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7 Soy Sauce Varieties

A spoon of soy sauce.

From Japanese shoyu to Indonesian kecap manis, soy sauce is extensively used across East and Southeast Asia. This liquid sauce, prepared from fermented soybeans and widely used in Asian cuisine, was originated by the Chinese. Learn about the five most prevalent Chinese soy sauces, as well as two other Asian soy sauces that are popular outside of China.

Types of Soy Sauce:


This is the most prevalent kind, dominated by Chinese or Japanese soy sauces, however Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean (ganjang) alternatives may be available depending on where you buy. According to Young, light soy sauce is “what we think of as standard soy sauce.” It’s also known as thin or excellent light. Traditional Chinese soy sauce is primarily or entirely made of soy, but Japanese (shoyu) soy sauce is more like half soybean, half wheat, and is sweeter (due to the wheat starch) and less salty than Chinese variations. Yan claims that light soy sauce has a lighter hue, thinner consistency, and saltier taste profile than black soy sauce. Light soy sauce is multipurpose, meaning it may be used in marinades, dipping sauces, and stir-fries, braises, and steamed foods, among other things (fish, poultry and vegetables). Young recommends not limiting the usage of this kind to Asian cuisine, as a dash of soy sauce may provide depth to a broad range of foods where salt would normally be used. Tomato sauce, soups, stews, chilli, meatballs, and meatloaf come to mind. “It combines so brilliantly,” Young explains, that you won’t even notice the soy taste.

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Dark soy sauce is darker than light soy sauce, as the name indicates. Because of the prolonged age period and the addition of caramel and occasionally molasses, it has a richer, sweeter taste. In red-cooked foods, for example, dark soy sauce is added to add taste and color to the dish. In dishes, it’s usually used in conjunction with light soy sauce. ​​​


Yan claims that this Japanese variation arose from the scraps left over after making miso paste. It’s a little thicker than light soy sauce and may be a little more complex. Tamari is a popular gluten-free soy sauce alternative, however you should always check the label since some types may contain wheat. Young uses tamari as a sushi and sashimi dipping sauce. Kikkoman’s gluten-free tamari-style sauce and San-J organic tamari are two of her favorites.


Soy sauce in various combinations with additional ingredients may be found in a variety of forms. Sweetened is one of the most common ingredients in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Its thickness ensures that rice and noodles are adequately coated. The kecap manis variant may include palm sugar as well as spices (galangal, star anise, and lemongrass). The Bango brand is recommended by Young. Other flavored versions you could come across, particularly in Asian stores, include mushroom, seafood, and chile. Yan advises making your own soy sauce using ground dried mushrooms or dried shrimp, red pepper flakes, and other seasonings.

Kecap Manis:

Kecap manis is a thick, highly sweet soy sauce that is widely used in Indonesian cookery. It’s created from fermented soybeans, palm sugar, star anise, and garlic, as well as a variety of sugars and spices. Kecap manis is a condiment as well as a culinary ingredient in Indonesian fried rice dishes like nasi goreng. You’ll see it used often in Dutch cuisine, just like that recipe. This is due to the Dutch colonization of Indonesia. If you buy a bottle of kecap manis, don’t forget to taste the pork dish babi ketjap with a Dutch satay sauce.

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Soy Sauce with Shrimp Flavor

This sort of soy sauce is popular in Eastern China, and it’s made with dried shrimp brine (dried prawns). Though you may be able to get a bottle at your local Asian goods store, it’s not that popular. It may sound self-evident, but it’s especially effective in a seafood Chinese stir-fry. It’s an excellent condiment, just like the mushroom soy sauce.

Soy Sauce with Mushroom Flavor

This black soy sauce is often flavored with dried straw mushrooms. This style is also sometimes seen with dried Chinese black mushrooms.

To impart an earthy taste to foods, mushroom soy sauce is substituted for dark soy sauce. You may use it as a replacement for dark soy sauce in any dish that calls for it. It’s very good in meals with a lot of red sauce, like soy sauce chicken with shiitake mushrooms. It also works well as a table condiment.

Soy Sauce that has been naturally brewed has a number of health benefits.

Soy sauce on a white background.

