Some of us might think that all soy sauces are created equal and can be used interchangeably but, as you’re going to see in this article on dark soy sauce substitutes, that’s not true.
Therefore, let’s establish one thing: you can’t simply use all purpose soy sauce or light soy sauce as a substitute for dark soy sauce.
Well, if you don’t have any other solution, you can use the light variety instead of the dark variety.
However, later on, I will recommend a mix that you can use, that can work as a much better substitute for dark soy sauce. That one is definitely among my favorites.
Furthermore, the reverse is also true: if you only have dark soy sauce in the house, don’t use it to replace all purpose/light soy sauce, especially not in the same quantity. Maybe just add a few splashes of the dark variety if you don’t have the light variety.
11 Dark Soy Sauce Substitutes
My first recommendation will be a mixture that can work nicely as a replacement. Another awesome substitute is the double black soy sauce. The rest of these substitutes can work as well but only if you have nothing else in the house.
The main purpose of dark soy sauce is to darken the dishes that we’re making (meat, stir-fries, marinades, noodle dishes, fried rice, etc.).
That’s why it’s not recommended to use regular soy sauce as a direct substitute, unless you don’t mind your dishes being lighter and maybe a bit less sweeter. But that can also be fixed if you add a bit of sugar when cooking.
It has an almost dark appearance because it has been matured for longer. Thus, the taste is also more intense.
It’s thicker, darker, and a bit sweeter. Dark soy sauce has a sweet, molasses-like flavor to it.
If you don’t care about the color of your dish, you can definitely just use all purpose/light soy sauce and the taste will be pretty much the same. Add a bit of sugar if you want your dish to taste a bit more sweet.
1. Regular soy sauce + molasses + sugar (homemade dark soy sauce)
There is one major dark soy sauce substitute that I want to recommend first: make a mix from regular/light soy sauce, molasses, and sugar.
Making the mixture is easy:
- 2 teaspoons regular/light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoons molasses
- 1/8 teaspoons sugar
Mix all these three ingredients until the sugar dissolves and we get a homogenous mixture. That’s all we have to do in order to obtain one of the most delicious dark soy sauce substitutes.
What do you do if you don’t have molasses? I imagine that there are quite a few of us who don’t regularly have it in our kitchens.
You can use golden syrup, honey, brown sugar, dark corn syrup or even maple syrup. Use the same 1/2 teaspoons for creating this dark soy sauce substitute.
2. Light soy sauce + dark brown sugar (homemade dark soy sauce)
Another one of those dark soy sauce substitutes that you can make at home in no time is this recipe.
This is even easier than the recipe above because it only requires two ingredients that are accessible in many places around the globe.
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
Take a small pan, set it over high heat.
Add the 1 cup dark brown sugar with ¼ cup of water and dissolve it.
Once it’s dissolved, reduce the heat to medium low.
When this syrup starts to darken (color of coffee), which will take about 4-5 minutes, slowly pour in the soy sauce. Pour it slowly so it doesn’t bubble up.
Stir until combined and turn off the stove.
You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Some of you might prefer the above substitute because there’s no heat involved. You can prepare it on the spot and add it to your recipe.
3. Double black soy sauce
Another substitute that you can use is double black soy sauce. However, I’m not sure that it’s easily accessible to everyone.
I think making that mixture that I recommended above might be more accessible for a larger number of people.
Double black soy sauce is a dark soy sauce but sweeter because it’s made with molasses. It will work well as a replacement, you can use it in the same quantity that the recipe indicates.
4. Mushroom flavored dark soy
I’m not sure how many of you have heard of this variety of dark soy sauce that has a mushroom flavor.
Well, if you don’t mind the mushroom flavor, you can definitely try it as a replacement.
5. Light soy sauce
As I said, I wouldn’t use the 2 varieties interchangeably but if there’s nothing else you have in the house, you can use the light variety as a substitute.
Still, I recommend trying the above mixtures if you have those 2 or 3 ingredients.
6. Teriyaki sauce
If there is one thing these 2 sauces have in common is their dark appearance. In terms of appearance, teriyaki sauce is one of the best dark soy sauce substitutes.
It works great for darkening dishes so, in this respect, it matches the role that dark soy sauce plays in some recipes.
Moreover, it also has a salty and sweet flavor combination. You can use it as seasoning, for marinades, for preparing salmon, beef, chicken.
