Traditionally brewed soy sauce is the condiment I usually use at home. However, some people may prefer to use tamari instead. You can always keep both soy sauce and tamari around, and use which ever you feel like at a given moment.

What is the difference between soy sauce and tamari? Why would you choose one condiment over the other?


Soy Sauce

Traditional soy sauce is made from soy beans which have been soaked and boiled. The cooked soy beans are then combined with roasted, crushed wheat and the resulting mixture is inoculated with an Aspergillus culture (koji) which ferments the contents. Usually, aspergillus sojae or aspergillus oryzae are used for making soy sauce. Over a period of months, this mould works on the soy beans and grain, yielding free amino acids and shortened protein chains. Carbohydrates in the mixture are converted to simple sugars. Lactic acid bacteria turns the sugars to lactic acid, and the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, consumes sugars in the mixture, producing ethanol in the process. Oil from the soy bean become fatty acids. When brewing is done, the soy beans and wheat mixture is separated from the liquid soy sauce. The raw soy sauce is then pasteurized to halt the fermentation process.


Tamari, a condiment derived from Japan, is often made without wheat. When roasted wheat or barley isn’t combined with soy beans, then the tamari is gluten-free.

Tamari is made by soaking soy beans, boiling them until cooked, and then crushing the soybeans. Aspergillus spores are introduced to the crushed soy beans and incubation occurs for about 3 days. Then, these soy beans are dried. Once dried, a mix of sea salt and water is added to the soy beans, and this mixture is left to ferment in cedar vats. Aspergillus culture and naturally present yeast and bacteria break down the contents-carbohydrates become simple sugars, ethanol is produced to some extent by the yeast, and proteins are broken down into amino acids. Oil in the soy beans become fatty acids.This fermentation process takes about a year and a half to occur. To extract the tamari, the soy bean mixture is crushed. The oil which rises to the top is discarded. To naturally preserve the tamari, rice brandy is added.

Considered to be less salty and thicker than soy sauce, tamari has a milder flavour than soy sauce.

If You Prefer a Gluten-Free Product…

…then definitely go for a gluten-free tamari. Some tamari contain wheat or barley, so make sure you read the labels.

As for the flavour, you will have to try them both and decide for yourself.