Whether you prefer Chinese or Japanese food, you’re likely familiar with Soy Sauce, derived from soy paste. Soy sauce has been around a long time in America and around the world. But even if you’ve used Soy sauce at your favorite restaurant or found it included with your Monday night takeout food, you may not have bothered to check the ingredients list.
With all the controversy today over chemicals and antibiotics that end up in the animals that reach our tables, many people are exploring vegan diets. So, what’s in soy sauce, how is it made, what is it used for, and is soy sauce vegan?
What’s in Soy Sauce?
There are of course many different variants of soy sauce. But basically, it’s a liquid condiment formed from soybeans, wheat, and other ingredients. There is a version called, “Tamari” which is made with little or no wheat. In fact, many people feel that Tamari brings a richer, deeper flavor than standard soy sauce. To determine what’s in soy sauce, you do have to consider the brand name and check the ingredients list carefully.
The basic soy sauce recipe included the following ingredients:
There are some popular store brands such as La Choy, who add ingredients such as caramel coloring and corn syrup to their soy sauce recipes. Most manufacturers do add some type of preservatives such as Potassium Sorbate or Sodium Benzoate.
There are different types of soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is commonly found in the International section of your local supermarket. When rice wine, such as Mirin, is added to soy sauce, it creates a sweeter, “light” soy sauce. Asian markets may carry several different Chinese varieties of both “light” and dark” soy sauce.
If you love the flavor of soy sauce but have found yourself in need of a gluten-free and soy-free version, look for “coconut aminos”. This is a sauce which has the salty, savory flavor similar to soy sauce but which uses coconut tree sap rather than soybeans or wheat.
How is Soy Sauce Made?
Soy sauce is made from fermented soybean paste, wheat, and other ingredients. Soybeans come in a huge variety of colors and sizes, so you’ll want to research to get the ones best for your taste and preferences. Larger soybeans that are light yellow or beige and similar in size and shape are commonly sold for cooking. The hilum is the tiny spot where the bean was attached to the pod. For the best flavor in your soybeans, look for beans with an invisible “eye” or hilum. To make soy sauce yourself at home will take several months or longer because of the fermentation process involved.
Here are the basic steps for making a simple soy sauce:
- Cook approximately one pound of soybeans and remove from their pods.
- Finely chop using a food processor or knife and put resulting paste into large bowl
- Add 12 ounces of flour, mix well and knead well
- Form a long cylindrical shape and cut into quarter inch pieces
- Lay the pieces between damp paper towels, store on a baking pan until totally covered with mold.
- Separate the pieces onto a clean baking pan and allow to air dry in the sun if feasible (they should turn brown).
- Add 8 ounces of salt to 1 gallon of water in a large pot covered with cling wrap or plastic wrap
- Stir mixture daily using a wooden spoon until pieces totally dissolve. (three weeks to several months)
- Use a cheesecloth to strain the liquid and pour into bottles until ready to serve.
What’s Soy Sauce Used for?
Soy sauce is used for a variety of things including:
- As an additive to rice
- For stir-frying
- Use butter and soy sauce instead of cooking oil in beef and broccoli dishes
- To balance out a sweet BBQ Sauce
- As a savory dipping sauce
- For Chinese take-out food to add flavor
- Add flavor to meat sauces
- To flavor marinades or brines
- As seasoning for grilling chicken
What Is a Vegan Diet?
People who wish to adhere to a strictly vegan diet do not eat any food that comes from animals which includes red meat, poultry, pork, fish or seafood. Similar to many vegetarians, vegans prefer to eat only those foods that come from plants. In fact, some vegetarians will eat fish, chicken, and others will eat eggs and dairy. But vegans do not use or eat any animals or any products of animals. This would include foods such as milk, honey, gelatin or anything with gelatin in it, eggs or anything made from eggs, cheese, yogurt, etc.
A vegan diet consists of:
Is Soy Sauce Vegan?
Although soy sauce does have a “umami” or savory property that gives food a “meaty” or broth taste, soy sauces are in fact, vegan.
- Eden Organic Tamari
- Lee Kum Kee
- La Choy
- Aloha Shoyu
- San-J Organic Tamari
- Pearl River Bridge
- Yamasa (low salt)
- ABC Indonesian
- Little Soya (Gluten-free, less sodium)
- Koon Chun
At one point, Kikkoman, one of the major brand names for soy sauce, was found to be using animal testing to try and support health claims. PETA and other dedicated groups created enough pressure to stop these tactics. Of course, you’ll always want to check ingredients carefully but you really shouldn’t have to worry about soy sauce is vegan.
Other Vegan Foods That May Surprise You:
- Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili chips
- Fritos brand corn chips
- SaraLee Oven Fresh Apple Pie
- Organic Peanut Butter
- SuperPretzel Baked Soft Pretzels
- Kellogg’s brand unfrosted Strawberry pop tarts
- Kraft Creamy Italian Dressing
- Some Imitation Bacon Bits
- Ritz crackers
- Oreo Cookies
- Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (flavor comes from oils, not butter)
So, there you have it. Soy sauce in just most cases is vegan. As with any other foods, for those who are a strict vegan, be sure to carefully check the specific ingredients list and research the production processes for the soy sauce you are considering. Keep in mind that different brand names will have different processes and use different preservatives and additives than other brands. But with a little research, you can find or make a soy sauce that will complement your vegan diet.