Popular Types Japanese Soy Sauces | Reviews: Japanese Soy Sauces 2022

by Erika Shinomoto
best Japanese Soy Sauces

One of the secrets of Japanese cuisine is their best Japanese soy sauces. Japanese soy sauce is no ordinary ingredient; it is a powerhouse of flavor in a number of Japanese dishes. This versatile ingredient can be used in stir-frys, soups, seafood, noodles, Japanese curry, and so many other dishes

Japanese soy sauces are of several types, each with a different flavor, depth, and color. Some work best when heated in a pan while there are some that are the best when poured straight into a sauce dish. You can find your preferred flavor from the tons of options available.

One of the best Japanese soy sauces brands is Kikkoman soy sauce. It’s very popular in Japan and has different varieties of soy sauces.

Now, whether you love Japanese cuisine or you want to cook and bring the authentic flavors of Japan on your table, you need the best Japanese Soy sauce. To ease out your work, we have brought together the 10 best Japanese soy sauces for you. Check them out below!

Types of Japanese Soy Sauces

Usukuchi – Light Japanese Soy Sauce

Light Japanese soy sauce or Usukuchi uses more salt than you would find in dark Japanese soy sauce (koikuchi). This type of Japanese soy sauce is less fermented when compared to most other types of Japanese soy sauces. Usukuchi is best for dishes that require a subtler umami flavor. 

Koikuchi – Dark Japanese Soy Sauce

This is the most popular type of Japanese soy sauce. This type of Japanese soy sauce has a very salty and deep umami flavor, it’s much saltier than Usukuchi. It’s made of equal parts wheat and soy bean. You will find Koikuchi in pretty much every Japanese house or pantry you go to!

Shiro Shoyu – White Japanese Soy Sauce

Shiro shoyu is a very light type of Japanese soy sauce because it contains very little soy bean and is mostly brewed with wheat. It’s because of this it gets its very light color (dashi color). When it comes to flavor, it’s very mild and sweet.

Tamari Soy Sauce

Tamari soy sauce pairs extremely well with dishes like sushi, sashimi, and senbei. This type of Japanese sauce is pretty dark and is especially popular in the Chubu region of Japan. Tamari soy sauce, unlike other Japanese soy sauces, is made without wheat because of which it has a very deep umami flavor. 

Marudaizu Shoyu – Whole Bean Soy Sauce

Even though it’s a darker type of Japanese soy sauce, Marudaizu has a milder yet complex flavor when compared to Koikuchi sauces. It’s prepared with whole soybeans, unlike other Japanese soy sauces that use a combo of defatted and whole soybeans. Marudaizu shoyu goes really well with sashimi and sushi. 

Genen Shoyu – Reduced Salt Soy Sauce

Genen shoyu is made by specially fermenting koikuchi to reduce the salt content by almost 50%. But this process still retains the flavor.  

Japanese Soy Sauce Vs Chinese Soy Sauce

The difference between Japanese and Chinese soy sauces is that most Japanese soy sauce ingredientsare are a combination of wheat and soybean – usually in equal parts. Whereas, Chinese soy sauces are made with soy only. Taste wise, Japanese soy sauces and Chinese soy sauces are very different because of the preparation process. Japanese soy sauces are sweeter and have more complex flavors whereas Chinese soy sauces are much saltier and have a strong flavor. 

Japanese Soy Sauce vs Korean Soy Sauce

When compared to Japanese soy sauces, Korean soy sauces are much saltier but still lighter in color than Japanese soy sauces. And Korean soy sauces are mostly used while cooking but Japanese soy sauce on the other hand are also used as dipping sauce. 

How to Choose the Right Japanese Soy Sauce?

There are certain things you should keep in mind when choosing Japanese soy sauce –

  • Buy soy sauce that is naturally brewed. You will easily be able to find ‘’brewed’’ written on the bottle. You may want to steer clear of chemically brewed soy sauces. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you for this. 
  • If you only want to buy one type of soy sauce, you may want to get the best koikuchi. It is an all-purpose soy sauce that is considered the standard for cooking purposes.
  • Try to get soy sauces that contain no additives. You will get the best and the most natural flavor from soy sauces that are all-natural.
  • Once you open your bottle of soy sauce, make sure to keep it in the fridge. Doing this keeps your sauce fresher for a longer period of time.
  • If you are not going to be using soy sauce a lot, it is always a good idea to get a smaller bottle.

