What is Tamari (vs. Soy Sauce)?

What is tamari? vs. soy sauce?

Do you cook with soy sauce? I did, but now I use something called tamari instead. It’s one of those natural food pantry staples that I never grew up with, but now keep as a constant in my fridge for easy stir fries, marinades, big bowls of noodle soup, my favorite teriyaki sauce, and the most bad-a$$ kale chips (with toasted coconut) that you’ll ever have!

What the heck is tamari?

First off, tamari is NOT the same as soy sauce, however my non-fancy cooking style uses them interchangeably because that’s just me. And I’m not fancy;)

Tamari is traditionally tied to the Japanese (vs. the more common Chinese soy sauce). It is a thicker, less salty, fermented soy sauce that contains less wheat (if not any depending on the brand, aka “gluten-free”). It can be used in asian and non-asian cooking to add a full, savory, umami flavor to your dishes.

How is it made differently than regular soy sauce?

While regular soy sauce and tamari are both derived from fermented soybeans, the process in which it is made AND the byproduct is much different.

Regular soy sauce is essentially made by cooking soybeans with roasted wheat and other grains (almost a 50/50 ratio) and adding it to a salty brine to brew, then sit for a period of time to ferment. This mixture is then pressed to extract the dark, brown liquid.

Tamari on the other hand, is made a bit different. It is known to be the liquid byproduct that forms when making miso paste – like the liquid sweat that forms on cheese (unlike the pressed version in regular soy sauce). When the soybeans are cooked down to ferment, little to zero wheat is added to the mixture, which makes it a great alternative for those that have gluten intolerances.

(SIDE NOTE: miso is a Japanese paste-like seasoning derived from fermented soybeans and used in various dishes to add flavor.)

What is tamari? vs. soy sauce?

How do they compare?

more salty
made with a higher wheat ratio
not gluten-free
a byproduct of fermented soybeans

less salty
made with less or zero wheat
can be gluten-free (read the bottle)
a byproduct of fermented soybeans


Is tamari gluten-free?

As mentioned above, tamari can be gluten-free, but you MUST read the package because some brands do use a small percentage of wheat during the fermentation process. Look for packages that say “gluten-free” if you suffer from any gluten allergies or intolerances.

Where can you find it?

You can find tamari in most asian-sections of big shop grocery stores, health food stores, or even asian markets. If all else fails, it’s on Amazon.com!

Does organic matter?

Yes! In this case it does. Soybeans are one of the most common GMO (genetically modified organisms) that are sprouting up in our lovely U.S. farms. Whenever you buy anything soy, please make an effort to look for organic options.

My latest favorite recipe using tamari

Now for the fun stuff! Inspired by my recent trip back home to Seattle (the “teriyaki capital” of the the west coast), I concocted a fresh teriyaki sauce that is super simple and OH SO DELICIOUS on grilled chicken or veggies. Serve this up for dinner this week. From start to finish, it only takes about 30 minutes!

Healthy Teriyaki Sauce (made with tamari) 

What is tamari? vs. soy sauce?

Kale. All Day. Err Day.

If you like this post, checkout more nutritious and healthy living tips in our latest interactive book, Kale. All Day. Err Day. It’s enhanced and interactive for a super fun, learning experience. It’s filled with a great story all about kale, how-to videos, and recipes for the busy and the hungry. Did we mention, it’s FREE…for a limited time. Hurry – check it out here. (New book coming late 2016…)


Kale. All Day. Err Day. | Wake the Wolves


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Written By


Stephanie Wong

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