Dark soy sauce is a dark brown sauce used to season and add a rich mahogany color to dishes. This sauce is thicker, less salty, and slightly sweeter than regular soy sauce. Dark-colored soy sauce is used to flavor stir-fries, noodles, soups, sauces, and meat dishes.
The best substitutes for dark soy sauce are tamari, light soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, oyster sauce, coconut aminos, mushroom flavored soy sauce, hoisin sauce, miso paste, and Worcestershire sauce. These replacements have similar textures, flavors, and coloring properties as dark soy sauce.
Best Substitute for Dark Soy Sauce: Tamari
The best substitute for dark soy sauce is tamari. Tamari is a Japanese-style soy sauce made from fermented soybeans. The sauce’s thick texture and deep umami flavor make this sauce an excellent substitute for dark soy sauce.
Tamari looks and tastes similar to dark soy sauce but is usually made without wheat, making tamari a great alternative for people with gluten intolerances. This sauce has a slightly lighter color than dark soy sauce, so the color of the dish won’t be the same as when using dark soy sauce.
Substitute tamari for dark soy sauce at a 1:1 ratio when making dips, soups, stews, marinades, stir-fries, and Asian sauces.
Other Dark Soy Sauce Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
Here are other substitutes you can use in place of dark soy sauce to achieve a similar flavor and texture in recipes.
Light Soy Sauce
Light soy sauce is a thin, golden-brown sauce made from fermented soybeans and wheat. It has a similarly salty and savory umami flavor to dark soy sauce.
Light soy sauce isn’t as sweet as dark soy sauce and won’t change the color of the dish as much as when dark-colored soy sauce is used. Add some molasses or brown sugar and cornstarch to light soy sauce to achieve the same color, consistency, and flavor as the dark soy sauce.
Use light soy sauce as a 1:1 replacement for dark soy sauce in stir-fried dishes, soups, stews, marinades, and dipping sauces.
Teriyaki sauce is made from soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and either sake or mirin. Some teriyaki sauces include additional ingredients such as garlic, sesame seed oil, or green onions. This Japanese sauce has a similarly thick consistency and rich umami flavor as dark soy sauce.
Teriyaki sauce gives dishes the same dark, glossy appearance and candied flavor as dark soy sauce. Substitute 1 teaspoon of teriyaki sauce for every 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce when making stir-fries, salads, soups, or marinades.
Oyster sauce is made from oyster extracts, sugar, salt, and water thickened with cornstarch. The rich, syrup-like consistency and dark brown color make oyster sauce a suitable substitute for dark soy sauce.
Oyster sauce adds earthy, sweet, and salty flavor to recipes. But, unlike dark soy sauce, oyster sauce will also bring a touch of oyster and caramel flavor to the dish.
Use oyster sauce as a 1:1 replacement for dark soy sauce when cooking fish and vegetable dishes.
Coconut aminos is a dark-colored sauce made from fermented coconut palm sap and sea salt. This popular seasoning sauce is a gluten-free substitute for dark soy sauce because coconut aminos sauce lacks soy and wheat.
Coconut aminos has a salty umami flavor, similar to dark soy sauce. But dark soy sauce has a thicker consistency and darker color than coconut aminos.
When making marinades, dips, sauces, and stir-fried dishes, use coconut aminos as a 1:1 substitute for dark soy sauce.
Mushroom-Flavored Soy Sauce
Traditional mushroom-flavored soy sauces contain soybeans, salt, water, and Shiitake or straw mushrooms. The dark color, thick consistency, and rich umami flavor make mushroom-flavored soy sauce an excellent substitute for dark soy sauce.
Use mushroom-flavored soy sauce to enhance the savouriness of stews and stir-fried dishes. Substitute mushroom-flavored soy sauce for dark soy sauce at a 1:1 ratio.
Fish sauce is a popular liquid condiment made from salted and fermented fish. Fish sauce has a rich, salty, and savory flavor similar to dark soy sauce.
Unlike dark soy sauce, fish sauce has a thin, watery consistency and a strong fish smell. The fish sauce’s aroma enhances the flavor of fish and seafood dishes but may overpower other meats and poultry.
Use fish sauce as a 1:1 replacement for dark soy sauce when making marinades, sauces, soups, stews, salads, and stir-fried dishes.
Hoisin sauce contains soybeans, red chili peppers, fennel, and garlic. This sauce is commonly used in Cantonese cuisine when preparing dipping sauces, stir-fries, or glazes for meat.
