If you prepare Asian cuisines frequently, soy sauce is one of the most common ingredients you reach for at the grocery store. There are three different types of soy sauce available in the market; light soy sauce, regular soy sauce, and dark soy sauce.
Dark soy sauce has a dark color, as the name suggests, and a thicker consistency. It adds a great touch of color and umami flavor to dishes.
Dark soy sauce is an essential ingredient in noodles, fried rice, and marinades. If you are out of dark soy sauce, you can still achieve a nice dark and shiny appearance in your dish by using other dark soy sauce substitutes.
This includes light soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, miso paste, teriyaki sauce, tamari, hoisin sauce, mushroom flavored soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Balsamic vinegar. You can also make your own dark soy sauce at home if you can find the individual ingredients.
What Is Dark Soy Sauce?
As stated earlier, there are different varieties of soy sauce ranging from light to dark color and thicker to thinner consistency. There all have their highs and lows, depending on the dish it is added to.
The soy sauce discussed in this article is dark soy sauce. It is called llǎo chōu in Chinese and has a slightly sweeter taste than regular or light varieties of soy sauce.
Dark soy sauce not only adds a unique flavor to dishes but gives them a dark and glossy color. It can be used in noodles, sauces, fried food, and braising pork; dark soy sauce gives braised pork a rich, amber-colored glaze.
On the downside, dark soy sauce has a high sodium content, so if you do not want to consume too much salt, want a new flavor, or simply go out of dark soy sauce, check out the following options and opt for the substitute that suits the recipe most.
Best Dark Soy Sauce Substitutes
1. Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki sauce is the closest substitute to dark soy sauce. It has a similar dark and glossy color, giving your dish an appetizing appearance.
Replace the amount of dark soy sauce a recipe needs with the same amount of teriyaki sauce; instead, it can be used in stir-fries, salads, and soups.
Teriyaki sauce has a sweet yet salty flavor that is also very similar to that of dark soy sauce. In fact, one of the ingredients of teriyaki sauce is soy sauce as well as ginger and garlic.
2. Light Soy Sauce
If you do not want to darken the color of your dish, you can use light soy sauce instead. They have similar tastes, and you can also use the same quantity.
Adding light soy sauce to any meat dish will give it the umami flavor, which goes great with all dishes in Asian cuisine.
3. Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce is another fine dark soy sauce substitute; it has a sweet and salty flavor and tastes like oysters. If you do not want to add seafood flavor to your dish, you would need to opt for another alternative.
Oyster sauce can be added to dishes that contain fish or vegetables, and you can use it in the same quantity as dark soy sauce.
4. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce is a not-so-popular ingredient used in Asian cuisine. It can be used as a marinade for beef, duck, chicken, and pork. It can be used on veggies as well, and it makes a terrific replacement for dark soy sauce.
Hoisin sauce also contains sesame seeds, chili peppers, and garlic, giving it an array of flavors. It adds a robust flavor to your food and tastes quite different from dark soy sauce.
5. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce can be used in most recipes that call for dark soy sauce. This sauce has a salty taste and pungent flavor that gives your dish just the right amount of boost.
But its thin consistency and less sweetness may make Worcestershire sauce unsuitable as a replacement for dark soy sauce in certain recipes.
You can add the same quantity of Worcestershire sauce to replace dark soy sauce in your recipes.
6. Mushroom Flavored Soy Sauce
Mushroom-flavored soy sauce typically has a dark color. This makes it a fine substitute for dark soy sauce in any recipe.
This sauce contains dark soy sauce as an ingredient alongside mushrooms and other flavorful herbs and spices.
So, you can use the same amount of mushroom-flavored soy sauce that the recipe specifies for regular dark soy sauce, but keep in mind that the dish will also have a mushroom taste.
7. Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar should be used as a last resort when you don’t have any other alternative. It has a sweet and sour taste and gives dishes a similar dark color.
When using balsamic vinegar of any kind to replace dark soy sauce, you would need less or dilute it with water.
Use half the amount the recipe calls for dark soy sauce because balsamic vinegar has an acidic and intense taste. This substitute is best suited for salads and other cold dishes.
8. Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is slightly similar to oyster sauce and is a great dark soy sauce substitute. It has an intense fish flavor that complements fish or seafood dishes.
This sauce can be used in all dishes that require soy sauce, but you will need to adjust the quantity.
Reduce the amount of fish sauce you add to a dish, so if your recipe calls for a cup of dark soy sauce, you can replace it with half a cup of fish sauce; this gives the dish the perfect umami flavor.
Tamari is made from soybeans, which gives it a similar flavor to soy sauce; it is a great substitute for dark soy sauce and gluten-free sauce. Tamari contains a similar quantity of salt as the regular dark soy sauce, although it has a quite different color.
But if the color does not alter the final result of your recipe, you can use this substitute in any recipe that calls for dark soy sauce. You can use a 1:1 substitution ratio, and this will give your dish a rich umami flavor.
10. Miso Paste
Miso paste is another dark soy sauce substitute with a similar taste but a different texture. Miso is in a paste form, so you will have to dilute it in water to make a sauce, or you can add the paste directly to your soup or stew.
You will need one tablespoon of miso paste for every cup of dark soy sauce. It lacks a dark color, so your dish will not be as dark as it would be with dark soy sauce, but it makes up for that in terms of taste.
11. Homemade Dark Soy Sauce
If you really want and need the distinct dark soy sauce taste and can’t find any, you can use this recipe to make dark soy sauce on your own at home.
Homemade Dark Soy Sauce Recipe
If you do not want to use any of the substitutes mentioned above, here’s how to make dark soy sauce with brown sugar. It is quite easier than you think it is. Here’s an easy recipe to follow:
- 1 cup of regular soy sauce
- 2 cups of dark brown sugar
- ½ cup of water
- Heat the dark brown sugar and water in a pan over high heat; frequently stir until it comes to a boil.
- When the sugar is melted, stop stirring and reduce the heat to keep the mixture cooking slowly until it becomes dark in color. When ready, the sugar mixture should look similar to molasses.
- You’ll need a cup of regular soy sauce; add to the mixture and stir until you achieve a thick texture.
- Turn off the heat and let the homemade dark soy sauce cool before pouring it into an airtight container.
- You can store the homemade dark soy sauce in the refrigerator.
Can I Substitute Dark Soy Sauce For Soy Sauce?
Yes, you can substitute dark soy sauce for soy sauce, but there are certain differences between dark soy sauce and light soy sauce that you need to put into consideration.
Firstly, dark soy sauce has a thick consistency and dark color with sweet and salty flavors that complement recipes.
However, light soy sauce has a thinner consistency and is more popular, especially in western households. It lacks a dark color and is not as sweet as dark soy sauce.
Dark soy sauce can be used for several savory dishes, marinades, as well as a dipping condiments. Light soy sauce can be used in similar dishes, but you may not achieve the same color and sweetness.