However, keep in mind that the ingredients for teriyaki consist of: soy sauce, wine, sugar, water, vinegar, salt, spices, onion powder, garlic powder, ginger.
There can be variations to this recipe but the point is that all these ingredients contribute to making a sauce that tastes differently than dark soy sauce.
If you’re using teriyaki as a substitute, expect the final dish to have quite a different flavor.
7. Oyster sauce
Another dark, salty, and sweet sauce that can work as one of the best dark soy sauce substitutes if you don’t have anything else in the house.
However, as the name clearly suggests, there will be a subtle hint of oyster and caramel flavor.
If you don’t want too much sweetness or a strong oceanic flavor, use just half as much oyster sauce.
It can be used for marinades, stir fry, and for making dipping sauces.
8. Hoisin sauce
Hoisin is another popular sauce in Asian cuisine.
You could use it as a replacement but you must be aware that this is fermented soybean paste.
The ingredients used for making it are: starches, water, sugar, soybeans, sesame seeds, white distilled vinegar, salt, garlic, red chili peppers.
Taking all these ingredients into consideration, you can easily understand that, if you use hoisin sauce as a substitute for dark soy sauce, then the end taste will be quite different.
9. Worcestershire sauce
Worcestershire sauce is quite different from soy sauce so it shouldn’t be the first condiment you think of when thinking about substitutes.
But, I guess it can work in a pinch.
Worcestershire sauce has a powerful umami flavor that results from the anchovies and soy sauce.
It’s a combination of sourness, sweetness and spiciness.
That’s because this one is a combination of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, garlic, tamarind extract, chili pepper extract, sugar, salt. It’s quite different so your food will also taste differently.
It’s also more watery.
Tamari and dark soy sauce are not the same. Actually, tamari is a wider class of soy sauces that are made with no or little wheat. So, tamari can be gluten-free but you’ll have to check to be 100% certain.
Moreover, tamari has a richer soy flavor. But it can also be saltier, unless you get the reduced-sodium tamari.
Tamari is popular for dipping sashimi or sushi. It can also be added to soups, stews, marinades, and stir fry.
On the other hand, tamari doesn’t have the needed sweetness so you might want to add some additional sugar/molasses to your recipe.
11. Miso paste
Miso paste lacks the sweetness but it does have that salty and savory flavor so it can work as a replacement.
It will also mean that you won’t get that wonderful brown coloring. If that ‘s what you’re looking for, miso paste is not among the best dark soy sauce substitutes.
What Is Dark Soy Sauce?
There are 2 main types of soy sauce: light and dark.
These 2 types are quite distinctive and that’s why I said in my introduction that they cannot be used interchangeably. Each has its own purpose and blends best with different types of food.
Maybe you could tell by its name that the dark variety is the overpoweringly strong soy sauce because it has been matured for longer. It has an almost dark appearance.
It is thicker, darker, and a bit sweeter than the regular, all purpose kind.
Since it’s a bit on the sweeter side, that offsets the saltiness a bit and it makes it seem less salty.
Plus, it’s only used when the recipe calls for it. As I said, basically you can’t use the dark kind to replace the regular soy sauce in a recipe just like that.
The light variety is, as the name suggests, lighter in color and has a less powerful flavor. It’s also saltier and works well for cooking, for sauces, soups, fish, seafood, poultry, and light meats.
What is dark soy sauce used for?
As all soy sauces, it’s used for flavoring. However, when it comes to seasoning, light or regular soy sauces are the main types used. Those are the ones many recipes call for.
Dark soy sauce has a more important role in recipes: to darken the color of noodles, sauces, fried rice, etc.
If you want your meats to have a beautiful deep brown color, then the dark variety is the one that will help you achieve that. One example is the dark soy sauce braised chicken.
It’s used as a marinade or glaze.
The dark variety is also used in stews, casseroles, and recipes with dark meats.
Even though it has a more viscous consistency, it can be used as a dipping sauce when the dipping sauce only consists of soy sauce.
Therefore, if the recipe calls for it in order to darken a dish, you won’t achieve that effect by just using the all purpose soy sauce as a substitute for dark soy sauce.
All in all, if you don’t care for the darker color, you can just use light soy sauce and maybe add a bit more sugar to obtain the slightly sweet taste.
However, if you want the darker color and the sweeter taste, check out those two homemade dark soy sauce recipes that I recommended first as two of the most delicious dark soy sauce substitutes.