Tamari is a type of Japanese soy sauce, and this yummy seasoning is used to add a rich, umami flavor to various dishes. If you don’t have this specialty ingredient, check out our comprehensive list of Tamari substitutes, and don’t give up on that recipe!
You can find tamari in the Asian or natural foods section of grocery stores, in health food stores, specialty stores, local food markets, and online.
If you run out of tamari or you can’t find it in nearby stores, these alternatives will let you cook practically any dish that calls for it, so keep reading!
What Is Tamari?
Tamari is a type of soy sauce made in Japan from the liquid that forms around miso (fermented soybean paste).
This Japanese condiment is made only from water, soybeans, and salt, and unlike soy sauce, it contains no wheat. That means it’s gluten-free, so it’s safe for those allergic to this ingredient.
Miso paste has a deep umami flavor, and tamari inherits it, which is why it’s considered more potent than classic soy sauce.
Since they have resembling flavors, tamari is often used as a soy sauce substitute.
What Does Tamari Taste Like?
Both tamari and soy sauce share the umami flavor. Tamari is more intense, has a slightly thicker consistency, and is less salty than soy sauce.
Because of the reduced salt content, tamari lets you better taste the complex flavor of fermented soybeans.
Tamari’s flavor is smooth, and savory, and goes well with a variety of meat-based and vegetarian dishes.
15 Best Tamari Substitutes
Before you decide to give up on the recipe you wanted to make, check out these 14 alternatives for tamari. Chances are, at least one of them is already in your pantry!
|Substitute||Ratio (Substitute: Tamari)||Notes|
|Soy Sauce||1:1||If the recipe also calls for salt, you might need to use less.|
|Mushroom Soy Sauce||1:2||–|
|Miso Paste||1 tablespoon tamari = 1 teaspoon miso paste + 2 teaspoons water||–|
|Anchovies||1:1||Chop them finely, turn them into a paste, or use storebought anchovies paste.|
|Umeboshi Vinegar||1:3||Add more if needed.|
|Maggi Seasoning||1:3||Add more if needed.|
|Balsamic Vinegar||1:1||You might need to add a little salt and/or sugar to your dish|
|Salt||Add to taste.||–|
We already discussed above how tamari is often used as a soy sauce substitute. It goes the other way too!
Compared to tamari, soy sauce is saltier, a bit thinner, and also contains gluten, because wheat is one of the ingredients used to make it.
You can use soy sauce as a substitute for tamari in a 1:1 ratio. Because it’s saltier than tamari, use your best judgment if the recipe also calls for salt.
Mushroom Soy Sauce
Mushroom soy sauce is soy sauce with added black mushrooms. The flavor is slightly different and it’s a bit thicker than regular soy sauce but it can replace tamari in various dishes.
The substitution ratio is 1:2, and this means you will need 1/2 tablespoon of mushroom soy sauce to substitute 1 tablespoon of tamari.
Made from fermented fish or krill, fish sauce is salty, pungent, and a little acidic. It might smell “fishy” but your dishes won’t get that flavor.
In cooking, fish sauce works in a similar way to salt and it can be used as a tamari substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
I always recommend doing a taste test to help you decide if your dish needs more fish sauce. It’s easy to add more, but once it’s in the pot, you can’t take it out.
Miso paste is made from soybeans, a type of grain such as rice, rye, or barley, and koji (a fungus used as a fermenting agent).
There are several types of miso paste, and you can read more about red vs white miso in our guide, which are two of the most common.
Flavor-wise, miso paste has a salty, umami taste, and a strong scent. Depending on the type it can also have a subtle nutty flavor.
This is a paste, so it’s much thicker than tamari. To use it as a substitute, it needs to be mixed with a bit of water. Simply use the formula below:
1 tablespoon tamari = 1 teaspoon miso paste + 2 teaspoons water
Tip: Looking for a miso paste substitute? We’ve got you covered!
On top of fermented soybeans, hoisin sauce contains other ingredients such as garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, and chili peppers.
This sticky sauce has a complex flavor that’s a mix of spicy, salty, sweet, and sour.
Because of its consistency, it’s often used as a dipping sauce, or as a glaze for meat-based dishes.
Tamari and hoisin sauce don’t have the same flavor profile but they work very well in Asian dishes, so they can substitute each other. Read this guide if you’re looking for hoisin sauce substitutes!
As a rule of thumb, a 1:2 substitution ratio works well when swapping Hoisin sauce for tamari.
Caramelized oysters with added salt and sugar are used for making the thick and syrupy oyster sauce with a consistency similar to the one of tamari.
It doesn’t taste like oysters and fish. In fact, the flavor is often described as a mix between barbecue sauce and soy sauce.
You can replace tamari with oyster sauce using a 1:1 ratio for most recipes. You can always add a little more if needed.
