I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of shoyu substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best shoyu sauce substitute is another soy sauce varieties like light Chinese soy sauce or kecap manis. If you’re on the hunt for gluten-free options, tamari or liquid aminos are the way to go. Got a soy allergy? Stick with coconut aminos – it’s pricier, but worth it.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I whipped up a batch of fried rice to test different shoyu substitutes.
Shoyu is a Japanese-style soy sauce. It’s salty, with prominent umami notes that will instantly elevate your dish. It’s also got sweet notes because of a lengthy fermentation.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Light Chinese soy sauce||Replace shoyu in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Tamari||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Liquid aminos||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Coconut aminos||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Worcestershire sauce||Use half the amount||8/10|
|Maggi seasoning||Use 1/4 of the amount||8/10|
|Oyster sauce||Thin with water then replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Common uses for shoyu and the best substitutes
Here are some popular ways to use shoyu and the best substitutes for those situations:
- As a base for stir-fries, straws, and soups: Try using other soy sauce varieties, tamari, liquid aminos, or coconut aminos. Worcestershire sauce will also work, but just a heads up – it comes with a sweet-tangy kick.
- For marinades and sauces: Try using other soy sauce varieties, tamari, or Maggi seasoning.
- As a dipping sauce: Try using other soy sauce varieties, tamari, liquid aminos, or coconut aminos. You can also use oyster sauce, but you’ll have to dilute it with a splash of water.
Other soy sauce varieties
Shoyu is a variety of soy sauce, so you can easily use other varieties of soy sauce as a substitute.
I found that light Chinese soy sauce came the closest with its stark saltiness.
If you fancy a deeper, robust flavor, dark Chinese soy sauce is an excellent choice.
You can also use kecap manis if you have it on hand.
This Indonesian soy sauce is more syrupy than shoyu and has a sweeter flavor, so you’ll want to offset it with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice.
How to substitute: Replace shoyu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with light or dark Chinese soy sauce or kecap manis, depending on your taste preference.
Tamari is often confused with soy sauce, but they’re not the same.
Tamari is the by-product of making miso, which means it contains little to no wheat – making it the preferred choice for those with gluten sensitivities.
Appearance-wise, tamari looks very similar to shoyu, but there’s a noticeable difference in taste.
Tamari is less salty and offers a richer flavor than shoyu, making it an excellent option if you’re watching your sodium intake.
How to substitute: Replace shoyu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with tamari.
Liquid aminos is another gluten-free alternative for shoyu.
This soy-based product is often talked about as a milder version of soy sauce because it’s less salty.
A popular brand is Braggs, which you can find almost anywhere.
How to substitute: Replace shoyu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with liquid aminos.
Allergic to soybeans? Don’t worry, coconut aminos has your back.
It’s made from fermented coconut sap, making it soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan.
And don’t worry about it tasting like coconuts. Instead, it boasts a salty flavor similar to shoyu but with a gentle sweetness that mellows it out for a more balanced flavor.
The only downside with coconut aminos is it’s slightly pricier.
How to substitute: Replace shoyu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with coconut aminos.
Worcestershire sauce is a British condiment made with vinegar, anchovies, tamarind, molasses, and a medley of spices.
It’s got a more complex flavor than shoyu, but will still add a salty, umami flavor to your dish.
This distinct flavor was delicious with my fried rice.
Pro tip: if your recipe calls for vinegar you might want to hold back a bit so the end result isn’t too sharp.
How to substitute: Start by replacing shoyu in your recipe with half the amount of Worcestershire sauce, then adjust to taste.
Maggi seasoning is a popular liquid seasoning made from hydrolyzed vegetable protein that you can use instead of shoyu.
It saltier and has subtle hints of celery, parsley, and fennel that give it more depth and complexity than shoyu.
Once you get a taste, you might never go back to plain old soy sauce again (I take no responsibility for your addiction)!
But be aware that Maggi is very potent and the flavor is super strong, so don’t add too much.
Psst… it’s also delicious over fried eggs.
How to substitute: Replace shoyu in your recipe with 1/4 the amount of Maggi seasoning and add more to taste.
If you’re an Asian food fanatic, chances are you probably have some oyster sauce in your cupboard.
This Chinese staple comes from caramelizing oyster juices, giving it a salty flavor and subtle sweetness.
The biggest difference between oyster sauce and shoyu lies in the consistency.
Oyster sauce is thicker and more syrupy, but this didn’t really impact my fried rice.
If you need it to match Shoyu’s thinner consistency, mix it with a splash of water and you’ll be good to go.
How to substitute: Add some water to the oyster sauce until it’s as thin as shoyu, then use it to replace shoyu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio.
Other substitute to consider
The list above are my top picks for shoyu substitutes, but they’re no the only options.
All you really need is something salty that can deliver some umami.
- Salt + sugar + hot water – this mixture is not the best substitute for shoyu, but it will work if you only want to add a salty twist to your dishes. You can also add MSG powder if you have it.
- Fish sauce – this is a classic Asian condiment that’s saltier than shoyu. You only need a few drops.
- Umeboshi vinegar – this is made from the brine of pickled plums. It’s super salty with a prominent tartness.
- Teriyaki sauce – this is made from a soy sauce base, so it has similar salty notes to shoyu but with added sweetness. I would mix in a splash of vinegar.
- Dried mushrooms – dried mushrooms are chock-full of umami goodness. Dice them up super small or blend them to make a paste.
- Miso paste – this is also made from soybeans, just like shoyu. Using white miso paste will give you a milder flavor than shoyu, while red miso paste will be more intense. You can add this straight into your dishes or mix it with a splash of water first.
Avoid red wine vinegar
While I was looking for substitutes, I came across red wine vinegar as a suggestion.
But I have to disagree!
It was much too sharp and didn’t have any saltiness. Save this for your salad vinaigrettes instead.
13 Best Shoyu Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 1 tbsp other soy sauce varieties
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp liquid aminos
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos
- ½ tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp maggi seasoning
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce, mixed with a bit of water
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen shoyu substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.