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The difference between tamari vs soy sauce? Here’s the breakdown on these similar ingredients and when to use them in your cooking.

Tamari vs soy sauce
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Tamari vs soy sauce: what’s the difference? There are a few major differences between the two: though they are both used to add salty, savory umami to dishes. Here’s what to know about when to use them and whether to choose one over the other!

See also: Coconut Aminos vs Soy Sauce

Tamari vs soy sauce: the differences

What’s the difference between these salty sauces? Here’s a breakdown:

  • First, what is soy sauce? Soy sauce is a common ingredient in Asian cooking and beyond: it’s salty and contains loads of umami (savory flavor). It’s Chinese in origin and made from a fermented paste of soybeans and grains. It’s widely used many cuisines to add a salty, savory component to sauces, marinades, stir fries, and more.
  • What is tamari? Tamari is a Japanese variety of soy sauce that’s made as the bi-product of making miso paste. The biggest difference between soy sauce vs tamari is that tamari contains little to no wheat! Many brands of tamari are a gluten-free substitute for soy sauce. Tamari has a slightly richer, more savory flavor than soy sauce, which can be slightly sweet from the wheat.

You can substitute one for the other

Soy sauce and tamari work as substitutes for each other! Here’s what to know about using them in recipes:

  • Tamari has a richer flavor than soy sauce. It can taste slightly less salty, but it really depends on the brand. In a back to back taste test brands from our refrigerator, we found the two tasted very similar. When you use tamari as a gluten free soy sauce substitute, you may want to add a bit more or a pinch or two of kosher salt: but you should do it to taste.
  • Soy sauce has a more straightforward salty flavor. Use it as a tamari substitute if you don’t eat exclusively gluten-free.

Tamari vs soy sauce: which is healthier?

Because tamari is gluten-free, does that make it healthier than soy sauce? Not necessarily. Here’s the main breakdown:

  • Tamari and soy sauce have essentially the same sodium level. Tamari has 980 mg per tablespoon (source) and soy sauce has 902 mg sodium per tablespoon (source). Both are meant to be consumed in moderation as a seasoning: they are not considered as stand-alone health foods.
  • Tamari may contain less additives. Many brands of soy sauce can contain MSG. So if eating all natural is important to you, you may want to opt for tamari.

Bottom line: You can enjoy both tamari and soy sauce moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Recipes with tamari and soy sauce

There are lots of healthy recipes that use tamari or soy sauce as a seasoning! Here are a few to get you started:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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