Dark soy sauce, a staple in Asian cuisine, is similar to soy sauce but it’s a darker and more sweet and thick sauce. It adds a pleasant, dark color and a savory, umami flavor to all kinds of mouthwatering recipes.
If you don’t have this staple in your pantry or are looking to broaden your culinary horizons by experimenting with different ingredients to achieve a similar flavor, these 7 dark soy substitutes are sure to tickle your fancy.
1. Light Soy Sauce
Light soy sauce, as the name implies, is a lighter version of dark soy sauce. And while it is similarly salty, light soy sauce contains less sodium. It can enhance the taste of any meat dish and is a great addition to Asian-inspired dishes that require an umami flavor.
If your recipe doesn’t require the dark glaze of dark soy sauce, you can easily use light soy sauce to replace it without losing any flavors. However, please keep in mind that light soy sauce is less sweet than dark soy sauce, so you’ll need to add some molasses to complement the salty flavor.
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce = 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce + 1/2 teaspoon molasses.
2. Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki sauce has umami, salty and sweet flavor, a thick consistency, and glossy, dark color, quite like dark soy sauce. Given its flavor profile, it is commonly used in dishes such as noodles, stir-fries, salads, soups, and dumplings, and also works exemplarily well as a marinade and a condiment.
As soy sauce is a major component of teriyaki sauce, both sauces share a lot of similar characteristics. But, when replacing dark soy sauce with teriyaki sauce, keep in mind that teriyaki sauce also contains signature spices like garlic, ginger, and either sake or mirin, which can change the flavor profile of the recipe.
So, if you’re making a dish that calls for these spices, make sure to tweak the amount you’re using to keep the flavor profile closer to home.
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce = 1 teaspoon of teriyaki sauce.
3. Oyster Sauce
Typically made with oyster, water, salt, sugar, MSG, and corn starch, oyster sauce has an earthy, salty, sweet flavor. It can add rich color and bold flavor to a variety of dishes, especially recipes involving tofu and meat.
While oyster sauce can be an excellent substitute for dark soy sauce, it can also add a subtle hint of oyster flavor to the dish. If you don’t like the caramelized oyster flavor, it’s best to use oyster sauce only in seafood recipes.
But if you don’t mind its unique flavor, it can work excellently as a stand-in for dark soy sauce in vegetable dishes, simple beef dishes, and spicy Sichuan noodles. But, remember, oyster sauce can be a tad bit sweeter than dark soy sauce, so you may want to start with a small amount and then build to taste.
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce = 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce.
4. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce is a thick, robustly flavorsome sauce made primarily from soybean paste. It adds a wonderful salty yet sweet flavor as well as a dark color that is similar to dark soy sauce. Given its texture and consistency, hoisin sauce also makes an excellent glaze for stir-fries and can also be used as a dipping sauce or marinade for meat-based dishes.
While hoisin sauce and dark soy sauce have similar flavor profiles, hoisin sauce includes additional ingredients in its composition such as sesame seeds, chili pepper, and garlic, which can alter the look and taste of the recipe.
These add-ons can improve the overall flavor profile of the recipe, but they do alter its flavor. However, you can still use it as a stand-in for dark soy sauce in a pinch. Just remember to add a little at first as hoisin sauce can pack a powerful flavor punch.
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce = 1/2 teaspoon of hoisin sauce. (Adjust to taste.)
5. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce has an interesting taste that’s tangy, salty, and savory and can elevate both Asian and Italian recipes. In terms of the flavor profile, Worcestershire sauce does not have the same sweetness and consistency as the dark soy sauce, making it a not-so-good substitute in dishes that call for a sticky, caramelized glaze.
But, when you want to use a sauce in recipes that call for an umami flavor to shine, Worcestershire sauce can be an excellent substitute. It can also be used as a marinade and in sauces. Please keep in mind that Worcestershire sauce has a strong flavor, so you may need to add a sweetener like honey or sugar to replicate the flavor profile of dark soy sauce.
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce = 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. (Adjust to taste.)
6. Mushroom-Flavored Dark Soy
Mushroom-flavored dark soy is a flavorful blend of mushrooms, dark soy sauce, and herbs and spices. It has the same color as well as texture as dark soy sauce, but it also adds a slight taste of mushroom to the recipe.
If you wish to replicate the rich, deep color and gorgeous texture of dark soy sauce but don’t mind the slight change in flavor, mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce should work exceptionally well as a substitute in a variety of savory dishes.
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce = 1 teaspoon of mushroom-flavored dark soy.
Tamari, the Japanese version of soy sauce, has a similar salty flavor profile to dark soy sauce but it’s not as sweet. Tamari is also a great gluten-free alternative as it does not contain any wheat.
Although tamari will help you recreate the rich umami flavor of dark soy sauce, its color will vary as it falls somewhere between dark and light soy sauce. So, if you don’t need your recipe to have that dark, rich color, you can easily use tamari as a substitute in an equal ratio to achieve the desired flavor profile.
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce = 1 teaspoon of tamari.