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Substitute For Soy Sauce & Coconut Aminos

I don’t want to be a big baby or anything, but sometimes I get really tired of the fact that my “special food” — i.e., food that is healthy and real and not poisoned with unpronounceable ingredients — costs twice as much as the crappy, regular version. The target of my ire recently was coconut aminos.

Don’t get me wrong: I love coconut aminos for the way they healthily replace soy sauce. But I’m damn tired of paying $7.00 a bottle for this stuff. It’s not like it’s Chanel No. 5 and will magically transform me into a goddess like Marilyn Monroe. It’s a kinda salty, kinda sweet, brown liquid that transforms ingredients into goodness like Sunshine Sauce, Stir-Fry Sauce, and the Gyoza Sauce in Well Fed 2.

I did some poking around online and found a recipe for soy sauce substitute, then I noodled with it a little bit to come up with the recipe below. It’s based on beef broth, vinegar, and spices. I added a small amount of fish sauce to amp up the umami; if you don’t have fish sauce, you can just skip it or add a mashed anchovy. Another key ingredient is the blackstrap molasses. (That means this sauce is not Whole30 approved because it contains a sweetener.)

Because I’m generally a stick in the mud about added sweeteners, I want to address two things about blackstrap molasses that make it OK for me in this recipe: its sugar content and its healthful properties.

The Sugar: This recipe includes 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon molasses — which represents 17 grams of carbohydrates. The recipe produces 2/3 cup of soy sauce substitute, which is 5.33 ounces. That means each tablespoon of the faux soy sauce includes 1.5 grams of carbohydrate (sugar). That’s some pretty minimal sugar, right there. And even if you went crazy and, in a moment of inexplicable thirst, guzzled the entire batch of faux soy sauce at once, you would be consuming 17 grams of sugar. I can live with that. (Although I can’t really live with the idea of you drinking 2/3 cup soy sauce substitute. Ew.)

The Health Benefits of Blackstrap Molasses: Blackstrap molasses is the byproduct of turning cane sugar into table sugar, which means it’s all the nutrient-rich stuff that’s stripped from sugar during the refining process: manganese, copper, iron, calcium, magnesium potassium, B6, and selenium.

When buying blackstrap molasses, look for brands that are organic and unsulfured. I chose Brer Rabbit because it fits the criteria, and it has a super cute label. See?

Blackstrap

The Taste Test
I tried this faux soy sauce as a substitute for coconut aminos in Sunshine Sauce and Stir-Fry Sauce, and it worked beautifully. It didn’t taste just like soy sauce — how could it?! — but it did taste enough like coconut aminos that it worked for me. I also tried it as a dipping sauce for Riceless Sushi and preferred the coconut aminos. So… for cooking and recipes where it’s used as a seasoning element, it’s awesome: cheap, easy to make, and quick to throw together from stuff you have in your pantry. For something where you’ll really taste it, you probably want to use coconut aminos.

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fauxsoysauce

Soy Sauce Substitute

Makes 2/3 cup | Prep 2 minutes | Cook 10 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
4 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional) — I like Red Boat!

Directions:
1. Place the following in a small saucepan: broth, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, molasses, black pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger. Bring to a brief boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer — small bubbles should just break on the surface. Cook until reduced to about 2/3 cup — this takes about 7-10 minutes. (NOTE: If you accidentally cook it for, say, 15 minutes, like I did the first time, the flavors of the vinegar and molasses will be concentrated, and it becomes quite sweet. Keep an eye on the clock and don’t miss that 10-minute max.)

2. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the salt and fish sauce; stir to combine and taste to make sure it’s salty enough for you. Pour into a BPA-free container and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. This sauce can be used in any recipe that calls for soy sauce. Splash it around willfully!

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92 Responses to “Substitute For Soy Sauce & Coconut Aminos”

  1. Thanks for this … it looks fab!! Can’t wait to try it. One quick question, was your beef broth a salted or no-salt version?

    • Mel says:

      I used homemade that was seasoned with a little salt. You add the salt at the end, so it doesn’t matter whether you use salted or unsalted broth — just taste it before adding salt and see if it needs it. I like mine pretty salt, but if you add 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon at a time, you’ll be in good shape.

      • David says:

        What do you think of using vegetarian stock instead of the beef broth?

        • Mel says:

          I really don’t know. I mean, it will work in that it will make a flavored liquid… I just don’t know if it will have the depth of flavor without the beef underneath. But it only uses a cup of broth, so why not experiment? Give it a try and let us know what you think!

