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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Soy sauce varieties: What's the best option?

soy sauce and chopsticks

If you enjoy Asian cuisine, you likely are a fan of soy sauce. This condiment originated in China over 2,000 years ago and is a staple ingredient in many Asian countries. This salty liquid is made from fermented soybeans, roasted wheat, and of course, lots of salt.

There are many varieties of soy sauce on the market shelves, including those labeled light, dark, less sodium or tamari. Light soy sauce is thin. While it is not light in color, it is a bit lighter than dark soy sauce. Dark soy sauce has molasses or caramel added. It’s thicker and has been aged for longer, leaving a more full-bodied flavor. It’s commonly the soy sauce of choice in China, while light soy sauce is what most Americans are accustomed to using. Less sodium soy sauce is exactly what it says. It’s less sodium than the original, but not as low to be labeled “low sodium,” which must have 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving. Even the less sodium soy sauce has approximately 190 milligrams of sodium for just one teaspoon. However, compare that to one teaspoon of salt, which is 2,325 milligrams of sodium, and it’s a much better option!

You may have wondered about tamari sauce, as more recipes are calling for tamari sauce as a substitution for soy sauce. Most tamari sauces are made like soy sauce, but without the wheat, and therefore gluten-free. Enjoy soy sauce to flavor foods, but lower the sodium by not adding salt or salty ingredients along with it.


Cashew Chicken (Printable PDF)

2 Tablespoons less sodium soy sauce

½ Tablespoon rice vinegar

1 Tablespoon white cooking wine

1 Tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 Tablespoon chopped ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ cup unsalted cashews

Cooked rice or noodles for serving

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, wine, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and cornstarch; set aside.  Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat and add the chicken and red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until chicken reaches 165°F as measured by a food thermometer. Add prepared sauce and cashews; heat until sauce begins to boil. Lower to medium-low heat and cook until sauce thickens. Serve over rice or noodles.

Yield: 6 servings


Nutrition Facts without the rice (per serving): 240 calories, 11 grams fat, 260 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 28 grams protein