Activity against platelets

Platelet aggregation is inhibited by numerous components found in soy sauce, including various beta-carbolines. As a result, the usage of NBSS may aid in the prevention of clot formation.

Effect on hypertension

Nicotianamine is a component of NBSS that inhibits the angiotensinogen-I converting enzyme, which is important for raising vascular tone. This might be one reason why, despite its salty flavor and high salt content, NBSS use does not raise blood pressure.

Properties that are anti-allergenic:

Soy sauce was discovered to have anti-allergenic qualities in a 2005 review published in the “Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering.” Shoyu polysaccharides, which are formed during the fermentation process used to manufacture soy sauce, were shown to have powerful anti-allergic properties in a cell-line investigation. In a human trial, people with allergies who consumed soy sauce improved better than those who took a placebo. The researchers found that soy sauce had a lot of potential in treating allergies, but further research was required.

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Properties of antioxidants:

The “Journal of Bisoscience and Bioengineering” released a study of numerous research on soy sauce in 2005, and discovered that it was rich in shoyuflavones, a natural antioxidant. Natural antioxidants protect your body from free radical damage, which occurs naturally while your body digests food. Free radicals have been shown to hasten the ageing process and increase your risk of heart disease and cancer. The review’s author found that the antioxidants in soy sauce helped decrease inflammation while also improving total stomach acid production, which aided digestion. Furthermore, soy sauce’s antibacterial capabilities were proven to be beneficial in protecting the body from specific microorganisms.

Sodium-rich food:

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 1-teaspoon serving of soy sauce (commonly known as tamari) contains 335 milligrams of sodium. While sodium is an important element that is necessary for fundamental biological activities such as nerve transmission and blood pressure regulation, the daily sodium limit for adults is 2,300 milligrams. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, are African American, or are 51 or older, your daily dose reduces to 1,500 mg.

Activity against mutagenesis:

Long-term users of NBSS have been proven to be protected against prostate, breast, and endometrial malignancies. It slows the development of tumors in mice, a conclusion that has been confirmed in several investigations.

Anti-inflammatory properties:

Inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, is defined by symptoms emerging from persistent gastrointestinal tract inflammation and affects as many as 1 in 1000 people in Western countries. Under other animal investigations, soy sauce was observed to block the shortening and thickening of the colon wall in comparable generated gut inflammatory circumstances. This is due to isoflavone activity in NBSS causing a reduction in proinflammatory cytokines, which is part of its anticolitic effectiveness. The concentrations of these chemicals rise as a result of fermentation.

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Phytic acid, isoflavones, and protease inhibitors are among the beneficial chemicals found in NBSS. The glycosides daidzein, genistein, and glycitein are all soy isoflavones. Sugars are added to the basic isoflavones daidzin, genistin, and glycitin during fermentation to produce these. Free daidzein and genistein concentrations are 0.9–23.5 mcg/g and 2.8–17.9 mcg/g, respectively. Phytophenols are also elevated as a result of this process. At a dosage of 4 mL/kg of FSS, the anticolitic action is at its peak. The salt in the sauce is considered to impede the full efficacy of the condiment at greater levels, but at this quantity, it may be used as a salt alternative as a food flavoring.


NBSS promotes digestion by increasing stomach acid output while inhibiting inflammatory alterations. It also helps to lower the amount of pathogenic and non-pathogenic Escherichia coli, vibrio cholerae, and salmonella strains in the stomach and intestine.

Lower sodium content (without any compromise on taste):

A variety of sushi on a white plate with a soy sauce dip on the side.

Because of the rich flavor of soy sauce, less is needed to achieve the same taste profile as table salt. This implies that, despite its high sodium level, it may help you maintain a healthy sodium intake. Because most Americans consume too much salt, substituting soy sauce for sodium may help you lower your daily sodium intake without sacrificing flavor. Despite the fact that the overall sodium level of the meal was lowered, a 2009 study published in the “Journal of Dish Science” indicated that replacing organically brewed soy sauce for table salt did not affect the intensity of the food’s flavor. There was a 50% reduction in salt in several items with no obvious flavor difference.

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To sum up, not only is soy sauce incredibly delicious, but it is also available in so many different types, and even offers a wide range of health benefits.