Umami City: We Ranked 7 Best Soy Sauces

This is one of the first taste tests I’ve done here at Sporked that left me feeling a little out of my depth. I mean, I love soy sauce. I cook with it and I dunk my sushi into it, but despite its ubiquity in my life, I’ve never really dissected what makes one soy sauce taste better than another. Is it salty, brown, and sitting on the table in a Japanese restaurant? Hell yeah, I’ll take it.

There’s a lot of soy sauce out there. Different countries of origin. Different colors. Different depths of flavor. We got our hands on more than 15 bottles—from small-batch sauces to the most accessible brands—and sipped each from a spoon to figure out what sets the good sauces apart from the great ones. These seven definitely deserve a spot in your fridge door.

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best soy sauce

Best of the Best

Silver Swan Special Soy Sauce

Now that I’m aware of this Filipino-made soy sauce, it’s what I’ll be buying for my own fridge. This dark, substantial sauce has an ultra-rich flavor, a hint of sweetness, and huge amounts of umami. Plus it comes in a big-ass plastic bottle and the design of the label is lovely. Sporked staff writer Danny Palumbo detected an almost smoky quality to this sauce: “It has a real meatiness to it that I love,” he said. After I’d tasted several other sauces with a shrug, it was immediately apparent that this one was unique, even if I couldn’t put a finger on why. As the label advertises, it’s special. As great as it is on a spoon, I truly can’t wait to make fried rice with this.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best soy sauce

Best Smooth

Private Selection Premium Soy Sauce

This soy sauce comes from one of Kroger’s house brands, but it’s fancy and it shows. Besides the classy paper hat fitted over the bottle’s lid, this sauce purports to have been aged for 180 days, and, according to Epicurious, the aging process makes a soy sauce’s flavor more “interesting and complex.” I also imagine that aging cuts down on the astringent bite other sauces have, giving this one a nice, smooth flavor that really fills up your mouth all the way to your nose. This is a few bucks more expensive than other store brand sauces, but it’s definitely worth it.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Kroger

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best soy sauce

Best Imported

Kikkoman Extra Fancy Prime Umami Soy Sauce

When it comes to soy sauce, umami is the name of the game. And this sauce from Kikkoman has umami in spades. Sure, it’s packaged sort of like a sports drink, but don’t let that turn you off. This sauce hits parts of your tongue that a lot of the other sauces don’t. While there isn’t a humongous difference between this and the familiar bottle of Kikkoman you’ll find on the table at your local sushi restaurant, the amped-up umami is super welcome.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Walmart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

kroger soy sauce

Best Budget

Kroger Soy Sauce

Is it possible for a soy sauce to taste dark? If so, this budget sauce from Kroger pulls it off. I detected a lot of umami and a little sweetness too. We liked its “very dark flavors” (that’s what I said in my notes, take it or leave it), and loved its commodious packaging: “It’s nice that it comes in a fat-ass bottle,” Sporked staff writer Jordan Myrick said. If you use a lot of soy sauce at home, this is a great purchase.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Kroger

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best soy sauce

Best Small Batch

Bluegrass Soy Sauce

This fancy little bottle of soy sauce is packaged almost like a flask of whiskey at your corner liquor store, and that’s certainly by design. Manufactured in Louisville and brewed and aged in bourbon barrels, this Bluegrass soy sauce has a fruity flavor that Jordan compared to cherry stems. It’s definitely distinct and it’s definitely tasty. This would make a great gift (even to yourself).

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best soy sauce

Best Tamari

San-J Tamari Soy Sauce

Tamari may resemble soy sauce, but it has a milder flavor that makes it distinct. It’s even made differently (tamari is a byproduct of miso paste, while soy sauce is brewed and fermented on its own). This was one of a couple of tamaris we tried, and I really loved it. It has a really bold flavor that gives it teriyaki vibes, and it feels like it can coat food really well. Not a huge departure from the soy sauce you’re used to, but a pleasant change.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best soy sauce

Best Low Sodium

Trader Joe’s Reduce Sodium Soy Sauce

Soy sauce packs a lot of sodium, so having a reduce-sodium option on hand isn’t the worst idea. This sauce from Trader Joe’s still has a bold flavor and plenty of umami, but feels a lot less astringent on your tongue thanks to the pared down salt content. I’d argue that you can even taste the sauce’s other elements more when the sodium is dialed back. And we love a big bottle like this.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Sporked

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Nine Soy Sauce, Simple Truth Organic Soy Sauce, Momofuku Soy Sauce, Great Value Soy Sauce, Market Pantry Soy Sauce, Eden Tamari, Kikkoman Traditional, Kishibori Shoyu

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About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

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  • Disappointed you didn’t even try a single Korean soy sauce

    Reply
  • How would something like Bragg’s liquid aminos stack up against your top options? That’s typically my alternative to soy sauce.

    Reply