Tamari is a Japanese condiment similar to soy sauce that is used to give a salty, savory flavor to a variety of Japanese dishes including noodles and sashimi. Tamari has gotten more popular in recent years because it is favored by people with celiac disease or who are sensitive to gluten for other reasons. If you can’t find it in your local grocery store, try one of the tamari substitutes below.
Your best bet: Soy sauce
Soy sauce is easily the best substitute for tamari. A darker type of soy sauce may be a closer match since it is likely to have more of the caramel note that you get from tamari, but any type of soy sauce will do. The flavor won’t be exactly the same but it should still be a reasonable substitute in any dish that requires tamari. Soy sauce has the benefit of being relatively easy to find and will be less expensive than tamari.
While soy sauce is the best tamari alternative in terms of flavor and appearance, it does contain wheat grain so it might not be a good option for people who cannot consume gluten.
A decent second choice: Fish sauce
Fish sauce is made with fermented anchovies and salt. It is a staple seasoning in Southern Asia and is used to give a pungent savory note to foods. While the smell of fish sauce by itself can be off-putting, it can complement savory flavors and enhance umami when added to dishes. Fish sauce is another source of the glutamates responsible for umami, which is what makes it a good tamari substitute.
The downside of fish sauce is that it will lack the deep caramel note that tamari provides. Fish sauce has the benefit of being relatively easy to find and affordable. It is also grain-free like tamari so it won’t be a problem for people who are sensitive to gluten.
In a pinch: Coconut aminos
If you need a substitute because you are trying to avoid soy products, then coconut aminos may be the perfect option for you. Coconut aminos is a sauce made from the fermented sap of the coconut tree, which is also the source of coconut sugar. While it is not quite as dark as tamari, it is dark enough to be a passable alternative in terms of appearance.
Coconut aminos won’t be a perfect substitute when it comes to flavor either since it contains much less salt, but you can add extra salt to make it a better replica.
Miso can work as a tamari substitute. Tamari originated as a byproduct of miso production. It was the liquid that seeped out of the soybeans as they fermented. As a result, miso and tamari have a lot in common in terms of their flavor profiles. Of course, miso is a paste and not a liquid, so you may have to add extra liquid to your recipe when using it as a substitute.
Monosodium glutamate can bring much of the tamari flavor to your food. While there is a lot more to tamari than just salt and savoriness, those are two of the main elements in the flavor profile. MSG provides both and is versatile enough to work in any recipe that requires tamari.