Is soy sauce gluten free? If you love the savoury depth that soy sauce adds to dishes but are also mindful of gluten in your diet, then this may be something that you need to consider. In this article, we will take a look at how traditional soy sauce is made and why it may actually contain gluten. Then, we will examine tamari soy sauce and why it is an excellent substitute for traditional soy sauce in your gluten free diet.
What is Soy Sauce?
Soy sauce is a condiment that originated in China more than 2,500 years ago. It’s traditionally made through a process of fermentation using soybeans, wheat, salt, and a specific type of mould called Aspergillus. This mixture is left to ferment for several months, which results in the rich, umami flavour that’s characteristic of soy sauce. This is then pressed to extract the liquid, which is pasteurized and bottled ready for use.
Is traditional soy sauce gluten free?
So no, traditional soy sauce is not gluten free. The inclusion of wheat as a primary ingredient in the fermentation process means that traditional soy sauce contains gluten. While the end product is often filtered, the gluten proteins from the wheat remain in the sauce. Therefore, individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid traditional soy sauce.
Does all soy sauce contain gluten?
Fortunately, not all soy sauce contains gluten. There are gluten free alternatives available, and one such option is Tamari. Tamari is a Japanese version of soy sauce, typically made without wheat, making it a suitable option for those following a gluten free diet. Another alternative is soy sauces labelled as gluten free. These products are made with rice instead of wheat, ensuring they are safe for individuals with gluten intolerance. Always remember to check labels carefully to ensure you’re choosing a gluten free soy sauce.
What is Tamari Sauce?
Tamari sauce originated in Japan during the 7th century and is a byproduct of the process of making miso paste. Historically, it was collected from the liquid that seeped out of the casks containing fermenting miso. Its name comes from the Japanese verb ‘tamaru’ which means ‘to accumulate’. While Tamari is commonly known as a type of soy sauce, it’s important to note that its flavour profile is slightly different. As it is typically made without wheat, it has also found popularity among the gluten free community.
How is tamari sauce made?
Tamari sauce is made by fermenting soybeans, salt, and sometimes a small amount of rice. The process begins with soaking the soybeans in water and then cooking until soft. Next, they’re mixed with a mold called Aspergillus oryzae and allowed to ferment for about three days. This creates a mixture called koji, which is then combined with salt and water to create what’s known as a moromi mixture. The moromi is left to ferment for several months, during which enzymes from the koji break down the soybeans’ proteins, fats, and starches into flavour components.
After fermentation, the mixture is pressed to separate the solids from the liquid, which results in Tamari sauce. The sauce is then pasteurized to kill any remaining bacteria and extend shelf life, after which it’s ready to be bottled and sold.
What’s the difference between tamari and soy sauce?
Despite their similar appearances, Tamari and soy sauce are actually quite distinct. The primary difference lies in their ingredients and production process. Traditional soy sauce is made with a nearly equal ratio of soybeans to wheat which results in a thinner, slightly saltier sauce. Tamari, on the other hand, is made mostly, if not entirely, from soybeans. This yields a sauce that is thicker, less salty, and richer in flavour. In addition, Tamari tends to have a darker colour and a more balanced, less harsh taste compared to soy sauce.
Is tamari gluten free?
Yes, as it is made without wheat, most tamari can be considered gluten free. It is however always wise to check the label.
Is tamari better for you than soy?
Tamari could be considered healthier than soy sauce for some individuals, particularly those who are sensitive to gluten. In terms of sodium, tamari and soy sauce are quite similar, although some might find tamari to be slightly less salty. Additionally, due to the higher concentration of soybeans, tamari may have a richer nutrient profile than soy sauce.
What does tamari soy sauce taste like?
Tamari is often described as smoother, richer, and less salty compared to traditional Chinese soy sauce.
Can I substitute soy sauce with tamari?
Yes, you can substitute soy sauce with tamari. Tamari, being less salty and smoother in taste, can be an excellent alternative to soy sauce. As we have seen, it is particularly useful for those looking to reduce their gluten intake, as it’s typically gluten free.
However, it’s important to remember that because of the differences in flavour profile, the end result of the dish might taste slightly different. In recipes where soy sauce is a minor ingredient, this change will likely be subtle. For dishes where soy sauce is a key component, you may notice a richer, less salty taste with tamari.
Using Tamari Soy Sauce to Enhance Your Cooking
We have already seen that tamari is an excellent gluten free alternative to soy sauce and that unless you are looking for a very specific flavour profile (such as in an authentic traditional dish) it can be used instead of soy sauce in most instances.
Tamari sauce can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Use it as a marinade for your proteins to infuse them with a deep, umami flavour, add a dash to your stir-fries for an instant flavour boost, or drizzle it on your sushi and sashimi just like you would with soy sauce. Tamari’s less salty, richer flavour profile also makes it an excellent dipping sauce, offering a smooth, savoury experience for your taste buds. Remember, a little goes a long way with tamari sauce, so use sparingly to start!
If you are just starting out on your gluten free diet you may find our guide to gluten free food useful.
This article was reproduced on this site with permission from operafoods.com.au the “Gluten Free Grocery Suppliers”.
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