Trying to decide between tamari and liquid aminos? The two liquid condiments do have many factors in common but are far from identical. You can switch them out without drastically altering the flavor profiles of many dishes, but they aren’t always good substitutes for each other. Learn how they compare in the SPICEography Showdown below.
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How does tamari differ from liquid aminos?
Tamari is Japanese and originated as the byproduct of making another soybean product called miso, which is a soybean paste. The soybeans are pressed to make miso and a liquid is squeezed out, that liquid is tamari. The liquid aminos condiment is American and made from soybeans as well but to make it, hydrochloric acid is used to treat the beans and break down their proteins. This results in free amino acids, hence the name of the product.
Tamari can contain alcohol as a result of the fermentation process that the soybeans undergo. In some cases, alcohol gets added as a preservative. Because liquid aminos are not fermented, they do not contain alcohol.
Tamari and liquid aminos have different consistencies and flavors. Tamari is known for having a strong umami flavor similar to that of soy sauce. Its consistency is also thicker than that of liquid aminos. Along with their watery consistency, liquid aminos’ flavor is the subtler of the two.
Tamari may be easier to find in the standard American grocery store than liquid aminos. It is usually also less expensive.
Can you use tamari as a substitute for liquid aminos and vice versa?
Unlike soy sauce, both tamari and liquid aminos are not made with wheat and therefore contain no gluten. If you cannot consume gluten and are trying to choose between these seasonings, either can work. Gluten-free tamari is an excellent liquid aminos substitute and vice versa.
Both liquid condiments are also relatively low in salt, so they are good substitutes for each other if you are mainly focused on trying to lower your salt intake. If you put flavor first, then they are less than ideal substitutes. Because tamari has a stronger umami flavor, it won’t be a great substitute if you want the more muted flavor of liquid aminos.
Similarly, the subtler flavor of liquid aminos may make it seem lackluster in some dishes that require tamari. When using liquid aminos in place of tamari, you can compensate slightly by adding a little MSG to make it more intensely savory, but this may not be possible or desirable in some instances.
When should you use tamari, and when should you use liquid aminos?
Use tamari if you want a more intense umami flavor. If you are making traditional Japanese dishes like gyoza or fried rice and want the classic taste, tamari is what you should use. It is also great as a gluten-free substitute for soy sauce in Chinese and other Asian-style dishes. Use it in stir-fries, sauces and marinades. It is also a great table condiment that pairs well with many cuisine styles including some Western ones. You can use it as a substitute for salt that adds both flavor and moisture.
Liquid aminos seasoning is best if you want a milder umami flavor and thinner consistency. You can use it for any dish that requires soy sauce or tamari. It’s great in soups and sauces and is a great option for salad dressings and marinades.