All out of dark soy sauce when you are craving a delicious bowl of homemade cashew chicken, Thai ginger chicken, or Phad see ew? Don’t fret. There are 10 easy substitutes you can use, and chances are, you have at least one of these in your pantry.
So what substitutes work well in place of using dark soy sauce?
Popular substitutes for dark soy sauce that work really well are teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, light soy sauce, tamari, double black soy sauce, Ketjas Manis (or Kecap Manis), molasses, and a mix of regular soy sauce, molasses, and sugar.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything there is to know about dark soy sauce and usable substitutes so your dish can taste just as yummy and finger-linkin’ good.
What Is Dark Soy Sauce?
Dark soy sauce is a must-have pantry ingredient if you like to make Chinese food at home.
It’s not the same as light or regular soy. Instead, dark soy sauce (also called black soy sauce) is darker, thicker, and sweeter.
You use dark soy sauce to flavor AND darken the dish. For example, if you add dark soy sauce to a rice dish, it’ll turn a brown/mahogany color.
Pro Tip: Keep tasting your dish when using dark soy sauce so you don’t over-season it.
What Can I Use Instead of Dark Soy Sauce?
Besides flavor, the main reason a recipe asks for dark soy sauce is the color it adds to your dish, making it look warm and delicious.
So if you don’t need to add color to your dish, you can use regular soy sauce, light soy sauce, or any all-purpose soy sauce substitutes, or simply omit it. Your dish will still be tasty; it simply won’t be so dark.
You can also use double black soy sauce or mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce instead of dark soy sauce.
Or you can try any of the following 10 substitutes for dark soy sauce.
10 Dark Soy Sauce Substitutes
1. Make Your Own with Regular Soy Sauce, Sugar, and Molasses
If you have regular or light soy sauce in your pantry, you can sweeten and darken it with sugar and molasses so it’s more like dark soy sauce in flavor and color.
For 2 teaspoons of light or regular soy sauce, add ⅛ teaspoon of regular white sugar and ½ teaspoon of molasses.
For bulk measures, use ½ cup of water, 2 cups of dark brown sugar, and 1 cup of regular soy sauce.
2. Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki sauce is made with soy sauce, sugar, sake or mirin, ginger, and sometimes garlic. It’s a tangy and sweet sauce with a salty umami flavor.
Thus, it’s pretty similar to dark soy sauce. So you can substitute teriyaki for dark soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio, which is the same amount the recipe calls for.
Pro Tip: Only use this substitute in recipes where garlic and ginger are listed as ingredients.
3. Hoisin Sauce
Hoisin sauce, which means “seafood sauce,” is commonly used for stir-fries, dips, noodle dishes, and as a glaze. It looks similar to dark soy sauce and will also darken your dish.
Traditional hoisin sauce is made from fennel, chili, garlic, and fermented soybean paste, while other hoisin sauces also include vinegar, sugar, and Chinese five-spice powder. It’s a thick, sweet, and salty condiment or marinade.
Use ½ teaspoon of hoisin sauce for 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce. Taste your dish before you add any more.
4. Light Soy Sauce
Light soy sauce is made from wheat and fermented soybeans, and it’s thin, salty, and reddish-brown.
Adding light soy sauce to your dish may make it saltier, and it won’t change the color of your food. Use light soy sauce as a substitute for dark soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio, and if you need some sweetness, add ¼ teaspoon of honey or sugar with every teaspoon of light soy sauce.
5. Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce is another good dark soy sauce substitute because it’s dark, salty, and thick. It is a bit sweeter than dark soy sauce.
Oyster sauce is made from oyster extract, salt, and sugar, but some varieties may also include soy sauce and cornstarch.
If you need to substitute oyster sauce for dark soy sauce to add that umami flavor, use ½ teaspoon of oyster sauce for every teaspoon of dark soy sauce.
Molasses are thicker than dark soy sauce, but they’ll add that same rich color to your dish. Even though molasses is bittersweet, it won’t add the same saltiness, so you may need to add a couple of pinches of salt.
