Tamari: The Original Soy Sauce

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Tamari is a kind of soy sauce made with soybeans but little or no wheat, unlike regular soy sauce. Originally, tamari was the term for the liquid that flowed to the bottom of the barrel as miso was compressed and fermented. Tamari was being collected from miso in the 8th century BCE, but it may have originated in China centuries before that.

The original tamari was thick with a 2:1 ratio of soybeans to water and was called go-bu tamari.

The first shop to sell tamari was opened in Japan in 1290. It would take two more centuries for Japan’s tamari industry to start up. In the 15th century, miso that contained a higher volume of moisture was created. The liquid was pressed out of it after fermentation and then filtered before being bottled.

The tamari name begins with the Chinese. The common Chinese name for soy sauce is jiangyou, which means the liquid extracted from jiang. Jiang is the soybean paste that was the precursor to soy sauce. The word dou-yu is also used to refer to this product. Dou-yu means the liquid extracted from soybeans. In Japanese, this translates to the word tamari.

Tamari is sometimes used — erroneously — to refer only to traditional Japanese-style soy sauce since the word also means a type of soy sauce that usually wheat-free.

Tamari flavor profile

Tamari’s consistency is thicker and its taste is richer and smoother than soy sauce’s. It has a savory flavor like that of soy sauce, but it is also noticeably less salty. It brings the same umami note that you expect from soy sauce.

Health benefits of tamari

Tamari is pretty nutritious as condiments go. Here are some of the compounds in it that make it good for you:

  • Protein: Like soy sauce, tamari is a good source of protein. This is especially impressive since the serving sizes are usually small. Depending on the tamari that you use, you could get as much as 4 grams of protein from a 1-tablespoon serving.
  • Antioxidants: The brown pigment in tamari is believed to be a powerful antioxidant with major health benefits.
  • Vitamins: Tamari doesn’t have a large amount of any one vitamin, but it does have moderate to small amounts of a few. The list includes B vitamins like niacin and pyridoxine.

Tamari might be useful for treating or preventing health issues like:

High blood pressure

While soy sauce can be quite high in sodium, tamari typically contains much less of it. Sodium is a factor in high blood pressure. You can use tamari to limit the negative effects of sodium without losing flavor in your food.

  • Cancer: The antioxidants present in tamari’s brown pigment may be effective for fighting cancer.

Common uses

You can use tamari in the same ways that you use soy sauce: it’s a condiment for enhancing savory flavors. Use it on tofu, noodles, and sushi. It’s a good addition to vegan dishes since it provides the umami note that dishes without animal protein often lack.

Because tamari is thicker than the most common variety of soy sauce, it makes an excellent dipping sauce and you can add it to a marinade as well. If you have celiac disease, you can use a wheat-free tamari as a substitute for soy sauce since it won’t contain gluten.