All You Need to Know About Dark Soy Sauce Substitutes

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Dark soy sauce is one of so many soy sauce variations that currently exist today. Even though dark soy sauce originated from Asian cuisine, it has become one of the most popular condiments around the world today.

Keep reading to find out what dark soy sauce is, what dishes suit dark soy sauce best, the differences between dark and light Soy sauces, and substitutes for dark soy sauce.

What is Dark Soy Sauce?

Dark Soy sauce is an indispensable part of Chinese cuisine. It is thick, dark, and slightly sweeter than regular soy sauce. Some dark soy sauces also have mushrooms infused, giving them a unique taste.

Dark soy sauce is mainly used for cooking, whether as a marinade for chicken and beef or as a glaze.

It is also a great way to add a darker color to foods and make them look more inviting.

Light Soy sauce vs. Dark Soy Sauce

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There are so many differences between light and dark soy sauces. Let's explore them here.

Soy sauce is made by soaking, grinding up, and cooking soybeans, wheat, brine, and a mold known as Koji and then left to ferment.

The production of Light Soy sauce comes from the first pressing of the fermented soybeans, which is why it has a lighter color and fainter taste than dark soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is obtained from the second fermentation process of the soybeans, giving it a thicker texture and a more intense flavor.

Regular soy sauce has a thin consistency, which makes it an ideal choice for a dipping sauce. Dark soy sauce, on the other hand, is a thicker sauce, making it an excellent addition when cooking.

You can use Light Soy sauce to add soy sauce to dishes while retaining the original color and flavor of the food, while dark soy sauce gives dishes a darker color and more intense flavor.


Dark soy sauce contains a higher salt content than its lighter counterpart. However, it tastes as though it has less salt than light Soy sauce. The reason for the taste is that the dark soy sauce has a more robust flavor which can mask the saltiness.

Is Dark Soy Sauce Healthy for Everyone?

The nutritional value for a tablespoonful of dark soy sauce is as follows:

Calories: 8.5

Sodium: 879 mg


Total Carbohydrates: 0.8g

Dietary Fiber: 0.1g

High Sodium Content

Dark soy sauce has a minimal amount of cholesterol and calories; however, it has a very high sodium content. Since dark soy sauce contains high sodium, it will not be healthy for hypertensive or heart disease patients.

Soy Allergies

Another reason people may not use dark soy sauce in their dishes is soy allergies. Soy allergy is one of the most common allergies in the United States and could cause symptoms like runny nose, difficulties in breathing, redness of the skin, or swelling in some parts of the body.

Artificial Production Processes

Dark soy sauce is traditionally made naturally - with fermentation periods lasting about eight months or more before being packaged and sold.

However, with the increase in the popularity of dark soy sauce, faster and cheaper fermentation methods have been introduced in producing soy sauce. To do this, companies add chemicals to hasten up the fermentation process, which causes the soy sauce to look and taste inferior. To further improve the look and taste, those companies usually add additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) to enhance the color and flavor.

According to experts, the addition of these chemicals may lead to medical issues like cancer, tumors, and infertility from tests done on animals. However, there is little evidence about its impact on humans.

Substitutes for Dark Soy Sauce

If you can't use dark soy sauce in your dishes, whether for health reasons or any other reason, don't worry!

Here are five sauces you can use as substitutes for dark soy sauce and still prepare your mouth-watering dishes.

Worcestershire Sauce

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Worcestershire sauce is a condiment made from fermented vinegar, garlic, onion, tamarind, anchovies, and molasses. It is used as a condiment and a marinade or brushed onto your fish, chicken, or beef, which makes it a great alternative to dark soy sauce if you are allergic to soy.

There are various brands of Worcestershire sauce which could be low sodium, vegan or vegetarian options, or gluten-free options made with white vinegar instead of malt vinegar.

Using Worcestershire sauce in your dishes as a dark soy sauce substitute will give you that unique umami flavor, the secret kick your food needs.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut Aminos are another excellent dark soy sauce substitute in the kitchen. It is made from the nectar of the coconut palm tree and fermented with soil to create a dark brown, thin liquid sauce. Coconut aminos are different from coconut oil.

Unlike dark soy sauce, coconut aminos contain a lot less sodium while still providing that umami to dishes, so it is an excellent option for people with heart-related health problems. It's also suitable for people who are allergic to soy.

You can use coconut aminos as a dipping sauce or a glaze for your food.

Teriyaki Sauce

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Teriyaki sauce is made from a soy base, with the addition of other ingredients like vinegar, wine, honey or corn syrup, ginger, and garlic. It has a deep glossy color that pops when you add it to your dishes, much like dark soy sauce.

You can use teriyaki sauce as a glaze for meat and fish to substitute for dark soy sauce. It is also famous as an addition to the ground beef in a burger.

Teriyaki sauce contains soy, so it may not be ideal for people allergic to soy; however, it has about 25 percent less sodium than dark soy sauce.

Oyster Sauce

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Oyster sauce is a delicious sauce produced from oysters, salt, sugar, and wheat flour. The vegetarian version contains soybeans in place of oysters. The naturally made oyster sauce does not taste like fish; instead, it has a slightly sweet and salty taste.

Oyster sauce is an excellent sauce for marinating, stir-frying, and glazing. You can also drizzle iron Chinese broccoli or steamed veggies.


Dark Soy sauce is that secret ingredient that transforms an "okay" dish into a "wow" dish. Here, we've discussed what dark soy sauce contains and listed the differences between it and its counterpart, light Soy sauce.

We also listed four dark soy sauce substitutes that you can enjoy if you can't use dark soy sauce in your dishes.


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