It’s a great time in life to be gluten-free.
There used to be pretty limited options for people who needed an alternative to traditional soy sauce, but today, the grocery store shelves boast a multitude of choices.
As a chef, I want to know what options are going to give people the best flavor and how affordable those options are.
So I’m trying all the gluten-free soy sauces, and soy sauce alternatives, available on my local grocery store shelf.
Let’s dive in!
Gluten-Free vs Traditional Soy Sauce
Based on its name, it's easy to think that soy sauce would be gluten-free, but traditional soy sauce actually contains between 40-60% wheat.
To make soy sauce, wheat and soybeans are cooked, then fermented. The mixture is then brewed and strained to make traditional soy sauce.
While the result is quite flavorful, it’s not safe for those who can’t tolerate gluten.
But don’t let that get you down! These days, there are many affordable, and easy to find alternatives.
Most of these follow a similar process to making traditional soy sauce, but they leave out the wheat entirely, or substitute something like rice or corn.
Soy Sauce Alternatives at a Glance (All Gluten Free)
Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
A newer addition to the market, most grocery stores now carry soy sauce that is gluten-free. These soy sauces are often fermented with rice instead of wheat.
Though they contain no gluten, the bottle may not always be stamped with a “gluten-free” mark, so you’ll want to check the nutrition label.
Take a look at the ingredient list, allergens are typically listed right below them. You might be pleasantly surprised to find several soy sauces at your local grocer that contain no wheat.
When soy beans are fermented by themselves they make miso paste!
During the fermentation process there is a flavorful liquid that gets pressed out of the miso.
That liquid is known as tamari and is naturally gluten-free. Tamari tends to be a little more sour than soy sauce.
While soy sauce and tamari are both fermented, liquid aminos are simply the liquid produced from combining salt and soybeans.
Flavorful and easy to find, liquid aminos are a naturally gluten-free alternative to soy sauce with a very similar flavor.
Usually found next to the liquid aminos, coconut aminos are actually a soy-free, gluten-free product.
A great choice if you’ve got lots of allergens to contend with or just want to avoid both soy and gluten.
Coconut aminos are generally sweeter than soy sauce, and the texture is almost syrupy.
Gluten-Free Soy Sauces Tasted and Compared
General Info: Widely available in multiple sizes, La Choy is a solid brand that has been around since 1922. Not all La Choy soy sauces are gluten-free so be sure to check the label.
Price: Though a little more expensive if you order it online, I paid less than $3 for my 10oz bottle from the grocery store.
Taste: This was my favorite of all the gluten-free soy sauces. The soy sauce was dark, viscous, and had an almost “meaty” flavor to it that some of the other brands were missing. The sauce was very full-bodied and I would never have guessed this was a gluten-free sauce.
Rating: 5 out of 5
General Info: Likely available on your local grocery store shelf, this sauce is lower in sodium than the original product and easy to find. Not all Kroger soy sauces are gluten-free so be sure to check the label.
Price: An absolute bargain, I paid less than $2 for my 10oz bottle.
Taste: While it wasn’t quite as full-bodied as the La Choy, it was otherwise fairly similar in taste. The lower amount of salt gave it an improved, tangy flavor over its traditional Kroger counterpart. A great option for an affordable, gluten-free soy sauce with less sodium.
Rating: 4 out of 5
General Info: Not all Kroger soy sauces are gluten-free. The smaller version of this same product contained wheat so be sure to check the label!
Price: A bargain at under $4.00. You’re definitely getting a lot of soy sauce for your money.
Taste: This sauce was punchy, very salty, and thin in body. It tasted similar to other glutinous soy sauces by Kroger at comparable price points. While this is a great, gluten-free commodity soy sauce to have on hand, salt is the predominant flavor and it was a bit more watery than some of the other options.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Tamari Sauces Compared
In general, I found the two tamari sauces to be lighter in color and viscosity when compared to the gluten-free soy sauces.
General Info: Likely available at your local grocery store. The reduced sodium option was the only kind available at mine.
Price: Though the price is not listed in the link, I paid $3.49 for my 10 oz bottle. A little more expensive than the gluten-free soy sauces, but not by much.
Taste: Compared to the soy sauces, the tamari is thinner, has less of a full-bodied taste, and is more tangy. I’d equate it almost to a tropical fruit like tamarind. While still tasty and a good option, I prefer the gluten-free soy sauces for a richer flavor.
Rating: 2 out of 5
General Info: Likely available at your local grocery store, but also available online. Only the 20oz option was available at my local grocery.
Price: The most expensive of all the items, I paid over $12 for my 20oz bottle. Still a much better deal than ordering it online, where the price per oz is nearly doubled.
Taste: For the price and the fancy bottle, I had high expectations for this sauce. I honestly couldn’t tell much difference from the Simple Truth tamari. Overall, it was a bit flat and less viscous than the other soy sauces.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Amino & Coconut Acids
General Info: Likely available at your local grocery store, but also available online.
Price: A little more expensive than the soy sauces at $5.49 for 16oz, but still very reasonable.
Taste: Robust, filled with flavor, and hard to tell apart from La Choy soy sauce. I would recommend Braggs Amino Acids as a great alternative to any soy sauce, and would choose it over either of the Kroger brands I tried.
Rating: 5 out of 5
General Info: Likely available at your local grocery store as well as online. A great option if you need to avoid soy and gluten.
Price: A bit expensive, I paid $9.49 for my 10 oz bottle.
Taste: A mildly sweet flavor that was not overpowering. The flavor was versatile enough you could easily sub this in for soy sauce, though it won’t have quite the same flavor. The sauce was more viscous than the others and would make an excellent base for a stirfry sauce.
I would only recommend this sauce as a 1:1 substitute if you really need to avoid soy as an ingredient. Though tasty, it will not taste quite the same and is definitely sweeter.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Gluten-Free Dark Soy Sauce
In general, dark soy sauce is hard to find in the average American grocery store. If you live near an Asian market, you might be in luck!
Though gluten-free dark soy sauces are very limited, there are a few options available online. Be sure to check the ingredient labels and product information thoroughly before ordering.
You can also make your own version of a gluten-free dark soy sauce.
Robust Kitchen’s Homemade Savory Dark Soy Sauce
Recipe coming soon...
Comparing GF Soy Sauce to Regular Soy Sauce
Most gluten-free soy sauces on the market today are so close in taste to regular soy sauce, that you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
Tamari will always taste a little tangier and have a slightly different flavor, while amino acids are a very close substitution for soy sauce.
My top recommendation for a gluten-free soy sauce is La Choy. They make both glutinous and gluten-free soy sauce, so be sure to check the label.
Braggs amino acids are a great choice for a gluten-free soy sauce substitute as well. Tamari is a good option if you want a fruitier, lighter-tasting alternative.