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Tamari, also known as tamari shoyu, is a popular sauce used in Japanese cuisine.
It has gained popularity worldwide for its rich flavor — and because it’s vegan and usually gluten-free.
Yet, you may wonder what tamari is made from and how to best use it.
This article explains everything you need to know about tamari, including how it differs from soy sauce and how you can add it to your dishes.
What is tamari?
It is one of five popular types of Japanese soy sauces known as shoyu. Shoyu is made by fermenting soybeans — and sometimes wheat — using a special fungus (koji) and brine (moromi).
The other types of shoyu are koikuchi, shiro, usukuchi, and sai-shikomi. Each differs based on its fermentation process, thickness, flavor, and wheat content.
Compared with most soy sauces, tamari is darker, contains little to no wheat, and has a stronger umami flavor.
Umami is a Japanese term for “pleasant savory taste” and refers to the unique flavor of three amino acids found in plant and animal proteins. Common umami foods include kimchi, seaweed, soy products, and some aged meats and cheeses.
Although some varieties contain small amounts of wheat, most tamari is wheat-free, gluten-free, and vegan.
Other soy sauces typically contain high amounts of wheat, making them unsuitable for people who avoid gluten. Furthermore, they’re usually much lighter in color and sweeter.
The most popular type of soy sauce in North America is Chinese soy sauce, which is saltier than tamari. Furthermore, it isn’t gluten-free.
Thus, tamari is your best option for a gluten-free soy sauce.
It is a Japanese soy sauce made by fermenting soybeans and usually gluten-free. Compared with most soy sauces, it’s darker, less salty, and has a strong umami flavor.
How does tamari differ from soy sauce?
Technically, tamari is a type of soy sauce. However, it differs from traditional soy sauce due to its processing.
Traditional soy sauce is made using four main ingredients — soybeans, water, salt, and wheat. These ingredients are fermented for several months using koji and moromi. Finally, the mixture is pressed to extract its liquid.
In comparison, tamari is usually produced as a byproduct of miso paste, which is made from soybeans, salt, water, koji, and moromi. It also undergoes fermentation, but unlike traditional soy sauce, little to no wheat is added.
Traditional soy sauce has a soybean-to-wheat ratio of 1:1, while tamari has little, if any, of this grain. As a result, tamari has a stronger umami taste due to its high soybean content, whereas soy sauce is sweeter as a result of its added wheat.
Traditional soy sauce is made using a 1:1 ratio of soybeans to wheat. Comparatively, tamari is usually a byproduct of miso paste, which contains mostly soybeans and little to no wheat.
How to use tamari
is commonly added to stir-fries, soups, sauces, or marinades.
It can also be used as a flavor enhancer for tofu, sushi, dumplings, noodles, and rice. Its mild and less salty taste makes it a good dip.
It can replace any type of soy sauce in most recipes, and its umami flavor lends itself to vegetarian and vegan meals by adding a savory bite usually associated with meat-based dishes.
You can purchase tamari online and in most grocery stores. Be sure to look for a gluten-free label if you avoid gluten — or check the ingredient list to make sure it doesn’t contain wheat.
is very versatile and can replace most soy sauces. It’s usually used as a dip or added to stir-fries, soups, and sauces.
The bottom line
Tamari is a type of soy sauce that’s usually gluten-free.
Its umami flavor helps enhance many dishes, such as stir-fries, tofu, soups, and rice- or noodle-based meals.