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The Best Dark Soy Sauce Substitute: Top 8 Alternatives You Should Know

Are you making a recipe that calls for dark soy sauce but can’t find one in your kitchen? Read some viable dark soy sauce substitute options here.

The Best Dark Soy Sauce Substitute Top 8 Alternatives You Should Know

Dark soy is one of the staple condiments in braised beef, so imagine my horror when I can’t find one in the kitchen during my family dinner preparation. All I had were some other types of soy sauce that I’m afraid to take a risk on. I’ve learned that an excellent dark soy substitute should replicate its viscosity, dark color, and a hint of sweetness.

The closest replicas of dark soy sauce are light soy sauce and mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce, which all boast a strong umami taste. Oyster sauce, double black soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce have almost come close to the sweetness and consistency of dark soy. Other fantastic dark soy alternatives are tamari and molasses.

We list eight of the best substitutes for dark soy sauce in case you won’t or can’t use this condiment in your recipe. You also can check our homemade dark soy recipe below if you’re vegan. But first, let’s learn more about dark soy sauce and its distinctive features.

What is dark soy sauce? How is it different from regular soy sauce?

Dark soy sauce is one of the main condiments in Chinese cuisine, known for its deep flavor due to the long fermentation process. Its ingredients include molasses or sugar, wheat, and soybeans. This sauce is a common ingredient in braised dishes, stir-fries, and rice/noodle dishes. 

Dark soy sauce offers a more intense flavor than regular soy sauce. It’s sweeter than the ordinary, thanks to adding sugar or molasses to the mix. Because dark soy undergoes a more extended fermentation phase, it tends to be thicker than regular soy.

With the integration of caramel color, dark soy imparts a rich dark brown color to dishes. A teaspoon or two is enough to darken the color of your dish. Regular soy will only season the dishes without putting a dark stain on the noodles.

Can I substitute dark soy sauce for soy sauce? Because of the overpowering flavor of dark soy sauce, it seems impossible to replace it with soy sauce. You can thin it out with water or add a pinch of salt, but the flavor might be slightly different.

8 Best Dark Soy Sauce Substitutes

It would be best if you didn’t despair when you can’t find dark soy sauce in the kitchen. Try any of these eight substitutes that will make your dish taste the same or even better without dark soy.

1. Light Soy Sauce

light soy sauce

Light soy sauce has a more golden color and thinner consistency than dark soy sauce. It has that salty umami taste that brings out the flavor of stir fry recipes, marinades, and dressing. Light soy sauce tastes a bit saltier and less sweet than dark soy sauce.

The ingredients of light soy sauce are almost the same as the dark one, except for molasses or caramel color that gives dishes that deep hue. Light soy contains soybeans, salt, wheat, water, and sugar. While dark soy offers that bold taste, light adds that refreshing note to every recipe.

To substitute light soy sauce for dark soy, add ⅛ teaspoon of sugar to every tablespoon of light soy. This ratio will replicate the extra sweetness of dark soy sauce. You might need to caramelize the meat and reduce the dish to mimic braised recipes’ deep browning and thick consistency.

2. Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Another good dark soy sauce substitute is an oyster sauce made from fermented oyster extract. It tastes sweet and salty, almost mimicking the taste profile of dark soy. The thick consistency and deep brown color make this condiment an even more fitting substitute for dark soy in stir-fries, marinades, and braised recipes.

However, oyster sauce packs a lot of umami taste, thanks to monosodium glutamate (MSG). This rich, savory flavor is a little more intense than dark soy but goes well with meat, vegetables, and noodles. If you like this taste, use the same amount of oyster sauce in a dark soy recipe. 

Because of oyster sauce’s strong umami taste, you may need to use a lesser amount if you want to use it for coloring dishes. Remember that oyster sauce isn’t vegan, so consider looking for vegan versions that use mushrooms to make up for the umami flavor.

3. Mushroom-Flavored Dark Soy

mushroom sauce

This soy sauce variant is technically dark soy, but with the added umami mushroom flavor. It’s a nice upgrade to dark soy because it offers more flavor to your dishes. The rich color will also significantly improve the appearance of any recipe.

Mushroom-flavored dark soy makes a good substitute for regular dark soy in braised dishes. It also adds a deep brown color to stir-fries and sauces. Like dark soy sauce, use about 1-2 teaspoons of this mushroom-flavored variety sparingly to add color in any dish.

This variety tastes better with dishes that include mushrooms and vegetables. Braised tofu can take advantage of this dark soy variety’s rich, umami flavor. Generally, you can swap regular dark soy sauce with this mushroom-flavored one.

4. Hoisin Sauce

hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce is an excellent Chinese dark soy sauce substitute with its soy sauce base and hints of spices. This fragrant sauce uses garlic, chiles, and other types of flavorful ingredients to give an authentic Asia flavor to any dish. Like dark soy, it’s rich and sweet but saltier.

This sauce also adds a nice dark brown color to noodles and stir-fries. The thick consistency of hoisin sauce makes it a perfect dark soy substitute for marinades or glaze. Take note that the flavor seems pretty strong, so use it sparingly as a dark soy substitute.

To prevent overpowering the dish, use half the amount of dark soy in the recipe. Let’s say the recipe calls for four tablespoons of dark soy; use two tablespoons of hoisin sauce. If you don’t mind the extra flavor of hoisin, use equal amounts as prescribed in the recipe. 

