15 Best Soy Sauce Options for Your Pantry: 2021 Edition

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Kaye Published: July 26, 2021 Modified: September 22, 2021
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Soy sauce (also called soya sauce) is a popular dipping sauce for sushi and dishes like zucchini sushi rolls. You can also stir it into your savory recipes to give them a boost of umami flavor. But what is it, exactly? Aside from fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and sesame oil, this one is another Asian condiment that’s a must-have in your pantry! The best soy sauce is typically made of fermented soybeans with other basic ingredients, which include wheat and saltwater brine. No animal product is used in this condiment, hence it’s a good vegan flavoring ingredient too!

So, interested in buying one for your cooking? Then continue reading to discover our top picks for this Asian condiment this year. We’ve also answered some of the most frequently asked questions about this condiment below, as well as a few tips on how to choose the best type.

Spices are also a staple in Asian cuisine. Find the best tool for them with these Spice Grinders: Why You Need One and Our Top 12 Picks.

The Best Soy Sauce Options At A Glance

Pouring soy sauce into saucer

Best Overall: Kikkoman Japan Made

A best-selling product from one of the best soy sauce brands in the world.

Best Dark: Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark

Dark sauce with a full-bodied taste and color.

Best Light: Pearl River Bridge Golden Label Superior Light

Flavorful condiment from Southern China.

Best Low Sodium: Kikkoman Lite

Rich-tasting sauce with less sodium.

Best Sweet: Kecap Manis by ABC

Indonesian condiment with palm sugar as a natural sweetener.

Best Japanese (Shoyu): Yamaroku Shoyu Pure Artisan Dark Sweet Japanese Premium Gourmet Barrel Aged “Tsuru Bisiho”

A luxurious Japanese sauce produced by artisans.

Best Chinese: Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce 

Mellow-tasting brew with a reddish-amber hue.

Best Tamari: San-J Tamari

Gluten-free condiments with an elevated umami taste.

Best Korean (Ganjang): Sempio Jin S 

Less salty condiment made with defatted soybeans.

Best Thai: Best of Thailand Premium Lite and Low Sodium 

A condiment pair for your Thai recipes.

Best Thick: Kimlan Soy Paste

Soy glaze with a more viscous consistency.

Best Organic: Kikkoman Organic Soy Sauce 

Condiment made with all organic ingredients.

Best Mushroom: Pearl River Bridge Mushroom Flavored Superior Dark

Type of dark Chinese sauce with mushroom extract.

Best Gluten Free: Lee Kum Kee Gluten Free Soy Sauce 

Rich-flavored sauce replacement for a gluten-free diet.

Best Substitute: Better Body Foods Organic Coconut Aminos

The best tasting soy sauce alternative made with coconut nectar and salt.

Best Soy Sauce Options This 2021

To select the items for this list, we took into consideration the brand reputation, product characteristics, and overall customer reviews of each product. Check out this section for a more in-depth review of our top picks this year!

Best Overall

Kikkoman Japan Made

Kikkoman soy sauce

This best-selling product is the best soy sauce brand to get for your all-around needs. With only four ingredients, this Kikkoman product manages to strike a balance between flavors. It has a salty and umami quality, but with hints of sweetness, bitterness, and a bit of tang. It’s carefully brewed using the traditional “hojonzo” Japanese method. Also, since it isn’t infused with coloring agents unlike other sauces, it has a naturally clear and reddish-brown hue. 

What We Like:

  • Complex flavor
  • No coloring additives
  • Naturally produced

What We Don’t Like:

  • Flavor may be too strong for some

Buy the Kikkoman Japan Made on Amazon.

Best Dark

Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark

Lee Kum Kee dark soy sauce

This Lee Kum Kee product is the best dark variant that you can get for fried rice and dips like an Asian soy mirin marinade perhaps. It’s a mixture of soybeans and wheat flour, but with a caramel color additive, flavor enhancers, and preservatives to extend its shelf life. All in all, it has a rich color and a full-bodied flavor that you’d want from a black soy sauce

What We Like:

  • Inexpensive
  • Full-bodied taste and color

What We Don’t Like:

  • Fragile glass bottle

Buy the Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark on Amazon. 

