Have you run out of dark soy? Don't worry, we'll tell you all the best (and worst) substitutes for dark soy sauce, including soy and gluten free soy sauce alternatives. As well as a DIY dark soy sauce recipe. So, don't panic, because there are plenty of dark soy sauce substitutes to act as a salty and sweet condiment and save the day.
🙋♀️ What is dark soy sauce?
Dark soy sauce is thicker, darker, sweeter and richer than regular soy sauce.
Like light soy sauce, it's a traditional soy sauce and it is used to add flavour to dishes, but its most important function is to add a dark color to dishes. While in Thailand we were taught to utilise a combination of light and dark soy sauce to create an additional depth of flavour in dishes, such as in this pad Thai recipe.
Dark soy sauce, like light soy sauce, is made using fermented soybeans and originates in China. The difference is that it's allowed to ferment and age for much longer, which develops the sauce further. Sometimes colouring and molasses are added too.
Chinese dark soy sauce isn't an ingredient that everyone has in their cupboard though, so in this article we'll run you through the best dark soy sauce substitutes, some uses for this amazing sauce, such as in dipping sauces, pan fried noodles and fried rice, as well as substitutes that we don't recommend.
🍶 The best dark soy sauce substitutes
1. Double black soy sauce
Chances are, if you don't have any dark soy sauce, you might not have double black soy sauce either. However, just in case you do, this is one of the best substitutes for dark soy sauce.
Double black (sometimes called double dark soy sauce) is a thick, dark and sweet type of Chinese soy sauce. It's very similar to dark soy sauce, but it has molasses added to it, meaning it has a slight sweet flavor.
It has the same dark color and viscous consistency, along with a salty, umami flavor which is a great start. However, it's sweeter and the salty flavour is less prominent, so we'd recommend adding a little bit of light soy sauce to thin it out and reinforce the saltiness.
1:1 - substitute 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce for 0.75 tablespoon double black sauce + 0.25 tablespoon of regular light soy sauce.
2. Kecap manis
Kecap manis also known as sweet soy sauce, is similar to double black soy sauce. It's an Indonesian sauce that's thick and syrupy, with a salty and sweet flavour. Like double black soy sauce, it's also one of the best dark soy sauce substitutes.
1:1 - substitute 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce for 0.75 tablespoon kecap manis + 0.25 tablespoon of regular soy sauce.
3. Light soy sauce
This is the first dark soy sauce substitute that most people will probably have in their cupboard.
Light soy sauce is very common in Asian cooking, and is also known as regular soy sauce or just 'soy sauce'. It's a thin sauce with a salty, umami flavor that's used heavily in Asian cuisine as a seasoning or flavour enhancer.
Light soy sauce is much thinner than dark soy sauce and it isn't sweet at all. So if you want to use light soy sauce as a substitute for dark soy sauce, we'd recommend using sugar as well. Palm sugar would be the best type to use, but it's not that common, so use brown sugar, maple syrup or just regular old (vegan) white sugar.
Find out more about light soy sauce (and what to use if you've run out of that one too!).
1:1 - substitute 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce for 0.75 tablespoon light soy sauce + 0.25 tablespoon of sugar.
4. Coconut aminos
Coconut aminos are made by fermenting coconut sap. Like light soy sauce, it's a thin sauce but it's actually quite salty with a little sweetness. This is a great choice if you're looking for a gluten and soy free substitute for dark soy, as coconut aminos contain neither.
Similar to coconut aminos, there's also liquid aminos. They're very similar, but liquid aminos are made with soybeans and aren't quite as sweet. They're still gluten free, but not soy free.
If you're substituting dark soy sauce for coconut aminos, like light soy sauce, we recommend adding sugar to try to achieve the same sweetness as dark soy sauce. It won't have the same thickness or provide the darker colour though.
1:1 - substitute 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce for 0.75 tablespoon coconut aminos + 0.25 tablespoon of sugar.
5. Mushroom sauce (vegetarian oyster sauce)
Mushroom sauce, often called vegetarian oyster sauce, is the perfect vegetarian and vegan alternative to oyster sauce. It's also not a terrible dark soy sauce substitute.