5. Molasses

molasses sauce

Some dark soy sauce formulas use molasses, so this ingredient alone can be a great substitute in Asian cuisine like stir-fried noodles. Like dark soy, molasses is viscous, providing that thick texture in stews and braised recipes. This syrup is also sweet, perfect for sweetening barbecue sauce and other dishes that need a hint of sweetness.

Molasses come out from sugar beets or sugar cane during the sugar-making process. It offers many nutrients, such as iron, selenium, and calcium. Blackstrap molasses offers the most nutrients, while light molasses provides the sweetest taste.

To replicate the exact flavor of dark soy, consider adding regular or light soy sauce. For every ½ teaspoon of molasses, mix two teaspoons of soy sauce plus a bit of sugar. Use the same amount of concoction in the recipe that calls for dark soy.

6. Teriyaki Sauce

teriyaki sauce

Teriyaki sauce is thick and sweet, making it another viable dark sweet soy sauce substitute in recipes. The Japanese version tastes like dark soy because it uses soy sauce as the base but with more punch due to other ingredients such as mirin, sugar, and sake. However, the Western versions are more distinct with adding garlic, honey, and ginger. 

The Japanese Teriyaki sauce packs a large amount of salty umami taste, perfect for stir-fries and rice dishes. The hint of sweetness makes it also an ideal dark soy substitute in dips for seafood and dumplings. The thick consistency and dark, glossy color also make it ideal for marinades and glazes of meat.

You can make a homemade teriyaki sauce or buy it in stores. Teriyaki sauce is available in the international section of grocery stores or Japanese food stores.  Since teriyaki sauce is almost the same as dark soy sauce, substitute it in recipes in equal quantities. 

7. Double Black Soy Sauce

Double Black Soy Sauce

The double black soy sauce is a more intense version of dark soy sauce. It tastes slightly sweeter and thicker in consistency. Like dark soy, double black soy adds color to dishes like soba noodle substitute recipes.

This type of soy sauce uses molasses to provide that distinct flavor. It pumps up the flavor of stir fries and fried rice when used as a substitute for dark soy. Mix it with a bit of Chinese mustard and regular soy, and you’ll have a fantastic barbecue dip. 

Keep in mind that sodium is pretty high, so use only a little to accomplish the desired taste. To substitute for dark soy, cut the amount in half. For example, if the recipe calls for six tablespoons of dark soy, use three tablespoons of double black soy.

8. Tamari

tamari sauce

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, tamari is a good dark and light soy sauce substitute as it contains little to no wheat. This Japanese soy sauce springs out as a byproduct of the miso paste production process. Unlike dark soy, tamari includes a higher amount of fermented soybeans resulting in a deeper umami flavor.

The umami taste works well in enhancing the flavor of vegetables and tofu. It’s rich and smooth in consistency, making it ideal for dips and sauces. The balanced flavor works well with sushi, while the darker color suits best for marinades.

Dark soy and tamari are relatively interchangeable. You can use the 1:1 ratio in recipes as both have the same color and consistency.

Homemade Dark Soy Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total time 5-10 minutes

Yield: 1-½ cup

Another way to solve the unavailability of dark soy sauce is to make your own. Instead of using any regular sugar, opt for dark brown sugar as it contains molasses to give that thick texture, sweet flavor, and dark color. The taste might be a little different than the bottled dark soy sauce, but this is truly vegan.

Here’s a simple dark soy sauce substitute recipe that you can do at home

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of organic dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups of light soy sauce

Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. Add the organic brown sugar and light soy sauce to a large pan.
  2. Heat the pan over high heat and occasionally stir the mixture until it bubbles.
  3. Turn the heat to medium-high until the mixture has gone thick and reduced to 75%.
  4. Once done, let the syrup cool down completely.
  5. Store in a sealed container and store in the fridge for up to six months.

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FAQs:

1. What is the difference between dark and light soy sauce?

Light soy sauce has a golden brown color and a strong umami flavor, making it suitable for marinating meat and seasoning dishes. It has a rich taste that improves the flavor of noodles, meat, and rice.

On the other hand, dark soy sauce is thicker and darker than light soy, making it more suitable for adding color to casseroles and stews. It’s also less salty but sweeter than light soy.

2. Can I substitute dark soy sauce for light?

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely to replace light soy sauce with dark soy in recipes. The flavor of dark soy sauce is too overpowering, and it can stain the dishes into a deeper color.

However, you can do a few tweaks if you must use dark soy in the place of light soy. Dilute the dark soy sauce with a small amount of water to thin it out. Add a pinch of salt to give you the closest light soy flavor. 

3. Does dark soy sauce have gluten?

Yes, dark soy sauce has gluten because it uses wheat in the creation process. Today, many brands try to make gluten-free dark soy sauce by removing wheat from the ingredient list. For example, Lee Kum Kee uses non-genetically modified soybeans to retain the same aroma and rich flavor without gluten.

Conclusion

Truly, the dark soy’s full body and deep flavor are hard to mimic in stir-fries, noodles, and braised recipes. It has a deep color and flavor that improves any pale dish into a delectable treat. My favorite dark soy sauce substitute is mushroom-flavored dark soy because it’s basically dark soy sauce with an umami flavor.

A close second is light soy because it almost has the same components as dark soy. Light soy might not impart a dark color, but it will pump up the umami flavor of any dish. Besides choosing any of the alternatives above, you can also make your own dark soy sauce at home with some dark brown sugar and light soy sauce.

Hope that you gẻ sơm new ideas after reading this post, let us know your favorite dark soy sauce substitute. If you find this article helpful, please share it with your friends.