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Tamari Substitute


Here is a tamari substitute list for when you can’t get ahold of any tamari bottles at the local grocery store. There are a few different ways that you can substitute this delicious and thick sauce in your recipes.

table top with two bottles labeled "tamari soy sauce" and small glass dish filled with dark brown liquid

What Is Tamari?

Tamari is a soy sauce that is made with fermented soybeans, wheat, and salt. It’s one of the many Japanese soy sauces available on the market. This sauce is also known as dark soy sauce.

Tamari sauce is different than regular soy sauce in that the texture and color are much thicker and richer. This sauce provides a rich, umami flavor to any dish.

Creating tamari is a much easier process than soy sauce as it is the runoff from miso paste. The sauce is collected as it oozes out of the miso paste. Generally, it’s mainly made from soybeans, though some companies add preservatives.

This Japanese sauce is ideal for savory dishes that require a thicker consistency, like dips and sauces. Tamari sauce is also excellent for flavoring stir-fry.

Tamari Varieties

There are a few different varieties of tamari available, including wheat-free options and those with wheat included. There is no separate name for each of these beyond wheat-free or with wheat inclusions. While tamari doesn’t need to contain wheat, it is done so for flavoring purposes. It alters the taste to be closer to soy sauce with a slightly sweet flavor.

Both types are found at the grocery store. Those who follow a gluten-free diet should read the labels carefully as the inclusion of wheat changes from brand to brand.

There is also a low sodium variety of tamari available. Generally, the flavor will be the same with low sodium tamari. This option works well for those who need to consume less salt for dietary purposes.

Tamari Substitutes and Alternatives

1. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is one of the best substitutes for tamari. It’s also created from soybeans, so similar flavor notes will be present. However, soy sauce includes the addition of wheat during the processing phase, creating a sharper flavor than tamari provides.

When using soy sauce as a swap, the salty flavor is still present in recipes. This widely used replacement works in any recipe that calls for tamari. Keep in mind; this option is not gluten-free.

Pros

This tamari sauce substitute provides a similar flavor. Plus, soy sauce is versatile, so you can use it for any recipe that requires tamari.

Cons

Soy sauce offers more of a salty flavor, so you may need to alter any additional salt in the recipe. You’ll also find that soy sauce has a slight sweetness that is not present in tamari.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:2 ratio to substitute tamari with soy sauce. Add more if needed.

2. Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is a widely available tamari substitute that provides a sweet and salty taste. Since this sauce is made from fermented fish, expect a fishy taste. This condiment unline tamari has a bolder flavor, so it’s best in small doses. Fish sauce is an excellent addition to cooking if you don’t mind the extra fish flavor present.

Pros

The fish sauce provides a complex flavor to recipes. Use this tamari replacement in salad dressing, stir-fries, marinades, stews, and other similar dishes.

Cons

Fish sauce has a more pungent taste than umami, so it is easy to go overboard with this flavoring agent, causing an unpleasant flavor. Ensure you add this sauce in slowly for the best results.

Cooking Tip:

To substitute for tamari start with a 1:2 ratio, then adjust as needed.

3. Miso Paste

As tamari is a by-product of this paste, you can bet some flavors are the same. There are multiple varieties of miso paste available, though white miso and mixed miso will provide the closest flavor match. Avoid red miso, if possible, as it has a much saltier flavor.

Use miso paste in stews, soups, and salad dressings. As it has a thicker consistency, this paste does well with recipes with higher liquid content.

Pros

Miso paste is an excellent source of umami flavors for recipes. It also provides a richness that not many other tamari replacements offer.

Cons

If you’re using miso paste for flavoring noodle or rice dishes, you will need to alter the paste in a 1:2 ratio with water. This alteration adds a step to recipes.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio with the altered paste.

4. Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos are another good tamari sauce substitute. They have a thinner consistency, like soy sauce, making a great replacement in marinades and soups.

Expect a delicious umami taste when using this swap. You’ll also find coconut aminos have a much sweeter flavor than tamari, so there may be a noticeable taste difference in specific recipes.

Pros

This swap is another excellent option that offers a delicious meaty taste, like tamari. It’s an excellent soy-free option for those who have dietary restrictions.

Cons

Because of the sweeter, less salty flavor, and lighter texture, the uses for coconut aminos are limited.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing tamari with coconut aminos.

5. Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos are similar to coconut aminos in flavor, though they offer a milder taste. As they are less salty and only slightly sweet, liquid aminos have a closer flavor to tamari than coconut aminos.

You can use liquid aminos for various dishes, including rice and noodle recipes, along with meat marinades and salad dressings. This option is much pricier than tamari at the grocery store, so it is not a good swap for everyone’s budget.

Pros

This swap provides a similar flavor in dishes.

Cons

Liquid aminos can be challenging to find.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio for this tamari alternative.

6. Worcestershire Sauce

Like the above options, Worcestershire sauce is another good substitute for tamari sauce because of the flavor that it presents. However, it also presents a tangy, spicy taste in dishes.

