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What Is tamari?
Tamari is a Japanese form of soy sauce, formed as a byproduct during the production of miso paste. Unlike conventional soy sauce, it contains no added wheat and is made with a higher volume of soybeans, resulting in a rich, thick texture and nuanced salinity. Spores of Aspergillus tamarii (cultures known as koji) are added to the boiled soybean paste, or the paste is allowed to incorporate natural spores from the surrounding environment to promote fermentation. Instead of being pressed, the liquid is simply collected from the runoff of the miso.
What’s the Difference Between Soy Sauce and Tamari?
Both tamari and soy sauce are the result of fermenting soybeans, and serve as examples of the power of fermentation process to coax complex savory tastes from simple ingredients. They are relatively interchangeable (though not always in a 1:1 ratio, since soy sauce would be overpowering in some cooking methods), but because tamari contains twice the amount of soybeans instead of wheat grains, it results in a richer, deep soy flavor while soy sauce tends to be thinner, lighter, and more salt-forward. Same family, but: tamari is the dark soy sauce and favored in Japanese cuisine, and the kind usually found in China is considered the light soy sauce.
6 Dishes to Serve With Soy Sauce
Soy sauce can be used alongside most dishes in the Asian culinary canon:
- As a dipping sauce for dumplings
- To season a stir-fry
- Crispy duck with five-spice glaze
2 Substitutes for Soy Sauce and Tamari
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- Liquid aminos are commonly used as a healthier alternative to both soy sauce and tamari, and as a gluten-free way to impart similar savory flavors. Liquid aminos are made from soybeans, although the beans in this case are not fermented, but treated with hydrochloric acids (to break the proteins into amino acids) and then a sodium bicarbonate like baking soda to neutralize any leftover acids and give the liquid a salty flavor.
- Dark and salty-sweet coconut aminos serve a similar purpose with a soy-free approach, relying on coconut nectar and sea salt to produce a seasoning sauce. Coconut aminos are naturally fermented, and so share a similar lactic acid profile with soy sauce and tamari.
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