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Tamari vs. Soy Sauce: What's the Difference?

Tamari vs. Soy Sauce: What's the Difference?

Tamari vs. Soy Sauce: What's the Difference?

With all the different types of sauces on the market, it’s not always easy to know what sauce to reach for when cooking. 

If you’re a fan of soy sauce, you’ve likely heard of tamari. It’s thicker, brighter, and packed with the signature umami flavor. But with all the similarities, how does tamari compare to soy sauce?

Umamicart is here to give you all the information you never knew you needed about soy sauce and tamari.


What Is Soy Sauce?

Soy sauce is an originally Chinese condiment that is now used in a variety of Asian dishes and across all regions. While it started in China, soy sauce is embraced all over Asia and has distinct flavor variations. 

There are three main types of soy sauce: all-purpose soy sauce, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. 

Soy sauce brings a salty, sweet, umami balance to any dish. This balanced flavor profile can be used in a marinade, braising liquid, or seasoning for stews and soups. 

Try Yamasa Soy Sauce, a Japanese soy sauce, if you’re looking for a good staple to keep in the pantry! 


What Is Tamari?

Tamari (or tamari shoyu) is a Japanese-style soy sauce variation. It is thick, light on the salt, heavier on sweet notes, and packed full of umami flavors. It is made the same way as soy sauce, but with minor adjustments, as tamari is made without wheat.

While the sauce originated in Japan, it is used worldwide and commonly found in Asian grocery stores. We recommend San J organic Soy Sauce for the ultimate tamari experience. 


Is Tamari Gluten-Free?

While we will be getting to the process of how these sauces are made in just a minute, gluten-free is one of the differences to note. 

Both sauces are derived from soybeans and are a by-product of fermented soybeans. This adds to the salty flavor profile. 

This means most brands of tamari are naturally gluten-free. However, some brands still add wheat. So if you adhere to a gluten-free diet, you will need to double-check the label.


What’s the Difference Between Soy Sauce and Tamari?

Fermented soybeans are mashed up and combined with salt and spices, and the residual sauce is the base for both sauces. For soy sauce, wheat is an added ingredient after the sauce is extracted. But for tamari, this is not usually the case. 

Instead, tamari is usually created using additional soybeans to ferment and create a heavier sauce. Tamari also generally is created using extractions from miso paste. This process is what creates this thicker sauce, as well as the lightening of the salty flavors.

While you can interchange these two sauces, the flavor profile from tamari tends to be richer and full-flavored. For cooking purposes, soy sauce is better for dishes like stir fry and other marinades that can withstand high-heat cooking. 

Tamari makes a better dipping sauce and is terrific for adding to fried rice or noodles for that umami heartiness.  


Is Soy Sauce or Tamari Healthy?

These condiments are generally used in small amounts, so their health benefits are low. However, the nutrition facts for these sauces are generally in our favor.

Soy sauce and tamari are generally low in fats, carbohydrates, and sugars, creating virtually no health hindrance or improvement from consumption. The only strong source of minerals from these condiments can be sodium. So those needing to adhere to a low sodium diet should monitor their intake.  


5 Dishes To Serve With Tamari

Here are a few perfect uses for tamari:

  • Fried Rice
  • Dipping sauce for gyoza
  • Glaze for beef or other meats
  • Dipping sauce for sushi
  • Additive for hearty stews

5 Dishes To Serve With Soy Sauce

Here are a few of the best ways to utilize the salty backbone of soy sauce:

  • Marinade for meats
  • Dipping sauce for dumplings
  • Utilized with other flavors for stir fry
  • Mixed with ponzu and added to sashimi
  • Saute with hot peppers to make the ultimate noodle dish

Substitutes for Soy Sauce and Tamari


Liquid Aminos 

Liquid aminos are the most straightforward option for a soy sauce alternative. This is a gluten-free soy sauce variation and a healthier alternative to traditional soy sauce. 

Aminos are still made using soybeans but without the fermentation process. Similarly, coconut aminos can act as a soy-free option but will have a thick consistency and a subtle sweetness, much like tamari. 


Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce can also substitute when you use tamari. It is savory with rich umami and thick profile, but with a subtle earthiness that will add richness to any dish.


Fish Sauce

Fish sauce will also be able to add richness, much like tamari and soy sauce to a dish. 

With the addition of anchovy paste, fish sauce will have a tangy brine that isn’t offered in the flavor profile of the other sauces but will still enhance the flavors of the overall dish. 



Teriyaki can also act as a replacement for tamari. It offers a similar mouthfeel but can impart a heavier sweetness than tamari. 



Whether you’re a home cook, professional chef, or simply grabbing your favorite takeout – don’t be afraid to add some soy sauce or tamari to your meal. 

And if you need to make a grocery run to pick up soy sauce, tamari, or any other Asian dish, don’t grab the keys yet. Try Umamicart instead! We deliver high-quality Asian groceries right to your door. 

That way, you can get your favorite ingredients quickly and easily without the hassle. 


Soy Sauce - an overview | ScienceDirect 

Soy Sauce Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits | VeryWellFit

All About Fermenting Soy | Cultures For Health