You can use Worcestershire for flavoring marinades, soups, stews, and salad dressings. This replacement option also works best for meat and seafood dishes.

Pros

Many people already have this kitchen staple in their homes, making it an easily accessible option. It offers a complex, bold flavor to recipes.

Cons

Due to a thinner consistency, Worcestershire is not a good alternative for all recipes that call for tamari.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace tamari with Worcestershire.

7. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar offers a bold flavor as well. It also provides a richness not found in all swaps, along with a slightly thicker consistency. Other flavors that are present include fruitiness and smokiness.

Pros

This vinegar is easy to find in local grocery stores, though most people already have some in their kitchen, making for an easy swap. Balsamic vinegar provides a rich, meaty taste like umami, making it a great replacement in salad dressings and meat marinades.

Cons

While it does offer some flavor notes present in tamari, this vinegar has much tangier, acidic flavors. This taste profile limits the recipes that you can use this substitute.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a 1:2 ratio and increase as needed.

8. Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is salty, sweet, thick, and full of umami flavor. This sauce does not provide a bold fishy flavor compared to fish sauce. Instead, it offers a light seawater taste that accents the complex flavor found.

This sauce makes the best substitute in Asian dishes because of its versatility. Use oyster sauce for any recipe, from stir-fries to marinades and seasoning for vegetables.

Pros

Using this tamari replacement offers complex savory flavors to any dish. It’s an easy-to-find alternative with many uses.

Cons

There will be a difference in taste when using oyster sauce over tamari due to the sweetness and “oyster” flavor present. While you can use this swap for many dishes, it’s not a perfect replacement, so it will not bode well with all dishes.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio when swapping oyster sauce for tamari.

9. Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce is another great option when considering the best sub for tamari. It is much sweeter, though subtle umami flavors are present. Since this sauce is thicker, you can use it for multiple recipes, including a marinade or flavoring agent for meat, stir-fry, and noodle/rice dishes.

While teriyaki provides a much different flavor to dishes, it is still a good swap. Expect a noticeable flavor and consistency difference when using this replacement.

Pros

This sauce swap is thicker, like tamari, and provides a similar flavor. Use this sauce to flavor salmon, chicken, and noodle dishes.

Cons

There is a distinct flavor and consistency when using this sauce. Because of this, teriyaki is not a perfect match for all recipes that require tamari.

Cooking Tip:

Use a 1:1 ratio to replace tamari with teriyaki sauce.

10. Hoisin Sauce

As hoisin sauce is also made from soybeans, you can expect similarities in flavor when using this tamari alternative. Hoisin sauce provides a sweet, tangy, spicy, umami flavor.

Use this replacement for tamari for marinating meat, seafood, and poultry. Hoisin has a more pungent taste than tamari, so you’ll want to use a smaller quantity.

Pros

Besides sharing an umami flavor, hoisin also provides richness to dishes. Use hoisin for a similar thicker consistency and complex taste.

Cons

Because of its strong flavor, hoisin is limited to marinading various protein sources.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a 1:2 ratio and increase the quantity to your flavor preference.

11. Umeboshi Vinegar

This vinegar, made from pickled plums, provides a salty, sweet, tangy, meaty taste. While not a perfect flavor match, it does offer some of the flavor notes present in tamari.

Use umeboshi vinegar to enhance fish recipes and salad dressings. However, it’s too thin to use for sauces and dips.

Pros

Umeboshi vinegar provides a similar flavor found in tamari. It offers a delicious fruity taste to veggie-based meals like salads and steamed veggies.

Cons

This vinegar is much saltier than tamari, so it is easy to use too much and create an overly salty dish. This option is challenging to find in stores unless you live near an Asian market.

Cooking Tip:

Start with a 1:3 ratio and adjust as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Tamari vs Soy sauce

Soy sauce has a much thinner consistency than tamari because it arises from wheat and fermented soybeans. Tamari is generally made from fermented soybeans creating a darker, thicker, more decadent sauce.

Can I Use Soy Sauce Instead of Tamari?

You can use standard soy sauce to replace tamari in any recipe that calls for tamari. Remember that soy sauce is saltier and sweeter, so there will be a slight taste difference. However, the umami flavor makes soy sauce one of the best tamari substitutes.

Can I Use Worcestershire Instead of Tamari?

Yes, Worcestershire is another good replacement for tamari. This replacement offers an umami flavor and is ideal for replacing tamari in marinades. There is a thinner consistency with Worcestershire sauce, so it will not be a good swap for dips or sauces that are meant to be thicker.

What Ingredients Are in Tamari Soy Sauce?

Tamari soy sauce generally only contains soybeans, water, salt, and alcohol for some brands. The alcohol is used only to preserve the sauce and offer a longer shelf life. The ingredients will vary depending on the brand.

Summary

All of the above tamari substitutes provide a delicious umami taste to recipes. It’s important to consider the consistency and additional flavor notes before using one of these options.

Soy sauce remains the top substitute option. If you’re reaching for an alternative and aren’t sure which to choose, this will be your best bet. Plus, you likely have soy sauce in your fridge or pantry already.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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