Cooking Toolkit – Soy Sauce

We’re all familiar with Soy Sauce, that delicious savory and salty condiment from Asia. It’s something we’re used to in assorted restaurants in bottles, packets, and the large amount of variations in any well-stocked supermarket.

Soy sauce is a wonderful substance, and something I use in many of my dishes. It’s not just a common condiment to use on your usual sushi and such, but an amazing substance that can enhance many cuisines.

Soy sauce itself is pretty simple. It’s a fermented paste of soybeans, wheat (except in gluten-free versions) and brine, squeezed to yield the famous brown liquid we all know. It actually comes in many varieties and different countries have different recipes and variants, if you wish to explore them.

(However, be careful. Some imports aren’t always reliably manufactured and you can get some real nastiness.)

Me, for my love of it, I’m pretty standard – I use Kikkoman’s Low Sodium. You can examine others as you need, but Kikkoman’s is reliable and tasty and, of course, safe as its brewed local.

But beyond the history of Soy Sauce, let’s talk about how you can use it, because it’s a miracle for a cook, especially a mostly-vegetarian like me.

Soy Sauce has a unique, salty, savory flavor, with the richness that fermentation usually brings to a food. Notice how it can transform something simple like rice into a crave able dish? Now think what it can do to even more complex fare.

Here’s what I’ve used.

  • Outright, the savory taste of soy means that it can add a kind of savory/meaty taste to dishes – which if you’re like me and don’t cook a lot of meat or “vegetarianize” dishes, it’s an instant way to get the flavors you want. Soy sauce is a prime ingredient in a lot of my “de-meated” dishes – and sometimes it’s all you need.
  • Soy sauce also is a great salt substitute for dishes as it brings in the other flavors. if you’ve got a dish that needs a kick, remove the salt and add Soy Sauce. I find 1/4 tsp of salt can be replaced with 1/2 to 1 Tbsp of Soy sauce. Just be careful because Soy Sauce, even the low-sodium version, is pretty powerful. One Tablespoon has the sodium of 1/2 tsp of salt.
  • Soy sauce plays well with a lot of spices. You’ll have to experiment, but I’ve used it in many dishes with different spice loads successfully. One of the most noteworthy combinations was I found it worked well with Oregano and Basil.
  • Soy sauce also works well with other savory flavors – especially tomatoes. So try it with tomatoes, meat, cheeses, and more.
  • Soy sauce also works good with other fermented ingredients. I’ve found it play well with Balsamic Vinegar (which also adds meaty flavor) and red wine in sauces and other dishes.
  • Soy sauce also works well with sours at times. For some reason I find dishes that use soy sauce also work well with lemon juice.
  • Soy sauce also can be good in dressings and sauces as well. Try it in place of vinegars.

What I’m saying is that pretty much for any cook willing to experiment that you want a bottle of good soy sauce on hand at all times. It’s well worth your time to get to know.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at