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11 Best Dark Soy Sauce Substitutes – Every Chinese Chef’s Choice

Soy sauce, a condiment we all recognize, is an essential flavoring used in Asian cuisines worldwide.

It’s also one of the oldest known condiments used in China for almost 3,000 years. Soy sauce is made using a combination of fermented soybean paste, brine, mold, and roasted grain.

What if you don’t have it when cooking? Read on to find the top dark soy sauce substitutes.

If you want to buy the best dark soy sauce rather than find a substitute, refer to our research on Best Dark Soy Sauces/Brands in the Market

Top 11 Substitutes for Dark Soy Sauce

You can use dark soy sauces to prepare all kinds of mouth-watering recipes, but you might find yourself unable (or unwilling) to use dark soy sauce in your cooking endeavors.

In that case, you’re going to need a good dark soy sauce substitute.

Below you’ll find the eleven best choices for a dark soy sauce substitute that will help pick up the slack without the more decadent, sweeter, umami flavored dark soy sauce.

1. Tamari


This Japanese variant of Chinese soy sauce is an excellent substitute for dark soy sauce.

While it won’t do for someone looking to go soy-free, its flavor is very similar to its Chinese inspiration and will appeal to dark soy sauce lovers. One potential benefit of tamari is that it’s gluten-free (soy sauce can not be).

Further reading: Top 14 Substitutes for Tamari Soy Sauce

2. Coconut Aminos

coconut aminos

Though they might sound like a strange substitute for dark soy sauce, coconut aminos actually deliver a somewhat similar savory taste.

Coconut aminos are usually made with sea salt and fermented coconuts.

While you might be thinking coconut aminos will taste too much like coconuts to work as an adequate dark soy sauce substitute, that’s not the case. Most brands of coconut aminos you’ll find taste nothing like actual coconuts.

People with soy or wheat allergies can find a healthy, safe alternative to soy sauces in coconut aminos, also gluten-free.

Coconut aminos only contain 90 milligrams in the same serving size as dark soy sauce. If you need to lessen your sodium intake, coconut aminos can help.

3. Light Soy Sauce

different soy sauces

Like the name, light soy sauce is just a light-colored relative of dark soy sauce. It isn’t as thick and won’t give you that amber-colored glaze dark soy sauce is famous for.

Even so, a little bit of light soy sauce can get you very close to that dark soy sauce flavor you’re seeking, and it has less sodium too.

4. Teriyaki Sauce

teriyaki sauce

Another popular Asian cause, teriyaki, is also soy-based and looks a bit like dark soy sauce.

It can add color and help caramelize many of the same dishes dark soy sauce is used in.

Noodles, rice, stir-fries, dumplings, and whatever else you might use dark soy sauce for, teriyaki can make it taste almost the same.

Like dark soy sauce, teriyaki makes a great marinade thanks to its similar salty, sweet flavor. It has been considered the best sweet dark soy sauce substitute.

Remember that the signature spices used for teriyaki make its flavor profile slightly different from using dark soy sauce.

Further reading: 12 Best Teriyaki Sauce Substitute

5. Oyster Sauce

oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is great for any seafood dishes you might have used dark soy sauce in. It boasts a similar sweet and salty taste.

As the name suggests, it does taste like oysters, so if you don’t like that flavor, it’s best not to try oyster sauce as an alternative to dark soy sauce.

You can use oyster sauce in the exact quantities as you would dark soy sauce to bring out the same flavors and qualities in your umami-inspired dishes.

6. Miso Paste

miso paste

Miso paste is usually found in its paste form that has to be diluted in water to make a sauce. You can also add miso paste directly to your dish for a bold dash of flavor.

For every cup of dark soy sauce, you’d use, replace it with one tablespoon of miso paste. The taste will be very similar, though don’t expect to get the same amber color as you would with dark soy sauce.

7. Worcestershire Sauce

worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce can be a tremendous dark soy sauce replacement when you need an umami-flavored sauce.

You can use it as a marinade as well and exchange it in many traditional Asian dishes. Unlike dark soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce is gluten-free.

8. Hoisin Sauce

hoisin sauce

Another excellent marinade for meat dishes, hoisin sauce, is another famous sauce in Asian cuisine.

It tastes delicious with veggies and several other dishes that would otherwise use dark soy sauce. Unlike dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce will also add notes of garlic, chili peppers, and sesame.

9. Mushroom-flavored Soy Sauce

mushroom flavored soy sauce

Mushroom-flavored soy sauce is made from mushroom, dark soy sauce and other ingredients. It is considered one of the best dark soy sauce replacements.

A similar dark color can add rich and deep color to your dishes. Just simply use it in the same ratio with dark soy sauce.

10. Fish Sauce

fish sauce

Fish sauce can be an amazing substitute for dark soy sauce especially for dishes that require a strong fish flavor.