        • Malysah says:

          Use the vegetarian beef boillons to brew your own broth. They are usually very inexpensive and available in the health food section.

          • Mel says:

            If you use bouillon cubes, be sure to check the ingredients list — they usually contain chemicals, sugars, and starches.

  2. Lynn says:

    You never cease to amaze me with your inventiveness. This is just wonderful! Your cookbooks are staples in my kitchen and I can’t wait to try this thrifty addition to my pantry. Thank you!

  3. pamela says:

    You have made my day, no my month! Just this morning I was whining about this very thing, made worse since I discovered I don’t tolerate fruit and even (expensive) coconut aminos became a thing of the past. I’ll sub a vinegar I can use for the cider; that’s easy enough. I’m not a bit excited over the small amount of molasses included, and I can forgo this during a Whole30. Luckily, you cannot see my happy dance, as I’m a bit of a klutz.

    Thank you.

  4. nalani says:

    You have been reading my mind! I like coconut aminos but would like to be able to control the budget, too. Thanks for this!!!

  5. Katie says:

    You’re fabulous! I’m excited to try this recipe. It always kills me to buy the coconut aminos and we got through a lot of it.

  6. Tom Denham says:

    I reduced my coconut aminos cost by purchasing the one gallon size from Amazon.com for $89.99 delivered. The gallon size works out to $0.70 per ounce, lots cheaper than buying small bottles. I keep a dispensing bottle of coconut aminos on my counter. The only problem is that I use it more now that I have my costs down!

  7. Chrissa says:

    Coconut Aminos I am able to buy are $13 a bottle. Luckily I use it very sparingly.

  8. Yay for blackstrap molasses and a great recipe! many people poo-poo blackstrap molasses but fail to realize it’s nutritious properties. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Ann says:

    Thank you! You have helped me so much in our paleo journey! Love your blog and cookbooks! Can’t wait to try ths!

  10. Thank you for this! I have been reacting badly to coconut products lately (even the aminos), so this is just what I need.

  11. Patti says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe!! I was able to find coconut aminoes @ the vitamin shoppe for about $7..but thats still rather expensive..can’t wait to try this recipe!!

  12. shewonnah says:

    Thanks for spending the time to come up with this recipe. I have tried the coconut aminos but the price made me reluctant to keep buying. Hooray for this recipe, and to those who don’t want or need it, keep it moving…I’m sure there’s plenty recipes on the web you would like…go find them

  13. Tracy says:

    Coconut Aminos are $20.50 a bottle in NZ ($17.20 USD). I look forward to trying this recipe.

  14. Gale says:

    Oh, I gotta try this!

  15. sonnie says:

    Since it’s made of beef broth, it does not keep I assume, does this freeze well? Then I can make a big batch and freeze in small batches.

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t tried freezing it myself, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t. Just be sure to defrost it in the fridge — should work great!

  16. joanna says:

    wow this is awesome! i never have any beef broth in the house but i can always find it in the store. definitely trying this out since coconut aminos are so expensive. i do always have a hefty supply of blackstrap molasses to take for anemia! tastes horrid on its own so this looks like a better way to take it.

    • David says:

      The way to totally take care of your confusion about salt is to make it a rule to never add salt until you have tasted your recipe. At the end.

    • David says:

      Please! Please don’t use commercial beef broth. Make your own, fabulous recipes all over the paleo world. I am 72 years old, I drink a cup of home made beef broth every day. I can do three reps of fifteen body squats and my knees do not crack. catch up Joanna.Be happy.

      • Cindy Bruckner says:

        david – that’s awesome! i just turned 50 and am already having chronic arthritis pain in my neck. do you make your broth with meat or just the bones?

  17. Hey, this is nice. i will surely try it as coconut aminos is $30 per bottle in my country. I am a little bit confused about salt. What if i add salt in middle instead of at the end?

    • David says:

      The way to totally take care of your confusion about salt is to make it a rule to never add salt until you have tasted your recipe. At the end.

  18. Thanks, sounds like a lovely idea! (While I can and do eat small amounts oof fermented soy, I have a couple of friends who cannot. Nice to see options.)

  19. Buttoni says:

    This sounds amazing, Melissa. And I agree, the coconut aminos is expensive, and sometimes after spending that high price, I’ve had bottles of it go bad after opening before I can use it all up. Grrrr. What a waste of $$$. I look forward to trying your creative sauce.

  20. LarryB says:

    Sounds interesting. I don’t have any molasses in the house (it’s on the short list of things I actually miss), but I can get it in bulk at the supermarket.