It has a thicker consistency but has a salty and sweet flavor. It does, of course, also come with a mushroom flavour. So, if you're using vegetarian oyster sauce as a dark soy sauce substitute, just know that the flavour profile isn't going to be identical.
1:1 - substitute 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce for 1 tablespoon of vegetarian oyster sauce.
👩🍳 DIY Dark Soy Sauce
It's super easy to recreate that dark soy sauce taste at home, even if you haven't got any of the sauce in the cupboard right now!
The recipe calls for just regular soy sauce and dark brown sugar.
1. In a saucepan, pour in the sugar followed by the light soy sauce.
2. Bring up to a simmer and stir well.
3. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved but the consistency isn't super thick.
For full instructions and measurements for homemade dark soy sauce, check out the recipe card at the end of this article.
🤨 The worst substitutes
Mushroom flavored dark soy sauce
Mushroom flavored dark soy sauce sounds like it should be a good fit, right? It's not too dissimilar, but it has a bitter edge that dark soy sauce doesn't have.
This is why we don't recommend mushroom flavoured dark soy sauces as a substitute. That's because dark soy sauce isn't bitter so it wouldn't replace dark soy sauce well at all. That being said, if this is the only ingredient you have on this list, go ahead and use it to replace dark soy sauce by switching it out 1:1.
We said the same thing when giving advice on the best light soy sauce substitutes: Worcestershire sauce is a terrible substitute for any type of soy sauce. We won't change our minds on this!
Vegan Worcestershire sauce is amazing in the right situation, like in this lentil bolognese, but the flavour is wrong for a dark soy sauce substitute. It's extremely strong, has a tangy flavor that doesn't offer the right balance for a dark soy sauce substitute.
Hoisin sauce and teriyaki sauce
We're just going to go ahead and group these two together. They both share some similar properties - they're thick, sweet and have a nice umami hit.
However, both hoisin sauce and teriyaki sauce contain other ingredients and spices that dark soy sauce doesn't offer, so they're going to offer a very different flavour.
Similar to our recommendation to mushroom flavoured dark soy sauce, we'd say that if they're the only ingredients you have, then you should use it and it will be tasty. However, the overall result won't be the same as if you were using a better dark soy sauce substitute.
🥡 Uses for dark soy sauce
Dark soy sauce is a key ingredient in many Chinese, Korean, and Southeast Asian cuisines. It is often used in marinades, stir fries, and sauces to add colour and depth of flavour to dishes.
While it's similar to light soy sauce, it's much thicker and sweeter. Although the sweetness distracts from the saltiness, the sodium content is higher than light soy sauce.
Some of our favourite vegetable dishes that use dark soy sauce are:
Overall, there are many stir fries, curries, fried rice and dipping sauces that call for dark soy sauce. It will add a salty flavor just like many other soy sauces, but it also adds a darker color and deeper flavor.
No, tamari is not the same as dark soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is a thicker, sweeter version of soy sauce that originates in China. Tamari is more akin to light soy sauce. It's a gluten free sauce made from fermented soybeans, but it's from Japan.
We wouldn't recommend directly switching dark soy sauce for light soy sauce. If you only have dark soy sauce on hand, you can use it but it's a thick, sweeter tasting sauce. Any recipe making this switch with likely turn our richer and darker in colour than it's supposed to be, while not being as salty.
In conclusion, the best substitutes for dark soy sauce are light soy sauce, kecap manis, double black soy sauce, coconut aminos and mushroom sauce. The worst dark soy sauce substitutes are Worcestershire sauce, Teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce and mushroom flavored dark soy sauce.
So there you have it, all the best substitutes for dark soy sauce! There are many options to choose from that will give the right sweet and salty flavor that's needed for the recipe that you're making. Happy cooking!
Homemade Dark Soy Sauce
- 1 cup regular soy sauce
- 0.75 cup brown sugar
- In a saucepan, pour in the sugar followed by the light soy sauce.1 cup regular soy sauce, 0.75 cup brown sugar
- Bring up to a simmer and stir well.
- Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved but the consistency isn't super thick.
- Other great options for replicating dark soy sauces are light soy sauce, kecap manis, double black soy sauce, coconut aminos and mushroom sauce.
- Don't use teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce or Worcestershire sauce as they have completely different flavors.