What Is Soy Sauce and Should It Go in the Fridge?

I love soy sauce. I treat fried rice and wonton soup purely as soy sauce delivery systems. I know I’m not the only soy sauce addict out there. But how many of us really know the answer to the question, what is soy sauce? What is soy sauce made of? Can soy sauce go bad and does it need to be refrigerated? Here are the answers, for all you soy boys and girls out there. 

What is soy sauce?

Soy sauce is a rich, salty, umami-filled condiment that originated in China over 2,000 years ago. Originally, it was used to preserve foods to store them longer (like salt) but these days it’s popular as a dip, marinade, and sauce that can be doused on pretty much anything. Though it was invented in China, where it is called jiang you, soy sauce spread throughout Asia. In Japan it’s called shoyu, which is actually where “soy sauce” comes from. 

What is soy sauce made of?

Exactly what is in soy sauce? Traditionally, soy sauce is made with only a few ingredients: soybeans, wheat, and salt water.  

How is soy sauce made? Is soy sauce fermented?

Wondering how to make soy sauce? Cook soybeans until they soften, mix that with roasted wheat, and add Aspergillus, a fungal culture, to kick off fermentation. Yes that’s right, soy sauce is fermented just like all the other “cool” foods out there right now. Brew that mix with a salt water brine then press that mixture to extract the soy sauce.

Some modern soy sauces are made super fast using a chemical process involving hydrochloric acid. But the slow brewed, naturally fermented stuff just tastes better. 

best soy sauce

Best Soy Sauce You Can Buy

What’s the best soy sauce? We tasted a bunch of the top brands on the market to find the best soy sauce for dipping and cooking.

Is soy sauce gluten free?

Most soy sauce is made with wheat, so soy sauce is not gluten-free. However there are a lot of different kinds of soy sauces out there. One of the Japanese varieties, tamari, usually does not contain any gluten. Still, anyone looking to maintain a completely gluten-free diet should check those labels. 

Is soy sauce vegan?

Soy sauce typically does not contain any animal products, so it is vegan. There may be a few soy sauces out there that add fish sauce or anchovies to increase that umami flavor, so again, always read the labels.

Does soy sauce need to be refrigerated?

Some of the biggest arguments in my house are about what condiments belong in the fridge. Well, that and who is the greatest British Prime Minister. I’m happy to report that when it comes to soy sauce, the fridge isn’t always necessary (and the answer to the other thing is Lord Palmerston)! As a fermented food, soy sauce can be stored in your pantry. But it will last a lot longer in the refrigerator. 

Does soy sauce expire? Does soy sauce go bad? 

An unopened bottle of soy sauce will remain fresh for years. But if it is opened, it will eventually start to lose its potency. So, it won’t go bad as much as it will just go not as good

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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