. Hoisin sauce is made by fermenting toasted soybeans paste. Then, a variety of other herbs and spices like garlic, fennel, red chilies, etc., are added to it, which give it a unique flavor.
It isn’t very commonly found, but if you have it in your kitchen, feel free to use it as a substitute for dark soy sauce. Hoisin sauce is best for meaty food like a duck, pork, chicken, and beef. Note that due to dissimilar color and texture, it will perceptibly change the appearance of your dish.
8. Fish Sauce
This type of sauce needs almost two years to be made. It is made from fish (usually Anchovy) or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for the given time. The salt attracts the fishy liquid via osmosis. The liquid acquired is then refined, seasoned, preserved, and sold as fish sauce. It has a strong umami flavor and a pungent smell with an undertone of caramel sweetness.
Since it has a robust flavor, I’d recommend reducing the amount to half of what the original recipe requires. Fish sauce is excellent for seafood recipes as the flavor won’t be too out of place. Although not always, fish sauce is usually soy and gluten-free.
9. Seasoning Sauce
Seasoning sauce is an umbrella term for a variety of sauces curated to match the local flavors. The most renowned example is the Maggi seasoning sauce. If you want to add something different to your recipe, try seasoning sauce.
It will work well in recipes like stews, stir-fry items, marinades, and bastings. You can easily buy the sauce from a nearby store.
10. Teriyaki Sauce
Dark, bold, sweet, and salty this sauce is famous worldwide for its rich assortment of distinctive flavors. Teriyaki sauce originated from Japanese culture and became popular in the US after the immigration of Japanese people to Hawaii in1960s.
Teriyaki sauce has a sharp undertone of umami flavor. It goes well with almost any recipe, especially stir-fries, soups, and marinades. Although the result may differ in taste, Teriyaki sauce does well to duplicate the original look of the recipe.
Teriyaki sauce is too potent to be considered healthy, but if ingested in modest amounts every day, it can easily fit into your daily macros. Most teriyaki sauces I know of are vegan, but some may contain honey.
So make sure to review the ingredients before you buy. You can also use it in dipping sauces or as a finishing glaze for your dish.
Tamari is not very different from your regular soy sauce. Unlike soy sauce that has varieties sprouting from many locations, Tamari is strict of Japanese origin. Tamari sauce is made from fermenting soybeans and is usually gluten-free (double-check that!).
Tamari has no remarkable advantage over regular soy sauce, although it does contain a lesser amount of sodium. This fact also attributes to it having a less salty and tangy taste. However, Tamari is packed with delicious flavor.
Another thing that differentiates Tamari from soy sauce is wheat. Wheat is an essential ingredient in soy sauce.
However, it is not found in Tamari which is a by-product of Miso paste. Its balanced taste makes it a perfect alternative for marinades, dippings, and stir-fry recipes.