Popular in Chinese and Japanese cuisine, soy sauce is a dark-colored condiment made with fermented soybeans, grain, brine, and a type of fungus. As emphasized by its name, dark soy sauce is darker, thicker, and sweeter than light soy sauce.
While dark soy sauce is common, and in some kitchens considered a necessity, there may come a time when you need a suitable substitute.
The best substitutes for dark soy sauce are teriyaki sauce, oyster sauce, light soy sauce, and coconut aminos. You can also make a version of your own dark soy sauce as detailed below.
There are a number of other condiments that are similar to dark soy sauce and work as good alternatives. Let’s get into it!
1. Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki sauce is another sauce commonly found in Chinese cuisine. While soy is a key ingredient, teriyaki sauce also usually contains a sweetener, such as sugar, along with ground ginger and either sake or mirin.
Teriyaki sauce has a flavor comparable to that of soy sauce – salty, and a little bit sweet. Given the extra ingredients, it’s slightly on the thicker side. Teriyaki sauce is a great dark soy sauce alternative, whether it’s used as a condiment, marinade, or ingredient. You can use plum sauce as a substitute as well.
2. Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce is a condiment made from oyster extracts, salt, sugar, water, and corn starch. It’s used in many dishes derived from China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
Oyster sauce was the result of a 19th chef, Lee Kum Sheung, accidentally overcooking his oysters. Lucky for us, the result was a delicious, salty condiment that became wildly popular all over the globe.
While oyster sauce has a different flavor profile than dark soy sauce, it still works well as a substitute. Not to mention, it adds wonderful rich color to any food you cook with!
3. Light Soy Sauce
Light soy sauce is, you guessed it, a lighter and slightly more delicate version of dark soy sauce. It’s a great salty alternative to dark soy sauce if you’re looking for something quick and easy.
Dark soy sauce is typically sweeter than light soy sauce, so if you do end up using light soy sauce, you may want to add a sweetener to your dish to balance things out.
4. Coconut Aminos
Popular with those who have a soy allergy, coconut aminos are a soy-free alternative made from coconut tree sap.
Coconut aminos are a great alternative to dark soy sauce, too, for anyone watching their sodium intake, as the sauce contains less sodium than soy sauce and the majority of alternatives.
It is expensive and hard to find, but if you try it, you’ll love it!
How to Make Your Own Dark Soy Sauce
Stuck on the flavor of dark soy sauce, but can’t find any? You can easily make your own homemade version! You will need regular or light soy sauce, but you can also water down a teriyaki sauce for the same effect.
- 1 cup regular or light soy sauce
- ½ cup molasses or ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- Using a small saucepan, heat your sugar and water over high heat. Stir until your sugar is dissolved, or there is a silky smooth texture if using molasses. Reduce your heat to medium-low.
- When your syrup mixture gets to a dark brown color, after 4-5 minutes, slowly pour in your soy sauce. Stir to combine.
- Let your sauce cool completely before using
In an airtight container, homemade soy sauce can keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Is Hoisin Sauce a Good Dark Soy Sauce Alternative?
Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet, and slightly spicy sauce used in many East Asian cuisines. While hoisin sauce can be used as an alternative to dark soy sauce, keep in mind that the flavor profile and texture of hoisin sauce are completely different from those of dark soy sauce.
Besides the color, there are a few differences between light and dark soy sauce.
Light soy sauce has 7.3% sodium (salt content) whereas dark soy sauce has 9.3% sodium content.
Light soy sauce is lighter in color and consistency than dark soy sauce. It usually does not give much color to the food being cooked with it.
Despite light soy sauce having a lower sodium percentage than dark soy sauce, it actually tastes saltier! This is because there is more of a soy flavor in dark soy sauce than in light soy sauce.