As for the quantity, you can use the fish sauce with a ratio of 1 tablespoon for every cup of dark soy sauce. And you will get a rich umami flavor.

11. Balsamic Vinegar

balsamic vinegar

Although balsamic vinegar is not a perfect dark soy sauce alternative, it will be a good option when other alternatives are not available.

This vinegar will bring your dishes sweet and sour tastes and a dark color. It’s popular for salads and other cold dishes.

In terms of quantity, make sure to add less of it. If you plan to add a cup of dark soy sauce to your dishes, you’ll need to add half a cup of balsamic vinegar to obtain the taste you love.

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.

diy dark soy sauce

DIY Dark Soy Sauce at Home

Yield: 1 serving
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes

Make Your Own Dark Soy Sauce Now!


  • 1 cup of regular soy sauce
  • 2 cups of dark brown sugar
  • 1 half cup of water


  1. Combine dark brown sugar and water in a pan.
  2. Cook on high heat, occasionally stirring until it reaches a boil.
  3. Once the sugar dissolves, cease stirring and continue to cook on medium-high until the color darkens.
  4. When the color looks similar to molasses, pour regular soy sauce into the pan and stir.
  5. Stir until the texture begins to thicken.
  6. Remove from the heat and pour the dark soy sauce into an air-tight container.
  7. Use in your dishes or as a condiment whenever you need it.
  8. Be sure to refrigerate any leftover dark soy sauce for future use!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1522Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 14124mgCarbohydrates: 371gFiber: 2gSugar: 355gProtein: 21g


Be sure to leave a comment and rating below. I appreciate your feedback!

It’s simple and doesn’t take too many ingredients to get the job done. Make your own dark soy sauce whenever you need it!

FAQs About Dark Soy Sauce

1. What is dark soy sauce?

Not all soy sauce is created equal! There are many varieties available which range from light to dark and thicker to thinner.

Dark soy sauce is slightly sweeter than regular or light varieties of soy sauce. It is called Llǎo Chōu in Chinese. As with traditional soy sauce, dark soy sauce is used to flavor dishes and darken the color of noodles, sauces, fried food, and more.

Dark soy sauce is used to braise pork or provide a rich, amber-colored glaze to meat and stir fry dishes. It is used in many famous noodle and rice dishes as well.

It is very popular in the United States. According to Census data, 2.21 million Americans used four or more bottles of soy sauce in 2020 [1].

Tips to Use Dark Soy Sauce

  • When cooking, you’d better use dark soy sauce sparingly to avoid over-salted food. Only 1 or 2 teaspoons are usually enough to add a delicious dark red color.
  • Dark soy sauce is very popular to be used to make Cantonese noodles and Hong Shao Rou. It helps dishes get a rich and deep color.
  • Dark soy sauce is usually high in salt content, you can use low sodium soy as an alternative if you want it low in salt.

2. Is dark soy sauce the same as hoisin sauce?

They are different. Hoisin sauce is much thicker and sweeter than dark soy sauce. Hoisin sauce contains a number of other ingredients that dark soy doesn’t have.

3. What’s the difference between light soy sauce and dark soy sauce?

Dark soy sauce is mainly used for adding deep color to dishes while light soy sauce is usually used for seasoning.

3. Is dark soy sauce healthy?

According to a study, dark soy sauce is high in antioxidants which may prevent or delay cell damage from free radicals.

4. Why Choose a Dark Soy Sauce Substitute?

While dark soy sauce’s mild sweetness might make you think it has less salt than regular soy sauce, think again.

In fact, one tablespoon of dark soy sauce has 8.5 calories per serving, along with a shocking 879 milligrams of sodium [2]. Alternatively, regular soy sauce contains about 18 calories per tablespoon and 1000 mg of sodium.

If you’re looking to cut back on salt but still want the rich taste of dark soy sauce, you can try one of the many dark soy sauce substitutes available today instead.

It might not only be salt that makes you look for a dark soy sauce substitute. If you have a soy allergy, then you can’t enjoy any sort of soy sauce, so you’ll naturally be on the hunt for a non-soy alternative to replace it with.

If you have a gluten allergy, soy sauce contains ingredients that can elicit a reaction in you, even if it doesn’t actively contain products with gluten in them. For this reason, you might want to substitute it for something else.

Another reason you need a dark soy sauce substitute could be because you simply can’t find any. Though it is a staple in many eastern cultures, dark soy sauce isn’t as popular as regular soy sauce in the west.

As a result, dark soy sauce might not be available to you, even if you aren’t worried about allergies or sodium levels.


If you’re looking for a dark soy sauce substitute, check out our list above. Or, simply make your own using our recipe for a delicious at-home concoction. There are plenty of options!


I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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