Hoisin sauce has a dark color, sweet and salty umami flavor, and thick consistency like dark soy sauce. When making noodles and rice dishes, replace 1 teaspoon of hoisin sauce for every 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce.
Kecap Manis is an Indonesian soy sauce made from a fermented paste of boiled soybeans, salt, roasted grain, water, mold, and palm sugar. Kecap manis tastes like dark soy sauce and has a dark mahogany color and thick texture.
This popular condiment adds a mildly sweet and umami flavor to meat dishes. Kecap Manis often contain spices like cinnamon, star anise, black pepper, clove, and coriander, that enhance the flavor of dishes.
Use kecap manis as a 1:1 substitute for dark soy sauce when preparing marinades and dipping sauces.
Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. The soybeans are mixed with salt and kōji and sometimes barley, seaweed, rice, or other grains. Miso paste has a thick consistency and intensely sweet and salty flavor.
Add miso paste directly to soups and stews to substitute for dark soy sauce. When preparing stir-fries, marinades, salad dressings, or meat dishes, add miso paste directly or dilute it with water to create miso sauce.
Substitute 1 teaspoon of miso paste for ½ teaspoon of dark soy sauce when cooking soups, sauces, noodles, and stir-fries.
Maggi Seasoning Sauce
Maggi seasoning sauce is made from fermented wheat, water, salt, and other natural flavors. This flavor enhancer has a thin consistency, dark brown color, and rich umami flavor that adds depth to recipes.
Maggi seasoning sauce has a complex flavor and is an inexpensive substitute for dark soy sauce in stir-fries, soups, and sauces. To add deep mahogany color to dishes and enhance their flavor, use Maggi seasoning sauce as a 1:1 replacement for dark soy sauce.
Molasses, or black treacle, is a syrupy byproduct produced during the extraction of sugar from sugar beets and sugarcane. Molasses has a sweet, smoky, and somewhat bitter flavor, rich brown color, and viscous texture similar to dark soy sauce.
There are several types of molasses, depending on the method of extraction, age of the sugarcane plant, and sugar content. Light molasses is the lightest and the sweetest variety. Dark molasses has a thicker texture and darker color and contains less sugar than light molasses. Blackstrap molasses has a sticky texture and rich, spicy, and bitter flavor.
Use blackstrap molasses as a replacement for dark soy sauce in recipes. Add a pinch of salt to 1 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses and substitute for every 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce when glazing, braising, or stewing meat.
Homemade Dark Soy Sauce
An excellent substitute for store-bought dark soy sauce is homemade dark soy sauce. Homemade dark soy sauce matches the consistency, flavor, and color of the regular dark soy sauce and is easy to make:
- 1 cup of dark brown sugar
- ½ cup of light soy sauce
- ¼ cup of water
- Combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat
- Stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved, and reduce the heat to medium-low
- After four to five minutes, when the sugar syrup gets the color of coffee, slowly add the light soy sauce and stir until everything is combined
- Turn off the heat and let the homemade dark soy sauce cool completely before pouring it into a bottle or airtight container
- Store the homemade dark soy sauce in the refrigerator for up to one month
When preparing stir-fries, soups, stews, and meat dishes, use homemade dark soy sauce as a 1:1 substitute for store-bought dark soy sauce.
Worcestershire sauce is a popular liquid condiment made from vinegar, anchovies, molasses, onion, garlic, tamarind, cloves, and salt. Worcestershire sauce is a great substitute for dark soy sauce because it has a powerful umami flavor and is also sour, spicy, and sweet.
Although not as thick as dark soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce has a rich dark color. Worcestershire sauce will add the unmistakable umami flavor to any recipe, but isn’t suitable for creating sticky glazes on meat.
Replace 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce for every 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce in marinades, dipping sauces, stir-fries, rice, and noodle dishes.
Balsamic vinegar is a liquid condiment made from freshly pressed grape juice with skins, seeds, and stems. Balsamic vinegar has a very dark color and a sharp flavor with an underlying sweetness.
Although it has a well-balanced flavor profile, balsamic vinegar is more acidic than dark soy sauce and can overpower a recipe. Use balsamic vinegar as a ½:1 substitute for dark soy sauce when making salads or other cold dishes.
Shiro shoyu is a Japanese wheat soy sauce used for seasoning soups and stews. Like dark soy sauce, shiro shoyu adds a mild umami flavor and a touch of sweetness to dishes.
Shiro shoyu doesn’t add mahogany color to ingredients but gives a mild savory finish to any recipe. Substitute 1½ teaspoons of shiro shoyu for every 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce in dips, soups, and stews.