It definitely seems like soy sauce would be vegan. I mean, it’s soy sauce. Soybeans are legumes. Seems like soy sauce should be vegan. But is soy sauce vegan?
Sometimes animal products sneak their way into foods that seem plant-based, either through outright addition or as part of the food-making process. And we put a lot of additives, stabilizers, and preservatives in food. Are those vegan?
I’ll answer all of those questions and more.
I’m actually going to discuss three different versions of this delicious condiment in this article: Chinese soy sauce, Japanese soy sauce, and Bragg Liquid Aminos. Each of these has a different flavor, which gives you some different options to keep your taste buds guessing.
Sit back and enjoy!
Yes. Most commercial soy sauces are made using a combination of soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. There was some controversy several years ago with Kikkoman. They were accused of testing their products on animals. Kikkoman ended its animal testing in 2015, so they are completely vegan now, all the way down to their practices.
Table of Contents
- What is Soy Sauce?
- Chinese Soy Sauce Variations
- Japanese Soy Sauce Varieties
- Bragg Liquid Aminos
- How to Tell if Soy Sauce is Vegan
- So, Is Soy Sauce Vegan?
- Is Tamari Vegan?
- Is Bragg Liquid Aminos Vegan?
- Is Kikkoman Soy Sauce Vegan?
- Is Soy Sauce Healthy?
- My Favorite Uses for Soy Sauce
- Is Soy Sauce Vegan Frequently Asked Questions
- Is Soy Sauce Vegan Conclusion
What is Soy Sauce?
Soy sauce is a condiment that’s traditionally made from fermented soybeans, salt, and water. It provides a salty taste to dishes that are typically served with rice or noodles in Asian cuisine. Soy sauce can be used as an ingredient in other types of cooking too!
Although there are many different brands of soy sauce, the main ingredients are basically the same.
Soy sauce has been used in Asian cuisine for roughly 2,200 years. Its popularity rose due to how expensive salt was. Because of this price, soy sauce is a great source of salt in many Asian dishes. It is also used as a method to help preserve food!
There are actually more soy sauce varieties than you may know. Chinese soy sauce comes in dark, light, and regular (which is what you’re probably used to). Then there are the Japanese soy sauces, which also come in three main varieties. And finally, there’s Bragg Liquid Aminos.
I’ll break these all down for you very quickly.
Chinese Soy Sauce Variations
There are actually three different types of Chinese soy sauce: dark, light, and regular. The difference in both color and flavor has to do with when the sauce is removed from the production process.
Light soy sauce is removed early in the production process. It is light in color and has a subtle, mild flavor.
Dark soy sauce is left to process for a longer time, creating a more mature soy sauce that is darker in color and bolder in taste. Often dark soy sauce will have caramel added to it as well, giving a sweeter flavor to your dish.
Regular soy sauce is kind of in the middle. It is a mixture of both varieties, making it perfect for general kitchen use.
Japanese Soy Sauce Varieties
The Japanese varieties of soy sauce are different than Chinese soy sauce and have their own purpose.
Tamari is the only Japanese soy sauce made without wheat, making it naturally gluten-free (GF). It has a very bold, dense umami flavor. It’s definitely stronger in flavor than any of the other Chinese or Japanese soy sauces, which makes it perfect for marinade. This is also my favorite! Rarely do I reach for soy sauce at home. I want tamari!
Koikuchi (Japanese Dark Soy Sauce) is the most popular Japanese soy sauce and the most common type found in US grocery stores. It is made from equal parts soybean and wheat and has a salty, deep umami flavor. Koikuchi is similar to regular Chinese soy sauce and is the ultimate general-purpose Japanese soy sauce. Use it for general purposes like stir-frying, cooking noodles, and making sushi rice.
Usukuchi (Japanese Light Soy Sauce) uses more salt than koikuchi. You’ll definitely notice that in its taste! This makes it perfect for dishes that require a subtle umami flavor, like stir fry vegetables.
And then there’s Bragg Liquid Aminos.
Bragg Liquid Aminos
This is my favorite! I like the taste of it far better than regular soy sauce. Or I choose Tamari, which has a completely different flavor.
Bragg Liquid Aminos is a condiment made from soybeans and purified water. It’s very similar to soy sauce.
But here’s the awesome part…all of the soybeans used to produce the Bragg Liquid Aminos are verified by the Non-GMO Project! I always look for this, and organic, when I’m choosing soy products of any kind. Soybeans are heavily sprayed and often GMO because the majority of soybeans are grown for feed not for human consumption.