Needless to say, it works the other way around too and that means tamari can also be used as an oyster sauce substitute.
The sweet and salty flavor of teriyaki sauce comes from a mix of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar.
In the Western hemisphere, this sauce can also have other ingredients added such as honey, garlic, and ginger.
To use teriyaki sauce as a tamari substitute, a 1:1 ratio works in most cases.
Shoyu sauce is another type of Japanese soy sauce and its complex umami flavor also has some sweet undertones.
It’s not as easy to find as soy sauce but most Asian supermarkets carry it, and ordering online is also an option.
You can use it as a tamari alternative in a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind that shoyu sauce contains wheat, so it’s not gluten-free.
This famous English condiment doesn’t contain soybeans but it is a fermented sauce, just like tamari, and other types of soy sauce.
Worcestershire sauce actually includes many ingredients among which you’ll find vinegar, molasses, anchovy, tamarind extract, celery seed, garlic powder, spices, sugar, and salt.
Its complex taste is a mix of tangy, and salty with a subtle sweetness.
Worcestershire sauce is not an exact replacement for tamari but it goes well in most dishes and you can use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
An all-purpose sauce made from the fermented sap of coconut palm blossoms, coconut aminos makes an excellent replacement for tamari sauce and other types of soy sauce, which also happens to be gluten-free.
This flavor enhancer is quite versatile in the kitchen and its salty, umami flavor makes it a great substitute for tamari sauce.
In general, a 1:1 ratio works but you can always add more if needed.
Anchovies have a potent salty, fishy, umami flavor that’s able to replace tamari sauce really well.
Most grocery stores carry them so they’re easily available. They can be used to flavor salads, vegetable dishes, dips, and sauces among others.
Be aware that anchovies have a strong fish smell and their flavor profile lacks the sweet caramel undertones tamari has.
You can use anchovies as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio and you can either chop them finely, turn them into a paste, or purchase anchovy paste if you’d like.
This vinegar is the brine that results from making pickled plums and it also contains sea salt and red shiso (beefsteak leaf).
Mainly used in Japan, umeboshi vinegar, also known as ume plum vinegar, offers a balanced mix of sweet, salty, tangy, and meaty flavors. I recommend it as a tamari substitute for salad dressings, and fish recipes.
It’s worth mentioning that umeboshi vinegar is much saltier than tamari, so you’ll need to use less when using it as a tamari replacement. A 1:3 ratio is a good place to start since you can always add more later if you’d like.
Maggi seasoning is an all-purpose liquid condiment that’s salty and a little spicy. In fact, it’s saltier than tamari sauce and also has a darker color.
It makes an excellent addition to noodles and stir-fries, but don’t add as much as you would tamari to avoid your dish becoming overly salty.
Start with a 1:3 ratio and adjust as needed.
This sweet and sour aged vinegar is frequently used in marinades, salad dressings, sauces, and a large variety of cooked dishes.
Using it instead of tamari will change the final flavor of your recipe but that doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious. However, refrain from using it as a dip, as it’s too thin for this purpose.
We’re loving it in roasted dishes like this easy honey balsamic sheet pan chicken and veggies!
Balsamic vinegar works as a 1:1 substitute for tamari. Tamari is saltier and sweeter than balsamic vinegar, so you might need to add a little salt and/or sugar to your dish.
Salt is the universal seasoning you can use to replace tamari in a pinch. It definitely won’t give you the complex flavor of tamari, but the clean salty taste will allow the other ingredients to shine.
You can use plain salt or, depending on the dish you’re making, use flavored salt such as garlic, onion, or chili.
There’s no fixed ratio for using salt as a tamari replacement. Add to taste, like you usually do when cooking.
More Favorite Substitutes
Yes, tamari sauce needs to be refrigerated once you open it. In the fridge, it stays good for up to 3 months.
Unopened tamari is best stored in a cool and dry area, away from sunlight.
Yes. Being made only from water, soybeans, and salt, tamari sauce is naturally gluten-free.
Some tamari varieties can contain small amounts of wheat, so if you’re allergic to gluten, it’s best to read the label before purchasing it.
No, tamari does not contain MSG. However, MSG is often added to other soy sauces.
Both are made from fermented soybeans, although soy sauce also contains wheat. Compared to soy sauce, tamari has a thicker consistency, is less salty, and has a richer umami flavor.
If you have several options available from this list, you’re probably wondering how to choose the best tamari substitute.
Consider the other ingredients in your dish, and the kind of flavor you’re looking for.
For the closest match, replace tamari with soy sauce or miso paste. Hoisin sauce and fish sauce will provide a stronger flavor, while oyster sauce and coconut aminos add some extra sweetness.
Worchestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, and umeboshi vinegar will add an intense umami flavor to your dish.
For a clean taste that doesn’t interfere with the other ingredients in your recipe, opt for salt or a small amount of anchovies.