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Best Light

Pearl River Bridge Golden Label Superior Light

Pearl River Bridge soy sauce

If you’re looking for the best light variant for stir fry and other recipes, you don’t need to go further than this product by Pearl River Bridge. Naturally produced in the Southern part of China, this condiment doesn’t contain any artificial colors and it only has a minimal amount of preservative. As a result, it has a deep savory flavor with intense saltiness and a sweet finish. 

What We Like:

  • Naturally produced
  • No coloring additives

What We Don’t Like:

  • May be too salty for some

Buy the Pearl River Bridge Golden Label Superior Light on Amazon.

Best Low Sodium

Kikkoman Lite

Kikkoman Lite 

Trying to limit your salt intake? That’s not a problem with this low-sodium product: Kikkoman Lite. It undergoes the same brewing method as the regular kind, but roughly 40 percent of salt is taken out of the condiment before bottling. You can expect a somewhat similar profile, but with less guilt. It’s the best brand to use for whipping up miso salmon with sake butter and other Asian (or Western) dishes.

What We Like:

  • Naturally produced
  • Good flavor

What We Don’t Like:

  • Seal could be improved

Buy the Kikkoman Lite on Amazon.

Best Sweet

ABC Kecap Manis

ABC Kecap Manis

Dark sweet soy sauce is a staple in Indonesian cuisine, and kecap manis produced by the ABC brand is a tough one to beat. Compared to the regular kind, the ingredients of this product is pretty much the same (with the addition of palm sugar). As a result, it has a thicker consistency and a sweet and salty flavor. It’s the best sweet type to use for these sticky and saccharin honey sesame chicken wings.

What We Like:

  • No coloring additives
  • Available in packs

What We Don’t Like:

  • Cap and seal could be improved

Buy the ABC Kecap Manis on Amazon.

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Best Japanese (Shoyu)

Yamaroku Shoyu Pure Artisan Dark Sweet Japanese Premium Gourmet Barrel Aged 4 Year “Tsuru Bishio”

Yamaroku “Tsuru Bishio” shoyu 

This Yamaroku condiment called “Tsuru Bishio” is an aged shoyu that is carefully produced by artisans on the Japanese island of Shikoku. What is shoyu sauce, you ask? It’s actually just an umbrella term for soy sauce in Japan. This particular one comes with a hefty price tag since it’s considered as one of the best Japanese soy sauce types in the world. Reserve this luxurious condiment for special occasions, or use it to make the tastiest shoyu ramen. Its full-bodied umami flavor makes it the best kind for sushi too! 

Expand your ramen knowledge with these 40 Best Ramen Toppings for Your Homemade Noodle Soup.

What We Like:

  • Artisanal quality
  • Naturally made

What We Don’t Like:

  • Pricey

Buy the Yamaroku Shoyu Pure Artisan Dark Sweet Japanese Premium Gourmet Barrel Aged 4 Year “Tsuru Bisiho” on Amazon.

Best Chinese

Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce

Lee Kum Kee premium soy sauce

This premium Lee Kum Kee condiment is the best Chinese soy sauce for cooking a batch of pork lo mein. Made from premium ingredients, this mellow-tasting brew is an elevated and unique rendition of the brand’s traditional flavor. In terms of appearance, its reddish-amber hue sets it apart from the rest.

Find out more about the famous Chinese noodles in this article on Chow Mein vs Lo Mein: How Exactly Are They Different?.

What We Like:

  • Good for all-around use
  • Available in packs

What We Don’t Like:

  • Package for shipping could be improved

Buy the Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce on Amazon.

