Tamari and Soy Sauce: The Basics

August 04, 2014

Ever wondered what the difference was between tamari and soy sauce? Find out here, and more...

What are Tamari and Soy Sauce?
Both are made from miso (fermented soybeans), water, and, most often, wheat. High in sodium and used for seasoning, particularly in Asian cuisine.

How to Buy:
Although originating in China, today’s Japanese producers are considered the premier tamari and soy sauce choices. Both are available in gluten free selections made without wheat but with soybeans; regular and low-sodium varieties, as well as a variety of sizes. For fuller, richer flavor choose tamari, considered a better balance of rich and salty. Tamari is thicker, naturally brewed and aged, and has less sodium and no wheat. Avoid choices made with MSG. Buy in glass bottles, preferably without an overlay of plastic, for additional freshness. Many imported brands accent longer aging, which adds more complexity to the flavor.

How to Store:
Unopened bottles should be kept in a cool dark cupboard and refrigerated upon opening for up to six months.

How to Use:
Tamari and soy sauce can be used as a seasoning for all savory foods, combined with ginger and garlic for marinades or used in lieu of salt as a finishing touch.

Health Benefits:
Because of the high sodium content, tamari and soy sauce should be used sparingly by those with high blood pressure. It has 9 percent tryptophan, nearly 5 percent manganese, and modest amounts of protein and niacin. Very low in calories. Tamari is often made without wheat and is usually used in gluten free/wheat free cooking.

Smarter Shopping:
Generic and brand-name choices are available at all major supermarkets, however, the highest grade tamari and soy sauces are worth checking for in Asian markets. Unless you’re cooking in huge quantities, avoid the larger sizes even though they’re less expensive per ounce. Opt instead for freshness with smaller bottles. Japanese soy sauce is known as shoyu.