Curious to know if soy sauce is vegan or not so you can enjoy the salty flavor in soups and with your veggie mango roll?
In this guide, you’ll learn all there is about the properties of soy sauce, including which brands are vegan and what sauces or ingredients you should avoid.
Can Vegans have soy sauce?
Thankfully, vegans can have soy sauce as long as it’s not mixed with fish sauce or paired with any meat ingredients.
Also, even if the soy sauce in question has vegan ingredients, it is important to consider whether or not the brand is vegan-friendly.
For example, a few years ago the famous brand of soy sauce – Kikkoman – became under fire for having tested their products on live animals.
After numerous demonstrations and protests, the brand finally ended their animal testing practice in 2015. For that reason, many stout vegans stopped purchasing Kikkoman.
What that instance taught the world is that even if soy sauce is made with vegan-friendly ingredients, the brand itself could conduct unethical procedures that would render even the most innocent soy sauces inedible by vegans. Luckily, no other brand of soy sauce has been accused of animal testing since.
Now that we know that vegans can indeed have soy sauce, read more below to find out exactly what goes into soy sauce and how it is made.
What exactly is soy sauce?
Soy sauce is a popular liquid condiment that has its origins in ancient China, dating back over 2,200 years ago during the Han dynasty.
Many people mistake soy sauce as being of Japanese origin, but the Japanese had their own version of soy sauce made out of fish ingredients (named shoyu). They would later begin to adopt the vegetarian ingredients used by the Chinese overtime.
Fish sauce has now separated completely from soy sauce. So if you are ever thinking soy sauce may smell fishy – that is only the brine and mixture of ingredients that give off this umami – salty – flavor and odor.
What you find today in the grocery aisle are mostly Japanese shoyu and consist of three different types: Tamari, Usukuchi, and Koikuchi.
Tamari is a gluten-free alternative for vegan soy sauces, as it contains virtually zero grains or wheat.
Next, Usukuchi is a light soy sauce that is sweetened with rice wine. Lastly, Koikuchi is the most common type of soy sauce and the one that you will likely eat when shopping in the US or UK.
Koikuchi is a darker soy sauce made from 50% soybeans and 50% wheat, resulting in a strong umami (salty) flavor.
How is soy sauce made?
Soy sauce is made via fermentation of soy mixed with its top ingredients, including boiled soybeans, roasted grains, mold cultures, crushed wheat, and yeasts.
Traditionally, the mixture would become fermented by placing it in big wooden barrels and letting it ferment out in the sun. Nowadays, the liquid mixture is placed inside temperature-regulated incubators.
After brewing, during which bacteria breaks down sugars into lactic acids and yeasts into ethanol, the sloshy grain mixture is pressed using cloth liners to squeeze out the pure liquid sauce.
Finally, the mixture is filtered and heated once last time to remove any raw particles and eliminate any remaining bacteria.
Common soy sauce ingredients
Soy sauce is primarily made up of soaked and boiled soybeans, crushed grains and wheat, salt (or brine), fungi, and yeast which aids in the fermenting process. Soy sauce often takes months to produce.
As a result, not every soy sauce is created equally. Although they may use the same ingredients, the quantity and process may differ slightly (i.e. brewed vs. blended), resulting in a noticeably different flavor, odor, salitness, or color.
Common vegan soy sauce recipes
Recipes for Soy Sauce:
Soy Sauce Recipe
- 1200g dry soybeans
- 1200g wheat berries
- 7.5g aspergillus orzyae starter
For the brine
- 825g sea salt
- 3.8litres water
Korean Style Soy Sauce Recipe (vegans can omit the egg part)
- 6 cups of soybeans
- 4 cups of salt
- Filtered water
- Small pieces of charcoal, chillies, dried jujubes
Recipes that use soy sauce:
No kitchen pantry is complete without soy sauce. If you are stoked about soy sauce being vegan, make sure to have a bit of fun with it with these delicious recipes.
Recipe #1: Vegan Sichuan Noodles
Let your tastebuds travel to southwest China with this simplified vegan Sichuan noodles recipe! All you need to do is combine the following ingredients:
- Cooked noodles (of your choice)
- Sichuan peppercorn (crushed)
- 2 tbsp of soy sauce (sweetened)
- 1 tbsp sesame paste
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp Chinese chili oil
- 2 tsp peanuts
- ½ tsp salt, sugar
Once the noodles are finished, throw them in the mixture and stir well. Serve piping hot in a bowl with chopsticks!