How Is Japanese Soy Sauce Made?

  • First step soybeans are steamed.
  • Next, wheat is roasted
  • Steamed beans and wheat are combined along with a microbe called Aspergillus Oryzae
  • This mix is fermented 3 times by placing in wooden horizontal boxes. And the temperature is controlled to ensure the soy sauces’ quality
  • On day 3, the mix turns vivid green color – this means that the fermentation process is completed. This mix is now called Koji
  • The mixture is put in a wooden cone along with salt and water
  • After this, the mix is left in the wooden cone for 18-24 months
  • The color of the mix gradually gets darker. The dense mix if blended regularly to infuse air and hasten the fermentation process of Kura yeast
  • Finally, the soy sauce is filtered to get the last product

Best Japanese Soy Sauces: Quick Summary

Best Japanese Soy SaucesKey Features
Yamaroku Kiku Bishio Soy SauceAged 4-years in 100 year old barrels
Lee Kum Premium Dark Soy SauceThicker consistency, Dark soy sauce
Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce Less Sodium, Umami falvor
San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce Gluten-free, Thicker consistency
Lee Kum Lee Mushroom Flavored Dark Soy Sauce Mushroom flavor, Dark soy sauce
Oshawa Organic Nama Shoyu Unpasteurized, organic
Kikkoman Ponzu SauceCitrus flavor
Ebara Yakiniku Soy Sauce Thick, sticky consistency, Sweet
Kikkoman Hon TsuyuConcentrated soy sauce
Kamada Dashi Soy Sauce Umami falvor

Which is the best Japanese Soy Sauce?

Yamaroku Kiku Bishio Soy Sauce

Best Japanese Soy Sauces Aged 4 years

If you do not know what soy sauce to get, you can always turn to YamFearoku Kiku Bishio Soy Sauce. It is probably one of the best Japanese soy sauce brands out there. This soy sauce is unique in that it is fermented and aged in 100-year-old barrels. 

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This brings out a rich and complex flavor that is smooth and mellow. There are no sharp notes to the flavor that may overpower a dish. The soy sauce is aged for four years, which makes the price of it a little more expensive than your regular soy sauce from the grocery store. However, it really makes your special occasions more flavorful.

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Key Features

  • Fermented and aged in 100-year-old barrels
  • Rich flavor
  • Smooth and mellow

Lee Kum Kee Premium Japanese Dark Soy Sauce

Best Japanese Dark Soy Sauces

This dark soy sauce has intense color and flavor. You do not need a lot of this sauce to bring out the flavor you are looking for. The consistency of the sauce is thicker than most typical soy sauces, so it clings to food a little better. You can use this soy sauce to drizzle over your vegetables or as an ingredient in a dipping sauce. 

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Key Features

  • Best Japanese dark soy sauce
  • Thicker consistency than most other variants
  • Can be used to drizzle over veggies or in a dipping sauce

Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce

Best Japanese Soy Sauces With Less Sodium

Soy sauce can literally change the whole game with its addictive and delicious flavor. However, soy sauces are also incredibly salty. So, if you need to keep a check on your sodium consumption, you may want to check out the Kikkoman Less Sodium soy sauce.

The soy sauce has the same umami flavor we love, just with less sodium. You can get a 10-ounce bottle just to check how it suits your needs. Also, Kikkoman is one of the best Japanese soy sauce brands so you can be rest assured that it’s of top quality!

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Key Features

  • Less sodium 
  • Umami flavor

San-J Tamari Gluten Free Japanese Soy Sauce

Best Japanese Soy Sauce Gluten-free

Tamari Gluten-free soy sauce has little to no wheat in it. So, if you are allergic to gluten or are following a gluten-free diet, this is the ultimate and the safest choice for you.

