Answering the Soy Question

Whenever soy sauce is called for in a recipe, students always ask when to use which type of soy. With Chinese, Japanese, Dark, Light, and Tamari variations, no wonder it is confusing!


When to use which soy?

Generally speaking, for marinating I like to use the Chinese Light Soy (Thin) or the Japanese Soy. For seasoning sauces I use either Dark Soy or a combination of Dark and Light.

If you need Dark Soy and if you can’t get to Chinatown, just pick up a bottle of Japanese Soy, empty half of it into a bottle or jar, add 10 percent molasses, then label it Dark Soy.

Chinese Soy is available in Chinatown. Two sources are: Tokyo Market at 91 Mulberry Street and Kam Man at 200 Canal Street.

I buy Japanese Soy at Fairway and Whole Foods. My favorite brand is San-J Shoyu Organic. I also like Eden.

What are the differences?

Dark Soy has molasses in it, which makes it thicker and sweeter. My favorite brand is Koon Chun.

Light Soy, also known as Thin Soy, is thinner and saltier. Koon Chun is my favorite brand.

Tamari is soy made without wheat but it must say on the label “gluten free”. San-J Organic Tamari, gluten free, is my favorite brand.

Chef Secrets

  • Always buy soy in a glass bottle, never plastic. Plastic imparts a bad taste and studies show long-term storage of salty and oily substances in plastic have a carcinogenic effect on food.
  • Store soy at room temperature, up to 3 months, away from heat and light. If keeping longer I recommend refrigeration.
  • Measure precisely as it is so salty it can wreck a dish.
  • Rather than buying low salt soy I just cut the soy called for in a recipe by half and make up the difference with sherry, sake, or homemade salt free chicken stock.
4 comments… add one
  • Sigun Coyle April 3, 2015, 8:39 am

    Have noted your favorite brands of soy sauce — as always, good advice! Amities from Paris, Sigun.

    • karen lee April 8, 2015, 7:56 pm

      Always happy when I can give you some advise. Love your cooking. kl

  • Frank McGourn April 6, 2015, 10:18 am

    Thank you, Karen. I found this to be very helpful. I also enjoyed the pictures you sent from our January class.

    • karen lee April 8, 2015, 7:57 pm

      Hi Frank, Great to have your feedback


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