Bragg Liquid Aminos also contains no chemicals, artificial coloring, or preservatives. Awesome.
The only downside is the cost. It’s a bit more expensive than most soy sauces. Not so much that it’s going to break the bank, and it does last quite a while. But it begs consideration.
How does it taste?
Bragg Liquid Aminos is almost a perfect middle between traditional soy sauce and tamari. Like both soy sauce and tamari, Liquid Aminos adds a delicious umami flavor. It’s slightly bolder than soy sauce yet sweeter than tamari. It’s a great substitute for either.
Bragg Liquid Aminos is naturally gluten-free, like tamari, because they do not use wheat to make their product.
It is also certified kosher.
Between Liquid Aminos and tamari, you’re covered. They’ll hit your palate completely differently. You can actually make the same dish two nights in a row, use Bragg one night and tamari the next, and it’s like eating two completely different meals!
Bragg also makes a coconut aminos product that is incredible! It’s the secret ingredient to making fast, delicious tofu.
How to Tell if Soy Sauce is Vegan
The main ingredients for soy sauce are not animal-derived, so any product that contains only the basic ingredients we’ve discussed so far is a vegan soy sauce.
But always check your labels! Especially if you are looking at food you’re not very familiar with, or are choosing a new brand (either by choice or simply because that’s all that’s available at the time). Sometimes an animal ingredient may sneak its way in!
Fish sauce is a very common ingredient in Asian cooking and condiments. You’re not likely to run into fish sauce in soy sauce, but who knows! So check.
Another ingredient I like to look out for is Disodium Insonate. Disodium Insonate is a flavor enhancer and can be either animal or plant-derived.
And food manufacturers do not have to list whether or not additives are of plant or animal origin! So this is one I just try and avoid.
Although rare, lactic acid may be found in some brands of soy sauce. This can be a bit confusing. The word lactic itself sounds like lactose, so many think of milk.
Or, if you remember back to your middle school PE days, lactic acid may remind you of the burn you feel in your muscles when exercising. So isn’t lactic acid from muscle then?
Lactic Acid forms when food is fermented (or when your muscles run out of oxygen, like during heavy exercise). It’s a natural process and gives food a tangy, sour taste. Lactic acid is also found in foods like wine, beer, sourdough bread, and fermented soy products.
Lactic acid is caused by lactic acid bacteria.
So lactic acid bacteria are used to start the fermentation process. This is what gives soy sauce its distinctly acidic taste.
Lactic acid bacteria can be animal-derived, but usually not. Especially in the United States, lactic acid bacteria are normally plant sourced. Beet sugar, cornstarch, and tapioca starch are the most common sources of the bacteria.
So don’t worry about his ingredient. The lactic acid in soy sauce is vegan.
So, Is Soy Sauce Vegan?
✅ Yes. Soy sauce is made without animal ingredients, lactic acid is vegan, and commercial brands don’t use fish sauce.
Always check your labels just incase. Avoid disodium insonate.
Is Tamari Vegan?
✅ Yep. Tamari is basically the same recipe as soy sauce, but without wheat. So, yes, it’s vegan.
Tamari is perfect for anyone that has celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity because it is made without wheat and naturally GF.
Just remember that it’s always a good idea to check labels, especially if you are buying a new brand. Just in case.
Is Bragg Liquid Aminos Vegan?
✅. Sure is. Bragg uses a recipe similar to tamari, although they keep their exact recipe and processes shrouded in an air of mystery.
But I’ve checked their labels and spoken with a representative on the phone. They do not use any animal products at any point in the production of their Liquid Aminos.
Now you know that the Chinese and Japanese soy sauces are vegan, as well as Bragg Liquid Aminos.
There is one soy sauce brand that I want to briefly discuss because of its history. Kikkoman.
Is Kikkoman Soy Sauce Vegan?
There was some controversy surrounding Kikkoman some years back.
Up until 2015, Kikkoman was conducting animal testing so they could make health claims about their products. Thanks to dedicated vegan activist groups like PETA, this practice was ended in 2015.
If you are reading this you are likely just beginning your plant-based or vegan journey, and are probably just looking to see if there are animal ingredients in soy sauce.
As far as that goes, you’re good. No animal ingredients in Kikkoman.
There is a difference, however, between veganism for health and veganism as a stance against animal cruelty. On the animal cruelty side of things, If a company supports or engages in animal testing, it is not considered a vegan company.
