13 Best Light Soy Sauce Substitutes That You Can Try

Light Soy Sauce in a bowl

It’s a perfect day for Asian food! Any particular cravings? How about we take a trip to China! There is so much to choose from in Chinese cuisine. All that variety must be extremely confusing. But you eventually end up deciding on a nice stir fry and some noodles. Yum! 

Now that you have decided what you’d like to make, you start collecting all the ingredients. But oh snap! You just realized you don’t have any light soy sauce.

In that case, you are brainstorming and wondering what you could use as a substitute for light soy sauce. This article will help you with that! 

Light Soy sauce is what adds an umami flavor to your food. Unlike dark soy sauce, the light sauce is golden brown in color and extremely rich in taste. It works well in marinades and for cooking. It adds tons of flavor and amps up the taste profile of your stir fry, noodles, or rice!

But the main question is, what can you use as a substitute for light soy sauce? Some of the best light soy sauce substitutes are Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce, tamari sauce, coconut aminos, and dried mushrooms.

Before we get into the substitutes for light soy sauce, let me tell you a little more about it! I mean, a little knowledge never hurts anyone, right? 

Quick Peek: Light Soy Sauce

light soy sauce

This section contains all the information you need on light soy sauce. From the description of its flavor to its uses and even the difference between light and dark soy sauce, everything is covered here. Read on to know all of this!

What Is Light Soy Sauce?

Light soy sauce is an essential ingredient in Chinese cooking. It is a thin liquid that is reddish-brown in color. It has a salty and an umami flavor. You can use it both as a seasoning and as a dipping sauce.

Traditionally, this condiment is made from fermented soybeans, wheat, brine, and mold. As it contains wheat, light soy sauce is not gluten-free. Although it was originally made in China, light soy sauce is now a prominent ingredient in cuisines from various Southeast Asian countries.

What Is The Difference Between Light and Dark Soy Sauce?

This can be a little confusing since they are both a type of soy sauce. However, there is still a bit of difference between the two.

Dark soy sauce is darker in color and thicker consistency than light soy sauce. It is less salty as compared to light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is usually added for color, whereas light soy sauce is added to food for its umami taste. 

Dark soy sauce works well for braising, stewing, and heavy stir-fry food, whereas light soy sauce works best for anything that needs a kick of flavor.

Describing Light Soy Sauce: Flavor and Texture

Light soy sauce has a thin, almost clear consistency. It is reddish-brown in color. When we talk about taste, light soy sauce has an extremely strong salty and umami flavor. It has no hint of sweetness whatsoever like dark soy sauce does.

It easily enhances the flavor of any food just by adding a few dashes of it. Usually, when a recipe asks for soy sauce, it is always light soy sauce unless dark soy sauce is specified.

Uses Of Light Soy Sauce

Light soy sauce, hailing from China, was initially used only in Chinese cuisine. However, it has now gained popularity in almost all Southeast Asian cuisines.

Light soy sauce works great for recipes such as stir-fry, noodles, rice, or any Cantonese-style dish. Many people also use it as a dipping sauce for various appetizers and sushi. However, one important thing to remember with light soy sauce is that it does not add color to a dish. 

Moreover, light soy sauce is not gluten-free. But, gluten-free variations of the same are now available on the market.

Light Soy Sauce on the Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope

Usually, light soy sauce is used in a very small quantity in recipes due to its sharp taste. Hence, it is not really a source of any vital nutrients. However, it has very high sodium levels and should be used carefully. 

Light soy sauce is very low in fat and has a very minute amount of protein. A tablespoon or 15 grams of light soy sauce has 8.5 calories. When paired with healthy ingredients like tofu, vegetables, or protein-rich meat, it does have certain health benefits.

It contains isoflavones, which have health benefits like reducing menopause symptoms and lowering cholesterol.

13 Best Light Soy Sauce Substitutes

That definitely was a lot of information on light soy sauce! Now, without further ado, let us quickly look at the best substitutes for light soy sauce.

1. Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce, just like light soy sauce, has a great extent of umami flavor. However, it is a British condiment, whereas light soy sauce is mostly used in Asian cooking.

It is made by fermenting anchovies with malt vinegar and sweet and savory spices. It has a tangy, slightly sweet note with tons of umami flavor. It does have a slight undesirable fishy taste because of the anchovies.

It wouldn’t work for vegetarian or vegan recipes, considering the main ingredient are anchovies. However, it is completely gluten-free! If the anchovies don’t bother you, Worcestershire sauce can work as a great substitute for light soy sauce. Here is the recipe for bourbon steak.

2. Tamari Sauce

Tamari Sauce

Tamari sauce is a substitute closest to light soy sauce. It is a Japanese form of soy sauce, formed as a byproduct of the production of miso paste. 

Tamari sauce carries the same umami flavor as soy sauce does. The flavors, in fact, match so much that sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference. Moreover, tamari sauce has no wheat, which makes it completely gluten-free. 

For those avoiding soy sauce because of the gluten content, they can easily use tamari sauce as a substitute for light soy sauce without even knowing the difference. It can be used in the same ratio as light soy sauce.

3. Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin Sauce is a thick sauce, which is commonly used in Cantonese cuisine to glaze meat and as an addition to stir-fried food or anything else! It is dark in color and has a sweet and salty taste.

It is made with fermented soybeans, five-spice powder, red chilies, garlic, and sugar. Since it is darker in color than light soy sauce, it adds distinct color to food.

Hoisin sauce usually is not gluten-free. However, gluten-free options are available in the market. Due to its similar taste profile to light soy sauce, it would work as a great substitute.

4. Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce

Soy sauce is actually one of the base ingredients in teriyaki sauce. However, teriyaki sauce does have other ingredients that give it a slightly sweet note. It is a thick sauce and is brown in color.

Teriyaki sauce works as a great substitute for soy sauce in glazes and dippings, rather than stir-fry or noodles. This is because of the sweetness. While it still has an umami flavor, the sweetness can sometimes be slightly overpowering. 

You can dilute the teriyaki sauce with some rice vinegar and add a little salt. This will help lower the sweetness and make a great substitute.

5. Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is a thick, brown condiment made with oysters, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. It is used very extensively in Asian food. Soy sauce is, in fact, sometimes added to the oyster sauce as a flavoring agent.

Oyster sauce tastes like a slightly thick, smoky version of light soy sauce. It sometimes contains MSG as well, which adds to the umami flavor. Hence, it would make a great substitute for light soy sauce. 

Oyster sauce, however, is much thicker than light soy sauce. So, while using it as a substitute, you could thin it down by adding some water or broth before using it.

6. Fish Sauce

Fish sauce

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill. The fish have been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years to make this sauce. It is packed with umami flavor. 

However, fish sauce has a very intense taste of fish and is not a vegetarian or vegan’s first choice. But, if you do love the taste of fish, this would make a great substitute for light soy sauce. Just like light soy sauce, fish sauce is a flavor enhancer.

However, since it has a much sharper taste, make sure you don’t add too much while using it as a substitute for light soy sauce.

7. Miso Paste

Miso paste

Miso paste is essentially a byproduct of soy sauce. The liquid extracted from fermented soybeans is used to make soy sauce. The solid left behind is what miso paste is. 

Light soy sauce and miso paste have an extremely similar taste profile as the same base ingredient is used in both. However, miso paste has an earthy taste, a slight tang, and is less salty.

 It works as a great substitute for light soy sauce. You can thin the miso pastedown with a little water to bring it to the same consistency as light soy sauce.

8. Coconut Aminos

coconut aminos

Coconut aminos is made from coconut sap and are completely soy-free. It also has a much lower salt content than light soy sauce. Hence, it works as a great substitute for people who are trying to watch their salt intake. 