Best Tamari

San-J Tamari

San-J Tamari soy sauce

Tamari is a type of Japanese soy sauce that is also very popular among Asian cuisine enthusiasts. The main difference between tamari and the regular soy sauce is in the brewing process and overall flavor. Since it doesn’t contain wheat, it’s gluten-free. It also tastes less salty with a heightened umami quality. Use this tamari soy sauce brew for dipping, marinating, and even as a dressing for a bowl of healthy kale salad!

What We Like:

  • No coloring additive
  • Gluten-free

What We Don’t Like:

  • Package for shipping could be improved

Buy the San-J Tamari on Amazon.

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Best Korean (Ganjang)

Sempio Jin S

Sempio Korean soy sauceHave a full-blown Korean gastronomic experience by using this Sempio product in making this Korean ground beef recipe. Compared to others, this product uses soybeans that have been drained of fat. It also contains additional ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, so you can expect that this condiment has a different flavor overall. Give your dishes a rich umami boost that isn’t overly salty with this Korean soy sauce.

What We Like:

  • No coloring additive
  • Available in packs

What We Don’t Like:

  • Might be a bit salty for some

Buy the Sempio Jin S on Amazon.

Best Thai

Best of Thailand Premium Lite and Low Sodium

Best of Thailand soy sauce

This Thai soy sauce is light, dark, and the perfect accompaniment to your favorite Thai recipes. Since this is a low-sodium version, you can already expect that this condiment won’t be very salty. It also contains additional ingredients like vinegar that impart a more-than-welcome tangy quality. These Best of Thailand sauces are best for marinades because they are more viscous than the regular kind.

Get inspired with these 60 Easy Thai Recipes for a Spicy Home Feast.

What We Like:

  • Squeezable bottle
  • Less sodium

What We Don’t Like:

  • Taste may be too mild for some

Buy the Best of Thailand Premium Dark Soy Sauce Lite and Low Sodium on Amazon.

Best Thick

Kimlan Soy Paste

Kimlan soy paste

Would you like to use something more viscous for your best chicken recipe? You might appreciate this thick soy sauce produced by Kimlan! Aside from the basic ingredients, this soy paste also contains sugar as an additional flavoring ingredient. Naturally sticky rice and starch are stirred into the sweet and savory mixture, giving this soy glaze just the right amount of thickness.

What We Like:

  • No coloring additive
  • Naturally produced

What We Don’t Like:

  • Quite pricey for the size

Buy the Kimlan Soy Paste on Amazon.

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Best Organic

Kikkoman Organic Soy Sauce

Kikkoman organic soy sauce

This Kikkoman product is the best organic variant that you can use for this grilled portobello mushroom dish. First of all, it contains nothing more than the four basic ingredients: organic soybeans and wheat, water, and salt. Naturally fermented for six months, the mixture achieves a full-bodied umami flavor that would work well with any dish that calls for the ingredient.

What We Like:

  • Naturally produced
  • No preservatives
  • No coloring additives

What We Don’t Like:

  • May be too salty for some

Buy the Kikkoman Organic Soy Sauce on Amazon.

Best Mushroom

Pearl River Bridge Mushroom Flavored Superior Dark

Pearl River Bridge mushroom soy sauce

Like other types produced by the brand, this Pearl River Bridge mushroom variant is naturally produced in the south of China. What truly sets it apart from the rest is the addition of mushroom extract to the mixture. On the whole, it has a deep reddish-brown color, a sweet and salty taste, and an umami finish.

What We Like:

  • No coloring additives
  • Naturally produced

What We Don’t Like:

  • Leaky caps

Buy the Pearl River Bridge Mushroom Flavored Superior Dark on Amazon.

Best Gluten Free

Lee Kum Kee Gluten Free Soy Sauce

Lee Kum Kee soy sauce

You don’t have to sacrifice your gluten-free diet for flavor with this Lee Kum Kee sauce. Despite not containing wheat, it still has the same full-bodied salty and umami kick that’s present in regular kinds. This feat puts it on top of our best gluten-free soy sauce options this year. Use it for stir-fried recipes or experiment with other dishes, like in this broccoli salad with peanut butter sauce.

