Soy sauce and liquid aminos are two soy-based seasoning liquids with much in common. They are not identical, which means that you will have to learn more about them before using one or the other. In this SPICEography Showdown, we have a guide to both.
Table of contents
How does soy sauce differ from liquid aminos?
Soy sauce is made by fermenting wheat with soybeans. Liquid aminos seasoning is made by breaking soybeans down using hydrochloric acid. Fermentation produces a tiny amount of alcohol in the soy sauce that you won’t find in the liquid aminos condiment.
Soy sauce and liquid aminos differ in flavor because soy sauce is intensely salty and has a rich umami quality. The liquid aminos condiment does have some umami and saltiness, but its flavor is much milder than that of soy sauce. The liquid aminos flavor is also a little sweeter than that of soy sauce.
Soy sauce and liquid aminos differ in terms of gluten content. Soy sauce can contain gluten because of the role wheat plays in its fermentation process. As a result, soy sauce can cause health problems in people who are unable to consume gluten.
Soy sauce and liquid aminos have different nutritional profiles. Soy sauce does contain proteins from soybeans but the soybeans used to make liquid aminos have been treated to create free amino acids.
Soy sauce and liquid aminos have different salt levels and the sources of their salt are also different. Salt is added to soy sauce, giving it a very high sodium content. There is no salt added to liquid aminos, but sodium from soybeans is present in the finished product. Soy sauce has more sodium than liquid aminos but liquid aminos seasoning does contain salt and is used primarily for its salt flavor.
Cost and availability are two more areas in which soy sauce and liquid aminos differ. Soy sauce is much easier to find than liquid aminos and is usually also a lot less expensive.
Can you use soy sauce as a substitute for liquid aminos and vice versa?
Soy sauce does have the same basic flavor as liquid aminos so in that sense it can be a good substitute. The fact that most kinds of soy sauce will be saltier and have a more intense umami flavor when compared to liquid aminos means that you can dilute it to make it a little more like liquid aminos. Soy sauce won’t be a good substitute for liquid aminos if you are unable to consume gluten or if you are trying to avoid alcohol since soy sauce typically contains both.
Liquid aminos can make a soy sauce substitute in a pinch, but you may need to add salt or MSG to compensate for the mild flavor. Note that because liquid aminos are typically more expensive than the more common types of soy sauce, they can increase the cost of making a dish.
When should you use soy sauce, and when should you use liquid aminos?
Use soy sauce if your priorities are flavor and color. Soy sauce is the best option for getting the deep brown color and intense umami that you want for fried rice, dumplings, and a variety of stir-fried dishes. It is also a versatile table condiment that can add salty flavor and umami to Asian dishes.
You can use liquid aminos for the same kinds of dishes, but it is more appropriate if you are trying to limit your salt intake. The lack of intense flavor means that it may be better in Western-style dishes that don’t need a strong soy flavor.