Coconut aminos have a nutty flavor. However, if its flavor does not work for you, you can increase the quantity of salt in your recipe, as that gives a flavor similar to light soy sauce. Coconut aminos are also completely gluten-free!

9. Liquid Aminos

Liquid Aminos

Liquid Aminos resembles soy sauce a lot in terms of look and taste. It is less salty, milder, and slightly sweeter than light soy sauce.

Liquid aminos are naturally vegan and completely gluten-free. It works great for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free recipes. 

While using it as a substitute for light soy sauce, you can use it in the same ratio. However, if it makes your meal taste a little sweet, you could add a pinch of salt to balance the flavor out.

10. Dark Soy Sauce

dark soy sauce

Dark soy sauce is essentially made with the same ingredients as light soy sauce and in the same process. However, it has a darker, caramel-like color, thicker, and less salty. 

Dark soy sauce is an easy substitute for light soy sauce. But, it will change the color of your food since dark soy sauce is usually added to food for color.

To prevent this, you could use less dark soy sauce and add some salt to balance out the flavor. Another way to use it is to thin it down with some vinegar. 

11. Dried Mushrooms

dried mushrooms

Yes, you read that right! Dried mushrooms are a substitute for light soy sauce. However, you won’t need to use the mushrooms, but you’ll have to rehydrate them. The water used for rehydrating mushrooms works as a great substitute for light soy sauce.

The water gives food a great umami flavor. Moreover, it is low in salt content. Shiitake mushrooms make a great choice for this. You can use as much of this as possible while using it as a substitute. However, you might have to adjust the recipe with some added salt to get a flavor profile similar to light soy sauce.

Here’s the recipe for mushroom bisque using dried mushrooms. Do give it a try!

12. Anchovies


Anchovies might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of substitutes for light soy sauce, considering they are a type of fish. But they can definitely add flavor to your food!

Anchovies have a sharp, umami taste. They will not give you the sauce consistency that you need. However, if you chop them up into tiny pieces and add them to your dish, they will add the umami flavor that you are looking for. 

Anchovies go especially well in curries rather than anything else. If you simmer them in a curry, they will probably melt in your dish and add an interesting flavor and texture. This way, they could make a substitute for light soy sauce. Don’t have anchovies? Here is a list of best anchovies substitutes.

13. Salt

Different Kinds of Salt

Salt is a seasoning, just like soy sauce. If you don’t want to add any fancy sauces or ingredients to your dish, good old salt will work just fine! However, one important thing to remember while using salt instead of light soy sauce is that it won’t add an umami flavor to your food.

Want to know how salt makes your food better? Here are 3 reasons how salt brings flavor to your meals. Give it a read!

Short Recap

That was a lot of information on light soy sauce and its substitutes. But I am sure you must still be wondering which out of these ingredients would work best for you. I have broken this down further into three categories: suitability, availability, and flavor profile.

Most Suitable:  As they are made from the same ingredients, the most suitable substitute for light soy sauce would be dark soy sauce.

Easily Available: The most easily available substitute for light soy sauce would be salt.

Best Flavor Profile: Tamari sauce is the closest to soy sauce as per flavor profile and hence would work as the best substitute.

Final Word

I hope this article helped you with enough information on light soy sauce and its substitutes. Light soy sauce gives a great flavor to all your Asian delights. 

Most of the substitutes are vegetarian or vegan, just like light soy sauce and quite a lot of them are gluten-free as well. Hence, you can choose your substitute accordingly, as per your liking and dietary needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Is light soy sauce the same as dark soy sauce?

The primary difference between light and dark soy sauce is that light soy sauce is used to add flavor whereas dark soy sauce is used to add color.

Is Kikkoman soy sauce the same as light soy sauce?

Kikkoman soy sauce is a type of dark soy sauce.

Which is better between light and dark soy sauce?

Light soy sauce has a more refreshing taste than dark soy sauce.

Is light soy sauce the same as low sodium soy sauce?

Low sodium soy sauce has a lower salt content than light soy sauce.

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