    Next time I make something that calls for more than a couple of tablespoons of coconut aminos, I’ll give this a shot. Which reminds me – I need to make some beef stock soon. I guess I’m off to the farmer’s market this weekend to get some bones.

  21. Robyn says:

    THIS IS AWESOME. We avoid coconut aminos (and fish sauce) because the high (natural) glutamate content makes my husband “twitchy” (his words). But this might just work as a substitute!

  22. Oh how happy this makes me! I live in Turkey, so coconut aminos are rare nectar that I dole out drop by drop. I have a slow cooker full of beef broth cooking right now. I’m trying this the minute it’s ready!

  23. MommieDEC says:

    I am very excited for this recipe. My 18 month old needs gf products but LOVES Chinese!! Soy sauce has wheat….. Big bummer since anytime he eats Chinese, soy related foods, he does his best eating (he has been considered failure to thrive for unknown reasons). Anyway…this will help greatly to up so calories and gives his taste buds a little happy dance and mommy too!!! I am so thankful for your culinary creativity. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

    Oh and using easy to find products, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  24. Schyler says:

    There’s sugar in balsamic vinegar too, for those of us watching sugar intake. (About 3 grams of carbs per Tablespoon, unless you have reduced it, then there’s obviously more per tablespoon, not sure how much.)

  25. Dana says:

    This is cool! As for the sugar content, coconut aminos already have more carb in them than soy sauce does, even the wheat-free stuff. In fact I think the carb count for CAs is about the same as for your homemade sauce. So it’s a wash, really… and only really matters if someone’s at a stage of VLC eating, where every carb literally counts. When you have more wiggle room it matters less.

    • Mel says:

      Agreed! I only mentioned the sugar/carb content above because I’m usually such a stickler about everything I post being Whole30 compliant, but trace sugar like this doesn’t matter for the majority of people.

  26. Deedee Smith says:

    Just made this and it’s wonderful! Thank you Melissa :)

  27. Alicia says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  28. Toni says:

    This looks AMAZING and I will try it this week. Time for some fried cauli-rice!

  29. Lydia says:

    URA GENIUS

  30. Tara Pantera says:

    Hallelujah. My favorite marinade in the world (Best Flank Steak Ever) has 1/4-1/2 cup of coconut aminos. I don’t make it very often because coconut aminos are so damn expensive. NOW…flank steak every DAY. Just kidding, but seriously…those things I make that involve huge amounts of CA’s that don’t lend huge amounts of flavor are going to get a makeover. Thank you again, Vicious Melicious.

  31. Definitely going to try this! Should this be stored in the fridge or on the shelf?

  32. Melanie says:

    Coconut aminos cost the earth here in NZ and are hard to find, to boot. I’ll be trying this in my beef heart jerky marinade.

  33. Annie says:

    I have everything but granulated garlic. Could I use fresh or ground?

  34. ellen says:

    Nice recipe. Perhaps if you reduce the broth and THEN add the other ingredients you wouldn’t intensify the balsamic, etc. but would maintain the intense flavor of the broth. Just a suggestion.

  35. Diane Bidgood says:

    I get my coconut aminos at Azure Standard for much less. You can even buy it by the gallon for even cheaper. Also organic molasses.

  36. Diane Bidgood says:

    I get my coconut aminos at Azure standard for much cheaper and you can get a gallon. They also have organic molasses. Now they deliver to NC, SC, and GA.

    • Karen says:

      @Diane Bidgood–thanks for that great info! I’ve been looking for a good co-op, and I’m surprised at how great Azure Standard looks! =)

  37. Megan says:

    Praise the Lord for non-soy soy sauce! My youngest has a soy allergy and I have truly missed it! My middle son has a fish allergy so I will try this with no fish sauce. I wonder if it will freeze well. Don’t think I would go through it all in 10days.

  38. Pirate Jeni says:

    This is BEGGING to be put on my next batch of beef jerky.

  39. Susan says:

    Hi there. I cut out soy completely from my diet for a period of time and was using coconut aminos. But I’ve read that fermented soy is actually not only not bad for you, but actually quite nutritious. I avoid regular soy sauce because of the gluten, but organic wheat free tamari, is a good option. http://www.naturalnews.com/025513_soy_food_soybeans.html

  40. Tracy C says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve found so many great resources like these online. My entire family has a long list of food allergies and we do buy coconut aminos, but it hurts. And we need more right now, so instead, I’ll just make this! Thanks for tinkering with the recipe, I’m sure we’ll enjoy it!