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The saltiness is also less than what you would normally expect in a soy sauce. The consistency is also thicker, which makes it work perfectly as a dipping sauce. You can also use it to try in stir fry, coleslaw, or as part of a marinade for your meat.

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Key Features

  • Gluten Free
  • Not very salty 
  • Thicker than most other variants
  • Can be used as dipping sauce

Lee Kum Lee Mushroom Flavored Dark Soy Sauce

Top Japanese Soya Sauces Brands

You may think that just because this soy sauce is mushroom flavored, it is only great as a specialty product. But you will be surprised and glad to know that it is quite versatile. When you taste it, you will not be able to pick out the mushroom flavor, but you will get that savoriness and will come to love it. This mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce has a lot of flavors packed into it, so you do not need a lot of it. 

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Key Features

  • Subtle mushroom flavor
  • A few drops are enough to bring out the flavor if your dish

Oshawa Organic Nama Shoyu 

Best Organic Japanese Soy Sauces 

Nama Shoyu is a Japanese soy sauce that will remind you of Chinese-style soy sauces you are familiar with. This one from Oshawa is aged for two summers in cedar kegs, which brings out the complex flavor in it. 

The soy sauce is unpasteurized, so it retains the enzymes from fermentation. Since the process involved in making this soy sauce uses less salt, it is bound to be less in sodium.

This makes it a great option if you are keeping a check on your sodium intake without compromising on the flavor. The soy sauce is also organic, kosher, and contains no added preservatives. 

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Key Features

  • Aged for two summers in cedar kegs
  • Unpasteurized
  • Less in sodium
  • Organic

Kikkoman Ponzu Sauce

Best Japanese Soy Sauces For Cooking

Who said soy sauces cannot be citrusy? The Ponzu soy sauce is a citrus-flavored soy sauce that works great when used in dressings, as a dipping sauce, and as a part of a marinade. The citrus adds a punch of tanginess and acidity to your regular soy sauces. It really helps brighten up a dish and add a fun element to it. 

This soy sauce works well with delicate flavors such as seafood and chicken. But you do not have to limit yourself to just these dishes, you can also use this soy sauce to add a punchy flavor to pork or beef dishes.

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Key Features

  • Citrus flavored
  • Can be in dressing, as dipping sauce, in marinade
  • Adds tangy flavor to the dish
  • Goes well with chicken, seafood, pork, beef

Ebara Yakiniku Soy Sauce

Best Japanese Soy Sauces For Barbeque

Ebara Yakiniku Soy Sauce is a kind of sauce for Japanese BBQ. It works well as a dip for grilled meat, vegetables, and tofu. This soy sauce is viscous in consistency and has a sweet and strong taste. It is a dark soy sauce that will definitely enhance the flavor of your dishes.

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Key Features

  • Best for Japanese BBQ
  • Works well as a dipping sauce
  • Goes well with grilled meat, vegetables, and tofu
  • Sweet, strong taste

Kikkoman Hon Tsuyu

Best Japanese Soy Sauces For Noodles

Kikkoman Hon Tsuyu works as a dipping sauce or soup base. You can use this in noodle dishes like soba or udon to get that perfect taste. It is made from soy sauce, sake, mirin, sea kelp, and dried bonito flakes. 

The soy sauce works great as a dipping sauce for tempura. The bottle contains a concentrated version. You may want to read the instructions and dilute it accordingly.

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For their muslims customers, this Kikkoman also released a Japanese soy sauce halal version. This Japanese soy sauce is gluten free too!

Key Features

  • Concentrated soy sauces
  • Has to be diluted before use 
  • Works well as dipping sauce or soup base
  • Goes well with soba, udon, or other noodles 

Kamada Dashi Soy Sauce – Japanese Sweet Soy Sauce

Top Japanese Soy Sauces For Cooking

Kamada Dashi is a soy sauce with a rich flavor and is the perfect blend of dashi (cooking stock made from kelp and dried bonito), soy sauce, and mirin. These three seasonings come together to give you a wonderful taste.

