Made from fermented soybeans, tamari is a Japanese soy sauce that has a rich, umami flavor. It is dark in color and is usually gluten-free. Commonly used in Asian cuisine, tamari can enhance the flavor of various recipes and is frequently used to flavor neutral ingredients like tofu, noodles, and rice. It also works well as a marinade for veggies and meat.
Don’t have this magical ingredient on hand? Here are 7 tamari substitutes you can use to replicate tamari’s salty, umami flavor.
#1. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is, hands down, the best tamari substitute you can use. It’s produced with soybeans and wheat and adds a rich balance of salty, sweet, bitter, and slightly acidic flavor to a variety of recipes. You can use it in stir-fries, soups, to marinate meat and veggies, and even as a dip! You can also make a BBQ sauce by combining it with additional spices and seasonings.
Soy sauce is similar to tamari in taste, however, it is slightly saltier. If you’re concerned about its salt content, start with a three-fourth amount of soy sauce and adjust to taste. And make sure to purchase dark soy as it is the most similar to tamari in terms of color, taste, and caramel texture.
1 teaspoon of tamari = 3/4-1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
Please note that soy sauce contains wheat, which may not make it the best stand-in for those on a gluten-free diet.
#2. Coconut Aminos
If you’re allergic to soy but still wish to enjoy a similar flavor profile as tamari, coconut aminos can work as a great alternative. Coconut aminos is made from fermented coconut tree sap and is a much healthier option. It is also gluten-free since it has no wheat or other grains in its ingredients. It has umami, tamari-like flavor and works well in soups, stews, and salad dressings.
Keep in mind that coconut aminos is comparatively less salty than tamari but has more sweetness to it. It also has a significantly thinner consistency than tamari, so it may not be the best choice in a dip recipe to replace tamari. But coconut aminos can work like a charm in noodles, rice, and other vegan dishes. To mimic the flavor profile of tamari, you may need to add a little more than a 1:1 substitute.
1 teaspoon of tamari = 1 teaspoon of coconut aminos.
#3. Liquid Aminos
Liquid aminos is made from the same ingredients as soy sauce but does not contain wheat, making it a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce. It has a flavor profile that is similar to soy sauce in terms of saltiness, but it adds a lighter and more subtle flavor to the recipe than tamari.
Liquid aminos has a mild, somewhat sweet yet salty flavor that makes it an excellent substitute for tamari in a variety of recipes, including soups, stews, marinades, and sauces. It also adds a wonderful flavor to rice and noodles.
1 teaspoon of tamari = 1 teaspoon of liquid aminos.
#4. Fish Sauce
Made from fermented fish or from salted anchovies, fish sauce has a sour, salty flavor with umami notes. It adds a pungent aroma to a variety of foods and is popular in Southeast Asian cuisines. You can use it to marinate meat and chicken as well as a prime ingredient in stews, stir-fry, salads, and more.
Fish sauce, however, has a pungent taste and salt content that is much stronger than tamari. To substitute for tamari, start with a small amount of fish sauce and adjust to taste. Please keep in mind that fish sauce has the potential to overshadow any recipe’s flavors, which will be noticeable to the more discerning palates. If you’re not a fan of strong fish flavors, you might want to look into other options.
1 teaspoon of tamari = 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce.
#5. Miso Paste
Miso paste is a Japanese condiment prepared from soybeans fermented with salt and koji. It has a mildly sweet, earthy, and umami flavor and can be used in recipes such as broths, soups, and other dishes that will benefit from a little more richness. It also works incredibly well as a substitute for tamari in marinades.
You can find different variants of miso paste, ranging from smooth to chunky. Compared to tamari, miso paste tends to be thicker. If you wish to mimic the texture of tamari, dilute miso paste with water to achieve the desired consistency.
1 teaspoon of tamari = 1 teaspoon of miso paste + 2 teaspoons of water.
Anchovies are small saltwater forage fish that are fermented and packed with oil and salt. They have a salty, tangy flavor and bring a jolt of umami to various dishes. As long as it blends well together with other ingredients to balance out the contrast in flavors, you can use anchovies in numerous dishes.
To substitute for tamari, you can add a few finely chopped anchovies to curries, stir-fries, salads, or pizza toppings to give the dish a unique depth of flavor. Please note that anchovies can have a fishy and salty taste, which can be quite overpowering. So, if you’re not a fan of fish, you might want to look at other options.
1 teaspoon of tamari = 2-3 finely chopped anchovies (add more if needed).
Salt can act as a great stand-in for tamari as tamari is mostly used to enhance the flavors of other ingredients. If you’re hesitant to explore other items on this list because you don’t want to alter the overall taste of your recipe, you can always use salt to give it a cleaner flavor.
Salt is the safest ingredient to use in place of tamari because it does not mask the flavor of other ingredients. If you’re looking for specific flavor profiles, you can always use flavored salt. Just sprinkle salt on top of dishes or add it during the cooking preparation to enhance the flavor of any dish.
1 teaspoon tamari = 1/2 teaspoon of salt.