Recipe #2: Ginger-Soy Tofu
For double the soy, this next recipe calls for a soy sauce and ginger-based glaze over tofu.
To create your punchy sauce, mix together 2 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp veggie oil, 4 tsp soy sauce (any brand), 1 tsp rice syrup, 4 tsp water, and a pinch of salt.
Next, grab a block of extra firm tofu and cut into ½ inch slabs. Fry it well and then coat it in the ginger-soy glaze before serving.
Recipe #3: Sweet & Spicy Eggplant
A timeless vegan soy recipe to make is none other than sweet and spicy eggplant. For this recipe, all you need is:
- 1 large eggplant, sliced into spears or flat layers
- 2 tsp garlic
- Sesame oil, veggie oil
- 2 tbsp chopped red onion
- 1 tsp chopped red chilies
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- Dash of Chinese cooking wine
Grill the eggplants until roasted or tender. Mix together the oil, onion, chilies, wine, garlic, and soy sauce and add into the pan during the last minute of cooking. Serve over rice or by itself. And voilà!
How is soy sauce not vegan?
There are no soy sauces that are not vegan – all soy sauces are vegan as they are only made with four common ingredients: soybeans, water, wheat, and salt.
Soy sauce is often confused as not being vegan because it gives off a distinctly strong odor that reminds people of fish or oyster sauce. As long as you are indeed using soy sauce, don’t fret – it’s vegan!
Most common Vegan soy sauce brands
Although Kikkoman is perhaps the most famous of the soy sauce brands, there are many others: Yamaroku, Lee Kum Kee, Tamari, Kimlan, etc. Below are some of the most popular soy sauce brands and the answer to whether or not they are vegan.
Is Kikkoman soy sauce vegan?
Yes, Kikkoman soy sauce has stated numerous times that their soy sauce is 100% vegan.
Is La Choy soy sauce Vegan?
La Choy is a brand of products featuring Asian-inspired flavors. Its soy sauce, both dark and light versions, are completely vegan with zero animal-based products.
Is Amoy soy sauce vegan?
Amoy soy sauce is also vegan. Just like La Choy, it contains lactic acid but rest-assured it’s free of animal products.
Is Fusia soy sauce vegan?
Fusia soy sauce is vegan. It is recognizable with its little red square logo. You can often find it for purchase in Aldi stores.
Is Blue Dragon soy sauce vegan?
Yes, Blue Dragon is a vegan soy sauce. It is made and manufactured in the UK.
Is Aldi soy sauce vegan?
Aldi soy sauce simply refers to the soy sauce brands found in Aldi stores, which are traditionally brewed dark and reduced sodium soy sauces made by Fusia. Aldi may also offer a dark soy sauce brand by Asia Specialties. Both are vegan.
Is Dark soy sauce vegan?
Dark soy sauce is not a brand of soy sauce. Rather, it refers to the color of soy since there are commonly two distinct types. Dark vs. light.
Dark soy sauces are of Chinese origin as they are fermented for longer and tend to be thicker (often called “reduced” soy sauces).
Lighter soy sauces are common from Japan and result in a thinner and saltier sauce. In any case, both light and dark soy sauces are vegan-friendly as neither are made with animal-based products.
Can Vegans have soy?
Luckily, vegans can eat all types of soy. That goes for soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, soybeans, miso, and soy meat.
Is soy sauce plant based?
Soy sauce is indeed plant-based. This is thanks to its ingredients: soybeans, water, fungi, and salt. Soybeans are grown on cultivated plants and contain between 60-80 bean pods per plant.
Does soy sauce have fish in it?
Soy sauce doesn’t have any traces of fish in it, unlike oyster sauce or fish sauce which are derived from fish products.
Does Soy Sauce Have Meat, Fish or Shellfish in It?
In no way does soy sauce contain any meat, fish, or even shellfish. The only types of soy-like sauces that contain those ingredients are fish sauce and oyster sauce, which are entirely different from soy sauce (although they look similar).
Summary… So can Vegans eat soy sauce?
Considering the overwhelming evidence in this article that soy sauce is vegan, you can rest assured that vegans can consume soy sauce at leisure (well, in moderation like everyone else!).
That goes for all types of soy sauce – tamari, usukuchi, and koikuchi – and all types of soy-based foods like tofu, miso, and soy protein.
Just make sure that you are indeed buying soy sauce – and not fish or oyster sauce – when shopping in the grocery aisle at your local supermarket.