  41. Lee says:

    Thanks for this wonderful recipe. I have an extreme allergic response to soy sauce because of the mold that is added in the processing. This is a life saver since I adore oriental cuisine.

  42. Kate says:

    Hi Melissa, l love your blog, made Merguez Meatballs tonight!
    How do you think this sauce would hold up if frozen? Or other ways of keeping it past 10 days? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t tried freezing it myself, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t. Just be sure to defrost it in the fridge — should work great!

  43. Dana says:

    This was the perfect recipe to pull me out of the bind I found myself in when I discovered that my back up bottle of coconut aminos was a figment of my imagination!

    I have dubbed it Fauxminos. :)

  44. Adriana says:

    is this ok to have while doing the whole 30?
    thank you!

    • Mel says:

      It’s not Whole30 compliant because of the molasses. You could try making it with a dried date, if you want… put all the ingredients in the food processor, purée, then simmer according to the recipe instructions. It won’t taste exactly the same, but it might work.

  45. Colyn says:

    Have you tried using Marmite in your experimentation? Don’t know if you like it, but I love to use it in gravies and sauces for that umami flavor (especially the gravy for Swedish meatballs). It’s one reason I miss bread (the few times I do) — Marmite on buttered toast. Sigh.

  46. Lori says:

    Just wanted to say (although it still is pricey)- I found a gallon of coconut aminos on therawfoodworld.com for $63 and $10 to ship..but there is a coupon on there, so the total was $70. It might be cheaper in the long run…?

  47. I just wanted to say, this is now a staple in my kitchen – I label it “coco-not aminos”. I can’t thank you enough!

  48. Essdeen says:

    Just tried making it, and not sure if it tastes right. Melissa, have you ever thought about producing it in larger quantities and selling it? I for one would buy it from you, and I live in Australia :-)

    • Mel says:

      It doesn’t taste good on its own — it has to be used as an ingredients in recipes that call for soy sauce. And no, no plans to get into the food production biz :-)

  49. Julie M. says:

    THANK YOU! I’ve been soy free for a long time, but I just realized I’m completely sensitive to coconut, which makes AIP Paleo eating not much fun at all. This might help!

  50. Demelza says:

    Made this today to use as a substitute ingredient for a friend who can’t tolerate soy. It is excellent. Thank you!

  51. Jeannette says:

    I am also allergic to vinegar. Is there any way to make a substitute without it? Thanks.

    • Mel says:

      Hmmm… the vinegar adds some needed acidity… I haven’t tried this myself, but if you want to experiment, you could try lemon juice. Just replace the two vinegars with 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Good luck!

    • Izabela says:

      Are you allergic to all types of vinegar?

  52. Jessica H. says:

    Hi Mel,

    Thanks for posting this. I, too, am looking for a sub, because my hubby has renal disease. My question is how do you think this will work in a marinade, say for something like Bulgogi or Kalbi? My hubby is Korean and misses his Korean food, a LOT. :) Thanks in advance.

    Jessica

  53. Finally, another use for my blackstrap. I bought mine to make homemade Worcestershire for my blog. I don’t use the Worcestershire much so the blackstrap just sits in the back of my cupboard. I am so excited to add this recipe to my arsenal.

  54. Judith says:

    Thanks so much, I too have been cruising the internet looking for soy sauce substitutes. I have both of your books and I use many of the recipes regularly. You have introduced me to many different tastes, that I would not have experienced otherwise. Thank you for sharing your creativity!

  55. Debbi says:

    Oooh! Going to Pin this on Pinterest!!! THANKS!!

  56. Vicki says:

    I have made this and used it extensively. It is fantastic! Making the 2nd batch today — so handy to have there in the fridge. It even survived an interstate plane trip it — leaked all over the suitcase on the 5-hour flight but hey, it didn’t go off!

    I do wonder at the “splash it around” remark though, cos mine “gelifies” when stored in the fridge, because of the beef broth. In order for folks to add their own at the table, I have to heat a portion in a small dish until it “melts”.

  57. Jen says:

    Coconut aminos makes me flare, so thank you so much. I don’t need to avoid Asian food anymore. Yea!

  58. Nicole says:

    All I have to say is amazing! I needed a sub for amigos in a paleo berry glazed crockpot chicken recipe and this was perfect! Thanks again :). Nicole

  59. Mina says:

    This is the first soy sauce recipe that I have found that is also Paleo and it has beef broth! So sad; I’m intolerant to red meat; I can’t even eat the broth! Thoughts on substitutes? I can eat poultry and fish, but no red meat and no pork. Thanks!

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