Use 1 teaspoon of molasses for 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce, and remember to adjust the salt level in your meal.
7. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce, aka the condiment no one can pronounce, originates from the U.K. This sauce is made from tamarind paste, sugar, salt, a mix of spices, fermented onions, garlic, anchovies, and molasses.
It’s similar in color and saltiness to dark soy sauce but lacks sweetness.
So substitute Worcestershire sauce as follows: ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce per 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce, and add ⅛ teaspoon of sugar per this ratio.
The Japanese counterpart of dark soy sauce is called tamari, and if you are looking for a gluten-free option, this is it.
Tamari is sweet and salty in flavor, so it’s a good substitute for any kind of soy sauce you need in your recipe. But it is saltier, making it better suited as an alternative to dark soy sauce.
Good to know: Tamari contains miso paste, so your dish may have a slight miso taste if you add too much.
Simply replace dark soy sauce with tamari in a 1:1 ratio.
9. Double Black Soy Sauce
Double black soy sauce is a great alternative to dark soy sauce because it’s sweet, salty, and dark.
However, double black soy sauce is just more, thanks to the extra molasses: It’s darker, sweeter, and thicker, so you need to use this substitute in moderation.
Replace 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce with only ½ teaspoon of double black soy sauce, and taste before you add more.
10. Ketjas Manis
Katjas Manis, also called Kacap Kanis, is a sweet soy sauce that originates in Indonesia.
This dark soy sauce substitute is dark and more syrupy thanks to jaggery or palm sugar. The other ingredients in Ketjas Manis are spices and soy sauce.
Substitute dark soy sauce with sweet soy sauce in a ratio of 1:1 and remember to add more salt.
Can You Use Normal Soy Sauce Instead of Dark?
You can use normal or regular soy sauce instead of dark soy sauce in your recipe.
However, don’t substitute light or regular soy sauce with dark soy sauce as it’ll give your dish a mahogany or reddish-brown tint.
Is Dark Soy Sauce the Same as Hoisin Sauce?
Dark soy sauce isn’t the same as hoisin sauce.
Dark soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans (in a heavier brine than what’s used in regular soy sauce), wheat, water, yeast, and salt, while hoisin sauce is typically made from soybean paste, fennel, chili, garlic, and possibly sugar, vinegar, and spices.
Hoisin sauce and dark soy sauce are similar in color and taste, but hoisin sauce has a more complex flavor profile that can alter the flavor of your dish.
Can Tamari Replace Dark Soy Sauce?
Tamari, which is Japan’s version of soy sauce, can replace dark soy sauce. Tamari is gluten-free, dark, sweet, and salty.
Since tamari contains miso paste, it’s best to substitute tamari for dark soy sauce in a ½:1 ratio – ½ teaspoon of tamari with 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce.
My Last Foodie Thoughts
The best dark soy substitutes are ingredients or condiments that are similar in color and taste. You need an ingredient that’s dark and has a sweet and salty flavor.
If you don’t have dark soy sauce and your recipe lists it as an ingredient, you can easily substitute dark soy sauce with other condiments you most likely have in your house or that are easily available at your nearest grocer.
The most popular alternatives for dark soy sauce are:
- Regular soy sauce with sugar and molasses to add sweetness and color
- Teriyaki sauce for recipes that need garlic and ginger
- Hoisin sauce for noodles or stir-fries
- Light soy sauce, but add honey or sugar (and it won’t darken your recipe)
- Oyster sauce
- Molasses, but adjust the salt level of your dish
- Worcestershire sauce, and add some extra sugar or honey for that sweet element you need
- Tamari but beware of the miso paste flavor
- Double dark soy sauce, but since it’s darker, saltier, and sweeter, only add a little at a time
- Ketjas Manis (or kacap Manis), and increase the salt in your meal
Other substitutes you can try are balsamic vinegar, fish sauce, and coconut amino.
Good luck, and remember to keep tasting your dish as you cook!