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Dashi soy sauce is rich in umami flavor and is a sweeter version of your regular soy sauce. It is a versatile Japanese sweet soy sauce that you can add to all kinds of dishes to enhance the flavor and bring out the best in it.

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Key Features

  • Rich flavor
  • Sweeter 
  • Cab be added to any dish

Koikuchi Shoyu (Common)

Domestic production of this type makes up around 80% of total production and is the most common. Beyond saltiness, it has deep umami flavors, rounded sweetness, refreshing acidity, and bitterness that ties the flavors together. It is a versatile condiment that can be used either in cooking or at the table.

Usukuchi Shoyu (Light color)

The production of this light-colored soy sauce is mostly based in the Kansai region, which accounts for around 10% of domestic production. To make the fermentation and maturation process more gradual, it uses around 10% more salt than regular soy sauce.

In order to bring out the original flavors of the ingredients, its color and fragrance are reduced. Cooking with it preserves the flavor and color of food, such as sugar-boiled stews or takiawase, which is a dish that is prepared separately, but served together.

Shiro Shoyu (Extra light color)

Originally from the Hekinan district of Aichi prefecture, this pale amber-colored soy sauce is even lighter than light color sauce. Taste-wise, it’s bland, but incredibly sweet, and it’s got a unique smell. In Japanese cuisine, it is used to flavor dishes such as soups and chawanmushi egg custard. Other uses for it include crackers, pickles, and other foods. It is primarily made up of wheat with very little soybeans.

Saishikomi Shoyu (Refermented)

It is produced in Yamaguchi prefecture in an area extending from San-in region to Kyushu region. This type of soy sauce is referred to as “refermented” because it is blended with other soy sauces, rather than brewed with the koji alone. Despite its intense color and pleasing taste, it is also known as “sweet soy sauce”. In general, it is used to flavor sashimi, sushi, chilled tofu, etc.

Tamari Shoyu (Tamari)

Chubu is the region that mainly produces this soy sauce. A distinctive smell, thick umami, and thickness are its characteristics. This sauce has long been known as “sashimi tamari” because a lot of sushi and sashimi is served with it.This product exhibits a pleasing red tint when heated, and it is commonly used in grilling, boiling in soy sauce, and making rice crackers.

Unless you love any and every health-related buzzword for the simple reason that it makes you feel better about yourself, than go ahead and use it.

Storage tips for Japanese Soy Sauce

It’s extremely important store soy sauce in the right away in order to maintain its flavor, aroma, and richness.

Make sure to store your soy sauce away from direct light and heat. Store it in a cool, dark area. Avoid keeping your soy sauce on the kitchen counter top. It’s recommended to store soy sauce in the refrigerator, once opened. This is especially important if you’re going to use the soy sauce for over a month or two. Store soy sauce in a dark cabinet.

Japanese Soy Sauces: FAQs

What is Japanese soy sauce?

Soy sauce was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks, somewhere around the 7th century. It first originated in China. When it reached Japan, the Japanese made improvements by the end of the 13th century. In addition to soybean, the Japanese started adding wheat in equal parts. The fermentation process and time also increased. Since then, the fermentation process of soy sauce has not changed much.

What is the difference between Japanese and Chinese soy sauce?

There are two major differences between Japanese and Chinese soy sauces. 
The first difference between the two is the ingredients used. Japanese soy sauces use equal parts of roasted soy and wheat to brew their soy sauce. The Chinese, on the other hand, mostly use soy with only a small amount of other grains like wheat flour.
The second difference between the Japanese and Chinese soy sauce is the fermentation. Japanese soy sauces take months to ferment to create the flavor and aroma we love so much. The Chinese fermentation process is far less than the Japanese. It leads to the soy sauce having less flavor. Because of this, you will find that Chinese soy sauces have additives such as sugar and MSG.

What is Japanese soy sauce used for?

Japanese soy sauces are not overwhelming; they add the perfect balance and flavor to your dishes. Here’s what you can use Japanese soy sauces for 
– Adding a nice flavor to your meat, vegetables, and seafood dishes.
– Making soups and broths
– As a dipping sauce for sushi or mochi
– Dressings for your salad
– As a part of a marinade and sauces

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