What We Like:

  • Rich taste
  • No preservatives
  • No coloring additives

What We Don’t Like:

  • Quite pricey

Buy the Lee Kum Kee Gluten Free Soy Sauce on Amazon.

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Best Substitute

Better Body Foods Organic Coconut Aminos

Better Body Foods coconut aminos

For a soy-free condiment with a similar flavor profile, this best-selling coconut amino product is the best dark soy sauce substitute to get. Made of coconut blossom nectar and Himalayan salt, you can guarantee that it’s organic, vegan-friendly, and non-GMO. You can also use this sweet and briny soy-free soy sauce alternative in chicken-asparagus stir fry and other recipes you’re looking to cut down on your sodium intake.

What We Like:

  • Organic ingredients
  • Less sodium

What We Don’t Like:

  • May be too sugary for some

Buy the Better Body Foods Coconut Aminos on Amazon.

What to Look For in the Best Soy Sauce

Soy sauce dip with sushi and wasabi on the side

So, what is the best soy sauce? It really depends on your personal needs. To determine which one is right for you, consider these factors:

Type

There are many types of soy sauce produced in different parts of the world. These styles often have distinct characteristics and flavor profiles that make them stand out from the rest. Chinese style is the most common and these are often lighter in color. 

Meanwhile, the standard Japanese shoyu is darker and it’s most sought after for sushi and other dishes that hail from the same country. You can find different versions of this, such as usukuchi and koikuchi. Korean soy sauce isn’t as salty, while Thai versions often have a thicker consistency. For a soy-less substitute, you may opt for liquid aminos.

Aging (Lightness and Darkness)

What is the difference between light and dark soy sauce? Generally, light ones (also called white) are aged for a relatively short time period, while dark (also called black soy sauce) types are those that are aged longer. Although, some types contain color additives so they may be darker in appearance. The typical aging period of soy sauce is around five to eight months. 

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Sodium Content

For one, there really is a substantial amount of sodium in soy sauce. After all, salt is a basic ingredient in the condiment. But if you’re looking to cut down on this, you can consider low-sodium or sodium-free soy sauce alternatives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is soy sauce made?

Typically, a naturally-produced type is brewed by combining soaked soybeans and roasted wheat with a type of mold to start the fermentation process and break down the grains into amino acids (which are responsible for the sauce’s dark color).  Then, the fermented soybeans mixture is stirred together with brine or salt water and left to age for about six to eight months. Lactic acid is also produced in the process, giving the condiment the complex flavor that it’s well-known for.

Preservatives such as sodium benzoate, flavor enhancers like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and/or coloring additives may also be incorporated into the mixture. Lastly, the fermented product is pressed to remove solids.

Does soy sauce go bad?

Yes, although this rarely happens. If unopened, the condiment would stay good for an indefinite amount of time. Meanwhile, opened bottles of fermented soy sauce typically last for two to three years when opened. Since it has a high amount of salt, you don’t really need to refrigerate it.

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What type of soy sauce do Japanese and Chinese restaurants use?

Typically, commercial establishments use all-purpose types that can be used for all kinds of needs. These can be as ingredients for recipes, and/or as a dipping condiment to add before eating.

Is soy sauce healthy?

This condiment is a good source of antioxidants and probiotics that promote gut health. However, it has its drawbacks too. Since it contains a substantial amount of salt, it may be a potential risk for those with high blood pressure and other salt-related conditions. Low-sodium versions are a good compromise for this. Traditional types may also contain wheat which isn’t safe for those who are allergic to gluten. For this, you may go for gluten-free alternatives.

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Kaye

Kaye is a writer and a recent oat milk convert. With a background in Language Studies, she has founded a deep appreciation of cultures, traditions, and the power of words. In her spare time, she enjoys testing some of the trendiest and most accessible recipes on the internet.

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