That simply goes against the foundation of veganism. Even if that company doesn’t use animal-derived ingredients in its products.
You can make up your own mind given all of that information. The company made a change and they no longer support animal testing. There are no animal-derived ingredients in their soy sauce.
Some will write a company off for its historical practices, regardless of changes they make. Others believe we need more companies making changes and becoming cruelty-free, so why punish a company if it has left those practices behind?
The choice is yours.
Is Soy Sauce Healthy?
Now you know soy sauce, tamari, and Liquid Aminos are vegan, but are they healthy?
Unfortunately, soy sauce has a very high sodium content. You should limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,500 mg each day. And soy sauce can easily soar you past that mark. Especially because most people will use more than one serving on a dish.
Think about it. When was the last time you used a teaspoon to measure out the amount of soy sauce you were putting on your rice? No one does that. EVER. We upend the bottle and pour until we’re satisfied.
Most soy sauces and tamaris have low sodium versions these days, and you can find them everywhere. In grocery stores and restaurants alike. They taste just the same as their full sodium cousins. So I definitely recommend choosing those.
In moderation, soy sauce is not necessarily unhealthy. Especially if you eat a whole food diet that is low in sodium everywhere else.
But if your doctor has recommended that you follow a very low sodium diet, this is a condiment that you may need to take caution with.
My Favorite Uses for Soy Sauce
I use soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg Liquid Aminos a lot. I’m not the best chef, and I don’t want to spend a ton of time making food. Most nights I just want to cook up fast, healthy, good tasting food. Soy sauce is incredibly versatile and useful on a vegan diet.
Here are the simple ways that I use soy sauce on an almost-nightly basis:
On grains. I have rice or quinoa three to four nights a week on average. Cook it up and pour on soy sauce.
On vegetables. Almost every night I have steamed broccoli or mixed veggies. I don’t put soy sauce on them every time, but quite often. And my kids will actually eat their veggies this way!
On tofu and tempeh. This is my kids’ favorite way to eat tofu. Drain it, cube it, cook it in a pan, and then pour on some soy sauce about 2 minutes before it’s done cooking. Learn how quick and easy tofu is to work with, and get this high-protein, delicious food into your weekly rotation pronto.
As a dip for edamame. I love edamame as a snack. Don’t salt your edamame, just dip in a little bowl of soy sauce.
On beans. Looking for a really fast dinner? Cook up some grains or pasta, steam veggies, and open a can of beans. Mix it all and pour soy sauce on top. Done. This is also how my kids like their beans. I put them in a bowl and sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce.
On pasta and noodle dishes. I love vegan marinara, but soy sauce is quick as well. And if you’re watching out for calories, this trick may allow you to have a bigger meal. 60 calories for a marinara sauce, or 5 for soy sauce.
Soy sauce really can help turn simple, boring food into meals that you’ll happily eat each night. Win!
Is Soy Sauce Vegan Frequently Asked Questions
Is Kikkoman Soy Sauce made from genetically modified soybeans?
According to kikkoman.co.uk, all Kikkoman sauces and marinades available in the UK are made using non-genetically modified soybeans and wheat.
What is Kikkoman’s animal testing policy?
Kikkoman ended their animal testing practices in 2015.
What are the major differences between soy sauce brands?
While soy sauces are made from the same base ingredients (water, fermented soybeans, wheat, and salt), every company is going to have its own unique take. Different amounts of each ingredient, use of sweeteners, artificial coloring, preservatives, or how long the product is allowed to process account for the subtle differences between each brand.
What is lactic acid?
Lactic acid is a type of bacteria used for fermentation. Most commonly it is sourced from cornstarch, beet sugar, or tapioca starch.
Is soy sauce healthy?
Soy sauce is high in sodium. In moderation, soy sauce is a yellow light food. But if you are trying to limit your salt intake, this may not be the condiment for you.
Is Soy Sauce Vegan Conclusion
If you love Asian cuisine, eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, want to make quick, delicious meals, or are watching your calories, soy sauce is a great condiment for you. Most varieties are vegan-friendly because they do not contain animal products or byproducts.
Tamari and Bragg Liquid Aminos are also vegan-friendly. They will give you a different flavor than traditional soy sauce and are gluten-free.
Soy sauce is incredibly versatile in cooking so feel free to experiment until you find your favorite way to use it.
But remember to always check labels just in case.
Now you know what you’re looking for.
Got any recipes that use soy sauce that you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments and help our community.
Until next time,
Plant-Based, Plant Built