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?
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.
Soy Sauce Substitute
Makes 2/3 cup | Prep 2 minutes | Cook 10 minutes
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!
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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